Under the Rainbow
It’s 1938, and Rollo (Cork Hubbert) dreams of making it to Hollywood. The good-heartedness underlying the slapstick goofiness is summed up early on, as Rollo, when told his dreams of making it in Hollywood are “just too big”, responds, “There’s no dream too big, and no dreamer too small.”
He gets a chance when he becomes one of 150 little people rounded up to play munchkins in The Wizard of Oz. Under the Rainbow purports to show what happens when they’re all in a hotel together for one big party. But they’re not the only attendees.
Chevy Chase is a Secret Service agent sent to protect a visiting Duke (Joseph Maher, afraid of assassination) and Duchess (Eve Arden, playing blind as a bat) and their dog Strudel (who keeps dying). Carrie Fisher is named special talent coordinator to wrangle the munchkins and provides some romance while wearing lovely period outfits.
Adam Arkin is the young nephew left in charge of the hotel, way out of his depths. But it gets really weird with Billy Barty, playing a Nazi agent trying to connect with a Japanese spy (Mako). Since the spy has only been told that his contact was of small size, much mistaken identity ensues once they all wind up at the hotel, along with a busload of photo-taking Japanese tourists.
I’m not sure what it says about me that I’ve seen this movie set behind-the-scenes more often than The Wizard of Oz itself. Probably that it ran on HBO a LOT during one boring summer. It was great fun seeing it again, even if the jokes sometimes fall flat or are in bad taste or try too hard. It’s just such a weirdly demented premise, and I found it enjoyable silliness with plenty of visual interest, especially once the little people, in various bits of Oz-like costume, form a “midget posse”. (I also enjoyed the Gone With the Wind cameos.) Thanks to the Warner Archive for making it possible! The release has no extras but does provide a clean copy in widescreen.
Remember, “the pearl is in the river.”