Click on photos to enlarge.

Thursday, October 31, 2013


Most of the most common Venetian masks
copyright, Jim Lane
In Venice, one might think every
day was Halloween.
I usually don't tie my posts to holidays. However, since our trip to Venice last summer, I've been intending to write about the most creative efforts on the part of artists to hide their identities (and that of others). What better time than Halloween? Perhaps in no other place on earth have masks (or masques) become so closely associated with a city's identity. You would think the city invented the mask. That's far from true, of course, but a case might be made for their having invented the masquerade ball. I would even go so far as to say nowhere else on earth are masks so exquisitely beautiful (and expensive). While in Venice I admired many in various shop windows and fully intended to buy one as a most appropriate souvenir. But then, what with everything else there is to see and do in Venice, we simply forgot. I've been kicking myself ever since for my lapse.

Mask of Agamemnon, 1600 BC.
Was it a portrait or a disguise?
The association of masks with Halloween is a relatively recent development. Masks are nearly as old as man, the earliest one dating from around 7,000 BC. It's oval with rounded eyes and a smiling, orange-slice mouth. It likely wouldn't scare anyone but it might get rather tiresome to wear--it's made of stone. Perhaps the most impressive ancient mask is that of Agamemnon (right), which dates from 1600 BC. It's not just somewhat frightening but has the added advantage of being made of solid beaten gold (it too might get a little tiresome to wear). The Greeks made use of masks in their theater productions, often including small, built-in megaphones for voice projection.

Picasso's African masks.
A screaming Munch
Perhaps the most lavish masks today are also not related to Halloween but Carnival--Mardi Gras. They borrow from from Venetian masks but tend to be more ethnically diverse and far more phantasmagorical. And while Venetian masks often tend to be merely half-masks, Carnival masks seldom are. In fact many extend to covering the entire head, not just the face. Indeed, they are often part of an entire body costume. Insofar as art is concerned, when we think of masks, we often conjure up images of those from the continent of Africa. Picasso, for instance, became quite fond of these images, which, for a time, showed up in his paintings, his groundbreaking 1909 les Demoiselles d'Avignon (above, left), instance. Edvard Munch's paintings of The Scream reverses the flow of masks into art as his images serve to inspire masks (above, right). Actually, every continent, virtually every culture, every country on earth has its own brand of masks, Balinese and Japanese masks come to mind.

People pay good money to look this ugly?
And then there's the American version of masks--the Halloween masks. Here's where things get ugly. Beauty, as seen in masks, seems to be mundane. Horror, terror, fright, fear, and nausea have been the rage since I can remember--longer than I like to remember. In more recent years the movies have been a rich source of inspiration for Halloween disguises--Spiderman, Batman and his Nemesis, the Joker, R2D2, and Mickey Mouse. Insofar as Halloween is concerned, dressing in costume came long before the use of masks, as far back as the 16th century in England. In the U.S., Halloween masks evolved from makeup and face paint. They seem to be mostly a 20th century phenomena. Halloween masks today are overwhelmingly frightening, with zombies appearing to be the choice horror at the moment. Still worse along this line, is the frightful images (realistic or caricatured) of politicians--JFK, Nixon, Obama, Bill and Hillary, and Sarah Palin the leading choices (below). Now that is frightening.

Who's the scariest?


