8 Wild The Wizard of Oz Fan Theories

Turner Entertainment Co.
Turner Entertainment Co.

Since it’s the most-watched movie of all time and one of the best films of all time, The Wizard of Oz also probably holds the honor of making the biggest leap from troubled production to quality entertainment. Buddy Ebsen had to be replaced as the Tin Man after an allergic reaction to the metallic makeup landed him in the hospital; Margaret Hamilton was lit on fire trying to leave Munchkinland; and MGM went through directors like candy.

Before George Cukor (its third director) showed up, the studio wanted Judy Garland in a blonde wig and baby-doll clothes, as if Dorothy were a human toy tromping through a cartoon dream. Luckily, he changed that (before being replaced by Victor Fleming). By all accounts the shoot was grueling; yet through all that brutal chaos, a timeless classic with six Oscar nominations (and two wins) was born.

People obsess over this movie, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year. With dozens of symbols and a naturally allegorical tale, it lends itself to a wide variety of interpretations and pet theories—some of them more plausible than others.

1. Glinda is the real villain.

What do we really know about Glinda the "Good" Witch? She’s pretty? She’s dressed in soft pink? She speaks in a sweet tone? Our biases let us down again, because Glinda is one of four people in a power struggle for Oz. And by the end of Dorothy’s visit, two of Glinda's adversaries are dead and one leaves in a hot air balloon. The most damning evidence that Glinda is up to something is that she could have told Dorothy that the ruby red slippers she was wearing would send her home right at the beginning, but Dorothy had already offed the Wicked Witch of the East and made enemies with the Wicked Witch of the West, so Glinda chilled with a copy of The 48 Laws of Power and waited to be the last witch standing.

2. Dorothy is the Wicked Witch of the East.

This one is a bit beyond the poppy field, but stick with us for a minute: Every major figure Dorothy meets in Oz is a parallel of someone she knows back home—the field hands and her travel companions, the Wicked Witch of the West and Miss Gulch, and so on. But Dorothy doesn’t have a counterpart. Or does she? There’s someone in Oz that has Dorothy’s exact shoe size, but she’s crushed on arrival. Redditor Primetime2 suggests that the Wicked Witch of the East is Dorothy’s counterpart whose 1) face we never see and 2) might have had to die because her existence while Dorothy is in Oz would have created a paradox. Makes sense.

3. It’s all about a failed presidential candidate and the gold standard.

A still from 'The Wizard of Oz' (1939)
Turner Entertainment Co.

This is the theory everybody knows about because they’re taught it in high school English class without any context. In 1964, historian/author Henry Littlefield proposed [PDF] that L. Frank Baum’s story—with its silver shoes, golden road, and green city—was a parable about Depression Era populism, represented specifically by failed presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan’s thoughts on switching from "the gold standard." The theory claims that Dorothy’s adventure is a defense of farmers taking control of the levers of power as the yellow brick road (representing the gold standard) throws problem after problem at their feet with the Wicked Witch representing the banks and, somehow, the lion representing Bryan himself. Like any good conspiracy theory, every element lines up perfectly if you choose to see it that way. The only problem? Baum wasn’t a populist, so there’s very little reason to believe he would write a story championing that view. Even Littlefield has renounced the theory.

4. It presages Donald Trump’s America.

With that populist slant out of the way, we can really dive into the bonkers stuff. That includes a modern update on politics suggested by British journalist Bidisha. The two major elements are the gilded rot plaguing Oz/America and the bloviating con artist exposed as a fraud without seemingly suffering any repercussions. "The Wizard of Oz is a truly American narrative, and more influential than ever,” Bidisha wrote for The Guardian. "Dorothy goes from wishing to explore all the shades of the rainbow to gratefully embracing black and white, from reaching out to defiant insularity, from exciting new friends to old stalwarts."

5. The Wizard of Oz is Willy Wonka’s father.

A still from 'The Wizard of Oz' (1939)
Turner Entertainment Co.

