By John Fricke

[Above: This was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s version of the Munchkinland Plaza as it was created for their 1939 motion picture release, THE WIZARD OF OZ. Across two weeks of filming in the second half of December 1938, it provided a workplace for some 124 “little people” — a term they themselves preferred to “midget.” Their singing and dancing portrayals of the Munchkins of Oz were augmented by a dozen short-statured little girls, who ranged in age from seven to twelve. Those latter dancers have since been nicknamed the MunchKids.]


In our immediately preceding blog — posted on August 26th on the various Chittenango [NY] All Things Oz and OZ-Stravaganza! Facebook pages (as well as on my own) — we celebrated this year’s extraordinary festival. The activities and joys that thrilled some 30,000 attendees were highlighted by the “She Is Everywhere!” participation of ninety-one-year old Betty Ann Bruno, one of the original MunchKids from MGM’s feature film. 2023 marked Betty Ann’s second annual visit to the birthplace village of L. Frank Baum – author of THE WIZARD OF OZ book — and we all anticipated that there would be many returns in the future.

[Above: Incomparable Betty Ann Bruno indefatigably signed photographs and copies of her autobiography, THE MUNCHKIN DIARY: MY PERSONAL YELLOW BRICK ROAD, at the Chittenango OZ-Stravaganza! festivals in both 2022 and 2023.]

As the blog also noted, however, Betty Ann unexpectedly passed away just a month after that forty-sixth festival. We now — in memory — honor, cherish, love, and hold her forevermore in joy. Yet our loss has since reminded me of the other MGMunchkins who were very much responsible for putting Chittenango’s annual Oz weekend on the map; who brought it world-wide attention; and whose presence led to its expansion from an initial Saturday morning and afternoon event to the full Friday-through-Sunday affair it’s long since become.

Although four of the MunchKids are still among us, five years have passed since we lost the last of the OZ “little people,” and it’s been more than a decade since any of them were able to appear in Chittenango. As I wasn’t doing a blog across that 1990-2012 era of my own appearances here, it occurred to me that it now might be nice to remember some of them via several of these monthly All-Things-Oz installments. In that manner, we can once again celebrate them as Betty was heralded here in 2022 and 2023.

So! This will be the first of several entries across the next few weeks, which we hope will recapture the actual ecstasy felt by tens of thousands of visitors. They came to Chittenango and actively MET some of the little people who followed Judy Garland down the Yellow Brick Road, and we’ll reintroduce a number of those miniature men and women to you, right here. As a result of THE WIZARD OF OZ, the MGMunchkins themselves have their own immortality, and it’s a special sort of bliss to recall both their individual histories and our times together – whether around the country or in the birthplace village of the man who first wrote about them.




Ruth Duccini was atypical of the dozen or so MGM movie Munchkins who blazed an Ozzy trail of “personal appearances” between the mid-1980s and 2013. Although her townswoman role in 1939’s hallowed musical, THE WIZARD OF OZ, was certainly a point of pride and a happy memory for her, it was not the pinnacle of her life story when she reminisced. (Please keep reading for “the reveal”!)

Born in Rush City, Minnesota, on July 23, 1918, Ruth Robinson joined the Grace & Harvey Williams Midget Troupe out of Minneapolis after she graduated high school. Their ensemble of twelve traveled by trailer to Culver City [CA] in autumn 1938, responding to MGM’s publicized need for diminutive actors to appear in OZ.

[Above: This is one of three pages of MGM correspondence and paperwork (dated November 16, 1938) that detailed travel arrangements for many of the “little people” as they trekked to California to work on OZ. Numbers fifty-one through sixty-two account for the members of the Grace and Harvey Williams “company” of entertainers, including Ruth, who were imported for the movie.]

While working on THE WIZARD OF OZ, Ruth met Fred Duccini. He wasn’t involved with the picture, but he was another little person, and he happily socialized with some of OZ Munchkins with whom he’d previously been acquainted. Ruth and Fred’s initial friendship across November and December 1938 led to marriage in 1943, and they had two children, Fred, Jr., and Margaret.

[Above: Ruth posed in her Munchkin townswoman garb for this 1938 MGM costume test reference photo. With her are (left) Olga Nardone – who also appeared in the film as one of the three Lullaby League ballerinas – and (center) Hildred Olson.]

Although basically retired while raising her family, Ruth also appeared in the 1981 film, UNDER THE RAINBOW. It starred Chevy Chase, Carrie Fisher, and Eve Arden and harked back to 1938 in a wildly imaginary account of the making of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Per the “plot,” the fictional Munchkin actors of that era — temporary residents of the Culver Hotel – supposedly became embroiled with their fellow guests: Austrian royalty, a Nazi secret agent, and his Japanese henchman. The equally false legends of Munchkin misbehavior at the hotel were majorly integrated into the slapstick saga, and Ruth’s later counsel (“Don’t believe ANYTHING you see in that movie!”) has since been validated by the internet site, ROTTEN TOMATOES. It’s noted there that ZERO percent of professional movie critics have given UNDER THE RAINBOW a favorable rating. 😊

[Above: Nearly half the troupe of Ozzy little people are gathered here with three gentlemen integral to the production. (Top center, from left: director Victor Fleming, impresario Leo Singer, and first assistant director Al Shenberg. Singer held the contract with MGM to hire most of the Munchkin actors for the film; his own vaudeville unit served as the core group of pint-size players.) Beaming delightedly, Ruth Duccini is fifth from the left in the first row.]

Fred Duccini died in 1994, shortly after he and Ruth celebrated their golden wedding anniversary. She passed away two decades later, on January 16, 2014, at Solari Hospice Care Center in Las Vegas [NV], and she is survived by her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

[Above: Wrapping up another weekend — somewhere on the circuit! These 1990s participants in random Ozmania were captured at an airport when departing town after a festival. Front row, from left: Margaret Pellegrini, Jerry Maren, Munchkins-By-Marriage Elizabeth Maren and Myrna Swensen, Clarence Swensen, Karl Slover, and Ruth Duccini. Back row: Margaret’s great-granddaughter Cheryl is boosted by John Fricke — a then-much-younger Oz historian and author! My apologies, though: the gentleman at the right is unidentified.]

Over the last twenty-five years of her life, Ruth traveled to Oz festivals and events whenever she liked – AND when she felt she could trust the event planners’ promises that they would not exploit the Munchkins with overlong workdays. Her attendance was ever welcome, and her singular, dulcet sparkle, low-key sense of humor, and ever-aware, no-nonsense demeanor were a delight.

She made her final public appearance on September 15, 2013, as the guest of honor at the launch of THE WIZARD OF OZ seventy-fifth anniversary celebrations. On that occasion, I was asked by Warner Brothers to serve as master of ceremonies at the debut screening of the film in 3D IMAX at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre. (This is the former Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, where OZ was first publicly premiered in Los Angeles on August 15, 1939.) Ruth traversed the ruby-red carpet in front of the venue, posed for innumerable photographs with costumed OZ characters, and conferred, conversed, and otherwise hobnobbed with her fellow celebrities: Drew Carey, William Shatner, Mario Lopez, Joey King (of OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL), Rico Rodriguez, Kevin Sorbo, Molly Ringwald, Christianna Rickard (niece of “Scarecrow” Ray Bolger), Robert Baum (great-grandson of L. Frank Baum) with his wife Clare and daughter Christine, and two of the other MGM MunchKids: Priscilla Montgomery Clark and Elaine Merk Binder.