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Vija Celmins

Untitled (ocean), 1977, Vija Celmins...why?
Vija Celmins, Phong Bui 
In viewing the work of Latvian-born artist, Vija Celmins, the mind rebels. That has to be a photo; no artist would take the time and effort to draw something like that...nor would they be likely to do it so well as for it to be mistaken for a photo. That same mindset dominates her work whether in acrylics, oils, pencil, or even, incredibly, her Claes Oldenburg-sized sculptures of pencil stubs. Her work is so photo-realistic the obvious question arises--why? If you're going to draw a picture of the open sea so exquisitely rendered as to be mistaken for a photo, then why not skip the laborious drawing and simply frame the photo instead. Size is no excuse. Photos can be enlarged even to billboard-size with little loss of resolution even from digital pocket cameras.
Flying Fortress, 1966, Vija Celmins--creative destruction.
Time Magazine Cover, 1965,
Vija Celmins
The answer involves the artist wanting to make a statement. That's it. That's the sum and substance of her art. Perhaps that should be the case for all art. The subjects seem to be chosen at random--a pistol being fired, a Time magazine cover, a spider web, pebbles, the galaxy, a common comb--objects from the artist's environment so common that most artists wouldn't even consider considering them as apt subjects for their work, much less spending the hours needed to render them photographically real. In a nutshell, Celmins is saying, nothing is too mundane to become art. Though most of her subjects appear randomly (even blindly) selected, there are themes running through her work. One has been "Creative Destruction," that is, the oxymoronic, drawn creation of the act of destroying, or that which facilitates destruction. Vija saw WW II up close and personal as a child refugee, having had the misfortune of being born in 1938 in Riga, Latvia, and spending many of her formative years in European refugee camps. She knows her subject first-hand. Many of her early drawings were photographically accurate images of WW II aircraft.
Creating destruction.
Vija's family came to the U.S. in 1948, settling first in New York, then Indianapolis. She was ten and spoke no English. As a result, she escaped into her art. She claims that, only after graduating from high school and beginning college art classes at the John Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, did she really have a feeling of belonging. After the completion of her MFA at UCLA, Celmins joined the burgeoning artist colony of Venice, California, where she drew and painted while moonlighting as an instructor at three different nearby colleges. It was during this time that she became collectible, while routinely exalting the mundane. It was during this time, too, that Pop was all the rage. Celmins began as a Pop artist but soon veered of onto the remote side road of Photo-Realism. From there she explored the even more remote path alongside the "why" question posed before. Perhaps the answer is simply, "why not?"

Pencil, 1966, Vija Celmins
Eraser, 1967, Vija Celmins



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Baroque Art

The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, 1652, Gian Lorenzo Bernini--sculpted and staged.
The "beams" of light are gold leaf, highlighted by a hidden window above.
The marble sculture, though weighing tons, appears to float.
All to often, art historians, critics, and others who write about art toss out labels and terms to their readers with all the uncaring panache of a farmer feeding chickens. They illogically assume their readers know as much about art as they do. As any art student will quickly tell you, it's not a safe assumption. I've undoubtedly been guilty of this at times and likewise, I've certainly been on the receiving end, plucking up such scattered morsels of art jargon, hoping to digest them later. With that in mind, I've decided to back off and do a series of posts which take up some of the more common such golden kernels and grind them up a bit, tasting them and checking their "list of ingredients."

The Baroque Ludovica, 1674, Gian Lorenzo, Bernini--Michelangelo on steroids.
I've chosen to begin with the term "Baroque." Although art eras are among the most likely to stick in one's intellectual "throat," they are by no means the worst offenders in this regard. Anyone care to define "tenebrism" right off the top of your head? I didn't think so. The second term is an attribute of the first (insofar as painting is concerned). And the first term, "baroque," is so often used because it's both a noun and an adjective, though if you understand it as an adjective, the noun usage is a given. Likewise, the term transcends mere painting and sculpture to lend it's adjective presence to architecture (man, does it ever) as well as music, literature, drama, and humor--"If it ain't baroque, don't fix it."
Gian Lorenzo Bernini Self-portrait, 1623
There are several long, technical, often convoluted descriptions and definitions of baroque art, but the best and easiest one I've ever heard is simply, "theatrical." One might assume that such a term might also imply "dramatic," but theatrical and baroque go well beyond that. Most art, if it's any good at all, could be termed dramatic. Baroque art is dramatic, to say the least, but it's dramatic italicized, underlined, UPPER-CASE, and set in bold face type. If one went in search of an antonym, "subtle" might be a good choice. Of those descriptions, "italicized" may be most apt. The baroque style was born in Italy, though it by no means grew up there. It would be fair to say that the Italian sculptor and architect, Gian Lorenzo Bernini was the father of the Baroque style, while the mother was the Catholic church (don't press that analogy too far). The church needed a style of art and architecture designed to impress (even intimidate) the masses at mass, and Bernini was only too ready, willing, and able to supply it.
Three eras, three centuries, three artists--Parmigianino, Caravaggio, Fragonard.
If you're confronted with the Baroque in terms of art history, the era pretty neatly fits into the 17th century--1600 to 1700, before it degenerated (or blossomed, take your pick) into the Rococo style in France and numerous other decadent manifestations elsewhere in Europe. The Baroque era stands out in art history mostly by way of a favorable comparison to what came before and, as I've implied, what followed (above). Mannerism came before it, a pretentious, failed attempt by 16th century artists to surpass the High Renaissance. The Rococo era occupied most of the 18th century and might be thought of as a "pretty," somewhat effeminate, version of the Baroque. Think of the three eras as a meal--a Mannerist salad, Baroque meat and potatoes, followed by a light, fluffy, French Rococo souffle.
The Taking of Jesus, 1602, Caravaggio--tenebrism and chiaroscuro

