The Wizard of Oz Logo
The MovieCastGallerySongsThe DVDMerchandiseExtras

 

The Wizard of Oz Plot

Summary

The film centers on Dorothy, a young girl from Kansas, who is transported, along with her dog Toto, to the fantasy utopia of Oz by a tornado that sweeps her farmhouse home away. The storm carries the house with Dorothy and Toto to Munchkinland, a magical place far away from anything that Dorothy has ever seen or dreamed of. She is proclaimed a national heroine by the tiny inhabitants because the luck of the house's landing has caused the house to fall on and kill the Wicked Witch of the East, who holds power over the Munchkins. Suddenly, Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, appears and explains all that has happened to Dorothy. Dorothy naturally wishes to return home. However, the sister of the now dead Wicked Witch of the East (the Wicked Witch of the West) makes a startling appearance. Dorothy receives protection from the Wicked Witch of the West by Glinda when magically the Ruby Slippers that were worn by the dead Witch of the East are now on the feet of Dorothy; as long as she wears the slippers, says Glinda, Dorothy will be safe. The Witch of the West leaves, and Dorothy is sent along the yellow brick road by Glinda, the Good Witch of the North to find the Wizard of Oz and get his help to return to Kansas. Along the way, Dorothy overcomes various obstacles and meets a talking scarecrow (played by Ray Bolger), a tin man (played by Jack Haley) and a cowardly lion (played by Bert Lahr), who also are unsatisfied and need to find the Emerald City, of which the Wizard is master, believing that he will give them each what they desire. Instead, the Wizard sends the fellowship on a quest to retrieve the broomstick of Wicked Witch of the West.


Extended
Plot

Orphan Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) lives a simple life in Kansas with Aunt Em (Clara Blandick), Uncle Henry (Charley Grapewin) and three colorful farm hands, lunk-headed Hunk (Ray Bolger), blustery-but-timid Zeke (Bert Lahr), and seemingly cold-hearted Hickory (Jack Haley). One day the stern neighbor Miss Almira Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) is bitten by Dorothy's dog, Toto. Dorothy senses that Miss Gulch will try to do something dreadful, but her aunt and uncle, as well as the farmhands, are too busy with their work to listen. Dorothy yearns for a better place in the song Over the Rainbow. Miss Gulch shows up and takes Toto away to be destroyed, by order of the sheriff, over the impassioned protests of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. Toto escapes and returns to Dorothy, who is momentarily elated but soon realizes Miss Gulch will return. She decides to take Toto and run away.

On their journey Dorothy encounters Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan), a lovable but fake fortune teller who, out of concern for Dorothy, tricks her into believing Aunt Em is ill so Dorothy will not run away from home. Dorothy rushes back to the farm but is knocked unconscious, inside the house, by a sudden "cyclone" (tornado) that has already forced her family into the storm cellar behind the house.

A confused Dorothy awakens to discover the house has been caught up in the twister. Through the bedroom window, she sees a parade of people fly by. Then she sees Miss Gulch, also caught in the tornado, and pedaling her bicycle in midair, transform into a witch. Moments later the twister drops the house, Dorothy and Toto over the rainbow and into Oz. Stepping into full three-strip technicolor, Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke), arrives and informs Dorothy they are in Munchkinland. She tells Dorothy she has killed the ruby-slippered Wicked Witch of the East by "dropping a house" on her.

Encouraged by Glinda, the timid Munchkins come out of hiding and celebrate the demise of the witch singing "Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead" among other cheerful songs until her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West (also played by Margaret Hamilton), appears to claim the powerful ruby slippers. Glinda magically transports the slippers onto Dorothy's feet and reminds the witch her power is ineffectual in Munchkinland. The witch vows revenge on Dorothy and leaves the same way she arrived, in a blaze of fire and smoke. Glinda tells Dorothy, who is anxious to return home, that the only way to get back to Kansas is to ask the mysterious Wizard of Oz in the Emerald City for help. Glinda advises Dorothy to never take off the slippers and "follow the yellow brick road" to reach the Emerald City.

