“ROUSING AND ROLLICKING ADVENTURE”: RUTH PLUMLY THOMPSON’S OZ

“ROUSING AND ROLLICKING ADVENTURE”:  RUTH PLUMLY THOMPSON’S OZ

by John Fricke

Above: Across the Oz Book series, the Nome King (or Gnome King, pending any personally preferred spelling) remains the most reprehensible and indefatigable enemy of the Land of Oz. Ruggedo’s attempts to conquer the kingdom are traced in numerous stories, but it took the imagination of Ruth Plumly Thompson to give him a cave beneath the Emerald City palace, followed by his accidental access to a box of Mixed Magic. (You’ll have to read below to learn how the disgraceful Nome grew to giant size, and carried off the castle on his head!) Note: All Oz art in this month’s blog is taken from the original books and is the magnificent work of John R. Neill.

In the words of his publishers, The Reilly & Lee Company, author L. Frank Baum “went away . . . in May nineteen hundred nineteen . . . to take his stories to the little child-souls who had lived here too long ago to read the Oz stories for themselves.” That statement was included in the “To Our Readers” introduction of Baum’s final (and posthumously-released) Oz book, GLINDA OF OZ, which appeared in 1920. By that time, however, Reilly & Lee had determined that they would not let the extraordinarily successful Oz series come to an end with the death of its creator. They approached his widow, Maud Gage Baum, for permission to carry on her husband’s tradition of a fresh Oz escapade every year, to be written by a new author; they agreed to credit any and every forthcoming volume with a declaration on both the cover and title page, “Founded on and Continuing the Famous Oz Stories by L. Frank Baum”; and they guaranteed Maud and, subsequently, her heirs a royalty on any Oz book they published.

With all of that in place, Reilly & Lee discovered a wondrously adept, fanciful, engaging – well, let’s just say it: perfect! – successor to the post of “Royal Historian of Oz.” Ruth Plumly Thompson was thirty when her initial Oz book was published (1921), but she had been writing stories and verse for children for the preceding seven or more years. Her lighthearted output appeared every week on a full page in the PHILADELPHIA PUBLIC LEDGER from August 30, 1914, through April 25, 1921. Thompson’s work was also familiar to readers of (among others) the ST. NICHOLAS, DELINEATOR, and LADIES’ HOME JOURNAL magazines, and her own first book, THE PERHAPPSY CHAPS, appeared in 1918. As a life-long Baum fan (and breadwinner for her mother, younger sister, and herself), she was both keen and excited to accept the Oz assignment when it was proffered a couple of years later.

Above: Ruth Plumly Thompson wrote more Oz books in the official series than any other writer. “Prodigious” is an all-encompassing adjective to further define her zip, flair, humor, joy in language, rapture in rhyme — and her ability to describe several hundred new characters and locations (as, of course, she discovered them while recording Oz history) for millions of readers. Ruth’s concentration and focus, at times, got the best of her; her dog, Taffy, would carry messages from the main floor of the family residence to the top floor “office,” if and when the writer’s presence was overdue downstairs.

Last month, this blog appreciatively looked at the manner in which L. Frank Baum resourcefully made light of the dark moments when penning the narrative of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900). Today’s entry pays a different kind of homage to “RPT” (as she often identified herself), in what is an admittedly daunting assignment. It’s unquestionably impossible to chart here all the enchanted kingdoms, personalities, and — to use her own words — “rousing and rollicking” adventures in the nineteen Oz books Miss Thompson wrote between 1921 and 1939 (plus the two published in 1972 and 1976 by The International Wizard of Oz Club). During the recent pandemic, I had the pleasure of re-re-re-re-reading the entire Oz series. Its inherent magic was every bit as omnipresent to me as ever before (if not more so), and I was once again and immediately transported back to my preteen years. That’s when I originally discovered the story-telling sorcery of Baum, Thompson, and the others who created more than forty “official” Oz tales. Anyway, it was this unplanned return to Oz a few months back that: a) brought a constant rush of both recollected and present-day positive emotion; and b) spurred the decision here to — this month — cite at least a handful of the many RPT “flights of fancy” which (one more time!) leapt out at and gratified me.

Certainly, a personal all-time favorite situation is indicated in the art and caption at the top of this blog. About a third of the way into KABUMPO IN OZ (1922), Thompson reintroduces Baum’s ever-detestable, love-to-hate-him Metal Monarch, and in her telling, the former Nome King creates his usual havoc. Having dug a cave off the basement of his Emerald City cottage, he discovers a small case of “Mixed Magic.” It includes a question box that knows and tells all, “Re-animating Rays,” and mysterious flasks of “Flying Fluid,” “Vanishing Cream,” “Spike’s Hair Strengthener,” and “Instantaneous Expanding Extract.” Immediately envisioning an early conquest of Oz, he first opts to gain physical force and tests some of the Strengthener by applying it to the top of his head. Instantly, every strand of hair becomes an iron spike. The diminutive rascal eventually pours the entire bottle of Extract over his head, as well, and within seconds, he expands sideways to fill his cavern wall-to-wall — and then shoots up through the ground, thousands of feet in the air. In the process, his spear-like dome impales itself on the underside of the palace: the “spikes were driven fast into the foundations and [the castle] fitted closer than his scalp.”

“In a panic,” Thompson continues, the giant “Ruggedo began to run.” In an hour, he’d left Oz, crossed the Deadly Desert in one jump, and exhaustedly sat down on a mountain top in Ev. Meanwhile, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Ozma, the Wizard, and a host of Ozians remained trapped in the palace on his head – jostled about like corn in a hot popper.

Above: “Nome! Go home!” Because good triumphs over evil, all things end well in Oz. “Triple Trick Tea” is also included in the Mixed Magic box, and a carefully prescribed dose of it — on Ruggedo’s feet – eventually compels him to about-face and march back to the Emerald City, “descend into his cave, and after the palace has settled firmly down on its foundations,” he shrinks to his former size.

A side note:  For several years in the early 1990s, I annually visited the second-grade class taught by a friend and former neighbor in a school in southeastern Wisconsin. She heartily encouraged her pupils’ interest in books, and to that end inaugurated a “Royal Reader” program in which, once a month, a local celebrity came to the building. Such guests — generally nearby media personalities and thus familiar to the students – were greeted at the school entrance by every member of her class; dressed and crowned in a regal cape and circlet; escorted “in procession” from the foyer to the classroom; and invited to sit on an improvised throne and read a story that they’d chosen and brought along. Each year, I took the Del Ray paperback edition of KABUMPO IN OZ, verbally set-up part of the saga, and then recounted Ruggedo’s supernatural expansion. The concept of the spiked hair (and a giant large enough to wear a castle as headgear) never failed to rivet the students, especially those who were suddenly not too cool for school – or fantasy. 😊

RPT’s glee in exploring and expanding the possibilities of Oz necromancy found smaller, mischievous outlets as well. Although the black-and-white Neill drawing (below) from her JACK PUMPKINHEAD OF OZ (1929) can’t convey the majestic red of the beard therein depicted, the gentleman shown here is Baron Belfaygor of Bourne – Bourne being one of a number of small but sumptuous counties in the appropriately red Quadling Country of Oz.  When first encountered in the story, the good lord has inadvertently ruined his own wedding day by summoning the chief mesmerizer of his court to request some specially-conjured, long facial hair to “greatly improve” his appearance. (He’d feel right at home in our horrifically hirsute present-day world . . . .) Unfortunately, the hereinafter “miserable” mesmerizer did his work too well, and the beard not only refused to stop growing, it lengthened at such an alarming rate that it “filled the throne room, ran down the stairs into the pantry, shot up the stairs into the bedrooms, and finally filled every room in the palace.”

An example of what might happen if the Hair Club for Men ventured south to the chin: Only the constant employment of two shears can keep unhappy Belfaygor from smothering himself – and any unsuspecting nearby chums – with his magically-induced, Miracle-Gro of a beard.

Some fifteen chapters later, and after relentless trimming every few minutes, the beard is eventually routed — and rerouted! — thanks to Ozian mainstay Jack Pumpkinhead, Peter from Philadelphia (one of Thompson’s all-American/all-boy heroes), and Snif the Iffin. (That would be a Griffin that’s lost its “grrrr” . . . . ) But part of the fun comes from the many ways in which all that hair is earlier put to use during their travels and travails. It serves as a pseudo-tightrope when they need to cross a chasm. It’s stacked up to provide temporary mattresses for their overnight stay in a cave. Finally, it’s used to drag a forbidden flagon from a fire fountain, and in a concluding plot twist, THAT’S the flagon that enterprising Jack himself wields to reclaim Oz from Mogodore the Mighty — despised Baron of Baffleburg and (briefly) self-proclaimed King of the Emerald City.

On an earlier visit to Oz, that same Peter had already saved the kingdom himself — and from no less than another “overthrow” attempt by the Nome King. The story began when the boy casually purchased a balloon from a suspicious merchant in the “large public square” outside Peter’s Philadelphia home. By some unexpected alchemy, the balloon becomes a balloon bird and flies off with the lad to a small desert island in the midst of the Nonestic Ocean. As fate and RPT would have it, this is the same atoll to which the Nome King had earlier been banished after his stroll off with the Emerald City palace on his head. The ensuing trek of boy and reprobate to the Emerald City fills Thompson’s THE GNOME KING OF OZ (1927), but she first has to devise a unique way to get them off the island – and concocts one! There’s a sudden, churning sea quake, in which a long stretch of the ocean bottom is shaken loose – along with everything on it – and it floats upward to lie on top of the waves. Running down this unexpected and makeshift “road,” Peter and Ruggedo head off in the direction of the nearest mainland, passing sea monsters, mermaids, mer-men, and fish of all sizes. The wrecked hull of a pirate ship, however, pulls them up short; they climb aboard to explore, just before another sea quake again flips the ocean and its sandy foundation. The battered “Plunderoo” remains seaworthy enough, however, to carry them to shore and the onset of further adventures.

Above: The discovery of a sunken pirate ship on the (temporary) top of the sea provides not only conveyance but several magic treasures in its hold – enough to give the nefarious Nome King new power. Fortunately, America’s Peter from Philadelphia retains some magic for himself, and whether or not he realizes how to use it serves as one of the suspenseful story points of THE GNOME KING OF OZ.

Such ingenuity on the part of RPT never seemed to flag, whether across her initial nineteen Oz titles or in the extensive additional fantasy writing she did for children throughout and after that era.  Another example:  Several years before the lyric of E. Y. “Yip” Harburg and the music of Harold Arlen enabled Judy Garland to journey “Over the Rainbow,” Miss Thompson gave that miraculous arc several places in hoztory.  It tangentially appeared in GRAMPA IN OZ (1924), but then manifested itself even more notably eight years later in THE PURPLE PRINCE OF OZ.  At a crisis plot point, RPT enlisted the aid of one of Baum’s most popular heroines — Polychrome the Rainbow’s Daughter – who pops up to rescue several worthy travelers from certain death on the Deadly Desert that completely surrounds Oz.  The beautiful fairy guides them above and beyond the treacherous burning sands on her father’s bow, thus providing Kabumpo the Elegant Elephant, Randy (the courageous, soon-to-be King of Regalia), and Jinnicky the mystic Red Jinn of Ev, with safe passage to the Winkie Country. Of course, the plus-size girth and weight of the pachyderm makes their descent down the final curve a trifle hasty, but there’s no damage done; the stars of our story are back in Oz – having been first, of course, masterfully captured in their excursion by Neill:

One of the characters that especially delighted Thompson’s readers was discovered by preteen Speedy, a Long Island, NY, resident, on vacation out West with his uncle. At the invitation of a professor friend, they visit his “dig” in Wyoming and come upon his latest literal and figurative unearthing: the “complete skeleton and bones of a mezozoic [sic] dinosaur.” In the momentary absence of the educator, Speedy and Uncle Billy boldly and loosely assemble the framework of the giant monster and spread it out on the ground, just for the sheer fun of the experiment.  As they finish, however, an underground geyser bursts “through the earth’s surface, catapulting the boy and the dinosaur aloft . . . . ”  As this happens in SPEEDY IN OZ (1934), it will come as no surprise to you to hear that “the hot molten minerals” of the liquid not only solidify the dinosaur bones into their correct shape, but also bring the charmer to life – conversationally and otherwise. He gains the name “Terrybubble” (as a shocked and teeth-chattering Speedy tries to define their situation as “terrible”), but the two are soon fast friends and come to land on a floating island in the sky.