Michelangelo Caravaggio Self-portrait
If Bernini is deemed the "father" of the Baroque, the style's stepfather in painting would be Caravaggio, through which the earlier term, "tenebrism" comes into play. Likewise, while we're tossing out painting terms, let's add "chiaroscuro" to the mix. I'm tempted to simplify and say they mean the same. They don't, but they are related. Chiaroscuro largely refers to figures while tenebrism is broader, referring to the overall stark contrasts between extremely dark areas of a painting and brightly lit areas which employ chiaroscuro. Chiaroscuro involves gradations of light and dark as reflected, usually off limbs, and rounded objects as seen in his Incredulity of St. Thomas (bottom). Chiaroscuro was not new to the Baroque, but tenebrism was, and Caravaggio brought them together. Chiaroscuro gave the illusion of three-dimentional shapes while tenebrism added steroids.
Gian Lorenzo Bernini's 1615, Martyrdom of St. Lawrence, burned alive on a grate.
How many other sculptors have attempted to depict fire in marble?
Bernini was more than a great stonecarver--more even than a great sculptor. Michelangelo was a great sculptor. Bernini went beyond that. He was like a film director using marble. He "directed" his figures to depict emotions, action, and dramatic special effects, all of which he then "staged" to employ the most advantageous angle, lighting, and theatrical effects. His Ecstasy of St. Teresa (top) is his most impressive example. Bernini didn't have spotlights or floodlights, but he did have windows, and he knew how to use them. In creating his Martyrdom of St. Matthew (above) Bernini attempted to render fire in marble. There are dozens of other outstanding painters and sculptors I might point to as able practitioners of the baroque, but in virtually all cases they were mere students (if not in fact, then in essence) of one or both of these two fathers...and the "mother chuch." I wonder if they ever fought over custody.

The Incredulity of St. Thomas, 1602-03, Caravaggio
--his peasant models outraged the church.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Ramon Casas y Carbo

Artists in tandem, ca. 1890, Ramon Casas y Carbo--two of the four cats.

Self-portrait as a Flamenco Dancer,
1883, Ramon Casas y Carbo,
(seventeen at the time).
In writing about famous artists (and especially the not-so-famous), it's somewhat distressing to so often pen biographical details of how a talented young person is born in obscurity, struggles for parental approval, goes off to some big city to study and starve, striving stridently for stability and subsequent success. (I alliteratively love to do that.) This is not that kind of story. Ramon Casas y Carbo was born in 1866, near Barcelona, with the proverbial "silver spoon" in his mouth (later a cigar mounted vertically in a pipe). His father was rich, having made his fortune in Cuba some time earlier. His mother's family was simply "well-off," which, in Catalonia, could mean almost anything. At the ripe old age of elven, Ramon was allowed to jettison his conventional schooling in favor of art school. Still a teenager, and no doubt with his father's money, he co-founded a magazine, L'Avenç (the Advance). Then he was off to Paris to write and draw for the magazine and to study under Carolus Duran.

The Bullfight, 1884, Ramon Casas y Carbo
Cater to Headlights, Ramon Casas.
In the 1890s, driving the countryside
was high adventure. For a woman to
drive alone was scandalous.
Unlike the traditional story of the struggling starving art student, Ramon was an immediate success in Paris. His 1883 painting of himself as a Flamenco dancer (above, left) won him a place in the prestigious Paris the Salon des Champs Elysées and membership in the Societé d'artistes Françaises. His 1884 The Bullfight (above) was the first of many highly detailed crowd scenes--all before he turned twenty. Unfortunately, the promising young artist also came down with tuberculosis before he turned twenty. At that time, the disease was something of a lingering death sentence. But, possibly because of his youth, Ramon Casas recovered. During his recovery he met fellow artist, Santiago Rusinol. Together they set out on to explore Catalonia. They published a short book, Por Cataluña (desde mi carro) (Catalonia (by my car)), which Rusinol wrote and Casas illustrated. Casas and another artist friend, Pere Romeu, later repeated their explorations on a tandem bicycle. By the 1890s, Casas was showing his work in Berlin and Chicago. Both his style and content struck a chord with artist as well as the public. It looked modern yet had just enough Academic realism to not be disturbing. The paintings of Casas and his friends came to be known as Modernisme--kind of Art Nouveauish.

