I don't know. Maybe it was the Flying Monkeys. They were just outright weird, and there were so many of them, like fleets of German bombers, I imagined, terrorizing London during the blitz. Or maybe it was The Wicked Witch of the West (or was it the Wicked Witch of the East? I never get them straight.)
At any rate, as a child, I was never a big fan of the movie. I think as a kid I watched it once from beginning to end when it came on television, and then hoped we could watch something else when it came on the tube annually, like a recurring bad dream, year after year.
Why do children's tales scare the crap out of kids? What was L. Frank Baum thinking when he wrote this stuff?
Anyway, I felt this way about the movie even though Judy Garland was magnificent as Dorothy and I really liked when she sang "Over the Rainbow." Who doesn't?
It was only a few years later when I learned that Garland made other movies. She appeared with Mickey Rooney in the Andy Hardy series, and I really liked her in those. (There were 16 Andy Hardy films, but only three of them – Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938), Andy Hardy Meets Debutante (1940), and Life Begins for Andy Hardy (1941) – included Garland. She was the All-American girl who could sing and help Andy put on those fundraising backyard musicals to save the school band.)
This is mostly how I remember Judy Garland.
But even later, I came to appreciate musicals like Meet Me in St. Louis, which gave us "The Trolley Song" and one of the best holiday tunes ever in "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," and The Harvey Girls, which gave us "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe."
I mention all of this because a little while ago Kim and I went to see Judy, the newly-released flick about the final months of Garland's life.
Oscar winner Réneé Zellweger (Cold Mountain) turns in what I think is another stunning performance. Not only is her acting spot on, but she does her own vocals. So when she sings "The Trolley Song" or "Over the Rainbow," you hear Judy Garland. It's remarkable.
The story itself is heartbreaking, and while I never did give in to a flood of tears, there is an ethos of sadness that seeps throughout the film. You know, in the end, that she will die (although her death is not portrayed) bankrupt, frustrated and emotionally injured. She was only 47 when she died, already looking like a worn down human being.
But you don't walk out of the theater feeling sad. You come out feeling more like Wow.