If you’ve ever wondered where the red spiral aligned with the yellow brick road in Munchkinland leads, tumblr user screennamemissing has the answer: Willy Wonka’s factory. Imagine that the Wizard flew to Oz in a hot air balloon that got busted, and after securing some success in the candy business, the Wizard’s son Willy goes searching for him in all sorts of strange lands, eventually ending up in Munchkinland himself, where he learns the secrets of candy trees and establishes the Lollipop Guild. He uses those fantastical methods to soar to the top of the candy game, finds comfort in his father’s approval, and installs two roads leading from Munchkinland: One to the Emerald City of his father, and one to the factory he owns. The dates on the full theory are way off, but it’s the most fun, inventive theory going around.

6. The story is a celebration of Christianity.

There are dozens of examinations of The Wizard of Oz—both the movie and the original book on which it's based—in the context of religion, all of which note Baum’s faith. Megan Bailey’s article for Beliefnet likens Dorothy’s journey to the personal journey of Christians searching outside themselves for fulfillment, only to learn from an angelic spirit that power and guidance were with them from the start. In Dorothy's case, her well-intentioned friends nonetheless propel her toward a false idol, and the Wicked Witch of the West represents Satan’s continual temptations to stray from the righteous path.

7. The story is a celebration of atheism.

This is what happens when you have a story filled with a bunch of undefined symbols. The same exact story that was taken as a banner for Christianity was also derided by Christians for being anti-religion, a reading happily adopted by some atheists who view the movie as a journey away from small-minded thinking toward godless enlightenment. In this interpretation, the tornado represents the chaos of leaving the safety of a church tradition, the slippers are Dorothy’s self-reliance, and Oz’s command to kill the Wicked Witch of the West represents the social control of the church—with “God” ultimately revealed to be a silly man controlling a ruse. There are several theories that echo sentiments along those lines, but The Show-Me Skeptic’s is the best because it claims critical thinking itself is represented by Toto. The thing drawing us toward enlightenment is also trashing Miss Gulch’s garden.

8. Dorothy Gale is a feminist icon.

A still from 'The Wizard of Oz' (1939)
Turner Entertainment Co.

The movie is so ingrained into our thinking that it may be easy to miss how radical it is. Unlike the damsels in distress that plague(d) Western literature, Baum’s book featured a capable heroine with the power to save herself and her three bumbling male companions in a land co-ruled by several women and a grifting man. Naturally, Baum’s books were written before women got the vote in the United States, and women had been voting for less than two decades when the movie came out.

Unlike the populism theory, Dorothy’s status as an icon from what was described as “the earliest, truly feminist American children’s book” matches what we know about the author’s personal politics. His mother-in-law, Matilda Gage, was a suffragist philosopher whose writing Baum published as editor of the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, and it’s popular thinking among biographers that he took the concept of the Good Witch wholesale from Gage. Obviously this theory is a bit less “bizarre” and more “definitely true and totally awesome.”

15 Facts About Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure on Its 30th Anniversary

MGM
MGM

In 1989, a couple of slackers from San Dimas, California hopped inside a time-traveling phone booth and gathered a gaggle of key figures from the past so they wouldn’t fail their high school history class. In 1991, they were at it again. Now, 30 years after Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter first cemented their place in sci-fi history as the lovable duo, the long-awaited threequel—Bill & Ted Face the Music—has been officially confirmed. Here are 15 things you might not know about the most excellent original film.

1. Bill and Ted were born in an improv class.

The idea for the characters of Bill and Ted came about in 1983, when UCLA classmates Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson formed a student improv workshop with a few of their peers. “One day, we decided to do a couple of guys who knew nothing about history, talking about history,” Solomon recalled to Cinemafantastique in a 1991 interview. “The initial improv was them studying history, while Ted’s father kept coming up to ask them to turn their music down.” (Solomon played Ted, Matheson was Bill.)

2. Originally, it was Bill & Ted & Bob.

When the skit originated, there was a third character, Bob. But “Bob” wasn’t as into it as Solomon and Matheson, so the trio became a duo.