Unquestionably and undeniably, however, Ruth was the star of stars that afternoon. Inside the theater and prior to the film screening, I acknowledged from the stage some of the OZ-related people in the crowd. Yet all the attendant anticipation and applause was nothing compared to the audience’s adoration of (and welcome to) the diminutive lady from Minnesota. Ruth came down to join me and received a triumphal standing ovation; we then sat comfortably, side-by-side, for some brief, shared thoughts about MGM’s film-making process. Whatever she said, however, the by-invitation-only spectators reacted as did all Oz onlookers everywhere — at the mere idea of having an actual Munchkin, live, in person, in front of them. They were acutely (forgive me, please. . .) Ozified by Ruth’s every observation.

[Above: Duccini & Fricke were selected by Warner Bros. to introduce THE WIZARD OF OZ in its first 3D IMAX showing at Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre in 2013.]

Delightedly, she offered (to everyone’s surprise, I think) that OZ was secondary to another professional accomplishment of which she remained MOST proud: serving as a World War II riveter on the inner wings of C-54 transports being manufactured at Santa Monica’s Douglas Aircraft. Her ultra-petite stature made it possible for Ruth to get into spaces impossible to navigate by those of normal size. As a result, she had treasured for decades the fact that any number of pilots told her – in so many words – that they felt safer flying the planes on which she’d worked. (There’s a personal Ruth/John anecdote that she enjoyed that fits in here. We appeared together many times over the years, and I’d request her Douglas Aircraft anecdote on each occasion. It was a foregone conclusion that audiences would be entranced and touched and uplifted by it, so Ruth would always comply. She’d then laughingly endorse my follow-up observation that – although men like Roosevelt, Churchill, and assorted generals and scientists got credit for the victory – the tide of WWII was really turned by four women: the three Andrews Sisters and Ruth Duccini. 😊 )

The final comments Ruth made at the Chinese Theatre had also become a standard section of her professional speaking engagements over the years; they were greeted with cheers and an ovation as well. After receiving a beautiful piece of jewelry from the Warner Bros. hierarchy, Ruth addressed the fact that almost all of the surviving “little person” Munchkin delegation of 1938-39 had passed on by 2013. She was ever-declarative, however, in both stressing the fact that she was grateful to be honored, but that any gifts, recognition, and OZ-related acknowledgement wasn’t just about her or “those of us who are left – it’s for ALL of us.”

It’s worth noting that she’d emphasized the same point six years earlier when the Munchkins were given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame:

After much campaigning by OZ fans, the general public, and a number of top level Hollywood industry “names,” the Munchkins finally received their commemoration on November 20, 2007. Shown above are (from left): Mickey Carroll, Clarence Swensen, Jerry Maren, Karl Slover, Johnny Grant (certainly a non-Munchkin but then definitely the honorary mayor of Hollywood), Ruth Duccini, Margaret Pellegrini, and Meinhardt Raabe. Preceded by the Hollywood High School Marching Band, the little people arrived for the ceremony in a carriage drawn by “a horse of a different color,” and for those aficionados and children of all ages who would now seek it out, the Munchkin “star” is located at 6915 Hollywood Boulevard. Per Ruth, it was, indeed – and is – intended to honor ALL 124 little people and the dozen MunchKids of THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Ruth’s words may also be extrapolated to add that it was a privilege for “ALL of us” among the OZ community who met, knew, or worked with her. We are thankful for her observations, memories, and kindness.

And for her unforgettable, imperishable pluck!

[This blog was expanded and edited from a briefer Fricke feature in THE BAUM BUGLE: A JOURNAL OF OZ (Spring 2014), publication of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc.: ozclub.org]



By John Fricke

[Above: Costume designer/creator/fashionista extraordinaire Shawn Ryan and make-up and hair honcho/actor wrangler/overseer Jeffrey Lane Sadecky pose with their creations – who were perhaps the most extraordinary gang we’ve ever seen at a festival. As attendees can attest, these OZ-Stravaganza! Ozians never broke character in public, recreated their personalities and voices as “children of all ages” hoped and expected they might, and served as a shining sensation from June 2nd-4th, wherever any of ’em hove into view!]

[A BRIEF, PRELIMINARY NOTE FROM JOHN: The rough draft and art selection attendant to this “All Things OZ” Blog were basically wrapped up nearly two months ago. Then I was hit with sciatica, and everything went on hold here, as I figuratively “tread water,” did weeks of physical therapy, and recovered. (Blessedly, I’m just fine now, and I sincerely apologize for the delay in this posting.) In the midst of that, however, all of us very unexpectedly and even more sorrowfully heard the news of the passing of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer “MunchKid” Betty Ann Bruno.

She was so very much more than a seven-year-old child dancer, of course. Her work in MGM’s THE WIZARD OF OZ motion picture in 1938 took scarcely two months in a life that spanned almost ninety-two years. Across those decades, Betty Ann was evermore and immeasurably active, productive, professional, and extremely accomplished.

Naturally, there’s scattered commentary about her throughout this OZ-Stravaganza! 2023 blog; she was — to be sure AND for the second consecutive year! — Our Headliner. 😊  Further new material has now (the third week in August) also been added at the conclusion of this entry, but I’m leaving the original text, prior to that afterword, exactly as it was in late June. This seems to be a fitting way to celebrate yet another Bruno triumph, as every recollection of the time she shared is both happy and glorious. These are the events as they blithely and joyously happened in Chittenango in June 2023.]

How to describe OZ-Stravaganza! 2023 . . . .

Remember Jack Webb on the 1951-1970 TV series, DRAGNET? Per Wikipedia, it remains “the most famous and influential police procedural crime drama in American media history,” and every week, detective Joe Friday would invariably ask witnesses for the “facts . . . just the facts.” Well, the 2023 OZ-Strav! facts can be summarized as three days of gorgeous weather and nonstop Ozzy activities; press, TV and radio promotion, presence and coverage; a thrilling parade; and the gleefully permeating presence and ebullience of special guest Betty Ann Bruno.

This brought us a final attendance tally ranging up to 30,000 people!

Or — if you prefer — the festival might also be best measured on a popular/populace level and summarized as the very best kind of family reunion. Everyone was out, about, mingling, talking, eating, performing, exulting, and unifying in honor of Chittenango native L. Frank Baum: his history, creations, illustrators, and official Oz coauthors and coproducers.

Need it be added that every moment was relished by his fans and adherents of absolutely all ages?

[Above: This sign, on the edge of the annually rechristened OZ PARK, honors a superlative native son, whose imagination and creativity in writing has circled the globe billions of times since publication of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ in 1900. The text shown here is topped by a silhouette of New York State and reads: “L. Frank Baum/Author of The/Wizard of Oz/Born Near Here/May 5, 1856/ Chittenango Foundation Inc.”]

