The Wizard of Oz (BFI Film Classics)

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The Wizard of Oz 'was my very first literary influence,' writes Salman Rushdie in his
account of the great MGM children's classic. At the age of ten he had written a story,
'Over the Rainbow', about a colourful fantasy world. But for Rushdie The Wizard of Oz
is more than a children's film, and more than a fantasy. It's a story whose driving
force is the inadequacy of adults, in which 'the weakness of grown-ups forces
children to take control of their own destinies'. And Rushdie rejects the conventional
view that its fantasy of escape from reality ends with a comforting return to home,
sweet home. On the contrary, it is a film that speaks to the exile. The Wizard of Oz
shows that imagination can become reality, that there is no such place like home,
or rather that the only home is the one we make for ourselves.
Rushdie's brilliant insights into a film more often seen than written about are
rounded off with his typically scintillating short story, 'At the Auction of the Ruby
Slippers,' about the day when Dorothy's red shoes are knocked down to $15,000 at a
sale of MGM props …
In his foreword to this special edition, published to celebrate the 20th anniversary of
the BFI Film Classics series, Rushdie looks back to the circumstances in which he
wrote the book, when, in the wake of the controversy surrounding The Satanic Verses
and the issue of a fatwa against him, the idea of home and exile held a particular

Product Details

  • Series: BFI Film Classics
  • Paperback: 80 pages
  • Publisher: British Film Institute; 2 edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844575160
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844575169
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.2 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces

Customer Reviews

Rushdie at his best – an essential guide to the Wiz

15 people found this helpful.
 on March 14, 2001
By R. Griffiths
The Wizard of Oz is a central piece of Twentieth Century mythmaking. It’s hard to imagine the history of cinema without it. And yet I have often told people (adults, that is) it’s one of my favourite films, only to be met with blank incomprehension or wry amusement. After all, what’s an adult doing admiring a film so obviously aimed at children?

Great Oz, Great Rushdie book

9 people found this helpful.
 on February 21, 2004
By J. Holt
A great book for Rushdie — one can feel the limitations perhaps set by the editors on him — usually Rushdie runs on, but here all of his insight and enthusiasm is pared down into an economical essay one can enjoy in less than an afternoon. Oh, it’s a wonderful book on the Wizard movie, too.

A lovable companion to take with you to ‘Oz’.

9 people found this helpful.
 on January 28, 2002
By darragh o’donoghue
‘The Wizard of Oz’ is a miraculous rarity in the history of cinema. It is an intricately structured work, whose themes, images, narratives and characters echo and refract each other across its story. Surely for this to be possible, we would expect the over-arching organising sensibility of a Great Auteur, a Hitchcock or a Hawks. But ‘Oz’ has none – neither the writer of the source novel, L. Frank Baum; nor the many scriptwriters usually at each others’ throats; nor the producers Mervyn Leroy or Arthur Freed; not the directors, credited and uncredited, can claim the honour of solely creating this masterpiece. Out of a series of accidents came a near-perfect work, just as out of the Big Bang, the intricacy of living organimsms, ‘simply happened’. As Salman Rushdie remarks, ‘Oz’ is ‘an authorless text’.

Rushdie the essayist and Rushdie the storyteller in one volume…

3 people found this helpful.
 on July 13, 2008
By ewomack
Watching a film armed with a “remote control zapper” can yield insights unknown to the non-stop viewer. After all, freeze frames, with their enviable power to stop time, allow for far more than infinitesimal nanoseconds of reflection. Using the “pause” trigger in this way arguably transforms it into an educational tool.

Really great

3 people found this helpful.
 on August 31, 2001
By Mark Richardson
I stumbled accross this by accident in a video rental store a few years ago, with no prior affinity for Rushdie.


12 people found this helpful.
 on May 3, 1999
By Gordon Strause
I didn’t realize until now that this was an actual book and I haven’t read the entire work, but I did read the “New Yorker” essay which I’m assuming takes excerpts.

A wizard on "Oz"

4 people found this helpful.
 on July 8, 2006
By Jay Dickson
One of the first long pieces Salman Rushdie wrote after the fatwa issued against him by the Ayatollah Khomeini, this charming little 1992 study of THE WIZARD OF OZ is one of their most charming in the BFI catalogue, and tells us perhaps more about the workings of one of the most important living novelists (himself a kind of wizard exiled from home) as it does about the 1939 MGM classic. The monograph consists of two halves: an extended essay on THE WIZARD OF OZ itself, and Rushdie’s by-now famous short story “At the Auction of the Ruby Slippers,” a fantasia on the famous early 70s purchase of one of the many pairs of slippers crafted for the film for what was then the unbelievable price of $15,000. The essay on the film brings up all kinds of intriguing departure points for Rushdie: he emphasizes its importance to his own imaginative work (the depiction of the Widow in MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN, he now realizes, owes much to the unforgettable appearance of Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West), offers surprising analyses of the film’s treatments of exile and return, and compares it to the musicals of Bollywood. The essay disappoints only by being too short: you wish it would go on longer and tell you even more.


4 people found this helpful.
 on April 7, 2002
By Darryl M. Haase
Most people don’t realize that the film-making industry of India (called “Bollywood” by some Westerners) puts Hollywood to shame by sheer size and appeal. Having Rushdie, a student of Indian film and an infamous scholar, review “The Wizard of Oz” from his own unique point of view, is priceless. Rushdie spends more time than most going through the mythological meanings and symbolic imagery of the film, and leaves out much of the popular emphasis on MGM’s prestige and the legacy of Judy Garland, which offers a refreshing perspective on the film. A highly recommended read, and one which will make you want to explore other BFI commentaries.

Quite Nice

One person found this helpful.
 on November 15, 2008
By tierny
It’s impossible to separate The Wizard of Oz from the deep emotion it inspires. The movie rapidly plunges a viewer back into childhood fears/dreams and the context in which one first saw it.

for a film class

One person found this helpful.
 on December 24, 2006
By Lizzy T.
I really enjoyed this book. I had to read it for a film analysis and aesthetics class, along with many other BFI books, and it was my favorite one. I would have read it even if I weren’t in the class — Rushdie offers a personal take on a classic movie, and his reading (one that says youth is constantly looking for a technicolor world far away from their grounding, drab home life) is one easily relatable. I recommend it to any fan of Rushdie’s, The Wizard of Oz and/or film.

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