The movie, 'Wizard of Oz', was groundbreaking in many ways. It came out in 1939 and was an Academy Award winner in 1940. One of the things that made it special was MGM's president picked this movie to introduce the new color filming technique known as 'Technicolor'. He chose the movie because of the vivid gold, green, and other vibrant colors displayed in the scenery along the path to Emerald City.
A special tidbit that I am sure most of you don't know, and ties directly to the movie, is that Dorthy's shoes were originally silver in the book but changed to a sparkling red for the movie. Again, this was to promote as much dynamic color on the screen as possible.
But a shoe color change wasn't the only secret the Wizard of Oz held. Did you know that when originally written, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, as originally called, was the first in a children's book series originated by Frank Baum. But even though it was written for children, it was also a political and economic story about the times of the late turn of the century. Frank Baum was a news and political man who was frustrated with what he saw around him and decided to go a lighter route to ease the pain of his frustrations as well as subliminally get his message across. Of course, we don't know what his truest desires were with this project, and how much-hidden meaning was 'found' after the story hit the streets.
But let's get back to the history of the story. Were you surprised to discover the shoe color was a change? Yeah, I was too when I first discovered this years ago. There are plenty of other surprises as well. Fortunately for you, I am going to enlighten you with many of the hidden meanings in this fascinating story. However, I am going to concentrate on the monetary and economic edges of the story, as political history is much harder for me. You will still learn a lot.
We will begin by exposing many of the hidden meanings behind the characters in the story.
Dorthy In the story, Dorthy is the main character and is 11 years old. Everything centers around her. She is a little girl because she represents the innocence and naivety of both women and children at the turn of the century.
The Tinman represents the industrial age that was starting to see a dehumanization of American factory workers. In the movie, the Tinman loses limbs as a representation of the dangers of the industry and falling standards. (As a side note, Buddy Ebsen, who played Jed Clampett in the Beverly Hillbillies, was first playing this part but had to bow out as the aluminum paint almost killed him during filming. Thought you might find that interesting).
The Scarecrow represents the farmers and the changes and problems they faced at that time.
The Cowardly Lion represents Democratic presidential candidate and populist politician Jennings Bryan. As I said, I know nothing about the political times back then, so this is more a nod to the character than anything else at this point.
The Wicked Witch of the West represents the banking interests of the west based on mostly oil and railroad interests. To very big and powerful industries at that time. Both witches were evil as a metaphor for the moneyed interest of both banking conglomerates being destructive to the country.
The Wicked Witch of the East- She represents the big banking strength and corruption of the East Coast bankers. In the story, she is killed when Dorthy's house lands on her from the tornado. That was why Dorthy received the silver (red) shoes, as a gift from the Munchkins for her freeing them from the witches' (banking) bondage.
The Emerald City represents the United States and how mighty the world was viewing us at that time. This explains why Dorthy believed that the power of the Emerald City could solve all her problems. As the story goes, there was no real power there, only disappointment.
The Wizard represents the president and all his powers. Of course, in the movie, when we see that the wizard was nothing but a withered old man pulling strings (man, am I laughing as I write this during Biden's administration) whom everyone had given awesome power, respect, and trust.
The Yellow Brick Road represents GOLD! Yes, the combination of the gold-bricked road and Dorthy's silver (in the book) shoes tells us that an honest, gold-backed money system leads to the prosperity of the US government (Emerald City) and the little innocent people (Dorthy) needed silver for their everyday living (remember, the U.S. had only 50 years earlier went through a massive gold rush, then a few years later, silver rush, bringing much prosperity to the U.S.). Baum believed it took the combination of the two for the economy to work correctly. Plus, all this comes only 30 years after Lincoln's failed fiat money attempt to pay for the Civil War, which ended in one of the USA's two major money collapses.
And this next bit of information may or may not have merit. I used to believe that the word 'Oz' stood for ounces. As in 'ounces' of gold or 'ounces' of silver. However, in my research for this article, I discovered that the name 'Oz' may be from the Wizard of Oz's character name of 'Oscar Zoroaster'. Maybe both are correct with some kind of tie-in. If anyone knows, please reply and let me know.
Anyway, there are many more hidden meanings to characters and actions in the story. For instance, the flying monkeys, the good witch, or the cyclone.
Drug use has also been linked to the story as drug awareness was still a few years from taking hold and many now illegal drugs (cocaine, opium, and morphin) were ordinary household products. (Also remember the poppy fields Dorthy falls asleep in or the Good Witch uses 'snow' (cocaine?) to wake her.
We will never know what was going on in Mr. Baums' mind when he penned this story, or even understand all the little nuances that made that time what it was. However, I find the story much more intriguing with the history of its writing now presented to me. I hope you now have a new perspective and respect for Frank Baum's most famous works.
(Make sure you share and pass this on to all your friends so they can learn and grow with us).