And that’s just the beginning!

As explained in paragraph three above, these are but random samples of the countless and joyous inspirations that make an eternal delight of Ruth Plumly Thompson’s writings. Here’s to all of ’em, however – and especially, today, to the much-cherished RPT herself. Meanwhile, I can do no better than to leave Terrybubble HIMself to share her greeting from the traditional “To My Readers” page of SPEEDY IN OZ:

One more thought, please. I feel it’s a privilege to revisit and share episodes and characters from these books – and to provide little “samples” of the pure pleasure to be found in the Oz of Baum, Thompson, John R. Neill, Jack Snow, Rachel Cosgrove Payes, Eloise Jarvis McGraw, Lauren Lynn McGraw, and Dick Martin.

I also feel it’s a privilege to do it in this forum – and I thank everyone reading here for making possible these visits!

(P.S. Special gratitude this month to Scott Cummings, who shared the color plate images above so that RPT – and John R. Neill – might be glowingly celebrated. 😊 )

THE PANEL THAT GOT AWAY: CELEBRATING “THE BAUM BUGLE” (Part Two)

THE PANEL THAT GOT AWAY:  CELEBRATING “THE BAUM BUGLE”   (Part Two)

by John Fricke

Note: For those who haven’t as yet seen the first installment of this article and would like to read it before perusing the conclusion here, Part One may be found at

https://ozmuseum.com/blogs/news/the-panel-that-got-away-celebrating-the-baum-bugle-part-one

An additional explanation of this “hands across the lands” blog-splitting — between All Things Oz of Chittenango, NY, and The OZ Museum of Wamego, KS — is included with Part One; it may also be found below, at the conclusion of Part Two. Many thanks!

[Above: This extraordinary John R. Neill watercolor was commissioned from the artist by Jack Snow in 1942. Neill, who would die a year later, had written and pictured the Oz books for 1940, 1941, and 1942; prior to that, he’d illustrated thirty-two preceding Oz titles, plus six Oz short stories and THE OZ TOY BOOK. Snow was an important and insatiable early Oz collector and later wrote two volumes of his own for the official Oz series — THE MAGICAL MIMICS IN OZ (1946) and THE SHAGGY MAN OF OZ (1949) — as well as the encyclopedic WHO’S WHO IN OZ (1954). Soon after Snow’s passing in 1956, the original Neill drawing was acquired by Fred M. Meyer, charter member and (for more than four decades) mainstay of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc. Through Fred’s generosity, this scarcely-known art served as a thrilling “wraparound” cover for the Winter 1986 edition of the Club magazine, THE BAUM BUGLE.]
As was explained in Part One, this informal look-back at sixty-four-years of THE BAUM BUGLE – periodical of The International Wizard of Oz Club — grew out of the unfortunate recent cancellation of a proposed internet panel discussion about the magazine’s history. A conclave of BUGLE editors had agreed to be interviewed as an attraction of this month’s “To Oz!” virtual convention; unfortunately, the coordinator of the BUGLE group was suddenly confronted with non-Oz, real-life challenges and had to abandon the event.

I was scheduled – as a past editor-in-chief — to participate in that panel, and in anticipation, I’d done some preliminary research and (upon request!) prepared a musical finale for its retrospective. When the “round table” forum had to be taken off the “To Oz!” roster, it seemed instead to be a potentially good idea to adapt some of the already-gathered BUGLE material for a brief, informal, written celebration of the Oz Club’s long-cherished publication. (I also had the deadlines for two Oz-related blogs on the immediate horizon; what an outlet for such an Ozian topic! 😊 ) Final impetus came in the realization that recollecting the BUGLE in this manner would allow for sharing some stunning and favorite examples of its remarkable and (predominantly) colorful cover art from 1959 to the present.

[The first dramatic adaptation of THE WIZARD OF OZ was produced for the stage by Fred Hamlin and directed by Julian Mitchell. Their lavish extravaganza enjoyed a tumultuous debut in Chicago in 1902, toured in triumph, and then opened in New York City in January 1903. Thereafter, OZ was so successful that (apart from the occasional summer vacation for its company) the show appeared continually on the boards until 1909 — sometimes with two different aggregations simultaneously trekking the musical to diverse corners of the country. The Hurtig and Seamon booking interests took over the production in 1905 (Hamlin had died the preceding year) and made a success of it for another four seasons. Above, top: Their poster here, circa 1907, pictures three familiar characters, along with a soubrette unique to the initial OZ stage play: Topeka waitress Trixie Tryfle. In turn, this artwork was selected for the Winter 1984 BUGLE cover, as it tied into that issue’s exemplary and witty essay about the show by esteemed popular culture historian Ethan Mordden. Above: A French poster for an appallingly awful 1925 feature-length silent film version of THE WIZARD OF OZ. The movie starred and was directed by Larry Semon, whose nom-de-screen in France was “Zigoto.”]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As some of you are already aware, Part One of this mini-series took the magazine from its initial mimeographed launch in 1957 through the early 1980s. It was in 1984 that I was asked to take the BUGLE reins, which I did through 1987 – eleven issues in all. It was a most propitious time to come to the post of editor, as there was much Oz in the news. Disney’s RETURN TO OZ was produced and released across that time period. Dick Martin illustrated and wrote his own continuation of the Oz book series, published by the Club as THE OZMAPOLITAN OF OZ. In terms of original research, the magazine printed detailed examinations of Oz comic strips and comic books; the 1933-34 NBC/Jell-O Oz radio series; the 1902 WIZARD OF OZ stage musical; and reprints of L. Frank Baum’s obscure advance promotional pieces for the 1904-1905 QUEER VISITORS FROM THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ weekly newspaper cartoon page. The BUGLE also continued the by-then-traditional bibliographical articles, book/TV/theater reviews, and Club convention reports. Finally, we instituted a new, every-issue feature about the much-loved WIZARD OF OZ film, “The MGM Scrapbook.” (On a sadder note, the BUGLEs across these years also marked the passing of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s Wicked Witch of the West and Scarecrow: Margaret Hamilton and Ray Bolger.)

[Above, top: The May 16, 1985, passing of Margaret Hamilton was acknowledged and mourned world-wide, as well as in special articles in the Autumn BUGLE of that year. Beloved as Almira Gulch and — as Maggie sometimes shorthanded it in her autographs — the “WWW,” she had specifically posed for artist Andy Warhol at his request four years earlier. The BUGLE was granted special permission to use this reduction of his resultant, original silk screen print for the Hamilton memorial cover. Above: A legendary trio poses on the set of Disney’s RETURN TO OZ. The Spring 1985 BUGLE was the second of three consecutive issues that heralded the film with feature articles discussing the production.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One particular stroke of good fortune came when the onset of my editor’s duties coincided with Del Rey Books’ launch of the first paperback publications of fifteen Ruth Plumly Thompson Oz books (at that time out-of-print for twenty years). Editor Judy-Lynn del Rey gave us Michael Herring’s color design for KABUMPO IN OZ to use on the cover of my initial issue. She also invited me to write summary blurbs for the back covers of each book, and — in exchange for permission to include the Oz Club’s famous maps in every edition — Del Rey provided us with a full-page advertisement at the conclusion of each Thompson text. Across subsequent years, this brought in literally hundreds of new Club members.

I have to interject here an aspect of BUGLE assemblage that always made the (literally) hundreds of hours of effort not only worthwhile but immeasurably joyous: the opportunity to associate with other Oz enthusiasts – among them gifted journalists, artists, researchers, and designers. Beyond that, what “coerced” me into accepting the job in the first place was the knowledge that I’d be working with Dan Smith and Lynne Kresta, who were then the magazine’s production editors. They were and remain two of the very finest compatriots of my lifetime, in or out of Oz; they, their children, and their grandchild own a singular, significant corner of my heart. 😊

[The tradition of using art created by Oz Club members for BUGLE covers dated back to 1959 and the very first issues that carried illustrations; such initial work was contributed by Oz artist and collector extraordinaire, Dick Martin. (Please see part one of this blog for several examples of his BUGLE work.) Twenty-eight years later, animator and member Rob Roy MacVeigh was profiled in the magazine with an account of his plans to create feature-length cartoon versions of the Oz books, faithful to the plots and concepts of their authors and illustrators. Before his premature passing in 1992, Rob managed character designs, storyboards, a screenplay, and even some symphonic music recordings for his retelling of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Above top: THE BAUM BUGLE was proud to showcase his ambitions and preliminary achievements — and to reproduce this test “cel” for the proposed motion picture as its Winter 1987 cover. Above: Celebrated and versatile artist Irene Fisher was a member of the Club from its early years, and her participation in (and contributions to) the BUGLE and our conventions and other activities were both marvelous and ongoing for decades. This limited-edition lithograph was one of her most dazzling Ozzy creations, and her family gave the BUGLE permission to use it on the cover of the first issue that went to press after Irene’s passing in 2004.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the time my first tenure as BUGLE editor-in-chief concluded in 1987, I was one of ten people who had supervised the magazine since its “premiere,” three decades earlier. That numerical tally has since exactly doubled to twenty, including a couple of guest overseers who stepped in for single issues. Additionally, there have been numerous “contributing editors” along the way who supervise specific BUGLE departments: book and theater reviews, summaries of the most recent Oz news, bibliography, and the like — plus, the printers and those who tally Club membership and dispense the mailing labels. (As much as is possible. I am an all-inclusive “salute-r!” 😊 ) Finally — and tympani, please! – we’ve enjoyed a particularly remarkable series of designers, responsible for any physical glories of the publication. (I summarize in this manner, simply because it would be impossible to recognize everybody here – not to mention the additional countless writers, researchers, and miscellaneous submitters. It’s also equally impractical in a précis of this sort to attempt to offer the extreme levels of appreciation warranted by so many!)

