Film using rare footage from the Baum family archives plus interviews with family members, literary experts and historians to tell the story of the creator of Oz, Frank L Baum.
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-Are you ready now?
Say goodbye, Toto.
Yes, I'm ready now.
Then close your eyes
and tap your heels together three times...
And think to yourself, there's no place like home...
There's no place like home.
There's no place like home. There's no place like home.
The 1939 MGM film, The Wizard Of Oz, has been seen
by more people more times than any other film in the history of cinema.
You can't tear yourself away from it.
And that's the power of a good narrative.
Adapted from a story by American author L Frank Baum,
in which a scarecrow talks, a woodman is cast in tin, a lion weeps
and a young girl journeys to a strange land in a farmhouse
uprooted by a cyclone.
Well, Baum said he wanted to write
a fairytale without the European witches and giants and goblins.
And all his supernatural figures
were taken from the America of his own day in 1900.
The story has come to define
America to Americans and America to the world.
An 18th century novelist said America was meant
to mean everything.
And in the sense it holds the projections
of all people's longings.
I think The Wizard Of Oz catches that.
L Frank Baum's ambition was to create the first genuine
L Frank was a story teller and he loved children.
And he used to tell bedtime stories to the kids, they would gather around
him to hear the stories and he lived in a kind of fantasy world, or could
access that really easily.
The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz reflects the American experience.
Less well known is how much it owes to the life of its author.
L Frank Baum's life was the embodiment of the American dream.
An entrepreneur who left
New York to find success on the plains of South Dakota.
Two failed businesses later, he moved onto Chicago
and the glamour of the World's Fair.
The lessons learned from his triumphs and disasters
and his extraordinary adventures all found their way into the pages
of his book.
It's really kind of amazing how much of a part he was of what seem like
the major events of
the late 19th century.
You never knew where he was going to end up next
but he always made a name for himself no matter
what career he took.
Baum had a fascination with science that led to his magical inventions,
and an empathy with women, which inspired strong female characters.
Both became fundamental to his
creation of Dorothy's adventure in the fantastic parallel world of Oz.
This film follows Baum's personal journey to the emerald city
and back home again.
The man was a born entertainer.
And all of these fanciful stories,
the Oz stories and so many of his early things developed out of that
compulsion I think he had to actively,
pleasantly engage people's hearts and minds and imagination.
The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz is a fairytale about a young girl
on a journey of self discovery.
Along the way she meets a scarecrow, a tin woodman and a cowardly lion,
and together they travel to a city made of emeralds.
It begins in the United States, goes off to another country
and then comes back to America.
Dorothy and her party are pretty much getting themselves out things
and they find that the Wizard of Oz himself is really this humbug.
But there is more to this story than it seems.
It's about American politics and American dreams and hopes
and American pluck.
I think Baum identified with the wizard himself.
I think he thought of himself as a bit of a humbug
that, you know, that everybody was expecting him
to do all these marvellous things and he was just a man.
He may have been a very good man but he wasn't a great wizard.
-He failed at so many things.
Baum wrote The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz as
a fantasy, but like many authors he was drawing on his own experiences.
He certainly had to face a lot of hardships in his life
and he was very persistent in turning around and trying to deal with those.
And I think you see that in the story.
And you see that in the way he lived his life - he never stopped.
Frank Baum's energy mirrored Dorothy's -
a surprising choice for the story's central character.
Dorothy is unique because
at the time a little girl who was so determined and adventurous
would be looked down on as not being really feminine enough.
And in this, of course, Baum was influenced by
his wife and his mother who were both
very serious feminists.
Born in Chittenango New York in 1856, it was the values of
this small-town community,
which would have a lasting influence on Frank Baum's writing.
At home it was the dominance of the women
in his family that helped shape the strong-minded heroines he created.
L Frank Baum grew up in a house of women.
He had two older sisters, he had
his mother who was evidently a very strong character as well.
His father wasn't home a lot.
His father was in the oil business and the land business
and the banking business, whatever was going on.