El Quatre Gats, ca. 1900--macho, yet arty.
Casas' El Quatre Gats poster has
somewhat the style of Toulouse-
Lautrec, whom Casas studied under.
In 1897, Casas, Romeu, Rusinol, and Parisian art critic/painter, Miquel Utrillo, got together to open a bar in beautiful, downtown Barcelona. They called it El Quatre Gats(the four cats), which may have been a slang reference to themselves. On its main wall, dominating all the art on the bar's other walls, Casas hung a giant painted image of himself and Romeu on their tandem bike (top). The bar was as much art gallery and artist hangout as it was a watering hole. Casas paid all the bills. It's unclear whether the place ever showed a profit, and in any case, it closed after just six years. The whole enterprise would be just a very minor footnote in the story of a fairly minor turn-of-the-century painter except for the presence of one of their best customers--fellow Catalan, Pablo Picasso.

Casas here paints Rusinol, and possibly Pere Romeu, painting one another around 1904.
Casas also drew a
Portrait of Picasso, 1900.
Picasso (left) was fifteen years younger than Casas and his friends, and, though prodigiously talented, not yet famous. He hung out at El Quatre Gats, drinking (of course) and drawing (of course). He drew their other arty patrons and, in fact, had his first one-man show on the premises in 1900, just before heading off to Paris to seek his fame and fortune. Picasso and Casas had a lot in common, despite their age difference. Both were child prodigies, both were Catalan, both came from relatively well-to-do families, and both abandoned Spain for Paris to study and make names for themselves. Both artists also came from an Academic background (Picasso's father, José Ruiz y Blasco, in fact, taught at a provincial art academy in Malaga). The difference was one of timing and personality. Casas was born and raised as something of an adventurous, rich playboy (and somewhat too soon, at that). Picasso was more the iconic struggling artist in those years (not that he didn't become a far richer playboy than Casas in his wildest dreams). Casas found traditional success early in life. Picasso didn't. He had to strive to be different, and that, insofar as art is concerned (in the words of Robert Frost) "...has made all the difference."

Female Nude, 1909, Ramon Casas y Carbo.
Casas' nudes are more often compositional exercises than erotic.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Leonora Carrington

Amor che move il Sole et l'altre Stelle, 1946, Carrington, Lenora
Leonora Carrington Self-portrait, 1937
If you like Surrealism, and I do; you won't necessarily like Leonora Carrington, which I don't. Leonora is an acquired taste. As surrealists go, she's no Salvador Dali nor Frieda Kahlo. If I had to apply a single word to describe her work, the first one to come to mind would be "weird." I know, that's a very lame, layman adjective, and much too broad. In fact, a layman might use it to describe virtually all Surrealism, and be largely correct in such a rather dull analysis. A couple days ago I wrote on The Wizard of Oz and said it would be far down my list of favorite movies. The same would be true of Leonora Carrington on my list of favorite Surrealists. In a sense, the two go together. Oz is something of a surreal film, albeit candy-coated. Although there is little candy coating with Leonora, I have to wonder if she could not have been a technical advisor for the movie.
The Horses of Lord Candlestick, 1938, Leonora Carrington--the Ernst effect.
Leonora Carrington was born in 1917 into the family of a wealthy British textile manufacturer. Educated by governesses and tutors appropriate to an upper-class lass of her time, Leonora didn't behave like one. By the time she was a teenager she'd been kicked out of two private schools with her headstrong head set on becoming an artist. Even as late as the Post-WW I era young ladies of her social strata didn't seek careers--especially not careers as artists. Her father vehemently opposed it. Her mother didn't. By 1935 she was attending the Chelsea School of Art then transferred to the Ozenfant Academy in London. First exposed to Surrealism as early as the age of ten, even her mother discouraged this direction taken by her painting. Then, in 1937, Leonora met the Surrealist painter, Max Ernst at a party in London. 