Or I can herald this summer’s jubilee in a personal manner, although I’ll state up-front that I’m not in any sense unbiased. Chittenango’s annual commemoration dates back to 1978, and I was first invited to attend and speak in 1990. Including that year – and through 2023 — I’ve been privileged to serve “in person” thirty-one times: participating, emceeing, lecturing, and presenting. (The pandemic forced us all to skip 2020, and we went virtual in 2021; conflicting work commitments kept me on the West Coast for two years in the mid-1990s.)

I think it’s best, though, to forego the usual two thousand (plus!) Fricke words here and instead tell this year’s saga in a handful of great images. For starters and just below, you’ll see one of two Chittenango locales that serves as “Oz Central” across the dates of OZ-Strav! weekend. (Throughout the rest of the year, it’s “Oz Central” all on its own!)

This is the frontage of the All Things OZ Museum and Gift Shop, 219 Genesee Street, (315) 687-7772. There’s always a cheery stock of Oz-related souvenirs for purchase, but the building is best described as a remarkable gallery of thousands of rare, collectible, colorful objects that trace the history of Baum and the diversity of the Oz franchise: books, movies, stage shows, toys, games, ad infinitum. Recently refurbished, the gallery boasts glistening glass and shining wood presentation cases — each of them surrounded by lively patrons throughout OZ-Strav! Nearly six hundred people wandered through, wide-eyed, as they viewed the treasures and listened to entertaining anecdotes and factoids provided by the well-informed and comfortably personable Museum docents.

As a sampling of the All Things OZ holdings, here are three new Museum images from this year.  The first shows items just donated to Chittenango’s archive: an autographed photo and personal postcard and letter written by MGM’s “Wicked Witch of the West” to uber-Oz fan Paul Miles Schneider of New York, Los Angeles, and Kansas. Maggie – as she preferred to be called — sent them to him decades back when he was given a second grade school assignment to find a pen-pal out-of-state. Paul has since become the successful author of modern-day Oz books of his own (SILVER SHOES, THE POWDER OF LIFE, and THE MAGIC BELT, all of which are perfect for today’s young readers); as a frequent special guest in Chittenango, he gifted his valuable Hamilton pieces to All Things OZ earlier this year:

Next: For some time now, the Museum has very graciously honored me with the case shown just below, commemorating our ongoing work together, as well as some of the Oz and Judy Garland-related projects with which I’ve been professionally involved across the past thirty-eight years. 2023-24 marks the twentieth anniversary of the PBS-TV “American Masters” program, JUDY GARLAND: BY MYSELF, for which I served as coproducer and received a second Emmy Award. All Things OZ asked if I would loan it to them for the occasion, and they placed it in an assemblage including four of the eight Fricke books, the medallion I received as a Grammy Award nominee for the CD booklet, JUDY GARLAND: 25th ANNIVERSARY RETROSPECTIVE (the CD itself is shown just to the left of the pendant), and two photographs from the Museum’s own collection of what we gently term my “first communion” pictures:

Finally, we’ve saved the very best and most exciting of the Museum’s latest acquisitions for last: one of the “Madame Morrible” costumes from the extraordinary musical stage success, WICKED (which also celebrates its twentieth anniversary on Broadway this year). This glamorous gown was worn by Academy Award-winning actress Patty Duke, who portrayed Morrible in one of the national companies of the production; the ensemble was donated to All Things OZ for their permanent collection by the WICKED company. (Such generosity is a remarkable tribute to the esteem won for the Museum by Chittenango’s volunteers and participants in the ILFB&ATOHF — or International L. Frank Baum & All Things Oz Historical Foundation!) With design complexity, beauty, and workmanship like this now available for close scrutiny, it’s easy to see why designer Susan Hilferty won the Tony Award for her work for WICKED:

Moving on! The annual costume contest and Oz Parade seemed to be standout, special successes this year. There were many entrants in the former, and in the case of the latter, literally thousands lined up, whether side-by-side or (in the most popular viewing spots) “stacked” up in standing room behind those sitting on curbs, cushions, or chairs.

In terms of competitive costumes, there are literally hundreds of book, stage, and screen Ozians who might suggest winning (award and otherwise) garb to OZ-Strav! visitors. Here are three views of some of Saturday’s jovial morning partakers: an MGM-styled Lullaby Leaguer (with what appears to be a little Dorothy in the left background); three gleefully committed-to-the-“c’oz” adults: a Munchkin, a representative of the Poppy Field, and the unique title character from Frank Baum’s seventh Oz book, THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ; and an empty box that was one of the hits of OZ Park. It had a cleverly stenciled label on its side that suggested several winged monkeys had been shipped to Chittenango in it — and escaped. Three surrogates here happily took their place:

Regarding the parade, we’ll take just a quick glimpse, below, of a supremely unrequested moment. I’m now — as referenced above and by the grace of God and the members of the ILFB&ATOHF – at the onset of my fourth decade of association with Chittenango. They’ve been very kindly asking me to serve as Grand Marshal of the OZ-Strav! parade for nearly thirty years of that time; I’ve always said, “Thank you; no, thank you.” (There have always been many more worthy and most definitely better-known and famous people for that colossal accolade.) I demurred in the same fashion when I received their gracious invitation in early 2023, but for this go-round, the Foundation pretty much corralled me. The photo below offers the “result” – and thank goodness for Rhonda Rueger Fibiger and her John Fricke Memorial Rainbow Umbrella (it’s sheltered me during any number of parades) and for Michael Keville and his classy car: glossy transportation, indeed! The latter at least made me LOOK important, although I still had to deal with totally mystified glances from thousands along the route of the cavalcade. (I just kept calling out, “Betty Ann Bruno is coming along right behind me!”)

A very important P.S. to this photo.  One of the first people I met in Chittenango in May 1990 was Terry Shaler, and we happily (laughingly, teasingly, kiddingly, fondly) reunited year after year. When the dodgy May weather eventually caused organizers to switch the annual festival from the weekend nearest Baum’s birthday (May 15th, as mentioned above), it then always fell on the June weekend of – or nearest – Terry’s birthday. This was coincidence, of course, but it eventually became my treat to lead the singing on many occasions, up through 2022. Terry was frail but THERE last year, and (true to her tradition) ever ready to beam back at “her” chorale. God bless that girl; we lost her in September, but in a lovely happenstance of somebody-up-there-definitely-likes-her, the fates saw to it that her car was sold to Mike Keville. Thus, as was written in the preceding paragraph, I got the benefit of being Grand Marshall in “the Terry Mobile!” (Or to put it more completely, “with” her along for the ride. 😊 )

Per tradition, there were two different and very Ozzy programs on both Friday and Saturday nights, where we were once again welcomed by the First Presbyterian Church to use their chancel. Audiences filled the pews each evening, and the first presentation got off to a magically endorsed beginning when a greeting was read from Robert Baum, great-grandson of the “Royal Historian of Oz.” The advocacy and approval of Bob and his wife have always resonated in Chittenango, and such backing did once again – this year from afar: “I wish Clare and I were going to be there. Hope all goes well and say hello to all for us; we are there in spirit! Have an OZ-some time! The Baums.”