Benjamin Baum made his fortune in the oilfields of Pennsylvania.
An inveterate risk taker, he would find himself broke more than once.
A tendency he would pass on to his son.
I think it was feast or famine - when things were great they were
great and when they were bad, you know, things were in trouble.
Frank Baum grew up at Rose Lawn,
a rambling house surrounded by acres of flowerbeds and fields.
Like other well-to-do families,
the Baum children were home-schooled by English tutors.
He makes up all kinds of silly words.
Not only does he do puns and play with English language
but he makes up his own.
It's how Oz came to be, you know,
look around at the file cabinet and O to Z and now it's a word.
Frank's natural ability and love of language was encouraged.
He enjoyed the work of authors
who created character-led stories, which mixed fantasy with reality.
Well, Baum was very influenced by the
English novelists, he was a great fan
of Dickens, no question about that.
He liked fairytales and folklore.
But he had certain reservations about them because they also
contained elements that he thought were very frightening for children,
because he himself said that he had nightmares
after reading some of these stories.
At the age of ten, Frank's father sent him to
Peekskill Military Academy in order to instil discipline in his son.
After two unhappy years, Frank returned to Rose Lawn.
He and his brothers could go out in the fields and the mountains
and valleys and so forth and just let their imagination roam.
And I'm sure that's where a lot of it came from.
And he saw a lot of different things around him. Scarecrow in particular.
One episode he supposedly got pretty scared by one and it stuck with him.
In 1869, Frank's interest in books,
led to a curiosity about how they were produced.
He goes on a trip with his dad to town, sees a printing press,
is intrigued with that and his dad buys him a little printing press.
In the late 1860s, early 1870s, amateur journalism was all the rage.
Young men, young women were able to purchase a cheap printing press,
and they issued all of these little newspapers that they exchanged with
one another and they talked about each other in these newspapers.
And L Frank Baum was one of the first of these.
The Rose Lawn Home Journal enabled Frank Baum to get
his words in print. But it was the equipment,
which made it possible that really interested him.
His fascination with science and its practical applications would last
a lifetime. It would feature in everything he wrote.
You see it with Glinda and her magic book.
She reads in the book what's happening as it's going on.
Now we do that with computers.
We turn on the computer, we turn on the news, we
see what's happening right now.
I think he would love what's happening in the world right now.
He'd be intrigued with the computer and the possibilities
and the travel and the things he didn't see in his lifetime,
but I'm sure he would be just, you know, captivated by it all.
He chose not to go to college, he did not feel that he would
learn anything, he really felt he had to learn by doing things.
And I think this is one of the great themes that goes
throughout the Oz books and certainly throughout his life.
He never thought he couldn't learn
something and he would just jump in from
one profession into another, whether he had any background in it or not.
Frank Baum was a born storyteller, always in search of an audience.
So writing and performing in the theatre was an obvious outlet
for his talents.
Baum loved theatre.
He grew up loving acting and writing for the stage,
composing songs for the stage.
He started doing this is in his teens and in his 20s,
and was doing it very successfully for a while.
He wrote the scripts and then he directed the scripts and then he
produced the plays, and his parents were sort of appalled at all this.
But his parents supported his artistic endeavours.
Benjamin Baum invested in theatres so his son could stage his plays.
The Maid Of Arran, described as an Irish melodrama with music,
was Frank's first success.
Dad owned a lot of the theatres and helped pay the bills,
until of course the theatres burned down.
by this time Frank had more than burnt-out theatres on his mind.
He was in love with Maud Gage,
a 20-year-old college student.
Maud's mother, Matilda Joslyn Gage,
was one of America's foremost campaigners for women's rights.
She disapproved of actors and didn't want her daughter to quit college,
but Maud was determined to marry Frank.
Everybody talks about how
strong their love was from the very beginning.
And I think they really appreciated and supported each other
and the role that they played in each others lives.
Once they got married and he was starting to raise a family, I think
he realised the responsibility of having a steady home life.
