The Wizard of Oz (1939) is one of the most famous films of all time – but it differs significantly from the underlying novel by L. Frank Baum the wonderful wizard of oz (1900). Here are 10 things the book did differently than the movie. (SPOILER ALERT: This list contains plot spoilers for those who haven’t read the book.)
It may surprise Classic movie fans that the original enchanted slippers were silver, not red. Some critics speculate that Baum’s choice of color was part of an elaborate metaphor for the 19th-century American populist movement’s opposition to the gold standard. According to this reading, the Yellow Brick Road symbolizes the gold standard [PDF]which was notoriously inaccessible to peasants (Scarecrow), factory workers (Tin Man), and the masses (Dorothy). [PDF]. As a result, populists backed the minting of—you guessed it—silver for free.
Screenwriter Noel Langley decided to change that detail and give the slippers their now-famous ruby hue, “probably,” as Jesse Rhodes writes Smithsonian“because the color would stand out better against a yellow brick street.” The rest is cinema history.
“Remember me? Your old pal Hunk?” Tree doesn’t. The film’s elaborate frame structure, which brings the grumpy Miss Gulch, the humbug Professor Marvel, and the three servants into the Wicked Witch of the West, the Wizard of Oz, and the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion was not part of the book Book, in fact none of the five Kansas characters appear at all in the book, the opening scenes of which focus instead on Dorothy, her aunt and uncle Toto and the very gray landscape of the Midwest.
Does anyone else find it odd that no one in the film questions the existence of a “tin man”? Where does a tin man come from anyway? The book provides this missing piece of information: The Tin Man was once an ordinary person who fell in love with a munchkin girl. Their romance was thwarted by a selfish old woman who lived with the girl and wanted her to stay home.
The old woman enlisted the help of the Wicked Witch of the East (no longer just a pair of striped socks under a house), who charmed the woodcutter’s ax so that it chopped off all his limbs and head, and split his torso (and heart ) in two. The lumberjack replaced every part of his body with tin limbs – but ended up without a heart.
In the book, the poppy episode has nothing to do with the wicked witch. In fact, these enchanting flowers don’t need any magical help at all. As their scientific name (Papaver somniferum) suggests, poppies have long been associated with sleep-promoting effects, and there’s a good reason for that: The poppy latex, a milky liquid that oozes from the seed coat when cut, contains morphine, codeine, thebaine, papaverine, noscapine, and traces of opium (oh my god!). In the book and film, Dorothy and Lion doze off after smelling the flowers – but in reality, you only feel the effects of a poppy by ingesting its narcotic components.
The emerald city of the book is far more dazzling than that of the film – it is adorned with so many emeralds that its residents have to wear sunglasses at all times. More than a fashion statement, these sunglasses actually clip behind the wearer’s head to protect them from being blinded by the gemstones.
In the film, Dorothy and her friends are driven around in a horse-drawn carriage. But the book specifically tells us that there are no horses – of any color! – in Emerald City! – are. Without beasts of burden, citizens manually push their goods around on carts.
The glowing head of Oz in the film is just one of four forms the mock wizard takes in the novel. In the original, each of the four friends visits Oz individually, and he takes on a different form for each one. He appears to Dorothy as a luminous head “much larger than the head of the greatest giant”; to Scarecrow as a beautiful woman; to Tin Man as a fearsome beast “almost the size of an elephant… [with] five eyes in his face”; and the lion as a fireball.
If you thought Margaret Hamilton’s green skin and high-pitched cackle were frightening, the original Wicked Witch of the West was a Cyclops. Baum doesn’t describe her appearance much other than to tell us that she has a single, all-seeing eye that scans the land for Dorothy and her friends. Luckily for the faint of heart among us, the filmmakers opted for a crystal ball instead.
In the film, as in the book, Glinda kisses the good witch Dorothy on the forehead before heading to the Emerald City. The film makes very little of that moment. However, in the novel, Glinda’s kiss leaves a protective mark visible to all, which eventually leads Dorothy and her friends to see Oz and later prevents the flying monkeys from killing them.
The film enacts Dorothy’s time in Oz as an elaborate dream triggered during the tornado when she takes a nasty hit to the head from a loose window and passes out. This framing device is not in the book: Dorothy dozes off as the house is lifted by the Twister. However, while fully conscious, for the return trip to Kansas, during which she is thrown into the air, she is “so fast that she could only see or feel the wind whistling around her ears”. Just before she lands back in Kansas, the silver slippers fall off, “lost forever in the desert”.