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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; A History..
Fred Stone as The Scarecrow of Oz
Wizard of Oz on stage 1903
Wizard of Oz History
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was first published in 1900. It was a story written by L.Frank Baum,that became the best selling children's book for the next two years. Baum's success was so great that he went on to publish numerous "Oz" books for the next two decades. Children of the early 1900s through the 1920s were very familiar with the Oz books and short films such as, Patchwork Girl of Oz, The Tin Woodsman of Oz, Road to Oz, and many more. From 1900-1921, Baum wrote approximately 20 different Oz books. The Wizard of Oz characters have now been a standard part of childhood for over 100 years.
Just two years after the first publication of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the story was brought to the Broadway Stage, and Fred Stone brought the loveable character of the scarecrow to life.
It has been said that Fred Stone's movements were so unusual, and contorting, that audiences fell under his spell of almost believing he truly was a scarecrow. Many of the still photos that exist strongly suggest that Stone was a master dancer, with the ability to become his character.
It sure would be nice to take a trip back in time and see for ourselves just how impressive Stone really was, however, there have been very little surviving clips of Stone in action.
The Original Wonderful Wizard of Oz
Oliver Hardy As The Tin Man, & Larry Semon as the Scarecrow
The Wizard of Oz, 1926
The first Wizard of Oz movie was made in the early 1900s. From 1900-1916, there were a number of short Oz movies made. They attempted to film each of the L. Frank Baum Oz stories in a series. These were often one real films shot out doors, or in front of a stage drop, that started out abruptly and wrapped up within 10 minutes. Movies were still in their infancy, and full feature pictures were not yet being produced on a regular basis.
In 1926 a full feature silent version of The Wizard of Oz was made, and Oliver Hardy, of Laural and Hardy fame was cast as the tin man. When viewing this version for the first time I was surprised at how flirtatious Dorothy was. She was nothing like the demure Dorothy character that MGM constructed and played by Judy Garland. The 1920s Dorothy was a flapper who was teasing the field hands, (scarecrow, tin man, and lion) by showing her leg from behind a tree and then running away. Had I not been so used to the later innocent Dorothy it may not have gotten my attention so much. Larry Semon, a great comedian of the time was highly billed as the scarecrow, but top billing would go to L.Frank Baum Jr. for the writing of the script.
The film was not shot on a very large budget and was in no way given any kind of great build up. It is absolutely worth watching for any Wizard of Oz fans just to see the different portrayals of the beloved Oz characters because after MGM got ahold of the story the characters dispositions, looks, and intent would be solidified in our hearts indefinitely.
The Wizard of Oz Movie 1939
Lois January in The Wizard of Oz
Judy Garland Was Almost a Blonde Dorothy
Another Dorothy Dress
Dorothy Almost Wore Red
Buddy Ebsen Testing a Tin Man Costume.
The 1939 Version of The Wizard of Oz
1939 is said to be the highest point in Hollywood history. Indeed, Gone With The Wind and The Wizard of Oz came out in that same year.
This version of the classic Baum stories is truly a masterpiece that forever cemented in our minds who these characters are. Before the MGM version of The Wizard of Oz, it was still open to interpretation. In fact, Judy Garland tried numerous wigs, from blond to various shades of brunette before settling on the dark auburn that we could not imagine being any other color today. She also tried several different dresses, from dowdy pinafores to a gorgeous scarlet red designed to capture attention in glorious technicolor.
The 1939 interpretation is perfect in every way. Dorothy is not flirty, but is a reserved, kind and mannerly girl, just the kind of girl any parent would love to have, and a role model for youngsters who need to curb their selfishness, and language. Her friends, the scarecrow, Tin woodsman, and lion are good hearted friends, the kind we always envision that we should have.
The movie is scary and suspenseful to young children, and charming in the eyes of adults.
The first time I saw this movie it was re released in movie theaters for the um-teenth time, and I was only 4 years old. I cried hysterically when I saw the witch and had to be taken out side.
A few years ago I saw this film in a movie theater again, and found myself crying again, this time for entirely different reasons.
The Wizard of Oz is such a timeless classic that many of its die hard fans have forgotten that it began as a book and was released on the screen several times before the lovable classic came to light.
Before Jack Haley was chosen to play the Tin Woodsman Buddy Ebsen was all set to play the part. But as numerous wigs, dresses and makeup designs were being changed, Ebsen would have to be cast out along with the dangerous early Tin man makeup jobs. It seems that the very first makeup designs for the Tin Man required aluminum to be dusted on top of clown white. Sadly, Ebsen breathed in the aluminum and had to be hospitalized. MGM had to march on and find another Tin Man in a hurry. Ebsen always said that this was to be his biggest career disappointment.
By the mid 1980s the cast members who were still living began to take on iconic status to fans as they made personal appearances and granted interviews. Due to the fact that many of the munchkins were young at the time of the filming, there are a few of them who are still living. The last known Wizard of Oz non munchkin cast member was Lois January, a model who had two parts in the movie, first as a manicurist holding super sized scissors as she takes care of the lion, and again holding a siamese cat that distracts Toto and leads to Dorothy missing her hot air balloon flight with the Wizard. Lois died in 2006 at the age of 92.
Wizard of Oz 70th Anniversary Edition
The Now Famous "Dorothy" Dress
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