We're Off To See The Colonel
Over the weekend I watched Over the Rainbow again. I couldn't even begin to list how many times I've seen The Wizard of Oz. I do remember a Washington theatre (no longer in existence) was playing it when I was very small. I was probably about age three or four and went with my mother to an afternoon matinee. I was puzzled how the film went from sepia black and white to color, I remember being afraid of the tornado, but then we were having more serious hurricanes in Washington in those days, so I had knowledge of "a dangerous storm."
There still is a lot to be found disturbing in Oz: the wicked witch, flying houses, flying monkeys, Munchkins that look like the school bully, Butch (and back then, that would have meant "boy.") The holographic head, the haunted forest, even falling in the hog sty. My grandmother had hogs, and I knew them to be mean creatures, so I always wondered why Dorothy, a farm girl, would do something as foolhardy as walk the fence line above them. Shades of Hannibal.
A "Ben's Chili Dog" Kinda Girl
I still wonder why Dorothy, a girl raised in an area known for tornados, would come home and immediately run in the house, with the toronado funnel clearly visible and not think to run to the storm cellar first. But I quibble. There are so many things to nitpit and glom onto. I know when Glinda appears, my eye aways hits first on her Bakelite crown. On this viewing, I was thinking "Billie Burke is too old to wear her hair that long and what a cheap wig." Billie was born Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke on August 7, 1885, in Washington, D.C., by the way. I didn't know that until writing this piece. I always assumed she was British with that plummey stage voice of hers.
Is Everybody Lit?
I come by this critical eye honestly. My mother could not watch a television show without commenting, "She's wearing contacts. Look at how much she's blinking. And dismissing Dan Rowan, "He's a drunk. Look at that nose." A lot of actors had "that nose." She had an aversion to alcoholics and drunks in general, based in large part on the yard parties at my paternal grandmother's house that seem, in memory, like the Kentucky Derby played in a very minor key. A lot of "Give me some sugah" (meaning a hug) and hitting the punch table too vigorously. When my mother died, I inherited her punch bowl with eighty cups. Those 80 cups say it all.
I remember one summer a high living rake of an uncle roaring into my grandmother's backyard with his newest Cadillac and newest wife. Him with a diamond pinkie ring. Her in mink. In August. I take it back. It was the yard scene in the book Auntie Mame, when Mame goes to meet Beauregard's kin, and the dyspeptic old mother is still fighting the Civil War and the hunting dogs are called "Cousin Moltrie." I always identified strongly with that scene. My cousins and I the Greek chorus off to the side saying "That Sally Cato MacDougall is the meanest bitch in the county."
In truth, MGM always kept Judy fed....
on chicken broth and amphetamines
Forgive my Proustian drift. We were discussing The Wizard of Oz. So like you, I have seen the movie so many times I can't remember. Dorothy is walking the rail and falls into the pig sty. Bert Lahr hauls her out. Then this whole scene I have never given attention to appeared. Auntie Em enters the yard, barn left, with a plate of fried chicken. Maybe I always assumed it was cookies. She tells the workers they have to keep their strength up, gives them chicken, gives Dorothy chicken, and tells her to go play in traffic (not really, but tells her to get out of the way and not be a bother.) Dorothy wanders off with her chicken leg and tosses a tiny piece to Toto. The next thing you know she's over by the haystacks and wheel, cue to orchestra, and she's belting out Over the Rainbow, only this time I'm thinking, "What happened to the chicken?"
"I'll give ya extra crispy."
Lots of movies have actors do their scenes with food. You can't play Henry VIII without waving around a turkey drumstick, and Tom Jones has a famous food scene. I started thinking about how truly screwed up it would have been if Judy Garland had sang Over the Rainbow holding a drumstick. Not too long ago, TCM showed James Cagney in White Heat (you have GOT to see it) and there is plenty of food in that movie, too. He pushes a grapefruit in his wife's face, and he blasts a guy holding....a chicken drumstick.
Are you feeling lucky, punk? Original or spicey?
I started thinking about poultry in film, and I found this recent quote by Clint Eastwood in reference to Cagney and the White Heat film, "When he comes out in White Heat eating a chicken leg and blasting a guy in the trunk of a car, you go, 'Yeah, that's offsetting, but in a nice way.' The scene in Dirty Harry where I'm eating a hot dog in that shootout...that's a steal.''
“If a mans gonna eat fried chicken, he's gotta get greasy.”