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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: 2) by gtomorrow on Sunday May 17 2020, @07:22PM (5 children)

    by gtomorrow (2230) on Sunday May 17 2020, @07:22PM (#995440) Journal

    God, I loved those books when I was a kid! Talk about spurring the imagination! I remember being at the local library (hey, remember those?) spending hours reading them. I think I got through four of the (never-ending) series.

    Do they still broadcast the film around Easter time? I loved that movie too.

    Happy Birthday, Wonderful Wizard of Oz!

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  • (Score: 2) by black6host on Sunday May 17 2020, @07:40PM

    by black6host (3827) on Sunday May 17 2020, @07:40PM (#995445) Journal

    I read some of the books as well when I was a kid and loved them! I still remember them from time to time. That was quite a while ago and about the only thing I can remember now, off the top of my head, are some characters who were in jars, and subject to breakage. Kind of like canning I guess, I can't remember if it was mason jars or not. No guarantees my recollection is accurate but I do remember the books fondly.

  • (Score: 2) by deadstick on Sunday May 17 2020, @09:41PM (2 children)

    by deadstick (5110) on Sunday May 17 2020, @09:41PM (#995472)

    I loved the books as a kid too -- still have them seventy years later. I was an early reader who went from a Dagwood comic strip to Dr. Seuss's first book to the Oz books by age 7, and was I hot to see Wizard when it came to town...

    Until I saw the goddamn thing. They'd turned that gripping adventure story into a brainless, frothy musical, and tacked on a phony-baloney "It was all a dream" ending. My mom explained sadly that this is what Hollywood does to literature.

    Fast forward to 1985 and along came Return to Oz, and it was magnificent. I was a kid again, ripping my way through that suspenseful scene with the figurines...the critics savaged it because it wasn't a brainless musical.

    Feh.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 17 2020, @10:18PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 17 2020, @10:18PM (#995479)

      Yeah, sometimes I read kids' books of the late 19th and early-mid 20th century, and it's astounding how mortality, failure, risk, even rape and physical abuse, were in the stories. Kids' books of today are cotton candy. I would rather my kids think about how the horse feels when it's whipped, how the ant stores for the winter while the grasshopper starves, how the rabbits feel when the warren is gassed, and how the fleeing slaves had to hide, than about how the happy clouds and happy trees had a happy tea party.

      I guess a lot of it is that kids today have never seen someone kill pluck and dress a bird for dinner, or clean a fish, or so on. It's still weird.

      Thanks for the "Return to Oz" tip, I'll put it in our queue. Appreciate it, have a great day!

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 18 2020, @12:57AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 18 2020, @12:57AM (#995547)

      Worked Wizard as stage crew in high school--c.1970. We had a mechanically minded set designer and built a bridge that rotated, central pivot and small rubber tire wheel drove it around, powered by a 3-phase reversing motor. Even made our own slip rings from PVC, copper pipe rings and heavy copper braid. All through rehearsals (and shows) the actor would walk on to the covered bridge, lighting crew on stage-right would flip the switch and spin it 180 degrees. But on the last night of the run I guess the actor pissed someone off and he got about 5 times around, each way, they also left all the lights on, so when the bridge faced the audience end-on, you could see the actor trying to brace himself against the 1x4 framework that supported the covered bridge (painted canvas). That actor stumbled off the bridge extremely dizzy!

      Fast forward to about 10 years ago, we bought our first large flat screen TV and one of the first things we happened to see was a re-run of the original movie. Some friends were over, we all commented on how cheap and tacky some of the sets and costumes looked in hi-res. All those years of fuzzy NTSC left room for the imagination to filter/sharpen the image.

  • (Score: 3, Informative) by driverless on Monday May 18 2020, @12:26AM

    by driverless (4770) on Monday May 18 2020, @12:26AM (#995532)

    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.

    You're lucky it was written before the Mickey Mouse event horizon. If he'd written it after 1928 it'd never get into the public domain.