After being taken from her Kansas home by a cyclone to the magical world of Oz, Dorothy and her dog, Toto must journey to the Wizard to find a way home.
Like Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan, Baum began telling tales of Oz to his children and their friends, drawing inspiration from the world around him.
The name of the country came from a filing cabinet, with the markings A-N for one drawer and O-Z for the other. Initially, the stories were disjointed stories about various characters and in fact, the original visitor to Oz was a boy named Frank. However, when his niece died before reaching her first birthday, Baum renamed the character Dorothy.
His wife, Maud (daughter of a major feminist, Matilda Jocelyn Gage) eventually encouraged him to write down the Oz stories as The Magic Land. The title would go through many variants, and was almost called The Emerald City until W. W. Denslow, the book’s illustrator, told Baum that books with jewels in the name never sold well, resulting in a title change.
Baum himself had been a man of mixed fortune. Every hit he had in his life seemed to be met with almost equal trouble. He had a hit play, but the theatre burned down. He opened up a general store in South Dakota, but gave too much on credit. Finally he wrote a series of verse called Father Goose, His Stories that proved to be a massive hit with critics and children. But the best was still to come.
Baum took the book to The George M. Hill Company, however, the publisher wasn’t interested…but Baum, determined as ever, decided to stake all his royalties from Father Goose to get Oz published. It was a gamble and one that paid off in spades.
Baum would go on to write 13 more tales of Oz, along with 6 short stories, a comic strip, two musical extravaganzas and three early films. The series would continue with a total of 40 official tales written by Ruth Plumbly Thompson, John R. Neil, Jack Snow, Rachel R. Cosgrove and Eloise Jarvis and Lauren Lynn McGraw.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been adapted and parodied innumerable amounts of times, however, this will only focus on the major adaptations of the first book.
1902 saw the first stage adaptation, in a mega musical extravaganza with a libretto by Baum and music and lyrics by at least 40 different people. The production was a success and ran, either on the road or in New York for 8 years.
1910 saw the first film adaptation. It’s only 13 minutes long and gives a fairly concise telling of the story. Dorothy still goes to Oz via tornado, however the Scarecrow lives in Kansas, and it’s her cow Imogene that goes to Oz with her instead of Toto. There are lots of clever theatrical and early film special effects, and it’s readily available these days.
The next film came in 1925, starring Oliver Hardy and Larry Semon and written by Baum’s oldest son, Frank. Hardly a close adaptation of the story, this is your standard 1920s film affair. Lots of slapstick and pretty girls.
1933 saw the first animated adaptation. The story starts off as we mostly know it, with Dorothy going to Oz with Toto (the first film appearance for our favorite canine) and meeting the Scarecrow and Tin Man…and suddenly takes a massive departure when they arrive at Emerald City and watch the Wizard perform magic tricks The cartoon is mostly noted because of the transition from Black and White to Color.
Of course, 1939 saw the greatest movie ever made (and I defy you to tell me otherwise). MGM’s classic movie musical starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, Ray Bolger as The Scarecrow, Jack Haley as The Tin Man, Bert Lahr as The Cowardly Lion, Frank Morgan as The Wizard, Billie Burke as Glinda and Margaret Hamilton as the nightmare-inducing Wicked Witch of the West. The film strays from it’s source material in many ways, however it retains the tone of the original story, that simple wish for home. While it was not initially a blockbuster hit, it did recoup it’s investment and win three Oscars. However, the intervening 76 years has seen it blossom into a mega-hit seen the world over.
Between 1939 and 1975, Oz took to the stage. First was a stage adaptation using songs from the film. Commissioned by the St. Louis Municipal Opera House in 1946, this version features the songs from the film with a revised version of the story. Most notable is the absence of Ruby Slippers (or any magic shoes) and that the Wizard takes Dorothy home in a rocket ship. Popular on summer stock circuits, major productions featured such stars as Connie Stevens and Brenda Lee (Dorothy), The Hudson Brothers (Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion), Sterling Holloway (Cowardly Lion), Buddy Ebsen (Scarecrow), Maria Tallchief (The Sorceress of the North) and even Margaret Hamilton in her signature role.
1975 saw the creation of The Wiz, an all-black “soul” version of the classic story. With inventive choreography and costumes, the show ran for 4 years on Broadway before touring for almost 10 more. A 1978 film adaptation followed featuring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, but that honestly deserves it’s own blog post. It received a New York revival in 2009 with Ashanti…but that’s best left forgotten.
1976 saw a return to film with an Australian glam rock road movie called Oz, and released in the US as 20th Century Oz. In this, Dorothy is a roadie who is involved in a car accident. A fashionable gay man gives her glittery red pumps, and she’s almost raped by a truck driver version of the Wicked Witch. Oh, and the moral is really more “Fame really f-s you up.” One shudders at the thought of what “home” is for this Dorothy. The poster was nice though.
The 80s saw a mix of TV and Theatre for Oz. In 1982, an animated version starring Lorne Greene and Aileen Quinn was released, which remains a favorite of mine. If mostly follows the book, but leaves out the Poppy Field and the Journey to Glinda.
1986 gave us Oz no Mahōtsukai, an animated Japanese series that adapted the first book faithfully and gave increasingly less faithful adaptations of three more books. HBO bought the rights and dubbed it into English with narration by Margot Kidder. It has since been released on home video in 4 90-minute individual stories…a shame given the original is 52 episodes long. This is another major favorite of mine.
In 1987, the Royal Shakespeare Company in England gave us an incredibly faithful stage adaptation of the MGM film, originally starring Imelda “Professor Umbridge” Stauton as Dorothy, this version has received major regional and New York productions featuring such stars as Cathy Rigby (Dorothy), Mickey Rooney and Captain Kangaroo (The Wizard), and Roseanne, JoAnne Worley, Eartha Kitt, Lilian Montevecchi, and Phyllis Diller (The Wicked Witch of the West).
In 2007, there was a sci-fi reimagining of the story called Tin Man, featuring Zooey Deschanel, Alan Cumming and Richard Dreyfus. The first few hours closely followed the original story, however upon arrival at their version of Emerald City, it took it’s own course.
This, of course, is only a few of the many, many adaptations out there.
Other Cross-Stitching Charts
There are a handful of charts and books out there! Some of my personal favorites:
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Brooke’s Books
The Wizard of Oz by The Little Stitcher
Long time readers of my blog or followers on YouTube should know that I am a HUGE fan of The Wizard of Oz in almost all of it’s forms. Writing this post was difficult because there is so much material to cover out there that entire blog posts could be done on the history, on each major adaptation, on almost all of the characters, etc. I am thrilled to bits that this is in the Story Time Sampler and can not *wait* to get started on it!