Beyond that, of course, the highlights of the special programming were the entertainments offered by Betty Ann Bruno and Gabriel (AGES OF OZ, THE ART OF OZ) Gale. Betty Ann, though making only her second OZ-Strav! appearance, was preeminent in her appeal, personality, and bond with one and all. Her Oz, professional, and personal sagas garnered everything from uproarious laughter to entranced silence; the Bruno level of charisma is suitably beyond Richter Scale measurement. (It’s definitely an understatement to say so, but it must be noted – for the historical record — that no one wanted the woman to leave the stage!) During his own turn, longtime favorite Gabriel Gale created and illustrated (on the spot and via audience suggestions) a new Oz creature. He was then interviewed, so as to bring the fans up to date on his own Oz project developments and his trip to London earlier this spring. There he sat in on the ongoing production of the film of Broadway’s WICKED: visiting soundstages, touring the outdoor location sets-in-progress for Munchkinland and the Emerald City, and enjoying a recording session. (Below: Betty Ann is ever tolerant of the customary Fricke inquisition; Gabe reveals his “instant” Ozian creation!)

[The other offerings during the evening sessions: 1) A bountifully illustrated recounting of the assemblage of the first edition of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ book. This highlighted the masterwork imaginations of Baum and illustrator W. W. Denslow; the latter’s incomparable, innovative design and color pictorials did much to make the original volume a sensation. And 2) A Gabe-Interviews-John discussion about the omnipresent, ridiculous, and running rampant rumors about Oz, Baum, the MGM film, and etc. Social media has a LOT for which to answer, and the audience had many questions to pose regarding these topics, as well.]

Among other constant activities (all weekend!), Sunday morning paid specific homage to the winners of the OZ-Strav! coloring and writing contests. The outstanding highlight of the early afternoon, however, came when Betty Ann again took stage to demonstrate and dance the hula, to sing the original song she’d written about Chittenango and the festival, and to dragoon her cherished friends, Gail & Becky, into teaching the basic steps and gestures with her. (The two women made the trek from California to “experience” OZ 2023 after Betty’s raves about the time she’d relished here last year.) Dozens of viewers then leapt up to join the trio as they moved through some of the traditional Hawaiian choreography; Betty is shown here at the opening of her act:

The informal “Grand Finale” traditionally wraps up OZ-Strav! around 3:30 or 4 p.m. on Sunday. This year, there were the customary gratitudes, good-byes, and Ozzy exaltations, but there was also a genuine surprise that brought elation, ecstasy, and euphoria to the finish of the festival. Thanks to Gabe, the assembled farewell-ers enjoyed a live, virtual video appearance from London by Stephen Schwartz, whose songs have provided infinite magic to the scores of many stage and film productions; WICKED is currently both! Several years ago, Stephen performed as a majorly special guest at OZ-Strav!, both on his own and teaming with Michael McCorry Rose and Tiffany Haas, past cast members of WICKED (who had respectively appeared as Fiyero and Glinda on Broadway). Given this earlier association with Chittenango and his friendship with Gabe, Stephen was willing to spend time answering – via laptop — several questions from the assembled OZ-Strav! throng. (An outdoors-in-broad-daylight photo capture of his onscreen visage wasn’t possible, but his gracious participation must be included and jubilantly acknowledged. So here’s Stephen! 🙂

It doesn’t get any more magical OR Ozzy than that! 😊

There was so much more activity — there were so many more activities – that made possible and comprised OZ-Stravaganza! 2023. This report is barely a taste or a touch. It’s a cliché, I know, but it’s true: You just have to be there when everybody makes it happen.

And you know . . . NEXT year might be a great time to make the trek! It’ll be the eighty-fifth anniversary of the MGM film. The 120th anniversary of the second Oz book, THE MARVELOUS LAND OF OZ (introducing Jack Pumpkinhead, the Sawhorse, the Woggle-Bug, Mombi the Witch, and Princess Ozma). The 110th anniversary of Baum’s own Oz Film Manufacturing Company. The ninetieth anniversary of the NBC network radio WIZARD OF OZ series (sponsored by Jell-O!). The sixtieth anniversary of the Rankin-Bass NBC color TV special, RETURN TO OZ (with Socrates Strawman, Rusty Tin Man, Dandy Lion, and the return of the Wicked With of the West, debuting her flying alligators – or was it crocodiles?). The fiftieth anniversary of the JOURNEY BACK TO OZ feature-length cartoon (with the voices of Liza Minnelli, Ethel Merman, Paul Lynde, Mickey Rooney, Danny Thomas, Milton Berle, and Rise Stevens).

And etc.

Once again and as always: Where Oz is concerned, there’s a LOT to celebrate!

[Above: ONLY in Chittenango, folks . . . ! Thank Heaven for Frank Baum – and for the amazing village that so regularly and profoundly prizes him!]

In conclusion, I want to offer my thanks to those whose photographs made possible this Blog: Lindsay, Leah, Eilis, Ron, Cara Marie . . . and any whom I’ve inadvertently missed in the scramble through the postings of those who generously share on social media. As someone who has NEVER been able to “work” a camera (and whose cellphone is ONLY a phone, not a camera, a video-maker, a texter, a breakfast-cooker, et al), I’m much indebted to all of you for making it possible for me to “tell” some of this year’s story.

Warmly, affectionately, and gratefully!

John F.


An Afterword . . .

It goes without saying that this Blog is dedicated (as we all are) to Betty Ann Bruno.

I woke to the news of what had happened on Saturday, July 30th very early the following morning. As I wrote then and have experienced ever since, the sadness just keeps coming in recurrent waves, and I think it must be like that for everyone who’s ever known her.

Yet that’s all I’ll emphasize about the sorrow and loss felt by her husband Craig, Betty’s three sons, and the countless rest of her family, friends, admirers, and fans . . . because I just can’t imagine that any of us have ever known — or ever will know – anyone else who’d ultimately and more want to be remembered in joy, laughter, appreciation, and grateful love than would Betty Ann.

Moreover, it would all be reciprocal. We’d receive every bit of heart and soul and humor and emotion in return. And her hips and arms and hands and feet and head would be simultaneously swaying besides!

She was a continual blessing for these many decades, and such memories are ever there to be summoned. The inimitable radiance of her presence, wisdom, and delight – while once more on the road to Oz, of all places, in 2022 and 2023 — is a benediction none can forget. Whether in the parade, during her autograph sessions and interviews, or as she went into (and always shared) her literal and figurative dance of life — the tens of thousands of people who saw her in Chittenango certainly possess new and indelible gifts. And as was the case at MGM in 1938, those of Betty Ann’s OZ-Stravaganza! encounters encompass but a handful of days of the outreach she offered ceaselessly across her lifetime.

Typically, she just recently told a reporter from the Sonoma, CA, INDEX-TRIBUNE, “I am still processing the fact that all these accolades, all the fan mail, all the fuss, really have nothing to do with me personally. They aren’t about the life I have had, or the things I have accomplished. I just happen to be the icon, if you will, of the most beloved picture on the planet.”

Icon, yes. But that woman was “most beloved” on her own — far, far beyond any single “credential.”

