It's The Wonderful 'Wizard Of Oz' At 70

On Our Soapbox Blog

On Wednesday Sept. 23, more than 400 theaters across the country will show The Wizard of Oz on the big screen, in honor of the film's 70th anniversary. Host Scott Simon speaks to Angelica Carpenter, president of the International Wizard of Oz Club, and 94-year-old Meinhardt Raabe, one of the actors who played a Munchkin in the film.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

The film "The Wizard of Oz" turns 70 this year. Follow the yellow brick road. And, of course, Dorothy's dream after she's met Scarecrow, Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion, marched with Munchkins and helped kill a witch, she taps her ruby slippers and says…

(Soundbite of movie, "The Wizard of Oz")

Ms. JUDY GARLAND (Actor): (as Dorothy) There's no place like home.

(Singing) We're off to see the wizard, the wonderful wizard of oz…

SIMON: This Wednesday, a new digitized, updated version of the 70-year-old film will be shown in more than 400 theaters across the country.

Angelica Carpenter will be there. She's the president of the International Wizard of Oz Club - she's even written a book about L. Frank Baum, of course the book's author. She joins us now from the studios of KVPR in Fresno, California. Thanks very much for being with us.

Ms. ANGELICA CARPENTER (International Wizard of Oz Club): Thank you for inviting me.

SIMON: So how does this story manage to still capture attention after 70 years?

Ms. CARPENTER: Well, it's such a terrific movie, and when you think about why, there's no one reason. Everything about it was good.

SIMON: You know, we're pleased to be joined by one of the last remaining cast members of "The Wizard of Oz." Meinhardt Raabe played a munchkin in the film. He joins us from our station, WJCT, in Jacksonville, Florida. Mr. Raabe, you're now 94. What do you remember in the film?

Mr. MEINHARDT RAABE (Actor): Obviously, it was a very interesting time. Working with a lot of other friends, other munchkins in this picture. Every day was a new experience.

SIMON: Yeah. We have, well, we have one of your best lines from the film.

(Soundbite of movie, "The Wizard of Oz")

Mr. RAABE: (as Coroner) (Unintelligible) As coroner, I must aroar, I thoroughly examined her. And she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: Now, Mr. Raabe, did you do your own singing or did Frank Sinatra dub that?

Mr. RAABE: That was my voice. I'll say it again: As coroner, I must aroar, I thoroughly examined her. And she's not only merely dead, she's really most sincerely dead.

(Soundbite of laughter and applause)

SIMON: Very nice, very nice. May I say - forgive me for putting myself in the middle of this - I played Scarecrow when I was kid. Angelica Carpenter?

Ms. CARPENTER: Yes.

SIMON: I wonder if you can help sing along. Ready?

Ms. CARPENTER: Me?

SIMON: Yeah. Well, you're...ready?

Ms. CARPENTER: All right, I'm ready.

SIMON: (Singing) (Unintelligible) with the flowers, consulted with the rain…

Ms. CARPENTER: You know it better than I do.

SIMON: Well, your line is: (Singing) With the thoughts you were thinking, you could be…

Ms. CARPENTER: (Singing) …you could be another Lincoln if you only had a brain.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: You did beautifully.

Ms. CARPENTER: Thank you.

SIMON: You know, a lot of people - well, with "Star Trek" casts, people would say, oh, I'm more like Spock than I'm like Kirk. Does that go on with the "Wizard of Oz" cast? Do people consider themselves scarecrow types or tin woodsman types, you know, the strong, silent type or the cowardly lion type?

Ms. CARPENTER: Of course they do. We all do that. Children identify with it and adults do too. I identify with Dorothy, for example.

SIMON: Many little girls do, gosh knows, you know? The dog in the…

Ms. CARPENTER: Or the witch. If I'm having a bad day I identify with the witch, you know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Take some fire, scarecrow.

Ms. CARPENTER: That's right.

SIMON: Right?

Ms. CARPENTER: That's right.

SIMON: Yeah, yeah. Mr. Raabe?

Mr. RAABE: Yes.

SIMON: I wonder if over the years, do people point at you and do their parents say he was a Munchkin?

Mr. RAABE: Well, I am living now in a retirement community with a lot of, shall we say, senior citizens who are avid fans of "The Wizard of Oz" because it reminds them of their early years.

SIMON: Oh my gosh. To have you among them, what a special honor. It's been wonderful to talk to both of you. Thank you.

Ms. CARPENTER: Thank you.

SIMON: Angelica Carpenter in Fresno is president of the International Wizard of Oz Club, and Meinhardt Raabe, the oldest living actor who played a munchkin in the film "The Wizard of Oz." He joined us from Jacksonville. A real honor to talk to you, Mr. Raabe.

Mr. RAABE: Thank you.

SIMON: Take care.

And by the way, you can share your own memories of "The Wizard of Oz" on our blog at NPR.org/Soapbox.

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