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Jitterbug into my brain; Goes a bang-bang-bang 'til my feet do the same.
August 3, 2006 7:54 PM   Subscribe

'The Jitterbug' is a somewhat bizarre scene from the original The Wizard of Oz movie that cost $80,000 to produce and took five weeks to rehearse but was ultimately cut from the final film because, according to the studio, it would "date the film." However some say the scene represents Dorothy's loss of innocence and that this is the reason why it was cut. What makes it even more freaky is that the scene was shot by producer Harold Arlen on a home movie camera, making the whole thing look grainy and which casts the whole scene in a sort of pink-purple hue. Check out the scene for yourself over at Youtube.
posted by Effigy2000 (43 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, what an odd scene. Cutting it was definitely a good idea, although my DVD generation self is glad that it's still available.

Cool post, thanks.
posted by danb at 8:02 PM on August 3, 2006


Their reasoning is bullshit. The real reason it got cut is that it would have ruined the synchronization with Dark Side of the Moon.
posted by pmbuko at 8:02 PM on August 3, 2006 [1 favorite]


Really, that doesn't look that different from the rest of the movie. Them running around like dumbasses and dancing with each other.
posted by bob sarabia at 8:12 PM on August 3, 2006


although the touching scene of the Tin Man and the Lion dancing adds a whole 'nother dimension to the narrative...
posted by kozad at 8:13 PM on August 3, 2006


...it represents Dorothy's loss of...what? The Jitterbug makes Dorothy less innocent how?
posted by Hildegarde at 8:13 PM on August 3, 2006


Jitterbugs = crabs, of course. Which she got from the Cowardly Lion, who — being a big pussy — represents the lesbian sex. The Tin Man plays the obvious complementary role.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:17 PM on August 3, 2006


Ahhhh...thank you fff. It's all clear to me now.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:23 PM on August 3, 2006


The Jitterbug was a "swing dance" of the "African American persuasion" - street dancing - and good white girls didn't swing dance in 1939 (except when their parents were not looking). It might be comparable to Princess Leigh in Star Wars disco dancing (to use a 1970's example).
posted by stbalbach at 8:31 PM on August 3, 2006


(Or maybe even Princess Leia in a harem-slave outfit? That made my jaw drop when I remembered that the Star Wars storyline had been conceived with children or at most adolescents in mind.)

Even weirder was that they cast an entirely-too-old Garland for a seemingly much younger role:

"The role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz was originally meant for Judy Garland. However, MGM executives were concerned with Garland's box office appeal. Temple was considered for the role, however, she was unable to appear in the film when a trade between Fox and MGM fell through. She was also rumored to be the inspiration for Bonnie Blue Butler in Gone With the Wind and was one of the early contenders for the role in the motion picture, but was too old by the time the film went into production."

from a a Wikipedia article about Shirley Temple)
posted by pax digita at 8:33 PM on August 3, 2006


The song interrupts the narrative. There's nothing about it which introduces a character, place or concept that has any meaning in the plot. Any societal explanation for cutting the sequence may resonate, but it's fairly plain on its face that the artistic decision to axe the footage was absolutely the right thing to do.
posted by Dreama at 8:39 PM on August 3, 2006


"It all began in Harlem back in 1926 at the Savoy Ballroom with a man called George Snowden (aka "Shorty George"). He dubbed this dance the "Lindy Hop" in reference to Charles Lindbergh's recent "hop" across the Atlantic. In 1936, the name began to lose its appeal because of Lindbergh's racist views, his dislike of the degeneracy of swing era America and finally in 1938, his acceptance of the highest Nazi civilian medal, ordered by Adolph Hilter. Thus "Jitterbug" was born to replace Lindbergh's namesake."[via]

"One description is that it meant a man or women, suffering from alcoholic or drug nerves. Another story has Jitterbug associated to the English word "Bugger or Bugging" (a sexual act,) and was used to characterize someone suffering from Syphilis. Another is of racial nonsense (resembling the preceding) was used to characterize a man or woman, who was sexually active with a dissimilar race (Black and White,) and/or who had the "Jitters from Drugs, Alcohol or Syphilis and was "bugging" them … a Jitterbugger!" [via][previously]

Hence, "loss of innocence".
posted by sluglicker at 8:43 PM on August 3, 2006


This is awesome, thanks!
posted by jonson at 8:47 PM on August 3, 2006


Hey waaaaiiit a second. That tree ate a man and now the man is climbing free.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 8:47 PM on August 3, 2006


In fact, if I remember correctly, there's an allusion to this in the final version of the film. Right before the attack from the flying monkeys, the wicked witch mentions to her lead monkey that she's sent along something nasty to weaken or tire out Dorothy & her friends, but then, with this scene removed, you never know what she was referring to.
posted by jonson at 8:48 PM on August 3, 2006


awesome, indeed. merci!
posted by shoepal at 8:50 PM on August 3, 2006


That reminds me of "Wild and Untamed Thing" from Rocky Horror. Maybe it's just the bee with a deadly sting....

