A Wizard of Oz Leitmotif in Steven Spielberg's films
THE COLOR PURPLE 1985
Repeated over and over are the wind chimes tinkling, preceding every important moment of change in Celie’s life. We hear clinking or tinkling signaling magic, danger, change in so many of Spielberg’s films. The device is inspired by WOO’s Glinda. Unlike the witch who shocked and frightened children each time she appeared, Glinda politely let you know to expect her arrival with a recurring fanfare of chimes. See Always, A.I., E. T., Jaws, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Super 8, Twister, Twilight Zone, Joe vs. the Volcano, Poltergeist
Shug dances from the speak-easy to her father’s church with a parade of born-again sinners coming down road behind her. The scene brings to mind many instances where WOO crowds follow Dorothy and her entourage. We see such accompaniment repeated inThe Terminal, Joe vs.the Volcano, Twister, Catch Me if You Can, Sugarland Express, Used Cars.
Shug is the trickster, a bad woman, a sinner, who nonetheless shows the meek Celie how to fight for what she wants. Her courage and indomitable spirit transcend her mischievous behavior, inspiring and pushing our protagonist to achieve her goals. See Wizard of Oz, See Empire of the Sun, Lincoln, Munich, Saving Private Ryan, A.I., Always, Goonies, Jaws, Catch Me if You Can. Schindler’s List, Used Cars, Joe vs. the Volcano for other examples of tricksters.
The girls running and leaping through the field of flowers evokes the same pure joy and camaraderie Dorothy and pals experience upon reaching the poppies outside of Emerald City. The act of a protagonist crossing a field often precedes a major plot point in Steven’s films. See Twister, Saving Private Ryan, Lost World of Jurassic Park, Always.
Celie inherits her family’s former house when her raunchy stepfather dies. This windfall marks a turning point in her life. She finds security, autonomy, peace, and eventually joy after she returns ‘home’. The WOO promise! See Twister, Close Encounters, Empire of the Sun, Catch me if You Can, Minority Report, Amistad, Munich, Poltergeist, The Terminal for other examples of home as the sanctuary.
Mother is finally reunited with her children, a slight variance to the definition of ‘home’. See Empire of the Sun, A.I., Sugarland Express, Hook, Saving Private Ryan, War of the Worlds, Close Encounters, Catch me if You Can, Poltergeist, Jurassic Park (to Grampa) and WOO (to Auntie Em) for reunions of children with loved ones.