Story of the scene: 'The Wizard of Oz', Victor Fleming (1939)

Roger Clarke
Friday 20 June 2008 00:00 BST

How did a deleted scene from The Wizard of Oz come to hold all the clues to David Lynch's Mulholland Drive? The 1939 film starring Judy Garland originally contained a dance number called The Jitterbug. Costing $80,000 to make and taking five weeks to shoot, it was part of a larger subplot that was jettisoned in earlier script re-writes.

In the lost Jitterbug scene, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man are on their way to the Witch's castle when they are attacked by the evil bugs in the Haunted Woods; they are described by those who saw the original footage as mosquito-like "rascals" that give one "the jitters". All that remains of the scene is an amateur recording of it being filmed.

When, after its first preview, the movie was judged 20 minutes too long by producer Mervyn LeRoy, the Jitterbug scene was the first to go. It's said that producers worried that a fashionable dance craze might date the film; more likely is that they discovered the Jitterbug's association with alcohol misuse and mixed-race Harlem dives (see Cab Calloway's film Jitterbug Party from 1935).

And the Lynch connection? Mulholland Drive opens with a Jitterbug dance sequence; by winning it Diane (Naomi Watts) decides to move to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. It's the start of a dream/sleep/ transportation motif that has kept people guessing about the hidden meanings of Lynch's movie ever since.

Dorothy's lost words still apply to many an ingénue in Hollywood, and the lure of drink, drugs and dreams. "So be careful/of that rascal/ keep away from/ the Jitterbug". Sadly, she never managed this herself.

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