That would have been a horribly jarring scene in Wizard of Oz, though.
posted by dilettante at 8:51 PM on August 3, 2006


"right before the attack from the flying monkeys"

What were they on, anyway?
posted by blacklite at 8:56 PM on August 3, 2006


Great post, thanks! Really interesting stuff.
posted by livii at 8:58 PM on August 3, 2006


"When your loving starts
A jitterbug into my brain
It goes a bang-bang
Till my feet do the same"

I think that was a Wham! song.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:15 PM on August 3, 2006


In fact, if I remember correctly, there's an allusion to this in the final version of the film. Right before the attack from the flying monkeys, the wicked witch mentions to her lead monkey that she's sent along something nasty to weaken or tire out Dorothy & her friends, but then, with this scene removed, you never know what she was referring to.

That was in the commentary on the youtube page, but it's been a while since I've seen the movie so I couldn't remember anything like that. I thought the best part of the clip was the guy controlling the tree arms.
posted by bob sarabia at 9:21 PM on August 3, 2006


Can't wait to see the vid! YouTube is down for maintenance. Drat. Looking forward to it. Thanks in advance.
posted by nickyskye at 9:25 PM on August 3, 2006


You're missing a bang there, fff, but you can probably borrow one from the title. Congrats on remembering the exclamation mark, though.

I remember when the local morning crew did a version called 'the litterbug'. Oh, how we laughed at the wit of it all!
posted by Sparx at 9:35 PM on August 3, 2006


And if you want to get *really* technical, you should add the "UK" to the Wham! name. :-)
posted by davidmsc at 9:50 PM on August 3, 2006


jonson: the Wicked Witch made a field of poppies to drug Dorothy and crew. There seemed to be a notion that the fragrance (?) of poppies was sufficient to drug people. I had a few poppies growing in my yard in the UK, but I didn't notice any special fragrance. I resisted temptation to try a harvest, although I was extremely curious.

I'm so happy Shirley Temple didn't get the role in Oz. I can't stand that squeaky brat!
posted by Goofyy at 10:05 PM on August 3, 2006


Goofyy - no, I sweat I'm not confusing it with the poppies scene. The witch actually refers to a Giant Bug. Here, the website "slipups.com" (which seems to specialize in continuity errors of this sort) has my back.
posted by jonson at 10:23 PM on August 3, 2006


Here's a link to download the video in wmv format.

Also, apparently the dialog was "They'll give you no trouble; I promise you that. I've sent a little insect on ahead to take the fight out of them."
posted by bob sarabia at 10:30 PM on August 3, 2006


It's up on google video too.
posted by bob sarabia at 11:08 PM on August 3, 2006


Why the hell would that have cost $80,000?
posted by odinsdream at 12:08 AM on August 4, 2006


A giant tree costume?
posted by A189Nut at 2:15 AM on August 4, 2006


Well, there's no denying that the scene would've indeed dated the film: contemporary popular music and dance always become dated as time passes. This is something that makers of children's movies like Shrek (peppered with contemporary cultural references that will be meaningless in 10 to 20 years and beyond) should take note of. Pixar, on the other hand, almost never go for the easy laughs by using such references, and therefore movies like Toy Story and Finding Nemo will remain beloved classics, much the way Wizard of Oz has.

BTW, the Arlen footage and an amazing extended outtake of the Scarecrow's dance nember are included as extras on the Wizard of Oz DVD from "Warner Bros. Family Entertainment". Reccommended.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:15 AM on August 4, 2006


I think they cut it because the Cowardly Lion and Tin Man were dancing together.

The studio knew that if they allowed that footage to stay in, it would condone relations between anthropomorphised robots and animals, which would certainly lead to a race of cyborg felines -- bringing forth the downfall of humanity.
posted by Katemonkey at 4:25 AM on August 4, 2006


The cut was a good decision because the scene makes no narrative sense - why would Dorothy know so much about the Jitterbug that she could sing the verses? It reminds me of the Star Wars Holiday Special.
posted by riotgrrl69 at 5:01 AM on August 4, 2006


Why the hell would that have cost $80,000?

It says the scene took five weeks to rehearse and film. Even if they took weekends off, that's 25 days, 3200 dollars a day to pay for actors and crew and script and song and musicians and set and props and makeup and whatever I'm not thinking of. That guy in the tree and all his buddies in other trees have to be paid to stand there all day wiggling tree branches.