Portrait of Max Ernst,
1938, Leonora Carrington
There was an immediate affinity between the two. Max Ernst divorced his wife. Leonora quit school and moved with him to the south of France where they lived happily ever after...until another war came along. Max, who was German, was arrested by French authorities as a "hostile alien," though he was held for just a few weeks. Then, when the Nazis came to France, they arrested him. They didn't like his "degenerate" art. With the help of Peggy Guggenheim, Ernst managed to escape the Gestapo and fled with her to the U.S. Out of gratitude, he married her.
Possible study for Portrait of Dr.
Morales, 1940, Leonora Carrington

As might be expected, despite her "spunky" character, all this was a bit much for a sheltered British girl of just twenty-two. She fled to Spain where she suffered a nervous breakdown and was committed to an asylum. There she was treated with powerful drugs now banned throughout most of today's civilized world. Nonetheless, after some three years, Carrington was released, and with the help of the Surrealist kingpin, Andre Breton, managed to write an autobiographical book titled Down Below. A study for a portrait of her doctor (above, right) dates from the same period. She later ran away from her supervising nurse and sought refuge in the Mexican Embassy in Lisbon, which would explain how she ended up in Mexico.
Daughter of the Minotaur, 1953, Leonora Carrington
The Monks, Leonora Carrington
It was in Mexico where Leonora Carrington was to spend the rest of her life. She married and had two son. And it was in Mexico where her long sought and long delayed career as an artist really began. Although most often thought of as a painter, Carrington's bronze sculptures now dot the urban landscape in cities all over the world. Today, following her death in 2011, she is primarily recognized as a Mexican artist, though there is little to suggest the country had much influence upon her art. Often her work has a kind of "ghostly" quality to it, steeped in mythology, fear, and nightmarish terror. Her colors are mostly muted, her figures convoluted, all of which does nothing in causing me to like her work, but does elevate my appraisal a little beyond "weird."


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Shell Art

copyright, Jim Lane
Conch art, from Mexico's Passion Isle
A shell engraved
Some time ago I ventured that with enough creative ingenuity, virtually any substance can be the stuff from which art is derived. I've demonstrated this in displaying balloon art, car art, snow sculpture, ice sculpture, flower art, and probably several more which don't immediately come to mind. Two or three years ago as my wife and I enjoyed a day of rest and solitude on a sparsely populated island beach near Cozumel, Mexico, I came upon what I'll call, for the sake of simplicity, shell art. I couldn't resist. Employing my best bargaining talents, I managed to obtain for around $35. a sculptural shell grouping in the shape of a floral arrangement made entirely from the tail portion of three conch shells (above). I think the original asking price was around $75. The native artist was obviously quite proud of his work and reluctant to part with it, but, hey, I was a tourist. That's what tourists do.
You'll "shell" out a bundle for these fashion statements--not exactly scuff proof.
Presumably a "hard shell" crab.
Shell art, like virtually all art, can be divided into three categories, that which decorates, imitates, and originates. My conch flower arrangement falls into the last category even though it imitates somewhat a group of flowers. However, it does so within the confines of its original character. It does not "pretend" to be a rose, or any other identifiable blossom. The same can be said for the engraved shell (above, left) in which the natural color variations serve as a backdrop for the engraved figural image. As clever as they might be, the footwear directly above is merely decorated with shells, in effect, glorified shoe polish.

It's questionable as to whether this work is actually made of
shells or if they are applied over a sculpted base.
The shell Cameo Gonzaga depicts
Ptolemy II and Arsinoe II. It
dates from the third century BC.
In the imitative category we should consider the oldest form of shell art--the cameo. Of course, not all cameo's are made of shells. Most, in fact, are layered quartz of one type or another. Glass is also sometimes used. It's said that the popularity of 19th century cameo broaches and pendants derives from their discovery in the newly excavated ruins of Pompeii where numerous examples of such shell art had survived for centuries. Apparently the Romans were quite fond of such personal ornaments. Most often portrait profiles were carved into layered sections of conch shells. Like much of the art from the Mediterranean area, this delicate art form seems to have originated in Egypt as illustrated in one of the oldest examples, the Cameo Gonzaga (right), from the third century BC. Shells have long been used in jewelry, but also lend them well to being incorporated into various types of mixed-media as Sandra Wheeles and Daphne Cox have done in their stained glass creation (below). And for sheer audacity, check out the "street" art design (bottom) employing nothing but colored shells.

