Today: June 22, 2024

Return To Oz

With Hollywood desperate for another Harry Potter style cash cow, it was only a matter of time before they returned to Oz.

Hollywood desperate for another Harry Potter style cash cow, it was only a
matter of time before they returned to Oz. The huge success of Frank L. Baum’s
original children’s tale, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz in 1900, prompted the
author to write thirteen sequels and a smash Broadway musical. Since then,
filmmakers have struggled to bring Baum’s surreal vision to the cinema-screen.
As we hold our collective breath in anticipation of just what Sam Raimi will do with his retelling of the classic tale
(Oz The Great And Powerful), FilmJuice grabs a Munchkin by the hand and heads
down the Yellow Brick Road for a glimpse at some of films that came before …

Wizard Of Oz, 1910

The earliest known version of Frank L. Baum’s
fantasy, this piece of silent movie history is shrouded in mystery. No one
knows for sure who directed or co-starred in this quirky production although a
nine-year old Bebe Daniels took the
role of Dorothy. Much of the costumes and plot were said to be adapted from the
1902 musical including Imogene the Cow who rather bizarrely, replaced Toto from
the original novel. Sequels including The
Patchwork Girl Of Oz, The Magic Cloak Of Oz, His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz
– were all made by Baum’s own production company – but none have
survived the passage of time in their entirety.

Wizard Of Oz, 1925

Notable for the appearance of Oliver Hardy as the Tin Woodsman, Larry Semon’s version of the children’s
classic not only rode roughshod over the well-loved story but featured some,
frankly, bizarre plot elements. In fact it’s Larry Semon himself, as the
scarecrow, who is very much the hero of the tale. Semon’s wife plays Dorothy as
an 18-year old seductress who finds herself involved in a sticky love tryst
between the scarecrow and Hardy’s Tin Woodsman. You couldn’t make it up.

Wizard Of Oz, 1933

Written by Baum’s son, Col. Frank Baum, this
nine-minute animated short was made in Technicolor but only ever shown in black
and white due to the failure of the film’s producers to get the license for a
colour release. Music by Carl Stalling
of Loony Tunes fame sets the feel
for this oddball feature which finally received the release it deserved in the
2005 3-Disc Collector’s Edition the 1939 Oz film.

Wizard Of Oz, 1939
(Main Picture)
The film that everyone remembers – and which
launched Judy Garland’s career – was
actually a commercial flop on its original release. It was only in the 1950s,
when US TV began the tradition of showing Oz over the festive season, that the
film became a firm family favourite. Things might have been very different
however if studio bosses had had their way. Shirley Temple was originally pencilled in to play Dorothy with WC Fields as the Wizard. Can you really
imagine this sung by anyone else?

Wiz, 1978

On paper, could anything be hipper than Motown’s retelling of the Oz tale in
which a mature Dorothy, played by Diana
, is swept away from her Harlem appartment and into the wonderful world
of Oz? Sadly Ross failed to appeal as a cold and aloof Dorothy and even a star
turn by Michael Jackson as the
scarecrow failed to impress the box office and critics.

To Oz, 1985

Hailed by both film fans and Baum aficionados,
Return To Oz is probably the closest film to book adaptation of the author’s
work to date. If the smaltzy songs of the MGM 1939 musical just ain’t your
thang then Mombi, the Wheelers and the Nome King should tick all your boxes. A
dark and unsettling delight.

Oz The Great And Powerful (3D) opens on
8th March.

Paula Hammond - Features Editor

Paula Hammond is a full-time, freelance journalist. She regularly writes for more magazines than is healthy and has over 25 books to her credit. When not frantically scribbling, she can be found indulging her passions for film, theatre, cult TV, sci-fi and real ale. If you should spot her in the pub, after five rounds rapid, she’ll be the one in the corner mumbling Ghostbusters quotes and waiting for the transporter to lock on to her signal… Email:

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