[Above, top: In addition to his pictures and designs for several Oz books (one of which he also authored), Dick Martin was a preeminent Oz and Baum collector. Among his treasures was this original John R. Neill watercolor for THE EMERALD CITY OF OZ (1910), appropriated for the Spring 1994 BUGLE cover. Here, Dorothy, Glinda, and Ozma quietly reflect on their non-violent (as least in the text!) conquest of the evil Nome King. Such art is irrevocable proof that Neill earned — and has retained — the sobriquet, “Imperial Illustrator of Oz.” Above: The Autumn 2007 BAUM BUGLE celebrated an extraordinary milestone in achieving fifty years of publication. The striking and innovative cover design for that issue was conceived by the magazine’s then-production editor, nonpareil Marcus Mebes. Baum himself is here accompanied by some thirty preceding BUGLE images; the back cover depicted thirty-six more!]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another important point to be made here: All the workers referenced above are volunteers who, by generosity of talent and time, have sustained the BUGLE from its onset. Oz, however, sustains ITSELF. I was privileged to return to the post of editor-in-chief for the three BUGLEs of 2017, and once again, the variety of news to cover (past and present) was glorious. During – and on either side of — that year, the litany of subjects discussed in recent pages of the magazine have included: Broadway’s WICKED (interviews with stars who’ve played Glinda, Elphaba, and Fiyero, plus composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz); Disney’s OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL; the SyFy Channel’s TIN MAN; NBC-TV’s EMERALD CITY; the seventieth, seventy-fifth, and eightieth anniversaries of MGM’s OZ; the Smithsonian’s fund-raising and conservation efforts on behalf of their pair of ruby slippers; recent Oz dramatizations and interactive productions; new cartoons; the contemporary AGES OF OZ and DOROTHY MUST DIE book series; the original Russian Oz books; the various “dark” approaches to Oz that create idiosyncratic excitement for some;  and estate-endorsed additions to the Oz series itself. Across the same time period, the BUGLE has historically presented rapturous centennial reflections on the Baum Oz books and other fantasies; vintage reviews and advertisements from his scrapbooks; and classic author and illustrator profiles (including a notable homage to original Oz artist, W. W. Denslow). Oz and Oz-related subject matter, like the Yellow Brick Road, seemingly goes on forever — and the BUGLE addresses and delivers it all.

[Above, top: The back cover of the Winter 2013 BUGLE hailed Margaret Pellegrini (“flower pot hat” and “Sleepyhead” Munchkin of MGM’s THE WIZARD OF OZ), who had passed away that August, just weeks prior to her ninetieth birthday. The surviving “little people” of the Metro cast made countless personal appearances between 1985 and 2013, but it’s no exaggeration to state that Margaret was a – and perhaps THE — supreme favorite. She is shown here in 2002, holding a first edition copy of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ at the home of Robert and Clare Baum. (Robert is one of the great-grandchildren of L. Frank Baum.) Author/photographer Steve Cox provided this image; beginning in the late 1980s, he was the first to seek out and compile the recollections of the OZ film’s diminutive stars. Among the many pop culture histories he’s written is the exceptional THE MUNCHKINS OF OZ, most recently revised and published in 2004. Above: Throughout its history, the BUGLE covers have displayed both collectible and current Oz images. In Autumn 2017, the magazine went up-to-the-minute contemporary and gleefully showed five cherished friends as designed for the then-current SVOD (Subscription Video on Demand) Warner Bros. TV series, DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD OF OZ. The cartoons debuted on the Boomerang cable and streaming TV service and then swiftly segued to home video.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The International Wizard of Oz Club (ozclub.org) has recently decided to inaugurate and establish a Club history, comprised of recorded interviews with members who have been pivotal in the creation, maintenance, and continuation of the organization. Meanwhile, I hope this two-part blog has provided an interim sense of some of the extraordinary collection of people in the Club, and — especially – the extraordinary collection of material assembled in the 187 issues (to date) of THE BAUM BUGLE.

Anyway, we got to share a couple of dozen beauteous, significant, and/or exhilarating covers!

Finally, I need to acknowledge Patty Tobias. She and I met at an Oz Club convention in 1965; she was nine, I was fourteen, and if our communication has been at times sporadic in these intervening decades, we’ve always picked up precisely where we left off as age-old friends. Patty was the force behind the BUGLE “panel that got away,” which would have been a happy reunion for many of us. As it didn’t happen, she also (however indirectly) inspired this blog! Beyond her own writing, editing, organizational, and management skills, however, she’s also an accomplished musicians and pianist, and — back in the 1980s – she and I were occasionally asked to offer Oz-related musicales for Club convention entertainment. In an echo of those days (and as referenced above), she’s the one who suggested that the virtual BUGLE panel conclude with a virtual reunion duet – and that she’d play if I’d sing.

As things panned out, you’re spared the vocal! But here’s the BUGLE-celebratory “special material” I wrote for the occasion:

Ode to THE BAUM BUGLE/”A Journal of Oz”

[To the tune of “If I Only Had a Brain/a Heart/the Nerve” – with profuse apologies to Harold Arlen, E. Y. “Yip” Harburg, and BUGLE magazine staff members from 1957-2020!]

Back in June of ’57,

All members found their heaven:
The BUGLE made the scene!
Justin S. did the startin’;
He was followed by Dick Martin,
Editing our magazine.

Justin came up with the title:
Allit’rative and vital.
(The kid was mere thirteen.)
The first had four pages;
Now the budget is outrage[ou]s
For the Oz Club magazine.

Sit and wait:
The BUGLE’s late —
A trend from year to year.
There’s a mitigating fact
We must make clear:
The BUGLE staff’s
All-volunteer.

Sixty-four years now and countin’;
The issues just keep mountin’ —
Oz news is ever-green!
No, this boast isn’t frugal;
Hear us blow our own BAUM BUGLE!
It’s the Oz Club magazine!
—–
Sondheim I’m not. (For sure!)

But I’ve loved THE BAUM BUGLE since I received my first sample issue (pictured just below) from Oz Club secretary Fred Meyer on July 21, 1962. I’ve written about this elsewhere in the past, but the oversize mailing envelope – even before I opened it – was a heart-stopper: There was a small, preprinted sticker affixed to the front, just to the left of my name and address: “OZ MAIL – RUSH!”  Many of you will have no trouble imagining the impact. I was eleven, but I’d already been an Oz book and Oz movie fan (and Oz collector) for nearly six years.

[Above: This is the first issue of THE BAUM BUGLE I ever saw. I opened it in the back seat of our car; my mom, dad, younger brother, baby sister, and I were heading out to have her “one-year-old” photo taken, and I’d collected the mail just before we took off. The shabby condition seen here is due to the intervening fifty-eight years of rabid reading; the vestiges of three-hole-punch activity reflect my (fortunately) brief attempt to amateurishly bind my early copies. As can be seen by the cover illustration, one of the feature articles in that April 1962 edition was an examination of Oz books in foreign lands and languages – the first time this topic had been examined at any length in a published periodical. The BUGLE was then at the onset of its sixth year of existence and quickly becoming famous for its ground-breaking research on topics that embraced All Things Oz!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So . . . here’s to A JOURNAL OF OZ (as THE BAUM BUGLE’s subheading has declared it, via editor Jerry Tobias – Patty’s father – since 1975). There’s been no greater accumulation, amalgamation, or magical bastion of Oz research, history, and passion anywhere else in history.

And blessed are those who have read it – and been privileged to take part in providing it.

———

P.S. How-It-Came-About! As so-defined above, this two-part/two-location blog represents a cheerful, hands-across-the-lands gesture of friendship which the entire world would do well to emulate! I take no credit for the bonding between the two sites, but it’s through the cooperation and courtesy of Marc Baum (no relation!) in upstate New York, and Clint Stueve in Kansas, that this month’s blogs have been being “cross-pollinated” — Marc’s apt choice of verbiage.

Some of you are aware that I’m now in my seventh year of blogging for The OZ Museum of Wamego, KS; last week’s Part One of the BUGLE history is my entry # 122 for them. Meanwhile, I’m also in my third year of providing a completely different monthly blog for The All Things Oz Museum in Chittenango, NY – birthplace of L. Frank Baum. This “Part Two” is my thirtieth contribution to their site.

In this manner, we hope that Oz fans and readers will be made aware of the extensive (and heavily illustrated) reading, research, and history available — both here for Chittenango, as well as “there” for Wamego. More importantly, we want everyone to “virtually” visit both of these locales, and — when once again feasible — to plan future “in person” excursions to their two museums and two annual Oz festivals!

My heartfelt thanks to Marc and Clint for their instant endorsement of the suggestion that we align the August blogs in this fashion. I hope everyone reading here will join me in this appreciation for them.

And thank you, one and all, for trundling back through THE BAUM BUGLE history with me on these two occasions!

NIGHTMARES AND HEARTACHES AND BAUM . . . OH, MY! 😊

NIGHTMARES AND HEARTACHES AND BAUM . . . OH, MY! 😊

by John Fricke

Anton Loeb pictured this memorable – if fear-provoking — moment in Oz history for the “abbreviated version” of THE WIZARD OF OZ, published by Random House in 1950. Termed by its editor as a “brief retelling” of L. Frank Baum’s original text, the storybook was produced to capitalize on the successful 1949 theatrical reissue of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 motion picture version of the first Oz book. Loeb’s artwork seems at least somewhat MGM-inspired, as well.

L. Frank Baum’s extraordinary fantasy country of Oz is often referenced as “America’s Own Fairyland” – a fact familiar to his countless millions of adherents. Equally well-known is the descriptive definition of his initial Oz book, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, as “the first American fairy tale.” Mind you, Baum himself didn’t originate such statements; he did, however, declare a certain personal intention and thesis in writing when he penned the introduction to that classic story in April 1900.

“The time has come for a series of newer ‘wonder tales,’” he suggested, and he called for the elimination of “all the horrible and blood-curdling incidents devised by . . . authors to point a fearsome moral to each tale.” Baum also decried “all disagreeable incidents . . . heartaches and nightmares,” taking a stand for “only entertainment . . . to pleasure children of today.” To say he succeeded in delivering pleasure is both understatement and another long-acknowledged concept. In the process, however, Baum didn’t quite manage to eliminate “the horrible” or the “heartaches and nightmares.” No less an Oz advocate than the celebrated James Thurber – playwright, cartoonist, journalist, and wit – confirmed this as early as 1934 in THE NEW REPUBLIC: “I am glad that in spite of [his] high determination, Mr. Baum failed to keep them out [as] children love a lot of nightmare and at least a little heartache in their books. And they get them in the Oz books.”

Thurber is, of course, correct on all points, and to underscore his opinion, here are a few editorial reflections upon — and pictorial examples of – some of the terrifying or heart-stopping incidents and characters from just the first Baum Oz book. (Not to worry, however. As you’ll see below, all of them are pretty much designed for the “entertainment” he sought to present, and Baum’s nightmarish incidents are always quickly resolved, eliminating any long-term negative effects.)

As early as paragraph six of chapter one of THE WIZARD OF OZ, there’s indication of horror on the horizon (literally and figuratively), and this image of “Dorothy’s transportation” was drawn by Dale Ulrey for the 1956 Reilly & Lee edition of Baum’s book. Though such a real-life spectacle may inspire awe, the approach of violent and extreme weather is more often panic-making than anything else — for all ages but perhaps especially for children. This is increasingly true in our present day and age, when videos of tornadoes and their havoc are often unavoidable and viewable on demand. Baum, however, made use of such fears in 1900, when only a couple of actual photographs of such storms had been taken and published.

Chapter seven of THE WIZARD OF OZ is gently titled, “The Journey to the Great Oz,” with no indication of the fearsome creatures about to be encountered. Midway through Baum’s discourse, however, he has the Cowardly Lion whisper to Dorothy and Company that “it was in this part of the country that the Kalidahs lived . . . : ‘monstrous beasts with bodies like bears and heads like tigers, and with claws so long and sharp that they could tear me in two . . . .’” Fittingly, it’s the Lion’s underlying (if not self-comprehended) bravery that scares off the Kalidahs when they first approach the Kansas girl and her party; the quick-thinking Scarecrow next directs the Tin Woodman to use his valiant ax to destroy the log bridge the creatures are crossing in pursuit. Artist W. W. Denslow chose that moment for one of the full-page, full-color plates (shown above) in the WIZARD first edition.