So . . . GOD bless, keep, and go with Craig, her family, and all of you who knew her best and loved her most.

HIS care for Betty, meanwhile, has long since been guaranteed.

And we love her, always.


by John Fricke

Above:  The one-and-only BETTY ANN BRUNO . . . “MunchKid” of MGM’s classic film, THE WIZARD OF OZ and special guest star of OZ-STRAVAGANZA! She’ll lead the way down the Yellow Brick Road to All Things Oz on June 2, 3, and 4 in Chittenango, NY: birthplace of L. Frank Baum, who wrote THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ and thirteen other books in the forty-title Oz series!

Let the JOY-OZ news be spread: OZ-STRAVAGANZA! is JUST ahead!

I know that isn’t at all the way “Yip” Harburg put it in his “Munchkinland” lyric in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s THE WIZARD OF OZ movie. Back then, however, he was “only” proclaiming the passing of the Wicked Witch of the East; WE’RE here today to herald the annual OZ-STRAVAGANZA!, upcoming in Chittenango, NY, across Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, June 2,3, and 4.

That favored hamlet (just a few miles east of Syracuse) is ever-more renowned as the birthplace of L. Frank Baum, “Royal Historian of Oz” and the man who discovered the magical land and its celebrated denizens and locales. Just pause for a moment and consider who and what that includes: such personages as Dorothy Gale, Toto, the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, Cowardly Lion, the Wonderful Wizard, Glinda, Princess Ozma, Jack Pumpkinhead, the Patchwork Girl, the Woozy — ad infinitum. Plus such scenic treasures as the Emerald City, the Yellow Brick Road, Munchkinland, and all the rest.

Every spring for 46 years, Chittenango has celebrated its native son and his incomparably uplifting contributions to the happiness and hearts of all ages: quite literally billions of readers, moviegoers, theater patrons, fans, collectors, and historians. This year will be no exception, and the festival will be highlighted by several very special guests; the writers and artists of the OZ “Alley;” extraordinary new additions to the All Things Oz Museum & Gift Shop; the illustrious Oz parade; the writing and coloring and costume contests; and, of course, the vendors and auctions and rides. (Oh, my!)

Topping the list of attractions is BETTY ANN BRUNO, one of the original Munchkins of the MGM film. She was only seven years old in 1938, but her already-advanced dancing talent won her a costumed and terpsichorean spot on the Culver City soundstage amidst the 124 “little people” who made up most of the jubilant townsfolk welcoming Judy Garland’s Dorothy to Oz. Now, eighty-five years [!] later, BETTY ANN triumphantly returns to Oz via Chittenango. Our OZ-STRAVAGANZA! audiences couldn’t get enough of her last year, whether onstage or off. She sold out copies of her new memoir, THE MUNCHKIN DIARY: MY PERSONAL YELLOW BRICK ROAD, as fans clamored to read more about OZ and hear about her major adult careers in investigative journalism, television, broadcasting, work for the CIA, and as the founder of her own and ongoing dance company. BETTY takes the stage on Saturday night to discuss all of the above — and in addition to that (you can trust me on this one) NO ONE will want to miss Sunday afternoon’s reprise of her hula demonstration and class. Two dancing friends from her troupe are coming all the way from California to join her onstage for that; be THERE at 1 p.m.!

On Friday evening, our headliner is (just above) GABRIEL GALE, innovative artist, creator, and a brand new, Ozian “Royal Historian.” That latter declaration is beautifully borne out by his deluxe book, THE ART OF OZ, and by AGES OF OZ, his series of novels for children (and people who used to be children). GABE will share the latest news of his projects and adventures; Oz AND Broadway fans will be thrilled to hear about his just-completed trip to England and visit behind-the-scenes and on the sets of a two-part motion picture now in production. (Hint: It’s based on a nonpareil Broadway musical also set in the Land of Oz – and that Stephen Schwartz/Winnie Holzman triumph celebrates its 20th anniversary this year!)

Prior to BETTY ANN’s appearance on Saturday, GABE will also open the presentation that evening, leading a discussion about the MGM WIZARD OF OZ movie and all the VERY peculiar lies and legends that have grown up about it in recent years. I’ll be taking his questions and clarifying and explaining (and/or demolishing where I can!) the social media “gozzip.” Questions from the audience will be uber welcome, too! (Wanna talk shoes? 😊 )

Anyway, please bring your inquiries!

Finally, yours truly gets to launch Friday evening’s festivities with a reminder of the very basic and beloved roots of Oz. Chittenango’s descriptive mantra labels it “Where Oz All Began.” With that in mind, I’m going to look back at Baum’s original creation of THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ book – and how he and phenomenally decorative illustrator W. W. Denslow teamed to produce both the very first “American fairy tale” and a product whose fanciful story-telling, pictorial design, and elaborate color work forever changed children’s literature and the publishing thereof. Here’s one of Denslow’s 24 full-color plates from the first edition of OZ in 1900 to underscore that statement:

Both the Friday and Saturday evening programs “launch” at 6 o’clock in the First Presbyterian Church, 118 Arch Street, immediately adjacent to OZ Park.

While discussing schedules and times, here are a couple more to note right now. The Oz Parade kicks off down Genesee Street at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The All Things Oz Gift Museum (219 Genesee Street) offers special OZ-STRAVAGANZA! hours: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tours are given on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.; admission is $9. (Children 10 years old and under are admitted free of charge, as are active members of the military and their families, and All Things Oz members. They also offer an AAA discount.)

The Museum offers some amazing, new, and glorious Oz items this year. How about an opportunity to see – up-close and for real – “a real, truly” costume from one of the extraordinary professional companies of WICKED, as “built” for and worn onstage by an Academy Award/“Oscar”-winning actress? 😊 (I won’t bait you beyond that: just come along and be dazzled by Patty Duke’s Madame Morrible garb!) In the same realm of wickedness, All Things Oz premiers the Margaret Hamilton autographed photos-and-correspondence collection of Paul Miles Schneider. A life-long fan of the Oz books and 1939 film, Paul became pen pals with the famous Wicked Witch of the West when he was a second grader – shortly after they met in person. (Paul’s Ozzy passion has also manifested itself in three outstanding books for young readers: SILVER SHOES, THE POWDER OF LIFE, and THE MAGIC BELT. His generosity in sharing his Hamilton treasures is pretty much way over the rainbow!) Finally, the Museum also debuts the autographed Jim Shore sketches that evolved into some of the most admired and collectible Enesco Wizard of Oz figurines; AND the Original Lion’s Club Artwork from years of their fishing derby . . .

. . . and BETTY ANN BRUNO’s Munchkin hat, specifically recreated from its original MGM design for her ‘replica” festival appearances!

Our annual Artists & Authors’ Alley talent pool will hold forth in the Celebrity Tent of OZ PARK, and once again, OZ-STRAV! is delighted to play host to a happy gathering of majorly gifted scribes and skilled “illustratives.” On this year’s roster: the ebullient and prolifically Ozzy Ron Baxley, Jr.; “pin-up Oz” aficionado (comics, graphic novels, fantasy, and the LEGEND OF OZ/WICKED WEST series) Tom Hutchison; Julienne La Fleur, artist and author of LESSONS FROM OZ; artist/caricaturist Jim Coon; and first-timer Oz writer/“romanticist,” K. A. Silva.

