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posted by martyb on Sunday May 17 2020, @06:41PM   Printer-friendly
from the following-the-yellow-brick-road dept.

'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' Turns 120:

Playwright, chicken farmer and children's book author L. Frank Baum published "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" 120 years ago Sunday. The book would sell out its first run of 10,000 copies in eight months and go on to sell a total of 3 million copies before it fell into the public domain in 1956.

Baum would try his hand at other children's books but returned to his Oz characters time and time again, adapting them for a stage production in 1902 that ran for a while on Broadway and toured the country. Baum would write a total of 14 Oz novels, but his biggest success – a 1939 movie version – would come long after his death.

Baum's intent was to create a fairy tale along the lines of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson. Baum also admired the character of Alice in Lewis Carroll's work and chose a similar young girl to be his fictional hero.

[...] A portion of the success of the book has been attributed to Baum's illustrator, W.W. Denslow, who he worked with closely on the project. Denslow, in fact, was given partial ownership of the copyright of the book. This caused problems later when Denslow and Baum had a falling out while working on the 1902 stage adaptation.

The most popular adaptation of Baum's first Oz book was the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland.

Wikipedia has many more details on the story and the film.

[Aside: I had heard only the land of Oz was filmed in Technicolor because it was so much more costly than black and white. I've been unable to corroborate. Are there any Soylentils here who can confirm or deny it? --Ed.]


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  • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 17 2020, @10:15PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 17 2020, @10:15PM (#995478)

    Baum set out to create a uniquely American fairy tale, and he did. The series of books arguably makes it the Harry Potter of its day, although I'm not aware of kids waiting in line for new releases at the bookstores. I do seem to recall that it triggered the same sort of moral panic that HP did (good witches? That's satanic!), but I'm sorry I don't have a source for that.

    It seems like there's a roughly 40 year cycle that makes you think of Oz, so celebrating 120 years is appropriate. The movie we all know came out about 40 years after the first book. Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon came out a bit less than 40 years after the movie, but it ties in to a fun conspiracy about the songs syncing up with the film. Watch it on YouTube if they haven't pulled it down due to copyright. It's a bit murkier to come up with an association for our time, but I recall watching the house rise and fall due to the tornado with Pink Floyd in the background, thinking that the rising and falling of the house synced up well with the financial crisis that was ongoing--once again, the 40 years thing isn't precise, and now we've got this virus but it's hard to find any synchronicity with Oz there.

    The slippers were silver in the book. Many people have spun theories around the idea that Baum was coding messages about monetary struggles taking place around the time the book was written--silver for the slippers, the yellow brick road for gold bugs, and Emerald City for paper money (greenbacks). AFAIK, Baum disavowed any such intent.

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