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The Wonderful Wizard of Oz; A History..

Updated on October 4, 2013

Fred Stone as The Scarecrow of Oz

Stone played the Scarecrow on the stage from 1901-1911
Stone played the Scarecrow on the stage from 1901-1911 | Source

Wizard of Oz on stage 1903

Fred Stone as the scarecrow
Fred Stone as the scarecrow

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

Source

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

Source

Judy Garland Was Almost a Blonde Dorothy

Source

Another Dorothy Dress

This was a favorite dress that was singled out to be "it", and it would have been if they would have kept Dorothy as a blonde.
This was a favorite dress that was singled out to be "it", and it would have been if they would have kept Dorothy as a blonde. | Source

Dorothy Almost Wore Red

This dress was designed for the movie, but was cast out as being too flashy for a farm girl.
This dress was designed for the movie, but was cast out as being too flashy for a farm girl. | Source

Buddy Ebsen Testing a Tin Man Costume.

Source

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

The dress in preservation and in the 1939 movie.
The dress in preservation and in the 1939 movie. | Source

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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear Skarlet, new one being mailed now.

      Kenneth

    • Skarlet profile image
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      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      email is oopsacct@yahoo.com

      There seems to be some issue with my ability to receive through hubpages at the moment.

    • Skarlet profile image
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      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      I still don't have it. Just wondering if something went wrong:(

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Dear Skarlet . . .you are most-welcome. Email has been sent. Keep in touch with me.

      Thanks!

      Kenneth

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Thank you Kenneth,

      What a kind comment! I love vintage everything, and I love history, so, I often throw people when they read my hubs on a popular subject and find themselves reading some obscurity they were unaware of. It seems like you already have some background on the oldies.

      I will be looking for your email. Thanks again....

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 5 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Hello, Skarlet,

      LOVED THIS HUB! The 1926 Wizard is priceless. Fred Stone and that cast, amazing. I did a hub where "I" wanted to be (a) scarecrow that linked my appreciation for Ray Bolger, the last scarecrow that I care to mention. I voted up and all the way on this hub. If there were more buttons like AMAZING, TREMENDOUS AND WONDERFUL, I would have pushed those also.

      Keep up the great work and look for an email today from me.

      Kenneth

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      You are welcome! Anytime!

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Thank you josh,

      I think Fleming did a great job too. It truly is a masterpiece.

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Great review on such a classic movie. I am a 25 year old male who enjoys this movie! Why? Because Fleming did an excellent job targeting his audience! Awesome job, voted up, useful, and awesome! Informative hub!

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Thank you teaches.

      I laughed when you said you still cringe at the witch. So do I. Margaret Hamilton did an excellent job of portraying it.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I still enjoy watching this movie today. I always loved the ruby red slippers. Adults do love this movie for the charm and it is a bit scary for children, but it's a tolerable. Still cringe when I see that witch! Great hub and well written.

    • Skarlet profile image
      Author

      Skarlet 5 years ago from California

      Thank you very much Deborah.

      I grow to love it more every time I see it...

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 5 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      this has to be one of my all time favorite movies. You did a great job and research and writing it.. THANK YOU and blessing to you

      Debbie