It’s only a chapter later that Baum leads his protagonists into “The Deadly Poppy Field.” Skipping over the moment (and it’s basically as brief as that) when the Tin Woodman decapitates a wildcat in pursuit of the Queen of the Field Mice, the story line has caused considerable angst for many young readers as the Cowardly Lion falls under the spell of the flowers. The Scarecrow and Tin Man are able to make a chair of their arms and carry Dorothy and Toto out of the poppies to safety, but the Lion “is much too heavy to lift.” The Woodman regretfully acknowledges. “We must leave him here to sleep forever” amidst the blossoms.  Anton Loeb captured that peaceful but heartrending image for the 1950 Random House WIZARD:

One of the “great escapes” of literature AND film is the manner in which Dorothy (accidentally) implements freedom from the Wicked Witch of the West for herself and her companions. In the uber-familiar WIZARD OF OZ movie, of course, she picks up a handy bucket of water to save the Scarecrow, whom the Witch has set afire. In Baum’s original book, however, the little girl throws a scrub-bucket of water at the old crone after she steals one of Dorothy’s magic silver shoes.

Either way, it’s a chilling denouement for young auditors, readers, or viewers. Baum recounts that the Witch dissolved “away like brown sugar . . . [falling] down in a brown, melted, shapeless mass [that] began to spread over the clean boards of the kitchen floor.” Tom Sinnickson pictured Dorothy in the defiant act of self-defense for the 1951 WIZARD OF OZ Wonder Book edition:

Finally, one of Baum’s more gruesome characters is dispatched by the no-longer-Cowardly Lion in one of the penultimate chapters of the first Oz book. The Wizard has provided courage — as well as brains and a heart — for Dorothy’s three compatriots before departing the Emerald City in his balloon; in her ongoing desire to return to Kansas, Dorothy must next seek help from Glinda, the Witch of the South. As the faithful troupe of friends trek to the Quadling Country, they pass through what the Lion terms “a perfectly delightful” old forest. The animals who live there approach him and beseech that he kill “a fierce enemy. . . a most tremendous monster,” which they further describe as “a great spider, with a body as big as an elephant and legs as long as a tree trunk.  It has eight of these long legs, and as the monster crawls through the forest, he seizes an animal with a leg and drags it to his mouth, where he eats it as a spider eats a fly.” One can’t help but think that such a passage might have tweaked the trepidation of any number of children, but the newly fearless Lion makes quick work of the creature – as depicted here by Dale Ulrey in the 1956 Reilly & Lee WIZARD:

These are a few examples of the challenges — not to say hallucination-inspiring or saddening occurrences — in Baum’s new “wonder tale.” Meanwhile, this discourse hasn’t even referenced the Fighting Trees; the Hammer-Heads; the Scarecrow’s unescapable entrapment as he clings to a pole in the middle of a fast-flowing river; the “most terrible beast” and ball-of-fire disguises utilized by the Wizard on his first meetings with (respectively) the Tin Woodman and the Lion; the wolves and bees sent by the Wicked Witch to destroy Dorothy and her buddies; and the disassembling of the Scarecrow and destruction of the Tin Woodman by the Wicked Witch’s Winged Monkeys. (“It hurt for me, even if it didn’t for Mr. Baum,” wrote James Thurber, recollecting his childhood exposure to THE WIZARD OF OZ.)

However! Why does Baum’s stance and counter-horror thesis still ring – and hold – true? There is both a simple reason and a simple answer: it’s all in the handling, in his entertaining, story-teller approach. Every single one of these definitely confrontational and potentially scary adventures is fast-fleeting, transitory, and quickly resolved. Each is faced and pondered and conquered in a page or two – or even a paragraph or two.  The cyclone safely carries Dorothy and Toto to Oz. The Lion is saved from the Poppy Field by the Queen of the Field Mice and her subjects. The Winged Monkeys turn out to be great friends to Dorothy – and, later, Glinda – when the girl and good witch take possession of the Golden Cap that controls them. The Lion is made King of the Forest by the residents of the forest he’s saved from the giant spider.

Additionally, Baum could justifiably and proudly claim that no “fearsome moral” pervaded his fairy tale; instead, he provided a moral-for-life, indicated by the ongoing and fulsome cheer his characters experience when they bond with each other, work together, take on any and all tasks, tests, trials, and terrors – and see their situations through to a succession of peaceful, joyous, rainbow-hued (if sometimes sentimental) finales. Baum offered such conclusions again and again throughout his Ozzy writings, and – to use the word he chose for THE WIZARD OF OZ introduction — they have been “pleasure” to children for one-hundred-and-twenty-years.

It’s true that such happily-ever-after may only be achieved in Oz – or in some other heart’s solace. Yet how important it is to unfailingly strive – with one’s life’s companions – to reach that place. The journey may be ultimately unfulfilled in some ways, but how immeasurably important it is to keep moving forward with courage, intelligence, heart, and the company of (or desire for) our loved ones. As Judy Garland sang in another of her movie songs, “We don’t know where we’re goin’, but we’re on our way!” 😊

In his stories, L. Frank Baum offered some glorious roadmaps, guideposts, and mentors for any and every voyage.

THE WIZ! – WHAT IT WOZ . . . AND WHO HE IS!

THE WIZ! – WHAT IT WOZ . . . AND WHO HE IS!

By John Fricke
Above: As shown on the cover of its souvenir theater program: The logo for Broadway’s THE WIZ was a stunning example of the imagination that suffused every aspect of the original production of that 1970s stage musical.

For 120 years, Chittenango, New York, has been known – and become increasingly renowned — as the birthplace of L. Frank Baum, author of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900). Each of the last twelve decades has brought more and more fame to Baum’s Oz Books and, eventually, those of his successors, as well; in turn, the mass of celebratory, analytical, critical, or rapturous historical journalism about the “Royal Historian” has exponentially increased across those years and, in time, given Chittenango an international visibility to the ever-growing multitudes of Oz adherents.

As mentioned in last month’s blog, it was Chittenango local Clara Houck, an elementary school librarian, who decided that world-wide familiarity was one thing, but that hometown recognition for its native son was long overdue. In 1978, she launched a small party for children in Baum’s honor; unexpectedly (or maybe not, given the omnipresent magic of Oz), this became an annual event. In fact, by the late 1990s, it had evolved into a full weekend gala that encompassed a wide spectrum of activities. These included a parade that drew hundreds of entrants – and thousands of attendees; costume, writing, and coloring contests; original Oz music and stage entertainments; and appearances by Oz celebrities. (Across the decades, the latter category has boasted the presence of Baum’s niece, several of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, Munchkin members of the cast of the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer classic musical film of THE WIZARD OF OZ, and Broadway and film notables.) In recent years, the festival – now officially known as OZ-Stravaganza! — has brought crowds of up to thirty-thousand people to Chittenango every first weekend in June.

I thought it might be historically appropriate to reference the foundation and burgeoning success of OZ-Strav! (as it’s been shorthanded), simply because – for anyone reading here who might not be aware – 2020 marks the first time in forty-two years that it didn’t happen. There’s no question that the cancelation was smart. It was sensible. And it remains sorrowful for everyone involved or who might have been planning to participate or attend. (Speaking personally, 2020 would have marked my own thirtieth anniversary in Chittenango, as I was first asked to take part in the fun back in 1990. Including that initial year, I’ve had the privilege of being a special guest and emcee at twenty-eight of their festivals across the intervening decades.)

God willing, we’ll all be back in 2021, and some of the excitement planned for this year will doubtless be “held over” until then. One thing seems certain: one of the hOZtorical milestones we’ll be commemorating is the forty-fifth (by then, forty-sixth!) anniversary of the triumphant Broadway musical, THE WIZ, which premiered at New York’s Majestic Theatre on Sunday evening, January 5, 1975.

Above: With dazzling, supportive Ozians all around him, the one and only “Wiz” announces his departure from the Emerald City. André De Shields’ musical number at this juncture in the show was the revival-istic “Y’all Got It!”

A word here about that production. Those who know THE WIZ only from its later motion picture version or TV special can’t really comprehend the level of joy and elation created by its original incarnation. That’s not a casual claim or declamation, either, as I was (most definitely) privileged – and lucky — to see THE WIZ on that fateful Broadway opening night in 1975.

I’d then been a New York City resident for just eleven weeks, living in an apartment a block west of Times Square and literally around the corner from the Majestic Theatre. As a fledgling entertainer – and even more as an Oz fan since age five – I was very much aware of the fact that THE WIZ was due in town. The pre-Broadway, out-of-town reviews had been mixed; there’d been recasting on the road, a change of directors, and parts written out of the show. Of even greater negative import, the word around the Manhattan theatrical neighborhood was that THE WIZ had no advance ticket sale; a final rumor (and, as it turned out, an accurate one) held that the closing notice for the production already had been posted effective January  5th – which meant that the show would open that night and then potentially shut down after that performance.  (This was a time-honored Broadway tradition; if a show had minimal advance ticket sales and didn’t get good reviews the day after its official debut, its producers were within their legal rights to immediately close it, as long as adequate notice had been provided the cast, crew, and staff.)

Early in the afternoon of January 5th, I received a call from Fred Meyer in Escanaba, MI. A life-long Oz aficionado (to put it mildly!) and long-time secretary of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Fred had encouraged me in my own Ozzy passions since I first joined the club in 1962. Simultaneously, he’d also begun championing my journalistic endeavors and had solicited articles and other miscellaneous Fricke contributions for the club publication, THE BAUM BUGLE. His telephonic “Gung-Ho! OZ!” conversations had become a regular, welcome component of most weekends for many in the organization, and the call he placed to me on January 5th had special purpose:

“Someone needs to review THE WIZ for the BUGLE!” quoth Fred. I said I would be delighted to have that assignment, but I stressed that the closing notice had already been posted, and it didn’t seem likely that the show would run past that evening. As such, a review might not be possible. His response was absolutely predictable: “Go TONIGHT!” I protested that it was opening night, that the performance would doubtless be sold out (or at least have every seat full), and that I didn’t really have it in my new-to-New-York-and-basically-broke budget to attend. “The Club will reimburse you for the ticket!” I cautioned that even if I could get one, it might be expensive. “GO to the theater! Find OUT!”

So I – not unwillingly — trundled a block south and across the street to the box office. Much to my surprise, there was absolutely no obstacle as I wondrously (and quite happily) purchased a rear balcony seat for the opening night of THE WIZ.

For six dollars.

(Those were the days!)

A few hours later, I found I was pretty much alone as I climbed the stairs to my location in the upper reaches of the Majestic. The main floor of the theater was jam-packed with people, as was some of the front mezzanine. But rows and rows of empty seats upstairs were an indication that the concept of an all African American pop-rock retelling of THE WIZARD OF OZ was most definitely a hard-sell for the theater in 1975. Then, just before the houselights dimmed to signify showtime, the ushers beckoned to the couple of dozen of us “in the rafters” and actually invited us to move down into the more expensive mezzanine rows – seeking, I think, any means of providing the cast with as much visual inspiration as possible in case they looked up as they were performing.

Well . . . . The experience was sensational. I had some quibbles, but THE WIZ was Ozzy, modern, sassy, funny, extraordinarily beautiful in colorful costuming and scenery, exciting in song and spectacle, and an unmitigated wow in terms of performance. The reviews the next day were, indeed, mixed; some were dismissive. There was definitely enough laudatory phraseology, however, to formulate and sustain an extended ad campaign in the press. This was then topped by a WIZ TV commercial that (over and over) musically exhorted audiences to “ease on down the road” to the Majestic. Once they got there, they saw the most triumphant, exhilarating, and joyous Oz theatrical experience since the MGM film, and word-of-mouth did the rest. Within eight weeks of its premiere, THE WIZ was selling out every show.