Throughout the weekend, young and old will have the opportunity to pose with OZ-STRAVAGANZA!’s remarkable, official, and wondrously wardrobed costumed characters. Designer Shawn Ryan, who executed their amazing apparel, will be on hand to oversee their presentation of his work, and he’ll be joined by Jeff Sadecky, their make-up artist and Shawn’s co-envoy of Dorothy & Company.

Bottom line: There’s never enough space to do justice to the OZ-STRAVAGANZA! participants, volunteers, and local and regional support factions. They and their constituents make it all possible, however – as do YOU and your presence, partaking, and exultation! So please come on along for three days of amusements, rides, food, vendors, crafts, auctions, displays, all kinds of contests, Oz celebrities, Oz artists and authors, Oz collectibles, Oz treasures, and Oz souvenirs. The full schedule for the weekend and further details may be found at: www.oz-stravaganza.com

And as ever, I am grateful to everyone in Chittenango – and everyone coming to Chittenango – for letting me be part of something that has permeated my life on a daily basis for the last 67 years. I hope to see, meet and/or reunite – a week from this weekend . . . in OZ!


By John Fricke

[Above: This edition of THE WIZARD OF OZ “en français” was published in 1964 — just thirty-two years after LE MAGICIAN D’ OHZ (as it was then titled) became the first Oz book to be translated and issued abroad. An avalanche of foreign language volumes has followed ever since, and in this month’s blog, you’ll read more about the 1964 French version and three others – from Yugoslavia, Israel, and Japan. Their original artwork is uber-enjoyable!]

In last month’s entry, we shared brief history about — and multiple illustrations from — four overseas translations of L. Frank Baum’s THE WIZARD OF OZ. It’s worth noting, however, that the reaction of the blog’s All Things Oz adherents (while always graciously expressed) seemed even more than customarily enthusiastic when we displayed these colorful, curious, and sometimes bizarre narrative and pictorial approaches to Baum’s famous citizenry.

Well, we can take a cue; here are four more! 😊

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 Technicolor musical film of THE WIZARD OF OZ didn’t reach many European countries until after World War II, yet its subsequent release abroad almost immediately spurred varied translations of the original Baum book. One of the first of these appeared in 1947; it was issued by Izreel Publishing House of Tel Aviv. The abridged HUKOSEM MEIERETZ OOZ was translated by Chernowitz and included a raft of diminutive drawings by Mrs. Bena Gewirtz. The volume was popular enough to be reprinted a number of times, and the cover shown just above accompanied its 1963 edition. (In this charmingly imaginative pose, Dorothy and Toto are shown as they look through a pair of the “green spectacles” then deemed essential to protect the eyes of those who wanted to enter the sparkling and maximally jeweled Emerald City.)

Mrs. Gewirtz was only allowed a limited number of images, but she selected both expected and unexpected moments of Baum’s saga to share. Below, we see the Stork returning the Scarecrow to his friends. He’d been briefly trapped mid-river, clinging to a pole he’d been using to propel a raft as he helped transport himself, Dorothy, Toto, the Tin Woodman, and the Cowardly Lion across one of those often inconvenient Oz rivers. The Scarecrow’s pole got stuck in the mud at the bottom of the waterway, and he was tugged from the raft and left to cling and hang, much to his friends’ despair. The gracious Stork flew by — and then flew in — to effect his rescue. The Gewirtz drawing beneath that one offers our five protagonists on their second visit to the Emerald City, as they’re discovering and confronting the “Great and Terrible” humbug himself. (Note that Mrs. Gewirtz interprets Dorothy’s companions at much the same petite height as Baum’s preteen heroine.) Finally, even in his truncated retelling of the OZ text, Chernowitz manages to detour to the Dainty China Country, where Dorothy and Toto confront the China Princess. (The milkmaid’s cow seemingly has its four legs intact, so the mishap that broke one of them apparently occurred after this drawing was made.) (A heartfelt suggestion: read the book! 😊 )

A curious and perhaps semi-hybrid edition was the 1963 CAROBNJAK IZ OZA, translated by Slobodan Glumac and published by Mladost in Zagreb; its cover is pictured just below. While a Yugoslavian version of two years earlier credits Baum as the book’s author, this one cites Alexander Volkov on its title page. As noted in last month’s blog, Volkov was the journalist who produced translations of THE WIZARD OF OZ in Russia in 1939 and 1960, crediting himself with the book’s creation and offering only passing reference to Baum. Despite its declared Volkov “authorship,” however, the 1963 Yugoslavian copy seems to be a more straightforward (if truncated) retelling of Baum’s verbiage, at least insofar as what might be ascertained by the Ferdinand Kulmer artwork. (Finally, to further muddy the issue, the volume then has a brief paragraph about Baum at the conclusion of the story text!)

CAROBNJAK’s Kulmer is not a painstaking draftsman, but his broadly or heavily stroked penwork has a sense of both fun and style. There is detail and/or humor in his handling (below) of: the tornado, as the trees on the Kansas plain bow to the ferocity of the passing wind; the sequence in which the Cowardly Lion is rescued from the Deadly Poppy Field on the Tin Man-built cart, pulled by thousands of field mice – notice their Queen bringing up their rear and simultaneously directing traffic; and the sight of Dorothy & Co. being transported to safety over a hill of danger in the Quadling Country. At least three of the now-helpful Winged Monkeys seem to be thumbing their noses at the frustrated Hammer-Heads below.

The 1964 LE MAGICIEN D’OZ was abridged and interpreted by Jean Muray, published by Hachette in Paris, and pictured by Romain Simon; the Simon cover illustration leads off this blog “up top.” Simon’s interior artwork is charming, especially in its alternating bright or lightly pastel color work, and three of those drawings have been selected for presentation here. Each falls into its own category of storytelling: the first is unusual in the moment chosen for portrayal; the second seems to subvert a basic tenet of “given” Oz characterization; and the third presents an – indeed! – special approach in its depiction of one of the minor tribes of Oz. In that order:

a) Early on in her journey, Dorothy and Toto have only met the Scarecrow, and when it comes time for the trio to find a place for the girl and dog to rest, they ultimately spend the night (in Baum’s words) “in a little cottage . . . built of logs and branches.” The Kansas kid “found a bed of dried leaves in one corner . . . and with Toto beside her, soon fell into a sound sleep. The Scarecrow, who was never tired, stood up in another corner and waited patiently until morning came.” When morning came, of course, the travelers discovered the rusted Tin Woodman nearby and eventually learned that they’d spent the night in his home:

b) The odd circumstance in the next picture offers the Cowardly Lion, swimming across an Ozian river and transporting the Tin Woodman in the process. While the Lion DOES pull the aforementioned raft from the river in that segment of the story, the scene shown here is not lifted from Baum’s text. It seems that translator Muray may have adapted the situation to suit himself, for as every Oz fan knows, the effect of that much water on the joints of the Tin Woodman would be — most definitely — detrimental and deleterious to his immediate future:

c) Even though an abridgement, LE MAGICIEN D’OZ manages to include some of the side jaunts of Baum’s original story, and the French art here offers a unique interpretation of the encounter with the attacking Hammer-Heads. As described in Baum’s text, they are shown as armless, with necks that can extend to great lengths to batter and deter trespassers from climbing their mountain. The lengthening cervixes here, however, seem more like balloon strings than the Baum-described “thick” necks. (Please refer to the Yugoslavian group of drawings above to see the more accepted, traditional Hammer-Head appearance.)

