By Thom Holbrook
There are many unexplainable things in this world of ours, unanswerable questions. Where do those mysterious crop circles come from? Who built Stone Henge? What's the deal with Doug Henning?
But there is one question that has slipped under the radar of most observers. A question regarding an oddity about a movie classic that millions have seen over and over and yet have not looked at closely enough. The movie in question is The Wizard Of Oz and the question is why does the Scarecrow have a gun?
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Huh? What are you talking about? The Scarecrow didn't have a gun?" Oh contraire. Check out the scene immediately after Dorothy and company leave the wizard to go after the witch. They are heading into the scary forest and in a number of shots Scarecrow is clearly carrying a gun - a rod, a pistol, a heater, death in a tube, a rapid bullet delivery system.
I think people haven't noticed this because, for one thing, there is so much else going on. The other reason I think is because for the longest time we have been watching The Wizard Of Oz on TV where it is harder to notice. I first noticed old slug thrower when I went and saw the restored version on the big screen. I was in the middle of taking in the cleaned up print, my eyes lingering on every element in the frame when suddenly... hey... is that... is that a gun? Ooops they cut to a different shot. I'm sure I just imagined... nope there it is. A handsized steel killing machine. Hmmm.
I just have to wonder what the heck was that gun doing in that scene, both in terms of the making of the movie and in terms of the movie's reality.
Okay. First up why did the filmmakers feel the need to give the scarecrow a shooting iron. Here is my best guess. In the scene our heroes are heading off to confront the witch. They all needed to be able to defend themselves. No problem for the lion. He's a lion for crying out loud! Cowardly though he might be he's got claws and teeth - if needed he could be taking care of business. The tin woodsman has that axe so he's covered. Dorothy has her dog Toto. Not only that, it's only logical that the rest of the group we be protecting her (hey, she was supposed to be like a twelve year old girl and this was way before women's lib).
So that leaves the scarecrow. He's got nothing. He's made of straw and easy to literally beat the stuffing out of. I'm assuming some genius on the production followed this same train of thought and decided Scarecrow needed a weapon. Why? Why a gun? Why why why?
And why would Ray Bolger go through with it? A stagehand hands him a revolver.
"What's this for?"
"Well sir, that's the scarecrow's piece."
Right there the conversation should have went this way...
"What? Are you out of your mind? This is a kids film. And a musical! And it's all in a magical world! It just doesn't make sense? Are you nuts?!? Get away from me, I won't do it!"
Well maybe not exactly like that but I still am surprised Ray Bolger would go along with giving his character a gun. But he did and it's in the film. And of all the guys to give a gun to: the scarecrow was the most jittery of the bunch. He was the one who admitted he didn't have a brain in his head! Sure, give the jumpy unstable guy the power to control flying leaden death! The guy made Barney Fife look like Patton for God's sake!
Which brings us to the question of what this says about the magical land of Oz. Where did this thing come from? Its existence implies some sort of munitions industry in the happy old land of Oz: munchkins working away manufacturing bullets, hard at work on better guns that give the bullets better spin and trajectory.
"Winky! Come here! I've discovered a way to really increase the velocity on these bullets! With those new hollow point bullets Jingles is working on we should be having those damn flying monkeys dropping out of the sky like rain and hitting the dirt like bags of wet horse-of-many-colors crap!"
Yikes. On the other hand it is quite possible "the wizard" brought it with him from our world. Would explain why he gained so much power so quickly. The guy lands in that balloon. The locals show up full of curiosity. He peeks out, sees himself surrounded by midgets freaks, witches and monkeys. He gets a little jittery and blows some magical folks full of deadly lead and the next thing you know they're all going, "Christ all mighty! We'd better do what he says or were dead! Get all your jewels! Dude! We will build you an entire city of emeralds, just don't kill us! Why oh why God have you dropped this power mad wizard into our midst?" Next thing you know, "the wizard" is sitting back with a scotch 'n' soda scaring the locals with a big fake flaming head knowing that the death of a few innocents has gained him a life of luxury. Not a very pleasant idea but it does jive with what the film presented: the outright fear and worship he is given.
But why would he hand the gun to a loser like the scarecrow? He would clearly know how dangerous it was. Plus it is sort of the center of his power. It's simple. First of all, no one would necessarily know that it was the gun that he used to do the killing with. Anyone who had been there at his arrival would have been rattled to start with and then would only remember that there was a big puff of smoke, a loud crack and then Squeaky and Charmakin were flying into pieces. Plus, if they ever did wise up, better someone else have the gun so that they might look like a more likely suspect.
But who showed the scarecrow how to fire then? Oz was just a big scary head as far as anyone knew at this point in the film. Did Oz secretly train one of his guards on its use just in case there was trouble? The guard could lay down cover fire into the munchkin crowd while Oz slipped away. All seems kind of harsh for a seemingly nice old gent.
Oh but wait. I forgot. The whole thing was all Dorothy's dream as far as the film was concerned. So the question becomes what does this say about Dorothy? Probably nothing nearly as disturbing as the rest of her dream.