Instead of travelling with his theatre company, Frank was now
on the road selling axle oil as a salesman for the family business.
The Castorine Company was doing very well
until the money was gambled away by the bookkeeper.
Things went from bad to worse.
Frank was about to lose his income
and, after the birth of their second child, Maud became ill.
While he sought a way to look after his growing family,
he found time to discover the emerging world of photography,
with which he would record the next chapter of his life.
Frank moved his family from New York to the remote farming community of
Aberdeen, South Dakota.
The major reason why
he left New York state and moved to South Dakota was because of Maud.
Her brother and her two sisters had already moved away and she was close
to them and missed them so much.
Their letters talking about, she wrote
to them how she missed them, how painful it was not to be with them.
By 1888, Aberdeen was the hub for seven train lines
and looked set to boom.
The frontier city's roads may have been unpaved,
but when the Baums arrived there were electric street lights.
Some of the only telephones west of New York city.
An opera house and ladies' reading groups.
Frank wanted to bring a luxury store to South Dakota that would rival
one of those fancy palaces in Chicago or in Minneapolis
and he was hoping that he would slowly expand the business into this
incredible department store.
Baum's Bazaar opened in October 1888.
It sold luxury goods and even cut flowers.
The business was an overnight success.
Delighted, Frank opened another branch and he and Maud
launched themselves on Aberdeen society.
He was very charismatic, he was very funny, he liked to engage people,
he liked to get involved, he liked
to have the whole family get together and go on family picnics.
So there was that place in him where he really wanted to gather people
together and give a space for them to enjoy each other.
He was head of a baseball team in Aberdeen.
They were very civic-minded, they were very involved with the community
and people liked them.
Aberdeen's social life was exceedingly rich.
If you read the newspaper,
Baum just kind of goes from one party to another.
And he took full advantage of it, he loved it, he loved
a good play or a good musical, he was in several of them.
For the most part this is a time of prosperity.
We think of... Looking at it fairly broadly, the last quarter century
about 1875 to 1900 as a time of incredible prosperity.
The age of big business where America became a first rank industrial power.
But farmers were kind of left behind by a lot of this.
In 1890, after three years of drought, an acre of land that once
produced 20 bushels of wheat now yielded only four.
Agricultural prices crashed and farmers went bust.
Everything they owned was in hock, they owed money on it.
They couldn't even... The only way they could leave was to walk out.
For someone who usually did his research,
Frank Baum missed the early warning signs that disaster was imminent.
He saw the promise. What he didn't see at that time,
I believe was the fact that they'd had a very bad crop.
And so by the time Baum came in 1888 the boom was over.
They just didn't all know it yet.
Aberdeen's cultured population was not prepared for hard times.
Where some predicted disaster, Frank saw only opportunity.
It's comparable in some ways to the real estate bust or
the mortgage bust that we're experiencing,
or have been experiencing, in the last couple of years.
Those who stayed couldn't afford food, let along luxury goods.
When the bank called in its loans,
Frank was forced to close Baum's Bazaar.
I think the store was great, the timing was terrible with
depressions and droughts.
His business idea,
I won't say it was grandiose but with money tight and so forth it
didn't work out.
Instead of returning east as others were doing, Frank Baum
decided to take on a new challenge.
Selling off the stock from Baum's Bazaar, he decided to become
a newspaper editor and bought in to the Dakota Pioneer,
changing its name to the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer.
I think he very much had the notion that he would be more
of a society literary newspaper.
So the newspaper just sparkles from the very beginning.
It's an illustrated newspaper for that time period in that place.
I went back and read all his editorials in the newspaper
which were, you know, one of the few places he wrote for adults.
There was a tornado that came through and it lifted a house
and dropped it two miles away, and he wrote about that for about two weeks.
He'd write and then he'd come back to it and talk about it again.
Then he'd come back to it and talk about it again.
I think he was absolutely intrigued that that could happen.
So you see some of that imagery that developed in the story.