Between this month and last, the idea must have landed with blog readers that THE WIZARD OF OZ characters are world-wide wanderers! It’s equally happy to be able to cite the additional fact that there also have been numerous translations of Baum’s later Oz series books as well.

One of these is “book seven” of Baum’s fourteen Oz novels, THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ. Published by Hayakawa in Tokyo in 1977, it was the fifth Baum title they’d issued in three years; their translations were done by Takato Sato, and Sonoko Arai contributed excellent black-and-white line drawings, color covers, and a double-page color illustration for each volume. The PATCHWORK GIRL front cover below manages to portray eight characters central to the plot: Toto, Dorothy (shown holding the Glass Cat), Scraps — the Patchwork Girl herself, the famous Scarecrow, Ojo the Munchkin Boy (whose mission propels the story), a yellow butterfly, and the Woozy. (The latter’s eyes are angrily flashing fire in the background; one may assume someone has taunted him with the phrase “Krizzle-Kroo,” which invariably provokes such combustion on his part.)

Three other examples of Arai’s talents may be found below. The map for THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ artfully traces many characters and locations encountered by the principal cast on their quest. Just below, from top right of the art and moving left along the Yellow Brick Road, we see the simple, single Munchkin dwelling of Ojo and his Unc Nunkie, the similarly secluded home of the Crooked Magician, two Oz oddities — the Foolish Owl and the Wise Donkey, the imprisoned Woozy, the monstrous entrapment plants, a Horner and a Hopper, the embedded bars of Mr. Yoop’s mountain jail cell, the village of the Hottentots, Jack Pumpkinhead, and the respective tin castle of the Tin Woodman and the palace of the Emerald City. A single-page Arai drawing then shares the confrontation between Ojo, Dorothy, Scraps, the Woozy, and the Shaggy Man with Chiss, the overgrown Porcupine – and a much larger threat in this Japan art (the Godzilla influence?) than in that contributed by John R. Neill to the original 1913 edition of THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ. In conclusion, Arai uses the double-page color plate to memorialize the skirmish faced by Dorothy, Scraps, Ojo, and Toto when they’re beset by imprisoned giant, Mr. Yoop. (The latter already has the Scarecrow well in hand.)

Now . . . back from Oz and into the present! Or to be more accurate: Back from past Oz to present-day Oz and Chittenango’s OZ-STRAVAGNZA! 2023, which comes up in about eight weeks. In deference to such topicality, we’ll be eliminating excursions to foreign realms in the blogs for May and June and concentrating on – as they phrase it in Chittenango – “Where Oz All Began.” Certainly, were it not for native son, L. Frank Baum (born in this singular upstate New York hamlet in 1856), there’d be no Oz or any of its bands of merry players. There’d also be no annual weekend celebration (June 2nd, 3rd, and 4th this year) to attract the twenty-to-thirty-thousand celebrants, who’ve come from all over the world since this – the longest-running Oz festival in history – was first launched decades ago.

I hope to see many of you there! 

Meanwhile, I promise to return to the alternately odd, beauteous, creative, and evocatively illustrated topic of Oz Abroad in this space later in 2023 — if you like. Please give a shout out in the comments section on any of the Facebook links to this post; let us know how YOU feel and/or what other aspects of “hoztory” you’d like to see examined here. We aim to entertain. 😊

And, as ever, your presence and appreciation are appreciated!

Finally, I want to offer another grateful acknowledgement of the 1960s and 1970s research and journalism done by Douglas G. and David L. Greene. Their pioneering work in tracing, tracking, accessing, and annotating foreign editions of the Oz Books was frequently and generously shared across those (and other) years in THE BAUM BUGLE, journal of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc. (ozclub.org). It’s a joyous, Ozzy fact indeed that such effort on their parts is capable of bringing information, pleasure, and entertainment across all the decades ever since; may it continue to do so, to their everlasting credit!


Article by John Fricke


by John Fricke

Above: The Emerald City “Guardian of the Gate” invites you to the thus-far earliest known translation of L. Frank Baum’s THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, published by Denoël et Steele of Paris in 1932. The cover of that edition is shown here as it was reproduced in THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF OZ/AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN CLASSIC (Down East Books, 2013). That book details the history of all-things-Oz from 1900 to 2013 – a story told in over four hundred illustrations of items from the world’s greatest Oz/Baum assemblage, The Willard Carroll/Tom Wilhite Collection.)

Happy anniversary! March 2023 marks the onset of the sixth year of this series of monthly blogs, published by the Chittenango (NY) based International L. Frank Baum & All Things Oz Historical Foundation. My heartfelt appreciation goes to each of the Foundation officers and members for providing such a forum, for letting me compose and assemble it – and for being an invariably grand group of compatriots. Equal gratitude, of course, goes to all of you who “read here,” and who spread the Ozzy news that diverse material of an Ozzy nature is gleefully purveyed at this location by a fellow and very fervent Oz fan. 😊
Precisely three years ago this month, we looked back at some of the many foreign language editions of Baum’s first Oz book. The illustrations (whether cover or interior) were much marveled-at by many of you, so we’re returning to that topic for a brief series across these next months. In the process, I think you’ll come to the (perhaps astounded?) realization that Oz is – and indeed! has been — everywhere. It has also, as you’ll see, enjoyed many different guises across the decades since THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ was originally published out of Chicago in 1900.
Within the first decade of that book’s appearance, Baum himself claimed that translations of his initial tale about Dorothy & Company were already available in several nations around the globe. That may be true, but (as shown in the photo up top), the first of these thus far discovered by researchers, historians, and collectors was actually issued in France in 1932. Marcelle Gauwin did the adaptation, aided in the story-telling task by a number of reproductions of W. W. Denslow’s illustrations from the first or early WIZARD editions. Despite such “loyalty” – and as noted by the extraordinary OZ collector and historian Dick Martin in 1962 — there were a few (if inexplicable) adjustments for those who read the story in French: Dorothy became “Lily,” Kansas became “l’Arkansas,” and the hometown of the Wizard himself was changed from Omaha to Colorado!
If THE WIZARD OF OZ was at first slow to be translated, the past eleven decades have provided an ever-increasing floodtide of world-wide publications. The eventual global — and finally ongoing — familiarity of the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie musical of THE WIZARD OF OZ has been responsible to a great degree for the primo popularity of the Baum characters and terrains. Whatever the impetus, however, OZ now has been read over the years in (among other languages) Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Turkish, Tamil, Russian, Czechoslovakian, Italian, Dutch, German, Swedish, Hungarian, Danish, Slovenian, Afrikaans, Finnish, Persian, Hebrew, Japanese, Chinese, Polish, Rumanian, Serbo-Croatian, and Rumanian.
There’s no question that much of the appeal of such volumes — and the enjoyment of collecting them — comes through the alternately beautiful, curious, unique manner in which they’ve been illustrated. Here are four diverse examples (with more to follow in one or two further blog installments).