Above: The Little Wizard That COULD! With no advance sale – and the threat that the opening night performance might be their last – Dorothy & Co. (and THE WIZ himself) sustained themselves for four years on Broadway, not counting national and international tours. In addition to the awards cited above, the 1975 presentation of the show also garnered five Drama Desk Awards.

I went back four more times across the 1,672-performance run of THE WIZ, accompanied by Oz fans, friends, and family (including my mom and little sister on their first trip to NYC in 1977). The entertainment level never flagged, and it was easy to love the show even more on those subsequent visits. Since then, there’s no doubt that my recollections of the original — the “real” WIZ — have won it personal allegiance far above any I could manifest for the 1978 movie of THE WIZ or the 2015 NBC-TV “WIZ LIVE!” While both had their merits, the former flushed much of the property’s charm in urban ugliness and multiple mis-castings; the latter deluged it in some heinous character costumes and make-up, much darker overtones, and a weighty backstory.

Meanwhile, all of this gleefully remembered devotion to the magical, initial incarnation of THE WIZ brings this month’s blog around to memories of (and a salute to!) one of the most . . .  well, magical special guest celebrities in Chittenango history. He first attended OZ-Stravaganza! in 2012, singing and parading and inexhaustibly mingling with fans; we had hopes that he’d spearhead the anniversary glorification of the original production this month in Baum’s birthplace.

Above: If ever – oh, ever! – a WIZ there woz . . . . Wearing (and fitting into!) the same stage costume he wore thirty-seven years earlier, André De Shields “benediction-ally” poses in Chittenango’s celebrity tent with two fellow guests in 2012: “Munchkin by Marriage” Myrna Swenson (who was the wife of MGM Munchkin soldier, Clarence Swensen) and Flowerpot/Sleepyhead Munchkin Margaret Pellegrini from the cast of the 1939 WIZARD OF OZ film. Photo by André’s publicist, Merle Frimark.

Of course, I’m speaking of the incomparable André De Shields, originator of the title role in THE WIZ. In an entertainment career that spans more than fifty years, Andre has amassed multiple Tony and Drama Desk nominations, winning both of those awards last year for his performance in HADESTOWN (plus a Grammy Award for the show’s Original Cast CD). He also received his second Outer Critics Circle citation for that production; the first came attendant to his appearance in Broadway’s THE FULL MONTY. Andre can boast an Emmy, as well, for his television work in AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ — another of the multiple De Shields Broadway credits.  His resume includes several dozen additional musicals, plays, off-Broadway, regional theater, and television highlights; supremely respected as a director, choreographer, writer, and educator, it is simplest to note that André has triumphed in every medium. One can do no better for life inspiration than to seek out his interviews and biographies on the internet.

(Well, actually, one CAN do MUCH better. Watch this blog in the future – and the All Things Oz social media sites – for news of OZ-Stravaganza! 2021, where we hope to once again present André, in person!)

Above: An all-time Chittenango and OZ-Stravaganza! high point: Andre De Shields levitates on the high school stage – without the help of his five-inch WIZ platform shoes – to emphasize an anecdotal point. (Yours truly is the awed interviewer.) In addition to sharing his fascinating personal/professional history on this occasion in 2012, the entertainer offered renditions of “So You Wanted to Meet the Wizard” and “If You Believe” from the score of THE WIZ; the thrills and chills throughout the auditorium and audience were palpable.

Stephanie Mills, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Clarice Taylor, Tiger Haynes, Ted Ross, Mabel King, Hinton Battle, and Geoffrey Holder are just some of the others whose careers were catapulted, heightened, sustained, or enhanced by THE WIZ.  André De Shields, however, remains the standard bearer for that production, and despite all of his subsequent successes, he has never hesitated to acknowledge with pride and gratitude the fact of his wonderful, wizardly Broadway success on the evening of January 5, 1975 — exactly a week to the day prior to his twenty-ninth birthday.

So here’s to THE WIZ in its forty-fifth anniversary year. Here’s to André De Shields, in recognition of a career that has a MOST Ozzy foundation – and that has immeasurably flourished ever since.

And here’s to ALL things Oz, specifically as they relate to Chittenango and OZ-Stravaganza! May all of us happily and healthily meet again in less than twelve months!

“AND THEN THERE’S MAUD”: THE POWER BEHIND THE PEN!

“AND THEN THERE’S MAUD”: THE POWER BEHIND THE PEN!

By: John Fricke

[Above: Perhaps L. Frank Baum defined her best when he chose these words for the dedication page of his greatest book, THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900): “To my dear friend and noble comrade, my wife.” Thirty-nine years later, Maud Gage Baum was photographed at home by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios to promote their forthcoming motion picture musical of her husband’s story. She’s holding a copy of the first edition of that volume.]
This month marks L. Frank Baum’s 164th birthday anniversary: May 15, 1856 – May 15, 2020!

It also marks thirty years since I first traveled to Chittenango. To visit Baum’s birthplace had been one of my dream destinations since I was a little boy — all the more so since the 1980s. That’s when I began to read about the annual Saturday parade and festivities offered by the village in Frank’s honor – all spurred by that redoubtable and indefatigable local patriot, Clara Houck. 😊

It was indeed Clara, “the woman behind the town,” who first brought it all together for Chittenango. In May 1978, she organized a brief costume event for kids (plus birthday cake “for” Mr. Baum), and that simple, sincere gesture not only continued – it “grewed”! Burgeoning year after year, Clara’s two-hour event became what is now known as OZ-Stravaganza: an annual, full-weekend festival for thirty thousand or more attendees. Mrs. Houck has been delightedly referenced and honored in this blog in the past — and rightfully so. In turn, however, it also occurred to me that the legendary concept of a motivating female (or “the woman behind the man”) resonated as well for Baum himself. His wife, Maud Gage Baum, is always cited for the manner in which she supported, encouraged, bolstered, managed, propelled, and loved her Frank.

So, in this, his birthday month, we remember that Frank’s “foundation” was Maud. Not only does she warrant it; I think it’s safe to say that he himself would endorse such recognition.

Defying her own mother’s initial objections, twenty-year-old Maud married twenty-six-year-old L. Frank Baum on November 9, 1882, in the parlor of her family home. Matilda Joslyn Gage, the extraordinary women’s rights advocate, had strongly (let’s repeat that: strongly!) counseled against her daughter’s desire to leave her college studies at Cornell to “be a darned fool and marry an actor.” But Maud inherited her own indomitability, challenged her mother in return, and Mrs. Gage smilingly gave way. (It’s important to note that, in subsequent years, the mother-in-law/son-in-law relationship would both thrive and become mutually heartening.)

The bride followed her husband on a subsequent road tour with his musical show, THE MAID OF ARRAN. (Baum wrote the script and songs and served as leading man for the production.) The couple then returned to Syracuse, where Maud gave Frank two sons and almost died of peritonitis; by 1888, the four of them had relocated to Aberdeen in Dakota Territory to be near Maud’s brother and sisters.  Two more sons were born there, and by 1891, the Baum family was living in Chicago, which would be their home base for nearly two decades.

[Above:  A mother-and-sons portrait taken the year THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ was published: thirty-eight-year old Maud Baum and (from left) Robert, Harry, Kenneth, and Frank. Father Frank, forty-nine, is shown in an image from 1905.]

Across those years, Maud raised their sons, ran the household, and handled the vastly vacillating Baum finances. She sustained and buttressed Frank as he tried to establish one career after another: from actor/theater manager to store proprietor to superintendent of an axle grease company — and from emporium entrepreneur to newspaper writer and/or publisher to traveling salesman to magazine editor. Then, in 1897, he discovered his true vocation as an author; within a couple of years, he also discovered the road to Oz.

The Baums then enjoyed a decade of stability, thanks to the success of Frank’s Oz books, his other children’s fantasies, his series novels for juveniles and teens, and the triumph of the first stage musical of THE WIZARD OF OZ. (The latter played across country for seven seasons and made a fortune for its author.) The Baums lived high and happily through much of that time, keeping a summer home in Macatawa, MI; escaping the Chicago cold for California for a number of winters; and spending six months abroad in 1906. But Baum’s subsequent theatrical ambitions eventually drained their resources. Despite Maud’s vigilance, much money was lost in Frank’s critically acclaimed, multi-media stage tour, THE FAIRYLOGUE AND RADIO-PLAYS, which combined hand-colored silent films, colored slides, a full orchestra, and Baum onstage as host and narrator. The box office receipts simply couldn’t compensate for the cost of producing and maintaining the show.

Ultimately, Frank had to declare bankruptcy. But with some deferred inheritance from Maud’s mother and a loan from a friend, the Baums were able to build a new home in Hollywood, where they comfortably spent the rest of their days. Frank died in 1919, but his widow lived at “Ozcot” on the corner of what is now Yucca and Cherokee (just above Hollywood Boulevard) until her own passing in 1953.

 

[Above: Two decades after Frank’s death, Maud proudly posed for MGM in the gardens behind their Hollywood home. The yard had been Frank’s pride and joy, and he’d won nearly two dozen championship cups for the flowers he bred there and then displayed in competition.]
Across the thirty-seven years of their marriage, Frank proudly turned over to Maud his book copyrights and other income. He credited her for the freedom he then had to imagine: to plot, dream, scheme – and to make billions of readers happy with the fantasy worlds he created. It’s no exaggeration to say that there might never have been a wonderful world of Oz had it not been for the love, fortitude, watchful eye, and devoted care of Maud.

[Above: MGM also invited Maud to the Culver City lot and studio, where she had luncheon and posed for publicity photographs with THE WIZARD OF OZ star, Judy Garland. Judy turned seventeen in summer 1939; Maud was seventy-eight.]
“Mrs. L. Frank Baum” happily publicized the MGM film when it was released in 1939. She attended the Hollywood premiere at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on August 15; on September 22, she appeared on network radio from New York City on the RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT program. During the broadcast, she recounted an oft-told family anecdote about the unexpected amount of initial royalties brought in by THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ when it was published in 1900 and also offered a scripted tribute to her husband: “Every word of Mr. Baum’s characters were completely products of his own imagination. I think the secret of [his] success was that he never ‘wrote down’ to his children. He wrote as a child. In his imagination, all those characters were very real.” In a poignant anecdote, she also recalled that, “The greatest thrill we ever had was during that tragic epidemic of infantile paralysis in 1916. We received a letter from a prominent physician . . . in one of the New York City hospitals, and he wrote to us saying that one of the greatest helps to those poor tortured children was THE WIZARD OF OZ. In fact, he said that part of the standard equipment of every nurse was a copy of THE WIZARD OF OZ.”

[Above: A magazine clipping from 1939 shows MGM star Ann Rutherford (of the “Andy Hardy” pictures and GONE WITH THE WIND) with Maud Gage Baum at THE WIZARD OF OZ premiere. Also visible at left: a costumed Victor Wetter, one of several of the film’s Munchkins brought back to welcome guests to the gala occasion.]
It was through Maud’s business sense, as well, that the Oz books continued after Frank’s passing. She negotiated a regular royalty for herself or her heirs on every title added to the successful series. One stipulation of her contract was that each volume had to carry a specific credit or legend: “Founded on and Continuing the Famous Oz Stories by L. Frank Baum.”