On her way Dorothy befriends a Scarecrow with no brain (also played by Ray Bolger), a Tin Man with no heart (also played by Jack Haley), and a Cowardly Lion (also played by Bert Lahr). The three decide to accompany Dorothy to the Wizard in hopes of obtaining their desires (a brain, a heart and courage respectively). Along the way the group confronts a forest of angry apple trees and several failed attempts by the witch to stop them, notably the Deadly Poppy Fields which lull Dorothy, Toto and the Lion to sleep. When they arrive at the Emerald City, the populace is threatened by the Wicked Witch, who skywrites a demand for the city to "Surrender Dorothy." The group talks to the Wizard of Oz - a disembodied and imposing head with a booming voice - who says that he will consider granting their wishes if they can bring him the broom of the Wicked Witch. The group then departs for the witch's castle.

On their way to the witch's castle, they are attacked by flying monkeys, who carry Dorothy and Toto away and deliver her to the witch, who demands the ruby slippers. When Dorothy refuses, the witch tries to remove them but is prevented by a shower of sparks. She realizes the shoes cannot be removed as long as Dorothy is alive and plots on how to destroy her without damaging the shoes' spell. As the Witch is considering on how to kill Dorothy, Toto takes the opportunity to take escape from the Witch’s grasp with Dorothy crying, "Run, Toto, run!” Outraged, the Witch screams at her monkey second-in-command Nikko (Pat Walshe), "Catch him, you fool!" but Toto manages to escape, much to Dorothy’s relief. The Witch, furious, snarls to Dorothy, "Which is more than you will do," and runs over to a large hourglass filled with blood-red sand and turns it over, gleefully telling Dorothy "That's how much longer you`ve got to be alive." She puts the hourglass down and runs out of the chamber, locking Dorothy inside. Sobbing, Dorothy calls for Aunt Em, saying she is frightened. Aunt Em appears, and Dorothy tries to tell her that she is trying to get home. The witch appears, mocking and laughing at Dorothy. Meanwhile, Toto manages to find the lion, the scarecrow, and the Tin Man and lead them to the castle where Dorothy is awaiting her demise. Once inside they are barely able to free Dorothy and attempt an escape. The witch and her Winkie soldiers corner the group on a parapet, where the witch sets the Scarecrow on fire. To douse the flames, Dorothy throws water on them, and accidentally splashes water on the horrified witch, causing her to melt. To the group's surprise, the soldiers are delighted. Their captain (played by silent film actor Mitchell Lewis, who played the Sheik in the silent Ben-Hur) gives Dorothy the broomstick to thank her for their liberation from the witch. Upon their return, the wizard tells Dorothy and her companions, "Go away and come back tomorrow." Thanks to Toto, though, they discover the wizard is not really a wizard at all, just a man behind a curtain. They are outraged at the deception, but the wizard solves their wishes through common sense and a little double talk rather than magic (even telling them that they had what they were searching for all along).

The wizard explains that he too was born in Kansas and his presence in Oz was the result of an escaped hot air balloon. He promises to take Dorothy home in the same balloon after leaving the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Lion in charge of Emerald City. Just before take off, Toto jumps out of the balloon's basket after a cat. Dorothy jumps out to catch Toto and the wizard, unable to control the balloon, leaves without her. She is sadly resigned to spend the rest of her life in Oz until Glinda appears and tells her she can use the ruby slippers to return home with Toto. Glinda explains she did not tell Dorothy at first because she needed to learn "if you can't find your heart's desire in your own backyard, then you never really lost it to begin with." Dorothy and Toto say goodbye to their friends, and Dorothy follows Glinda's instructions to "tap your heels together and repeat the words, 'There's no place like home'." Back in sepia tone she awakens in her bedroom in Kansas surrounded by family and friends and tells them of her journey. Everyone laughs and tells her it was all a bad dream, except Uncle Henry. A happy Dorothy, still convinced the journey was real, hugs Toto and says, "There's no place like home."

When Dorothy wakes up from her trip to Oz, the issue with Toto and Miss Gulch appears unresolved and left to the audience to interpret, Miss Gulch may be intended to have died in the tornado, possibly in conjunction with the deaths of the Wicked Witches of Oz.