The Wizard of Oz — 80th Anniversary

1939 is often cited as the greatest year of Hollywood cinema. Eighty years ago were produced such monumental iconic films such as Gone With The Wind, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, Ninotcha, Wuthering Heights, Young Mr. Lincoln, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Gunga Din, and many more. But the particular epic I want to focus upon is the beloved children’s classic, The Wizard of Oz, based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the first in the series of books by L. Frank Baum.

Besides being one of the most watched movies in history, there is an ongoing debate about the supposed political content of the film. Was the Oz story an allegory about Populism? Here is one of the best summary treatments of this debate.  I often use this allegorical interpretation in my high school Economics class when discussing the powerful impact and influence of New York investment banker J. Pierpont Morgan, who I believe to be the real Wizard of Oz reigning over his Emerald City domain of Wall Street.

My other major difference in the standard interpretation of Oz as political allegory concerns the character of the Cowardly Lion (who is usually taken to represent the Nebraska politician William Jennings Bryan). I see the Lion as representing the rural African-American sharecroppers of the South, who have been cowered, bullied, intimidated, and oppressed by the segregationist Jim Crow tyranny of the Bourbon Democrat establishment. If only the Lion could unite with the Scarecrow (representing the populist Western farmers who know something is wrong with the economy but not knowing how to fix it), and the Tin Man (representing the Northeastern urban industrial workers unable to sympathize with the plight of the rural farmers), all three could march on NYC, the Emerald City, and confront the Wizard himself, J. Pierpont Morgan.


8:11 pm on October 13, 2019