3. Bill wanted to be Ted and Ted wanted to be Bill.

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Keanu Reeves playing Ted Logan, or another actor besides Alex Winter in the role of Bill S. Preston, Esq., but each actor actually auditioned for the opposite role. But when Solomon and Matheson saw their audition tapes, they thought the opposite would work better. In an online chat with Moviefone, Reeves claimed that he didn’t even know their roles had been switched until after he had been cast. “I got a call saying that I got the part,” Reeves recalled. “So I went to the wardrobe fitting… assuming I was playing Bill, and I get there and Alex Winter, who eventually played Bill, went to the wardrobe fitting thinking he was playing Ted. Then we were informed that that wasn't the case.”

4. Pauly Shore also wanted to be Ted.


Getty Images

Pauly Shore was among the hundreds of actors who auditioned for the role of Ted. In 1991, Shore hosted an MTV special, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Premiere Party, in which Shore corners Reeves in a back room to talk about his failed audition. Lucky for America, Shore did go on to find fame apart from Bill & Ted, and bring the phrase, “Hey, Bu-ddy!” into the popular lexicon.

5. No, Bio-Dome is not Bill & Ted's threequel.

Speaking of Pauly Shore ... For years, rumors circulated that the script for 1996’s Bio-Dome—starring Shore and Stephen Baldwin—was actually written as the third film in the Bill & Ted franchise. In 2011, Winter laid this rumor to rest when he told /Film that the story is “total urban legend as far as I know. No one involved in that movie had anything to do with Bill & Ted. So unless they were just going to try and reboot the franchise with that concept and different actors, I can’t see a connection.”

6. Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter weren't quite nerdy enough.

The casting of Reeves and Winter posed a problem for the script. “Bill and Ted were conceived in our minds as these 14-year-old skinny guys, with low-rider bellbottoms and heavy metal T-shirts,” Solomon told Cinefantastique. “We actually had a scene that was even shot, with Bill and Ted walking past a group of popular kids who hate them. But once you cast Alex and Keanu, who look like pretty cool guys, that was hard to believe.”

7. George Carlin was a happy accident.


Getty Images

In a 2013 Reddit AMA, Alex Winter called the casting of George Carlin (as Rufus, Bill and Ted’s mentor) “a very happy accident. They were going after serious people first. Like Sean Connery. And someone had the idea, way after we started shooting, of George. That whole movie was a happy accident. No one thought it would ever see the light of day.”

8. The time machine was originally a van.

In Solomon and Matheson’s original script, it was a 1969 Chevy van that served as Bill and Ted’s time machine. But in the course of rewriting the script for Warner Bros., who showed early interest in producing the project, there was concern that a motor vehicle as time machine would ring too closely as a rip-off of Back to the Future, which arrived in theaters in 1985. It was director Stephen Herek who suggested a phone booth, as he thought it could lend itself to something akin to a roller coaster in the visuals. (The phone booth’s similarity to Doctor Who’s TARDIS was apparently not a big concern to the studio.)

9. Some Nintendo lover has that phone booth.

As part of a promotion for 1991’s Bill & Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure, Nintendo Power magazine gave away Bill & Ted’s phone booth as a contest prize. The lucky winner was one Kenneth Grayson, who Reddit tracked down for an AMA in 2011. Grayson spent much of the chat answering questions about whether or not any X-rated activities had ever taken place in the phone booth.

10. The script was written in four days. By hand.

In 1984, Solomon and Matheson wrote the script over the course of just four days. They wrote it by hand, on note paper, during a series of meetings at a couple of local coffee shops. The 2005 box set, Bill & Ted’s Most Excellent Collection, features some of their handwritten notes.

