Again on the subject of bicycles in the movies – have you ever noticed that with one notable exception, Almira Gulch in The Wizard of Oz, cyclists are nearly always portrayed in a positive light? We’re almost never the bad guys. Sure, Butch Cassidy might have been a bank robber, but we forget all that in the good feeling that comes over us as we watching the lovable rogue kid Harvey Logan in the groin, confound the law, and make armed robbery seem like a perfectly wholesome activity. And never is the rogue more likeable than when he’s pedalling around on that rattletrap old bicycle with Etta Place on the handlebars and amusing her afterwards with his trick riding in the farmyard, all to the tune of Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.
And that’s an armed robber. Generally cyclists in the movies are querulous old lady detectives, country vicars, lovelorn young men etc. Not leading man (or woman) types, but harmless character actors that flew out a scene or provide a bit of light-heartedness.
Not so Almira Gulch – a.k.a. The Wicked Witch, as brilliantly played by Margaret Hamilton. She’s a thoroughly nasty piece of work and oddly enough the bicycle – nearly always a symbol of innocence and niceness – plays a swell part of defining her character. The way she rides it (an Orient, c. 1900 model, made by Waltham), prim and upright, pedalling vigorously along the road, gleefully transporting Toto to his death, all to the strains of that brilliant seven-note riff by composer Herbert Stothart – perfect.