This is the cover of the 1961 Yugoslavian edition of THE WIZARD OF OZ. Aleksandar Stefanovic did the translation into Serbo-Croatian; the Belgrade publisher was Mlado Pokolenjz. Like so many international artists before and since, Sasha Mishi took a singular approach in the selection of moments to illustrate; both familiar and less-often-portrayed moments of Dorothy’s saga are encompassed in Mishi’s interior black-and-white pictures. Here are three examples:

Douglas G. Greene and his twin brother, the late David L. Greene, were among the initial and most indefatigable forerunners of research and collecting when it came to foreign Oz books. As they noted in 1966 (and as can be seen above), the Mishi version of the Emerald City was “an unusual combination of Gothic and Moorish architecture.” In the other two images here, the artist first shows a semi-unfamiliar moment, as the Cowardly Lion proved his post-Emerald City courage by dispatching a giant spider that had been terrorizing the animals of one of the southern forests of Oz. Mishi also offers a pictorial of the welcome and to-be-expected sequence in which Dorothy melts the Wicked Witch of the West. Note that the art fully respects Baum’s original text reference to the fact that the evil crone had but a single eye.)

This paperback Dutch adaptation, DE GROTE TOVENAAR VAN OZ, was issued in Amsterdam by L. J. Veen in 1962, with perky contemporary cover art by Elly van Beek. Note that the credit for the original author reverses Baum’s “initial initial” (!) and middle name; this was not an uncommon occurrence over the years, whatever the publication. (The same mistake is made on the book’s title and copyright pages.) Henrik Scholte was the translator for this Oz excursion, and its lovely, evocative interior black and white pictures by Rein van Looy were retained from Veen’s 1940 edition of the title. They amount to an interesting amalgam of Denslow’s original interpretations of the Ozians and – especially in the case of Dorothy – a seeming (if minor) homage to MGM’s Judy Garland:

The MGM/Denslow juxtaposition can clearly be seen in the top van Looy illustration above. It accompanied the very first page of the Dutch text; here, Dorothy is determinedly Garlandesque, while the composition of copy and art resoundingly echoes Denslow’s original approach to the same leaf of the original 1900 edition (printed just below van Looy’s handling). The charming, in-repose picture of Dot, Toto, and her first two new companions is also a mélange of Hollywood and “Den,” while the last image here offers another, lesser-depicted moment, as the Cowardly Lion is acknowledged by what-may-be-the-later-legendary Hungry Tiger. (Is that a Bert Lahr tail maneuver at hand?) (So to speak . . .) The newly crowned King of the Forest has just dispatched the killer Spider; please see Michi’s drawing for the Yugoslavian WIZARD a few drawings back.

LU YEH SIEN TSUNG (above; cover by an unknown illustrator) dates from 1962, published in Formosa. Oddly enough, the text is Alexander Volkov’s version of Baum’s story, first issued in Russia (in Russian) in 1939 with no mention of Baum. The Mandarin Chinese adaptation includes Volkov’s added sequence, in which Ellie (Dorothy) is captured by a cannibalistic ogre, who plans to make sausage of her. Just below, you’ll see the bound Kansas girl, the monster (at right) sharpening his blade, and his meat grinder on a topmost shelf (at left).

All the interior visuals in this edition were originally drawn by N. Radlov for Volkov’s 1939 rewrite. In his approach to Oz, the artist depicts several of the traditional highlights of the story; he also shows a taste for the darker aspects of the Baum plot, as can be seen in the following images: The Tin Woodman is shown as he beheads a wildcat, so as to save the life of the Queen of the Field Mice (who complacently gazes on from the bottom left corner of the art). Meanwhile, the Scarecrow – later in the story – is represented in the process of matter-of-factly wringing the necks of the Wicked Witch’s forty crows, so as to save his friends from their attack. Here, Radlov blithely scatters the birds in the drawing: several on the ground, dozens in the air, and “two in the hand.”
[Note: As many Oz fans are aware, Volkov later began his own semi-original but successful sequels, in Russian, to THE WIZARD OF OZ. His series of five further books – about the “Magic Land” – was even continued after his passing in 1977 by several other authors, much as the “official” Oz Book series in America was expanded after L. Frank Baum died in 1919.]

Finally, an upbeat DER ZAUBERER OZ – translated by Sybil Grafin Schonfeldt and Maria Torris – was published in Berlin in 1964 by Cecilie Dressler Verlag. Illustrator Peter Krukenberg displays humor and heart (if not much detail) in his approach to the Tin Woodman, giving new meaning to the concept of a blockhead, as well as foreshadowing the platform shoes of later in that decade and into the 1970s. Below, he also submits a seldom-composed appreciation of the Emerald Citizians who prepped the Wizard’s balloon for its departure from the Emerald City; proffers a “gift” map from Dorothy and Toto, so as to help the children of Germany find Kansas amidst the contiguous forty-eight of the United States; and shows the Midwestern girl and her “Hund” in their return home again. His variation on the Em and Henry Gale abode is akin to both Baum’s one-room description and some of the hastier assemblages done in the mid-to-late-1800s by Charles “Pa” Ingalls for Caroline (“Ma”), Mary, Laura, Carrie, and Grace. 😊

And that’s all for this month – but as noted, there’ll be more amazing and/or glorious and/or puzzling and/or rapturous views-of-Oz from abroad in future blog installments. Many thanks for reading!
P.S. I would like to again acknowledge Dick, Doug, and Dave for their ground-breaking and joyous reportage about the foreign editions of THE WIZARD OF OZ referenced here. Some of their discoveries were shared in our correspondence, beginning in 1962-63; this information was then refined by them for more formal presentation in THE BAUM BUGLE, journal of The International Wizard of Oz Club, Inc. (ozclub.org)


By: John Fricke

[Above: Is there another pair of shoes in history more familiar, cherished, valuable, and magical than these — especially when they step out on a specifically hued road of bricks?]

Across the last nine months, multiple entries in this series have celebrated L. Frank Baum, including a special column about his Christmas traditions with wife Maud Gage and their four sons. (This is, of course, no less than is deserved by the native of Chittenango, New York, and the

By John Fricke

Above: This handwritten letter from L. Frank Baum to young Oz fan, Carleton H. Davis, is reprinted from THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF OZ/AN ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN CLASSIC (Down East Books, 2013), a book I was privileged to write to detail the history of all-things-Oz from 1900 to 2013. (Such a comprehensive summation, with over four hundred illustrations, could only have been compiled and presented in conjunction with the world


By John Fricke

Above: All eight of the books on display in this poster were either recently or newly in print in 1901. More remarkably, all were authored by L. Frank Baum across the preceding five years. (Two additional, full-length Baum fantasies, A NEW WONDERLAND and THE MASTER KEY, were published — respectively in 1900 and 1901 — but they