 

The woman behind the man? The power behind the pen? NO question . . . and it would be impossible to consider all the ways she and her love inspired Frank and his. So, here’s to Maud Gage Baum and her comprehension of — and compassion for – the man who became the “Royal Historian of Oz,” the pride of Chittenango, and the creator of countless joys for countless people for more than 120 years!

 

And may we all meet – safely, healthily, and happily once again – to celebrate All Things Oz and Baum at what-Clara-Houck-hath-wrought:  OZ-Stravaganza 2021!

 

P.S. And while you’re in town for that, you should definitely consider a stop at The Matilda Joslyn Gage House and Foundation in adjacent Fayetteville.  That’s where Frank proposed to (and married) Maud – and where Maud and Matilda had the confrontation referenced above. 😊 There are also photographs on display that were taken by Frank, plus a happy homage to Oz. Matilda, who died in 1898, lived to see the publication of Frank’s first book, MOTHER GOOSE IN PROSE (1897) – a book she encouraged him to write.

 

THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID! (JUDY & HER OZ COHORTS)

THAT’S WHAT SHE SAID!

(JUDY & HER OZ COHORTS)

by John Fricke

[Above: Arguably the most famous quartet in movie history! (Quintet, if one adds the [here unseen] Toto. 😊 ) Judy Garland had great, fond respect for all of her OZ costars, and three of them are shown here with her between takes of the deleted Emerald City reprise of “Ding-Dong! the Witch is Dead.” Out-of-frame range, on the right, the Scarecrow is holding the just-captured broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West; in this scene, he and his friends are on their way back to the Throne Room to present her flying utensil to Oz, the Great and Powerful.]

Across these initial weeks of corona virus quarantine, I’ve seen a certain type of post repeatedly pop up on my Facebook “news feed.” I guess, to some extent, this is to be expected; a percentage among the friends there are most definitely Oz aficionados. But variations of the recurring post have also come from many other associates: high school and college friends, entertainment-world friends, family friends – and from all ages.  Whatever our personal or professional histories, it seems that many of these diverse comrades are currently finding joy (and/or solace and bolstering) by revisiting Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 movie musical classic, THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Over the decades, I’ve been privileged to write about and discuss Oz in virtually all of its permutations: the books, stage shows, motion pictures, television adaptations, and animations, and to comment about its authors, illustrators, actors and other theatrical creatives . . . and on and on. But if I’m known at all, I think, it’s primarily because of the Fricke books, documentaries, DVD commentary track, CD soundtrack set, and appearances concerned with the MGM film. Those of you who have read the two years of blogs here will realize that I always return to that topic every four or five months; not (just) because I love it so, but because the general public best knows its Oz thanks to Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Terry, Margaret Hamilton, Billie Burke, Charley Grapewin, Clara Blandick, Pat Walshe, Mitchell Lewis, the Winkies, the Flying Monkeys, the Emerald Citizians, the Munchkins (I’ll spare you the one-hundred-and-twenty-plus names . . . ), and all the rest.

[Above: Four of the OZ principal cast review the movie script with assistant director Wallace Worsley. I was privileged to meet and interview this man in 1988, while researching the 1989 book, THE WIZARD OF OZ: THE OFFICIAL 50th ANNIVERSARY PICTORIAL HISTORY.]

Over the years, the major cast members of the movie were often interviewed about each other, and as the status of the film leapt from loved to legendary to iconic, many of the latter-day comments of Bolger, Haley, and Hamilton found their way into written history. This situation stemmed from the fact that they were the last survivors of the preeminent OZ performers; Morgan, Lahr, Garland, and Burke had passed away – respectively — in 1949, 1967, 1969, and 1970.  Whenever/whatever quotes from the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Wicked Witch appeared, I loved them, but as I became a Judy fan on the same day I became an Oz fan (I was five at the time), I especially welcomed any memories her costars offered about her. Via research across the years, however, it’s been equally lovely to discover some of Judy’s telling, candid, and affectionate remarks about them and their OZ director. THE WIZARD OF OZ was often a talking point during promotional press conferences prior to Judy’s concerts, or when she reminisced with friends in the 1950s and 1960s; here are some of her recollections:

[Above: “Good friends” Margaret Hamilton and Judy Garland are shown in action during the early days of OZ principal photography under the direction of Richard Thorpe. This footage – of the blonde, baby-doll Dorothy and the hair-down WWW – was junked when Thorpe was fired.]

“I never miss THE WIZARD OF OZ on television,” she told a reporter in 1965. “My children love it; they adore the [Wicked] Witch, Margaret Hamilton. What a wonderful woman, and what a performance she gave.” On another occasion, she mock-confided to a reporter the “secret” that – in real life – “the Wicked Witch and I were good friends!”

[Above: To paraphrase an observation by assistant Wallace Worsley, Victor Fleming (the OZ director of record) got right in and – if need be — showed ’em how to do it! Here, he crouches in the Poppy Field, while the five stars look on; one of them is being held (at left) by an associate trainer of dog owner Carl Spitz. The edges of this behind-the-scenes image were scalloped by Fleming’s secretary for inclusion in his OZ scrapbook.]

Garland would appreciate, as well, the primary director of OZ, Victor Fleming.  As early as 1939, she defined him as “perfectly wonderful . . . perfectly marvelous; he has the nicest low voice and the kindest eyes” – characteristics that must have been enormously supportive as the sixteen-year-old girl faced one of the most challenging screen roles in history. More than twenty years later, she echoed her earlier estimation by telling the studio and at-home viewing audiences of THE JACK PAAR PROGRAM that Fleming “was a darling man; he was always up on a [camera] boom!” It was a vantage point from which the director could monitor the action on the OZ set and watch over the teenage star.

[Above: Ray Bolger – in color! – graced the cover of the August 1939 MINICAM magazine, a periodical for professional and amateur camera/photography enthusiasts. The fact that OZ was among the first feature films to be captured in the complicated three-strip Technicolor process (and included multiple special effects “shots” in that format as well) made its production a worthy topic for consideration.]

In 1945 (in the film THE HARVEY GIRLS) and 1963 (on her own television series), Judy would work again with the first friend she met along the Yellow Brick Road. “Ray Bolger,” she later marveled, “WAS the Scarecrow. So right. So convincing.” With appreciative wonder, she continued, “And he NEVER stopped dancing, on the set or off. I’ll bet he and [fellow MGM musical star] Eleanor Powell are the only people in the world who probably ‘down’ lunch in their tap shoes!”

 

[Above: Jack Haley later titled his autobiography HEART OF THE TIN MAN, and his decades of philanthropic (not to say “good deed do-er”) activities proved he did, indeed, have a monumental heart. Meanwhile, and even though everyone around him knew better, Frank Morgan seems here to be mock-incredulous at any intimation that he “nipped.” In the gentle (if direct) words of Margaret Hamilton, however, “He did like his drink!”]

Complimenting the acting of her rusty, emotionally-attuned “Tin Man” Haley, Judy once summarized, “You know, I really believed he was searching for a heart. He touched me; I cried. Jack was a dear, dear man.” With humor and honesty, she also laughingly told a friend, “Frank Morgan ‘nipped’ a bit, you know. I loved him, but most of the time, I’m not sure he knew exactly what he was doing.” Then she added, with whole-hearted admiration, “. . . And he did it so damn well!”

[Above: Whiskers—and Masterful Makeup — on Parade! When Bert Lahr passed away in December 1967, Judy Garland was emotionally distraught and took exception to media and press reports that headlined or trumpeted “The Cowardly Lion is Dead.” She told a radio commentator that she didn’t want children to hear such news, adding that Lahr would live forever via film and recordings. She concluded her impromptu interview with a declarative, savvy, and semi-humorous statement that ultimately came to resonate for virtually ALL of the OZ participants: “Some people just aren’t die-able!”]

As for her “dear Cowardly Lion,” Judy dedicated her Caesars Palace (Las Vegas) performance of “Over the Rainbow” to him the night after he died.  A little over a year later, she warmly mused, “. . .  Bert. So talented. So warm. And just so funny as the Lion; it was hard for me to keep from laughing, what with all those whiskers and that tail. And I wasn’t SUPPOSED to laugh!”

In retrospect, it’s easy to see that Judy was as much smitten with the characters and director of OZ as Dorothy herself loved the people she befriended and who befriended her in L. Frank Baum’s extraordinary story. His magical land and its citizens; the movie magic of sets, scenery, costumes, makeup, and effects; the glorious melodies, lyrics, and musical underscoring; the unforgettable performers and performances – all of these contributed to the impact OZ had and continues to manifest, more than eighty years after its premiere.

[Above: Six of the OZ stars form a comic line-up in this 1939 publicity pose. Judy’s barely suppressed smile indicates the mutual affection that served as the foundation and underpinning for such clowning.]

Perhaps it’s possible, too, that a measure of the love that flowed from one admiring entertainer to another – and back again – has also spilled over to the film’s audiences. Such pure emotion may well be what makes of OZ the uplifting, happy, and wondrous experience so very much needed – and currently revisited and valued on a new level — by many in today’s world.

GOING GLOBAL WITH THE FIRST “AMERICAN FAIRY TALE”

GOING GLOBAL WITH THE FIRST “AMERICAN FAIRY TALE”

By John Fricke

 

[Above:  Molto popolare! Published in Milan in 1962, IL MAGO DI OZ included color plates drawn by F. Bignotti for an earlier, 1956 edition; this illustration of the Wizard’s balloon ascension certainly seems to draw at least some inspiration from MGM’s THE WIZARD OF OZ film. Meanwhile, the book’s cover appears to be a slightly modernized variation of Bignotti’s approach to the characters -- including a Tin Woodman still in transition! Since the 1940s, multiple versions of THE WIZARD OF OZ have been published in Italy; four of Baum’s other Oz titles also appeared there in deluxe editions issued during the late 1950s.]

Soon after its publication in 1900, L. Frank Baum’s THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ began to be recognized as the first “American fairy tale.” This was logical, given that its central character was a little girl from Kansas — plus the fact that her fantastic adventures were launched by a tornado, that violent storm seen most frequently in the central and southeastern United States. In the course of her sojourn in Oz, little Dorothy made companions who were undeniably unusual, yet also eminently recognizable to Americans: a Scarecrow, a Tin Woodman, and a Cowardly Lion. At that point in this country’s history, countless readers of all ages were familiar with the sight of a scarecrow monitoring our “amber waves of grain.” Tin, meanwhile, was the common metal used to make containers for canned goods purchased for the pantry. And any lion encountered at the circus or in a zoo was demonstrably a fierce or dangerous beast; what fun, then, for children (or adults) to imagine such an animal as a great big ’fraidy cat.

Given its general acknowledgment as an America-based fantasy, THE WIZARD OF OZ gradually garnered international popularity as well.  It wasn’t until 1932, however, that the first translation of Baum’s book appeared, published in French in Paris as LE MAGICIEN D’OHZ. Thereafter, the eventual world-wide exhibition and success of the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Judy Garland movie musical of OZ led to a subsequent avalanche of foreign Oz books. These have been highlighted by such diverse offerings as Swedish editions of all fourteen Baum OZ titles, as well as a long series of original OZ-based books written and published in Russia.

Across the last nine decades, the far-flung foreign travels of Dorothy and Company are particularly notable and enjoyable in terms of their diverse illustrative concepts. Some distant artists have harked back to the original drawings of W. W. Denslow and John R. Neill in their variations; others emulate the MGM characterizations. But the majority have worked in their own unique and individual styles, creating literally hundreds of “Ozzy originals.” As a result, this month’s blog has been configured to take you around the world for a sampling of just a few of them.

