The Smackdown of Miss Gulch

We need a new travel agent

Toto enjoys a good song as much as the next guy.

That Miss Gulch must be one twisted person.

How could anyone have it in for Toto, the wee canine hero of The Wizard of Oz? Look at him trotting after Dorothy (Judy Garland) and listening rapturously as she sings to farm equipment. Are we really to believe that this is a dog who digs in Miss Gulch’s garden and chases her cat? As if! And even if he did, what else are gardens and cats for?

However, Miss Gulch (Margaret Hamilton) and her ill-tempered green twin, the Wicked Witch of the West, have an insane hatred for Toto and are determined to destroy him. These two-in-one villains make their diabolical intentions clear from the very start of the film.

You know the basic story of The Wizard of Oz: A tornado uproots Dorothy’s house and transports her and the hapless Toto to the land of Oz. Unluckily for everyone, the house drops on the Wicked Witch of the East, which incurs the wrath of her sister, the Wicked Witch of the West.

In order to get back to Kansas, Toto and Dorothy must travel to Emerald City, home of the Wizard (Frank Morgan), in the hopes that he can return them to Kansas. As they travel, they meet a curious cast of characters, ranging from Munchkins to a clumsy Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), a talking Tin Man (Jack Haley) and a fraidy-cat Lion (Bert Lahr).

Toto is the perfect travel companion, with his ever-wagging tail and unflappable demeanor. He is just as happy to trot along the yellow brick road as he is frolicking on Uncle Henry’s farm. By the way he observes his co-stars, one gets the feeling that the movie is as entertaining to him as it is to us.

(On a side note, we are always puzzled by the weird “spa” scene as Toto and friends “freshen up” to meet the Wizard. How come everyone but Toto receives a treatment? Who can relax in that garishly-green atmosphere? Don’t the people of Oz ever get sick of the colour green?)

Of course, Toto is the hero of the film. It is he who escapes from the Wicked Witch’s lair to fetch the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion who eventually free Dorothy. If that weren’t enough, Toto also reveals the Wizard’s dark secret and brings the film to its happy conclusion. Ta-dah!

The 70th Anniversary Edition of The Wizard of Oz is on Blu-ray which, aside from an actual theatre screen, is the only way to watch this movie. The pasty Miss Gulch and the pea-green Wicked Witch have aged well over the years. But they are no match for our hero, Toto.

Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley and Margaret Hamilton. Written by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf. Directed by Victor Fleming (along with King Vidor, Richard Thorpe and George Cukor). MGM, 1939, 100 mins.

Hey! Be sure to check out the rest of the films in the Classic Movie Dogathon. Click here for the full schedule.

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19 comments

  1. Wonderful review of a classic. Classic Toto, that is. :)

    Of course with a cairn terrier in the lead, the film can’t help but be great. I’ve always loved that Toto simply goes along with whatever is happening at the moment. Just like a regular dog and not at all like a movie star. :)

    I found Miss Gulch even more frightening than than her witchy self, actually. Loved those flying monkeys though and the serenading guards. Fun.

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  2. I was so excited to see your excellent post today, being an Oz fan through and through! Toto is indeed our hero! And Terry, the Cairn Terrier who played him had a ruff time in her role. Her leg was stepped on by one of the Winkie guards and resulted in an injury that was either a sprain or a break (I have read both diagnoses). Terry’s owner was well paid for Terry’s performance, receiving a reported $125 per week while the Munchkins were reportedly paid $50 per week for their work. The last bit of information I will share is that in June of 2011, Toto received a memorial at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles. Yeah for Toto! And thank you for lovingly profiling our hero!

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  3. I’m sure we all remember Toto, Dorothy, and their companions in “Wizard,” but thanks for reminding us just how important Toto is in moving the plot of the film along. The “hero” of the film” indeed!

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  4. A perfect choice for the Dogathon! The world over everyone recognizes Toto…scruffy and loyal. The poor thing is drug on one crazy adventure after another.

    I have a refrigerator magnet that says “Dear Dorothy, Hate Oz, took the shoes, find your own way home! Toto”

    A wonderful tribute to one of the cutest dogs to ever appear on screen. (Oh, and I must be daft because I don’t remember them getting spa treatments. now I’ll be looking for that scene)

    Page

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  5. Your title is great — really caught my eye and made me laugh! Toto has to be the cutest dog with the cutest name ever. His name still pops up in popular culture, with people saying “Toto, too!” at appropriate occasions. I really enjoyed your take on one of Wizard’s most important characters. Great job!

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  6. I agree that Toto is the primary protagonist in THE WIZARD OF OZ! The movie is all about him! If Miss Gulch didn’t try to do a “citizen’s arrest” of Toto, then Dorothy would not have run away and she would’ve safe in the cellar during the twister. Hence, without Toto, there would have been no trip to Oz. And if Toto hadn’t jumped out of Dorothy’s arms at the end, then she and Toto would have returned to Kansas in the balloon with the Wizard. As a result, we would have missed the whole rubby slipper-“There’s no place like home” bit. So, this was a very thought-provoking review!

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  7. I’m sorry I missed your post yesterday, but it was certainly worth the wait. Toto and the entire journey to Oz has become part of my childhood lore (and more importantly my adult life). I remember reading the book on which the film is based, and while I remember that Dorothy’s journey was not, in fact, a dream, I can’t recall how much of a role Toto played. Toto’s role in the film as instigator and participant in all that lead to the journey to Oz made this feisty canine an essential character in the story. His/her presence also made every creepy and scary bit of the story slightly less terrifying to my wee child’s mind.

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  8. A pawsome choice for the Dogathon! Love/ loveToto… A wonderful review on one of the most talened dogs to perform on the silver screen. I had forgotten that Toto revealed the Wizard’s secret..

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  9. “By the way he observes his co-stars, one gets the feeling that the movie is as entertaining to him as it is to us.” Love that!! So true now that I think about it.

    Enjoyed reading your post. Truly, Toto is a dog of a different color.

    Aurora

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  10. You know, all those times I’ve seen this movie and I’ve never seen it from Toto’s point of view. It’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie…maybe now’s the chance!

    As usual, great write-up.

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