11. Sci-fi wasn't part of the plan.

Keanu Reeves, Dan Shor, and Alex Winter in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)
MGM

Though Matheson is the son of legendary sci-fi writer Richard Matheson, author of I Am Legend, he didn’t intend for Bill & Ted to be a science-fiction movie. “I try to consciously fight it, out of a desire to break away, but maybe I have a predilection toward that because of my dad,” Matheson told Starlog Magazine of the inevitable fantasy elements that emerged. “He’s a great writer and craftsman, and always has suggestions.” In fact, it was the elder Matheson’s idea that the time travel story be its own movie. “We were going to write a sketch film, with this as one of the skits, but my dad said, ‘That sounds like a whole movie,’” Matheson recalled, “And he was right!”

12. Bill and Ted almost traveled straight to television.

Shortly after principal photography on the film was completed in 1987, the film’s financiers, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, went bankrupt. A straight-to-cable release was the most likely path for the time-traveling comedy until Orion Pictures and Nelson Entertainment bought the rights in 1988 for a 1989 release. Because of the delay to theaters, references to the year—which had been filmed as “1987”—had to be dubbed for 1988, resulting in a few scenes where the actors’ lips don’t quite match the sound.

13. Their journeys continued in a variety of media.

In addition to the 1991 sequel, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, the Bill & Ted franchise includes 1990’s Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures, an animated series for which Reeves, Winter, and Carlin provided the voices. It lasted for one season. The title was revived as a live-action series in 1992, which included none of the original cast and ran for just seven episodes. In 1991, Marvel Comics launched Bill and Ted’s Excellent Comic Book, written by Evan Dorkin.

14. Back in the late 1980s, you could eat Bill and Ted.

As a tie-in to the animated series, you could—for a short while—actually start your morning with a bowl of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Cereal, which was touted as “A Most Awesome Breakfast Adventure.”

15. Bill and Ted will ride again.

Over the past several years there has been a lot of buzz about a third Bill & Ted movie coming to theaters. In 2011, Winter tweeted that the script had been completed and that he was getting ready to read it. When asked about the possibility of a threequel in 2013, Reeves told the Today Show, “I'm open to the idea of that. I think it’s pretty surreal, playing Bill and Ted at 50. But we have a good story in that. You can see the life and joy in those characters, and I think the world can always use some life and joy.” Several references to the possible project have been made since then, and it's now been confirmed that the third film, Bill and Ted Face the Music, is currently in pre-production.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, via a report from the Cannes Film Festival, Matheson and Solomon co-wrote the script and Dean Parisot (Galaxy Quest) is attached to direct. Reeves and Winter will, of course, be reprising their roles, which "will see the duo long past their days as time-traveling teenagers and now weighed down by middle age and the responsibilities of family. They’ve written thousands of tunes, but they have yet to write a good one, much less the greatest song ever written." Excellent!

6 Times There Were Ties at the Oscars

getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)
getty images (March and Beery)/ istock (oscar)

Only six ties have ever occurred during the Academy Awards's more than 90-year history. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) members vote for nominees in their corresponding categories; here are the six times they have come to a split decision.

1. Best Actor // 1932

Back in 1932, at the fifth annual Oscars ceremony, the voting rules were different than they are today. If a nominee received an achievement that came within three votes of the winner, then that achievement (or person) would also receive an award. Actor Fredric March had one more vote than competitor Wallace Beery, but because the votes were so close, the Academy honored both of them. (They beat the category’s only other nominee, Alfred Lunt.) March won for his performance in horror film Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Beery won for The Champ (writer Frances Marion won Best Screenplay for the film), which was remade in 1979 with Ricky Schroder and Jon Voight. Both Beery and March were previous nominees: Beery was nominated for The Big House and March for The Royal Family of Broadway. March won another Oscar in 1947 for The Best Years of Our Lives, also a Best Picture winner. Fun fact: March was the first actor to win an Oscar for a horror film.

2. Best Documentary Short Subject // 1950

By 1950, the above rule had been changed, but there was still a tie at that year's Oscars. A Chance to Live, an 18-minute movie directed by James L. Shute, tied with animated film So Much for So Little. Shute’s film was a part of Time Inc.’s "The March of Time" newsreel series and chronicles Monsignor John Patrick Carroll-Abbing putting together a Boys’ Home in Italy. Directed by Bugs Bunny’s Chuck Jones, So Much for So Little was a 10-minute animated film about America’s troubling healthcare situation. The films were up against two other movies: a French film named 1848—about the French Revolution of 1848—and a Canadian film entitled The Rising Tide.

