On Sunday, the world celebrates the 120th anniversary of the first publication of Frank L. Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” and to commemorate the occasion, let us follow the Yellow Brick Road and tip our straw hats to some of the most magical and memorable wizards on the silver screen.
‘The Lord of the Rings’
With all due respect to Albus Dumbledore, Gandalf from the many “The Lord of the Rings” movies is the GOAT in the world of wizards. He started off as Gandalf the Grey, then returned more powerful than ever as Gandalf the White. The iconic, wise, fair and compassionate fighter also has the best beard. The first three films, ending with the 11-time Oscar-winning “The Return of the King,” collectively were my favorite films ever for a while.
Yes, the books are better than the films, but the star-studded movies are still thoroughly entertaining and made household names of Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson. The three most memorable wizards are Dumbledore, headmaster of Hogwarts and Harry’s mentor who gives Gandalf a run for best beard; Harry, the Boy Who Lived whose skills were surpassed by his leadership, loyalty as a friend and Quidditch skills; and Lord Voldemort, He Who Shall Not Be Named who was so evil that you cannot utter his name.
The many teachers and students also should be noted, among them Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley, Minerva McGonagall and Sirius Black.
‘The Wizard of Oz’
The main reason for this story, the 1939 musical family film “The Wizard of Oz” is regarded as one of the greatest movies of all time and features Judy Garland’s iconic “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” alongside her friends the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion and her dog, Toto. The wizard is a secondary character at best. And while derided by many, I enjoyed the 2013 commercial smash “Oz the Great and Powerful” with a game cast that includes James Franco, Michelle Williams, Rachel Weisz and a scenery-chewing Mila Kunis.
Th Arthurian character Merlin was cunning and terrifying, in a good way, in John Boorman’s 1981 medieval fantasy “Excalibur” and scatterbrained in Disney’s 1963 animated classic. The number of iterations of Merlin are too many to count.
The grumpy Tim the Enchanter in “Monty Python & the Holy Grail” had a very thick Scottish accent to rival Sean Connery’s and could produce fireballs and blow up anything. There also is his awesome ram horn hat.
He was small in stature, but the High Aldwin in “Willow,” Ron Howard’s 1988 action-adventure yarn starring Val Kilmer, served as Willow’s mentor offering sage advice and the reason our hero would embark on his quest and trust his instincts.
Disney’s “Fantasia” in 1940 has the dishonorable distinction of being one of the studio’s first critical and commercial flops, but who can forget Mickey Mouse’s segment as a sorcerer’s apprentice … well, and those hilarious dancing hippos.
This story wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of Miracle Max in 1987’s “The Princess Bride” because Billy Crystal is a comedy legend. Cary Elwes (Westley), Robin Wright (the Princess Bride) and Mandy Patinkin (Inigo Montoya) had the bigger roles, but Crystal is still memorable.
And I am a little embarrassed to include David Lo Pan in John Carpenter’s silly 1986 romp “Big Trouble in Little China,” starring Kurt Russell and Kim Cattrall, but this was one creepy and scary sorcerer. “Big Trouble in Little China” is the epitome of a guilty pleasure movie.
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