  

This WIZARD OF OZ appeared in 1955 as CAROBNJAK IZ OZA, translated into Yugoslavian by Slobodan Glumak. His text, however, was drawn from Alexander Volkov’s 1939 Russian “adaptation” (and semi-expansion) of Baum’s original, and although Volkov’s name appears on the title page of the edition shown here, Frank Baum’s credit is nowhere to be found. The 1955 book cover is pictured above, along with one of the self-explanatory interior illustrations; these were reprinted from some of those provided by N. Radlov for Volkov’s 1939 volume (issued by Ts.K.V.L.S.M Publishing House of Children’s Literature in Moscow and Leningrad).

  

In 1961, an abridged English version of THE WIZARD OF OZ was published in Madras (Chennai), India, as a paperback textbook to aid students who were studying that language. Artist “Gopi” happily drew on the Denslow pictures of 1900 for his contributions to this volume; it proved so popular that a father and son team of translators – R. A. Padmanabhan and P.  Mohan — issued a companion edition two years later in Tamil, one of the national languages of India. The cover of the latter edition and a drawing from the English version are shown above.

THE WIZARD OF OZ has been given a number of German translations over the years. Here you see the color cover and interior title-page spread from the 1996 DER ZAUBERER OZ — the combination of which offers depictions of several characters prominent to the story, including the seldom portrayed
“Onkle Henry” and “Tante Em.” (And who’s this “Dorothee”? 😊 ) Franz Haacken is particularly original in his approach to the Blech-Holzfaller – or, as literally translated, the “sheet-metal lumberjack.” Color covers from Germany’s 1996 (DER WUNDERBARE ZAUBERER VON OZ) and 2003 (DER ZAUBERER VON OZ) are shown below; the artists are, respectively, Christoph Eschweiler and Heike Vogel.

  

Finally, one further oddity: a small, paperback Vietnamese children’s activity book, as published in 1994 in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Its seventy pages offer first the tale of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, followed by a condensation of OZ; the stories are briefly told in both the native language and in English. Illustrations are presented in straight-forward, cartoony art, and these are interspersed with text-related maze puzzles, connect-the-dots pages, and differentiate-the-drawings challenges. Below, you’ll find the cover art, which also depicts characters from THE UGLY DUCKLING and THUMBELINA, two other title characters in the Nha Xuat Ban Tre [Tre (Youth) Publishing House] series of fairy tales. The additional picture below gives a gleeful, Wild West/“dead-or-alive” poster spin to the Wicked Witch of the West!

  

It should also be mentioned that foreign Oz books have been joined in international visibility by translated comic books, recordings, and stage, motion picture, and television adaptations.  By now, it should be apparent that the widely-heralded, magical appeal of Oz knows no boundaries, and I’d most definitely like to express my thanks to David and Douglas Greene and the late Zelda Teplitz, M.D., whose initial, ground-breaking, and joyously shared research provided many specifics attendant to some of the early foreign editions of THE WIZARD OF OZ

Of course, the real credit goes directly to THE WIZARD OF OZ and to L. Frank Baum himself. At a time when global awareness is of resonance to everyone, it’s very nice to be able to offer a gentle — and hopefully heart-lifting —  reminder that all of us have much more in common than not; that working together for the mutual benefit of all is an absolute hallmark of Dorothy and her friends; and that Oz has long been one of the genuinely wonderful aspects of a planet-wide bond.

 

GLINDA OF OZ – AT 100!

GLINDA OF OZAT 100!

By John Fricke

Above: John R. Neill’s classic cover illustration for L. Frank Baum’s Oz book for 1920. The beneficent title character watches over Princess Ozma and Princess Dorothy as two other steadfast citizens look on from the background.

GLINDA OF OZ – book fourteen of the famous Oz series – celebrates its centennial in 2020.

It is now exactly one hundred years since children of all ages first read this L. Frank Baum story of magic, mystery, and Ozzy miracles – a saga named for one of the best-loved and most important wonder-workers of all the Oz celebrities. The popularity of “her” book has never waned, and GLINDA OF OZ stands the test of time in its amalgamation of adventure, dedicated and selfless friendships, and weird, wonderful, good-and-bad (and unique-to-Oz!) witchcraft.

A quick but necessary note here: If you only know Baum’s country and characters from the famous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer WIZARD OF OZ movie, it should be pointed out that (in the Oz books), Glinda is actually the Good Witch of the SOUTH. Those who wrote and produced the Judy Garland musical simply gave Glinda’s first name to another Baum character, the Good Witch of the North – a benevolent, undeniably attractive, but much older magic-maker, who originally sent Dorothy off to see THE WIZARD OF OZ in the book and film of that title.

The “real” Glinda is radiantly beautiful, eternally young, and rapturously redhaired! On a very regular basis, she weaves her virtually limitless spells of sorcery for the benefit of the Land of Oz and its citizens, appearing (or at least referenced) in all fourteen of Baum’s Oz books. In THE WIZARD OF OZ, it is Glinda who tells little Dorothy of the powers of her silver shoes, enabling the girl to return to Kansas. In THE LAND OF OZ, it is Glinda who forces wicked witch Mombi to disenchant Ozma, enabling that beautiful fairy princess to claim the throne as the rightful ruler of Oz. In THE EMERALD CITY OF OZ, it is Glinda who performs the intricate spell that makes Oz both invisible and “unfindable” to all those outside its borders – thus saving the kingdom from being overrun and conquered by evil powers and monsters.

This John R. Neill color plate shows Dorothy and Princess Ozma in consultation with Glinda at the latter’s beautiful palace in the Quadling Country of Oz. By their overall equanimity, it seems that Dorothy has yet to discover the disturbing entry in Glinda’s Great Book of Records that will inform them that “The Skeezers of Oz have declared war on the Flatheads of Oz, and there is likely to be fighting and much troubles as the result.”

Even by these brief summations, it’s easy to see that Glinda is – along with Ozma and Dorothy – one of the three most essential and venerated of all the famous Ozian females. In GLINDA OF OZ, her majesty and alchemy are once again put to a supreme test when Ozma and Dorothy are entrapped in a magic city that has been completely submerged in a magic lake in the Gillikin Country. How Glinda, the Wizard, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion, and other Oz personalities come to the aid of their cherished friends is a Baum fantasy well worth enjoying, again and again.

Dorothy and Ozma arrive at the Lake of the Skeezers, little knowing they will soon face imprisonment on its Magic Island – or that the island itself will then be mystically submerged below the surface of the water of the lake.

In addition to the treasured compatriots of earlier Oz books, GLINDA OF OZ introduces such amazing creatures as:

  • the Flatheads – a strange band of Ozians whose heads are as flat as a table top and pretty much stop mid-forehead — just above the eyebrows and ears. Of course, with no space “up top,” they have no room for brains; thus, all Flatheads carry their brains in a tin can in their pockets!
  • the horrific Krumbic Witch of the Skeezers, Coo-ee-oh, whose hateful deeds launch a war with the Flatheads, and whose black magic is responsible for the capture of Dorothy and Ozma.
  • the complex Yookoohoo sorceress, Reera the Red, who continually transforms herself and those who live in her forest into astounding creatures – all of whom keep company together in her private cottage.
  • the Three Adepts at Magic – a trio of good and beautiful girls who have been turned into fish by Coo-ee-oh, and who must be restored to their true forms so that they can aid in the rescue of Ozma and Dorothy.

. . . not to mention the vain Diamond Swan (“Am I not beautiful? I am sure there is no bird nor beast nor human as magnificent as I am!”); the crazed Golden Pig (“Fight the Skeezers! Fight the Skeezers! Fight the Skeezers!”); the helpful Mist Maidens; the conniving Giant Spider King; a Supreme Dictator (who is always returned to office because he’s the one who counts the votes after each election) – plus a magic ring, a magic oracle, an invisible wall, and on and on.

It’s L. Frank Baum at his best. And his best has always been the best there is.

Dorothy and Ozma reach the mountain top called home by the Flatheads. The bell at left has warned locals that the girls are approaching, and a crowd has gathered in challenge.

Throughout, of course, It is the cool/warm, regal, and benevolent Glinda the Good who brings together the necessary, inventive, and amazing sorcery to propel the plot. And, as ever, John R. Neill — the “Royal Illustrator of Oz” — provides extensive art of the wondrous land and its diverse citizenry that is stunning in its beauty, excitement, and imagery.

There is one bittersweet postscript to the original saga of GLINDA OF OZ, dating back to its publication one hundred years ago in 1920. At the front of every Oz book, there was always a new, introductory greeting from “Royal Historian” Baum himself, and children were accustomed (and looked forward) to reading his words of welcome. In GLINDA OF OZ, instead, they found instead a communication from the Oz publishers, who — in careful prose – regretfully explained that “in May 1919, [Mr. Baum] went away to take his stories to the little child-souls who had lived here too long ago to read the Oz stories themselves.”

They continued, “We are sorry he could not stay here, and we are sad to tell you this is his last complete story. But he left some unfinished notes about the Princess Ozma and Dorothy and the Oz people, and we promise that someday, we will put them all together like a picture puzzle and give you more stories of the wonderful Land of Oz.”

The publishers were doing their best to soften the children’s loss; in truth, Baum left no such notes. But the vow of “more stories” was brilliantly kept, beginning just a year later in 1921, when a wonderful woman and writer named Ruth Plumly Thompson continued the Oz series      — and she did a new book every year for nineteen years. (Guess what centennials we’ll be celebrating in the future?! 😊 )

The half-title page of the original edition of GLINDA OF OZ included this portrait of its heroine, drawn by John R. Neill. Note if you will, please, the spiffy earring!

Meanwhile, here is a heartfelt encouragement to everyone to go “off to read GLINDA!” – GLINDA OF OZ. It’s Baum’s triumphant finale — and all about his phenomenal sorceress. The book is available in several reprint versions, including a glorious edition from Books of Wonder/Harper Collins Publishers which includes all of the Neill color and black and white artwork.

“THE MOST POPULAR MAN IN ALL THE LAND OF OZ!”

“THE MOST POPULAR MAN IN ALL THE LAND OF OZ!”

By John Fricke

[above: The topic of this month’s Ozian appreciation is depicted here — as portrayed (in one of his typical and fearless journeys to help others) by the incomparable John R. Neill. This art served as one of twelve color plates in L. Frank Baum’s 1915 Oz book, THE SCARECROW OF OZ.]
This month’s blog comes as an homage to my favorite of all the characters in the forty Oz books. He’s the L. Frank Baum creation whose brain power (before AND after he met THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ in the story of that title) was a savior in many an adventuresome situation – and who has delighted millions of children of all ages with his humor, loyalty, devotion, affection, perspicacity, perseverance, and joyous optimism. (The last of these in spite of the occasional lighted match, waterfall dousing, river submersion, Yookoohoo enchantment, Nome King transformation, and etc.)

The picture above betrays any attempts at journalistic coyness; suffice it to say that, from my first reading of an Oz book (on my sixth birthday), I always anticipated an appearance by – and, hopefully, the ongoing plot involvement of – my buddy, the Scarecrow! Our initial encounter actually came a month earlier, when I saw his incarnation by Ray Bolger in the premier national telecast of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 movie musical, THE WIZARD OF OZ. I loved him then, certainly, but as that film was my preliminary meeting with ALL Things Oz, my overall reaction was a generic one: I loved everyone and everything. Well, excepting maybe the Winged Monkeys – and also acknowledging there’s no question that it was Judy Garland who made THE most extraordinary, wondrous, and life-changing impact on me on that evening of November 3, 1956.