And all to make a scene that wouldn't work with the rest of the movie. The witch is supposed to be mean and scary, but she gets them dancing and laughing to the latest musical fad?

Other cut footage I'd like to see: the Spanish Fly Scene.
posted by pracowity at 5:02 AM on August 4, 2006


I, too, would like to see the spanish flea scene.

But more than that I would like Judy Garland to rap with me. Does that make me a fag?
posted by Sparx at 5:18 AM on August 4, 2006


Their reasoning is bullshit. The real reason it got cut is that it would have ruined the synchronization with Dark Side of the Moon.

Actually, if you include this scene, you get the ONE TRUE Dark Side Of The Moon synchronization, with new, previously unseen revelations.

...it represents Dorothy's loss of...what? The Jitterbug makes Dorothy less innocent how?

This jitterbug, it vibrates?
posted by qvantamon at 6:06 AM on August 4, 2006


Our high school put on a production of Wizard of Oz (I was the lion, or big pussy, thanks to FFF), and the jitterbug scene was included. I recall that this was one of the high points of the play for us. It also became infamous when, while jitterbugging around, our tinman went into an uncontrollable spin and flew off the stage. Hilarity ensued.
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:28 AM on August 4, 2006


I still prefer the Turkish version.
posted by rottytooth at 6:58 AM on August 4, 2006


> Even weirder was that they cast an entirely-too-old Garland for a seemingly much younger role:

Pax digita, you are hereby recruited to be someone who gets their Oz from the books rather than the movie -- if you aren't already. Dorothy is a little cornsilk-blond girl, maybe 10. Poor Judy Garland looks no more like Dorothy than Liz Taylor does. Furthermore, in even starker contrast to Garland, she is a balls out little girl ready to deal with anything with courage and imagination. The hollywood Dorothy simpers and gasps like an anime chick just before the tentacle rape starts. As for this "loss of innocence" business, what hooey that would be for the real Dorothy, who is a farm girl and knows perfectly well what makes calves and piglets and babies, and has from infancy. And no doubt makes barnyard jokes about it when the situation calls for such.

For those who can't be bothered to read the books, you can see a superior rendition of the real Dorothy by the (very) young Fairuza Balk in the 1985 Return to Oz, which is entirely faithful to the books in other ways also, and generally first rate. But do read the books, says fuller to anyone who hasn't. And read them to your kids! Though, indeed, written for young readers they are GREAT fantasy classics, as witty and inventive as Harry Potter, as full or grace under pressure as LOTR.
posted by jfuller at 10:15 AM on August 4, 2006 [2 favorites]


SteveInMaine writes "Our high school put on a production of Wizard of Oz (I was the lion, or big pussy, thanks to FFF), and the jitterbug scene was included. I recall that this was one of the high points of the play for us. It also became infamous when, while jitterbugging around, our tinman went into an uncontrollable spin and flew off the stage. Hilarity ensued."

My sister in law played the Tin Man in a high school production of this play, and I clearly remember the jitterbug scene.
posted by Songdog at 10:47 AM on August 4, 2006


dilettante, I believe it's the song "Superheroes" near the end that was originally cut from Rocky Horror, not "Wild & Untamed Thing."

The Oz books are indeed classics. ALL of them. There's more than one, folks.
posted by keptwench at 11:15 AM on August 4, 2006


Youre forgetting that while the scene may seem grossly out of context, the whole thing is a dream...

Sorry, spoiler alert.
posted by subaruwrx at 11:21 AM on August 4, 2006


A stage revival of The Wizard of Oz here in 1998 starred Eartha Kitt as Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch. The "Jitterbug" number was performed by Miss Kitt with the Flying Monkeys as backup!
posted by La Cieca at 12:49 PM on August 4, 2006


keptwench, it was too late at night too late in the week for me to say anything very clearly. I meant that the content of the Jitterbug sketch reminded me of "Wild and Untamed Thing" - see the above description of Jitterbug, and the idea that it represented the loss of Dorothy's innocence, and how it's all followed by dancing, etc.

Now think of the pool scene, and the lyrics:

"I'm a wild and an untamed thing
I'm a bee with a deadly sting
You get a hit and your mind goes ping
Your heart'll pump and your blood will sing
So let the party and the sounds rock on
We're gonna shake it 'till the life has gone
Rose tint my world
Keep me safe from my trouble and pain"

And then the "it wouldn't have fit" was meant to be an observation that the Jitterbug scene would not have fit into Oz.

I will not post in my sleep
I will not post in my sleep
I will not post in my sleep

posted by dilettante at 1:15 PM on August 4, 2006


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