1 November 2006 | mgconlan-1
"The Wizard of Oz," Two Years Early
A 16-year-old singer/actress plays a girl who travels around a city seeking a mysterious white-haired man of power who can make all her dreams come true
where have we seen that since? Though it's a naturalistic (if not realistic) film instead of a fantasy, "One Hundred Men and a Girl" seems to me strikingly close to "The Wizard of Oz" (the legendary 1939 MGM version) not only in its plot structure but its overall approach. I can't help thinking that Judy Garland screened it and based her performance in "Oz" largely on Deanna Durbin's acting here, just as I suspect Victor Fleming studied Henry Koster's direction of this film to figure out ways to make "Oz" believable on screen. Aside from the "Wizard of Oz" parallels, "One Hundred Men and a Girl" is a first-rate film, a masterpiece within the limits of its genre, with a class consciousness we're more likely to see from Warners than Universal one of its most moving aspects is the way the jokes and polite tossed-off remarks of the rich characters become heartbreaking when the poor characters take them all too seriously. Incidentally, apropos of some of the "trivia" entries on this film, the orchestra actually heard in the film was the Philadelphia Orchestra, recorded in the Philadelphia Academy of Music on a multi-channel sound system, the first time one was used in a film (contemporary reports differ on whether 12, 14 or 28 microphones were used); by then Leopold Stokowski was no longer the Philadelphia's main conductor but he was still the orchestra's principal guest conductor and he used them in other movie projects, including "Fantasia" (1940).