3. Best Actress // 1969

Probably the best-known Oscars tie, this was the second and last time an acting award was split. When presenter Ingrid Bergman opened up the envelope, she discovered a tie between newcomer Barbra Streisand and two-time Oscar winner Katharine Hepburn—both received 3030 votes. Streisand, who was 26 years old, tied with the 61-year-old The Lion in Winter star, who had already been nominated 10 times in her lengthy career, and won the Best Actress Oscar the previous year for Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. Hepburn was not in attendance, so all eyes fell on Funny Girl winner Streisand, who wore a revealing, sequined bell-bottomed-pantsuit and gave an inspired speech. “Hello, gorgeous,” she famously said to the statuette, echoing her first line in Funny Girl.

A few years earlier, Babs had received a Tony nomination for her portrayal of Fanny Brice in the Broadway musical Funny Girl, but didn’t win. At this point in her career, she was a Grammy-winning singer, but Funny Girl was her movie debut (and what a debut it was). In 1974, Streisand was nominated again for The Way We Were, and won again in 1977 for her and Paul Williams’s song “Evergreen,” from A Star is Born. Four-time Oscar winner Hepburn won her final Oscar in 1982 for On Golden Pond.

4. Best Documentary Feature // 1987

The March 30, 1987 telecast made history with yet another documentary tie, this time for Documentary Feature. Oprah presented the awards to Brigitte Berman’s film about clarinetist Artie Shaw, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, and to Down and Out in America, a film about widespread American poverty in the ‘80s. Former Oscar winner Lee Grant (who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1976 for Shampoo) directed Down and Out and won the award for producers Joseph Feury and Milton Justice. “This is for the people who are still down and out in America,” Grant said in her acceptance speech.

5. Best Short Film (Live Action) // 1995

More than 20 years ago—the same year Tom Hanks won for Forrest Gump—the Short Film (Live Action) category saw a tie between two disparate films: the 23-minute British comedy Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and the LGBTQ youth film Trevor. Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi wrote and directed the former, which stars current Oscar nominee Richard E. Grant as Kafka. The BBC Scotland film envisions Kafka stumbling through writing The Metamorphosis.

Trevor is a dramatic film about a gay 13-year-old boy who attempts suicide. Written by James Lecesne and directed by Peggy Rajski, the film inspired the creation of The Trevor Project to help gay youths in crisis. “We made our film for anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider,” Rajski said in her acceptance speech, which came after Capaldi's. “It celebrates all those who make it through difficult times and mourns those who didn’t.” It was yet another short film ahead of its time.

6. Best Sound Editing // 2013

The latest Oscar tie happened in 2013, when Zero Dark Thirty and Skyfall beat Argo, Django Unchained, and Life of Pi in sound editing. Mark Wahlberg and his animated co-star Ted presented the award to Zero Dark Thirty’s Paul N.J. Ottosson and Skyfall’s Per Hallberg and Karen Baker Landers. “No B.S., we have a tie,” Wahlberg told the crowd, assuring them he wasn’t kidding. Ottosson was announced first and gave his speech before Hallberg and Baker Landers found out that they were the other victors.

It wasn’t any of the winners' first trip to the rodeo: Ottosson won two in 2010 for his previous collaboration with Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker (Best Achievement in Sound Editing and Sound Mixing); Hallberg previously won an Oscar for Best Sound Effects Editing for Braveheart in 1996, and in 2008 both Hallberg and Baker Landers won Best Achievement in Sound Editing for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Ottosson told The Hollywood Reporter he possibly predicted his win: “Just before our category came up another fellow nominee sat next to me and I said, ‘What if there’s a tie, what would they do?’ and then we got a tie,” Ottosson said. Hallberg also commented to the Reporter on his win. “Any time that you get involved in some kind of history making, that would be good.”

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