But when I read an abridgment of Baum’s THE WIZARD OF OZ a few weeks later – and his complete text within a few months – I was happy to discover that the Winged Monkeys turned out to be “good guys” after all. (It was only the evil control manifested by the Wicked Witch of the West that compelled the simians to capture Dorothy and Toto.) And both volumes led to my instantaneous veneration of the demonstrative, loving, crinkly, crunkly, and eminently embraceable Scarecrow.

[above: This illustration by Anton Loeb provided my earliest (though post-MGM) book concept of Baum’s legendary Scarecrow; I received the 1950 Random House/Allen Chaffee condensation of THE WIZARD OF OZ for my sixth birthday. Whether it was because the Scarecrow was Dorothy’s first friend – or just because he was wondrously companionable – I took him to be my A#1 Oz chum, pal, comrade, and dreamed-of compatriot . . . ever after.]
Of course, the complete Baum text depicted all three of Dorothy’s traveling companions as outstanding, caring individuals. But the Scarecrow’s devotion somehow stood out: the manner in which he painstakingly collected nuts for her to eat when she ran out of bread-and-butter; the way he covered her with dry leaves so that she’d keep warm while sleeping outdoors in the Great Forest.  It was his thought processes that led to the means by which Dorothy & Company escaped the fearsome Kalidahs – and then crossed the river that separated the Munchkin Country from the area surrounding the Emerald City.

All of that, mind you, in just the first seven chapters of their escapades together!

In brief, that brainless (not!) individual totally won my heart. When I accessed Baum’s second book, THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ, I encountered the Scarecrow as the ruler of the entire country – wiser, funnier, and more unique than ever. Then, as a prominent presence in OZMA OF OZ (book number three), he was quite naturally a member of the rescue party that left Oz for the Dominion of the Nomes; they were off to attempt the rescue of the Queen of Ev and her children from underground captivity at the hands of the Nome King.

Two moments in OZMA OF OZ further solidified my adulation of the Scarecrow. In an emotional highlight early on, Baum saw to it that the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion were unexpectedly reunited with Dorothy for the first time since her initial visit to Oz. The author at that moment gives full satisfaction to his readers – especially, for me, in his descriptive sentence: “The first thing Dorothy did was to rush into the embrace of the Scarecrow, whose painted face beamed with delight as he pressed her form to his straw-padded bosom.” Plot-wise, it was also the Scarecrow who later on did the “poison egg” toss that soaked the face of the dreadful Nome King — just long enough for Dorothy to undo and retrieve the Magic Belt from around the Metal Monarch’s waist. (She is thus able to add that enchanted girdle, forever after, to the treasures of Oz.)

[above: John R. Neill provided “photographic” record of Dorothy’s contented – and very first — reunion with the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman in Baum’s OZMA OF OZ.]
As a result, my youthful admiration for the Scarecrow continued to grow, even though Baum only tangentially included him in the next two books, DOROTHY AND THE WIZARD IN OZ and THE ROAD TO OZ.  He doesn’t turn up until chapter twenty-five in book six – THE EMERALD CITY OF OZ — yet he is more than pivotal to the plot. Across the next nineteen pages, he manages (via his excellent brains) to come up with an idea to save Dorothy, Ozma, and the entire Ozian citizenry and landscape from enslavement and devastation by a massive army of evil.

By now, you get the idea: The Scarecrow is either a principal character, member of the supporting cast, or one of the classic, classy Ozzy background ensemble throughout the Oz series. Baum’s ninth full-length endeavor provided the strawman with his own volume, THE SCARECROW OF OZ;  true to tradition, the “most popular man in all the Land of Oz” (see below) manages to overcome every challenge as he saves three traveling Americans, defeats Blinkie the Wicked Witch, deposes the despised King Krewl from command of Jinxland, and places Princess Gloria — the rightful ruler – on the throne in his place.

[above: Throughout the book named for the Scarecrow, Neill did not merely depict the title character in black and white and color. The artist also hand-captioned this informal moment, and in that process, he ascribed to the gentleman a designation that warmed my little boy’s heart when first I read it. (That would appear to be Dorothy and the Woozy bringing up the rear.) Baum considered THE SCARECROW OF OZ one of his own finest efforts.]
The Scarecrow also takes part in further major endeavors in other Baum Oz books. He develops an immediate (and mutual) fascination – and funny flirtation — with THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ in the story of that title. He accompanies THE TIN WOODMAN OF OZ on an astounding journey into the past history of that soldered wonder. He’s once again among a hearty band of celebrities that embarks upon a rescue mission when Dorothy and Ozma suffer a watery imprisonment in a sunken city at the bottom of a lake in GLINDA OF OZ. (All of these Oz books – and many others – are still in print and instantaneously available from the All Things Oz Gift Shop and Museum. As you look ahead to birthdays, Easter, graduation, summer vacation reading – and etc.! — you can do no better for the young and young-at-heart than to supply them with Oz. 😊)

[above: My hero – and his best friend – are shown here as they deliver Oz books to Chittenango for dissemination via All Things Oz. (Well, it’s a jolly idea, anyway!) This ebullient Neill illustration graced the cover of the Spring 1965 issue of THE BAUM BUGLE, journal of The International Wizard of Oz Club. It was adapted, enlarged, and colored for that purpose by designer Dick Martin; the original art was created by Neill circa 1940 as a personal bookplate for his friends, the fervent and revered Oz fans Marie and Elgood Lufkin.]
Meanwhile! Whenever, however, and to whatever extent he appears, the Scarecrow is always the signpost of my heart as I read (and, to this day, re-read) the Oz books. He’s my Ozian Supreme; it’s that simple.

Or, to put it another way: At the moment he actively turns up — or even when he is merely referenced — I know I’m “home” . . .  befriended, safe, adored – and most definitely adoring.

 

 

OZZY HOLIDAY JOY – COURTESY BAUM, DENSLOW, AND MGM!

OZZY HOLIDAY JOY – COURTESY BAUM, DENSLOW, AND MGM!

by John Fricke

Above: A picture from DENSLOW’S NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (published by the G. W. Dillingham Co. in 1902). William Wallace Denslow was the original illustrator of L. Frank Baum’s THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ (1900), as well as Baum’s FATHER GOOSE: HIS BOOK (1899) and DOT AND TOT OF MERRYLAND (1901). The two men parted professional company in 1902, and the artist went on to illustrate – and sometimes write — other fantasies, including a series of beautiful, well-received picture books. Oz fans will notice that, in the portrait above, a sassily-smiling Tin Woodman toy is among the offerings in the sack of a delighted Santa Claus!

With the hope that we can share some holiday cheer here, the “All Things Oz” Blog for this month happily brings you the seasonal depiction above – plus a trio of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer related “gifts,” for those who fasten on, are fascinated by, or collect material related to the studio’s 19309 motion picture adaptation of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Best of all, there’s a brief but rare seasonal poem from L. Frank Baum himself.

At this time of the year, the presence of “that jolly old elf” – via W. W. Denslow, the very first Oz illustrator – is a December given, as both Denslow and Baum celebrated Santa Claus in their output. (If you’ve never read Baum’s THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF SANTA CLAUS, please seek it out; it’s perhaps the most gentle, tender, and complete back-story ever provided about that glorious patron saint of children.) Beyond the annual omnipresence of St. Nick, however, it also seemed appropriate to bring Baum and MGM together here to close out 2019. This year marked the centennial of the author’s passing in 1919, as well as the eightieth anniversary of THE WIZARD OF OZ cinema premiere in 1939.

So! As a further pictorial offering for the holiday, here are three rare clippings from the same edition – indeed, the same page! – of THE NEW YORK TIMES for Tuesday, August 15, 1939. To launch their WIZARD OF OZ movie, Metro sent the film’s star, Judy Garland, and her on-screen partner in other films, Mickey Rooney, to New York City to appear with the picture in its Broadway debut at the Capitol Theatre.  The Manhattan newspapers gave full coverage to the teens’ arrival on Monday; the press really had no choice, as the mobs that jammed Grand Central Station to welcome (or at least try to see) the juvenile stars were estimated at anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 people. The print media headlined the event in grand fashion (with, as VARIETY would put it, “a plentitude of art”), although the TIMES took a more sedate approach with their no-photographs reportage:

Please note the final sentence of the clipping above. The fact that Judy went to see the Broadway musical, YOKEL BOY, on her first night in town has its own WIZARD OF OZ-related significance. One of the stars of the production was erstwhile Tin Woodman, Buddy Ebsen, now recovered from the aluminum particle inhalation that had hospitalized him ten months earlier – and cost him his role in the film. Ever after, Ebsen recalled Judy’s backstage enthusiasm after the performance of YOKEL BOY; she’d actually already added the show’s hit song, “Comes Love,” to her radio and stage repertoire. Speaking from her own vaudeville beginnings as a “live” entertainer — and foreshadowing her eventual legendary Broadway success at The Palace Theatre (in 1951, 1956, and 1967) – Garland told Ebsen how much she hoped she could someday be doing a New York show as he was doing.

Given the fact that space is limited here, I have to direct anyone who’s interested in the complete saga of the Garland/Rooney conquest of New York City to an entire, heavily-pictured chapter in THE WIZARD OF OZ: THE OFFICIAL 50th ANNIVERSARY PICTORIAL HISTORY (Warner Books, 1989). Briefly, however: the chaos caused in and around the Capitol Theatre by the combination of OZ and its accompanying movie-stars-in-person made a whole new set of headlines, while the box office “take” was extraordinary, and attendance records were smashed on a regular basis. Meanwhile, here’s one of the “advance notice” newspaper ads for the event that wasn’t included in the OZ film history books I’ve done over the years. In it, the TIMES heralds both the motion picture and the “5 Shows Daily” to be performed by (as they called each other) “Jutes” and “Mick”:

One final, “specialty” ad was placed in the TIMES, as well. MGM’s GOODBYE, MR. CHIPS was in its fourth successful month in another major Times Square “picture palace,” just five blocks south of the Capitol on Broadway. The Metro publicity department cooked up a special caricature promotion that further plugged both the Robert Donat/Greer Garson feature, and at the same time, touted the in-person Rooney and Garland:

Finally, we segue to the man who started it all. This heartfelt seasonal greeting concludes this month’s blog, although the four lines on the holiday card below have no specific Ozzy connotation. This was, however, the 1916 greeting sent to family and friends by L. Frank Baum, the “Royal Historian of Oz” himself. You’ll notice the carved or sculpted “OZCOT” above the stained-glass window; that was the name of the home he and wife Maud Gage built in Hollywood in 1910 and from which he worked for the rest of his life. The flowers at the left of the engraving – and the illustrated garden at right — beautifully represent the grounds of their property, which included an extensive, fenced area behind the house. There, Frank raised award-winning blooms, kept an aviary and fish-pond, and did much of his latter-day writing.

This privately printed greeting card is reproduced here with the kind, specific (and gratefully received) permission of Baum’s great-grandson, Robert A. Baum. And as I most definitely could not improve on the author’s sentiments, I hope you’ll allow them to represent my own holiday and new year’s salutations to (and feelings for) the countless Oz friends I’ve so happily encountered in many, many decades of shared “fandom.”

Thank you all for reading here each month — and for the privilege of your company. And here’s to every blessing of health, peace, and joy to all of you . . . on whichever side of the rainbow you call home!