The Nautilus shell is used to suggest a Madonna and Child in this stained glass creation by Sandra Wheeles and Daphne Cox.

The beach meets the street.

Friday, October 25, 2013

MGM's The Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz cast, Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger, Judy Garland, and Jack Haley.
The title character was a bit part played by Frank Morgan, who also
had four other minor roles in the film.
Judy Garland read the book
but MGM's screenwriters seem
to have barely skimmed it.
Several years ago, my then eight-year-old granddaughter was chosen by her school to play the lead role in their children's operetta of The Wizard of Oz. My wife was called upon to sew her iconic light blue "jumper" dress. What a pleasure it was for me to explain to our talented young actress the long, colorful, indeed iconic, role she was stepping into. There will only be one Dorothy. Having said that, MGM's 1939 Wizard of Oz is very far down my list of favorite movies. I guess part of the reason has to do with the fact that I'm no great lover of children's movies. I guess I'm kind of fond of Spielberg's 1991 Hook which was something of a grown-up sequel to Peter Pan, but apart from that I can't think of a single such film I'd really like to see or see again. Quite apart from that, Wizard of Oz always struck me as being so syrupy sweet and "cute" as to drive up my already high glucose level by a hundred points. However, 1939 was a landmark year in Hollywood moviemaking with films such as Gone With the Wind, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Stagecoach, Wuthering Heights, Dark Victory, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Oz was, of course, a bright star in that galaxy. It was such a banner year for great films AMPAS was forced to increase the number of Best Picture nominations from seven to ten, not that it mattered much with Selznick's GWTW the hands-down favorite in that category. While winning Best Picture, it also copped seven other Oscars on the side. Wizard of Oz was nominated for six Oscars but won only two (Best Musical Score and Best Song).

How it all began--a sepia and white tornado--no simple feat in 1939.
Victor Fleming with his Dorothy
Ironically, Victor Fleming sort of found himself competing against himself, having directed Oz before being hastily "borrowed" from MGM by David Selznick to fix the multitude of sins plaguing GWTW during its first weeks of production. He won a well-deserved Oscar for directing GWTW. He wasn't even nominated for Oz, which brings to the fore one of the unfortunate difficulties of this third film version of Frank Baum's best-selling 1900 children's classic--the Oscar competition in all categories was cutthroat. Nearly 150 feature-length films were released that year. Wizard of Oz was quite competitive, though. Like GWTW it was a Technicolor extravaganza. It's budget of nearly $2.8-million was huge, though about a million less than that of Selznick's winner (a record at the time) but well above that of most of the other 1939 Oscar slate. Beyond that, Fleming was arguably the best director in Hollywood at the time, with a cast that was pitch perfect.

For MGM, the yellow brick road was not paved with gold.
A budget--$2.8-million got them only $3-million with the film's initial release.
Socks? With high heels?
Speaking of pitch, that brings up the film's major Oscar liability--it was a musical. Yet, Oz could only be called one of the great Hollywood musicals of all time. With an exorbitant song list of eighteen ditties such as the Oscar winning Over the Rainbow, followed closely by We're Off to See the Wizard, Ding Dong, the Witch Is Dead, and the unforgettable "classic," If I only had a Brain, to name just a few, Oz would be near the top of anyone's list of great film musicals. Yet, the film was seen by Hollywood against a backdrop of "serious" works as merely an expensive juvenile vehicle for some quite "hummable" musical numbers. Despite Victor Fleming's outstanding direction, it was not deemed to be in the same category as its powerful competition. Oz was simply overwhelmed, and not just by Gone With the Wind.

Judy Garland with Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West.
Witches, wizards, and windstorms...Harry Potter in pigtails?
Maybe this explains the movie's
enduring popularity around
Christmas time.
Moreover, despite the excellent cast, a tuneful score, Frank Baum's storybook plot, Victor Fleming's firm direction, Judy Garland's talented sidekicks and incredible singing voice, not to mention munchkins, witches, and wizards galore, Oz did little for MGM's 1939 balance sheet. It was not until a re-release ten years later that the studio listed it as profitable. Perhaps more than any other film, (with the possible exception of It's a Wonderful Life), has any motion picture so greatly owed its success to television. First shown on TV by CBS in 1956, since 1959, Wizard of Oz has become a perennial holiday classic even though it has not the slightest reference to Christmas, Thanksgiving, or New Year's Day. Halloween, maybe...