Baum wrote the paper's editorials
and a satirical column called Our Landlady.
In them he wrote about the many issues of the day.
There was an incredible progression of ideas
that were bursting out on the plains at that time.
You had women's suffrage, the first big women's suffrage campaign
in South Dakota took place.
In 1890, leading women's rights campaigners convened in south Dakota
to lobby for the right to vote.
Matilda Gage, Frank's mother-in-law, was one of them.
And she moved next door to Frank and Maud.
He and Mother Gage,
as we sometimes call her, I think they got along and I
think they respected each other. I'm sure it did have some influence.
He was a big supporter of women getting out into the market place
and men connecting more with the children and spending time at home.
In Aberdeen in 1890, suffragettes were fighting for their rights and Frank Baum enthusiastically
supported them through the pages of his newspaper.
It would take nearly 30 years for American women
to earn the right to vote.
A year more than women in Britain.
But Frank Baum's faith in the cause never wavered.
He was impressed by women on the great plains. Their determination
would inspire his central character in The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz.
Well, Dorothy Gale in The Wizard Of Oz is probably the first important
child character in American children's literature.
Dorothy is really the first feminist role model.
She's, you know, typical mid-westerner.
She goes out, she solves her problems and then comes home again.
Dorothy is tough and brave and independent
and she's really a child version of the pioneer woman
who went out in the covered wagon and worked side by side with her husband to
establish a farm and raise a family.
In The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, the Wicked Witch sends wolves,
crows and bees to frighten Dorothy and her friends.
Pests that were a menace to livestock and crops in the west.
But when Frank Baum lived in South Dakota, farmers' greatest fears were
the threat of foreclosure and an Indian uprising.
The government broke their treaties with these people,
we took all the gold out of their hills, which were their spiritual resources,
and we gave them this dry badlands territory and told 'em to do farming.
It's crazy what we did to them.
The Sioux, and other tribes, were confined to reservations.
They starved while herds of buffalo and other game were hunted for sport.
Many joined a new religion called The Ghost Dance, which promised a
return to the old ways,
the restoration of their lands and the departure of homesteaders.
I think that L Frank Baum was afraid there was going to be an uprising.
This was nonsense. They weren't going to attack Aberdeen, South Dakota,
but he was still afraid of that.
And when people are afraid they say horrible things.
Frank Baum believed in the spiritual world himself,
but in 1890 he wrote two controversial editorials,
which seemed to condemn Ghost Dance followers
for practicing their beliefs.
What they say is that, you know,
we've been really terrible to the Indians.
We've not done right by them and
now look what's happened.
They've risen up against us, so what are our options?
And he comes up with an option that most of us wouldn't accept.
Baum wrote that as the government had already
destroyed the best of this culture, it might as well finish it off.
An uncharacteristic statement from such an enlightened man and one
that was not reflected in anything that he had written before or since.
I see in his stories
about Oz, all the different characters and all the friendships
that Dorothy makes
with very strange people and befriends them
and rescues the underdog.
And the interesting thing is that they
don't interfere with these societies even if they're rather unpleasant.
They pass through and leave them alone.
Some of them they have to escape from, but they don't go back
and reform them.
It's what you might call an anti-colonial attitude.
Frank Baum's editorials predicted what was to follow.
Before the year was out, Chief Sitting Bull was shot dead
in a botched arrest attempt.
At Wounded Knee, 250 of his followers were massacred.
And for the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer, the end had come, too.
Loss of advertising revenue and subscriptions forced its closure.
He came out with such high expectations.
Those hopes were dashed twice.
I mean, they were just thoroughly throttled.
He didn't really talk much about the different careers he went through.
I think some of the very difficult periods he didn't talk about at all.
But he was always looking forward,
always looking for new opportunities.
Now aged 35, a string of failures behind him,
disillusioned and in poor health, Frank Baum headed back east to seek work.
In Chicago, his optimism was restored.
All around him, he could see a great white city rising.
In 1893, Chicago would become the site of the
largest world's fair ever held.
A magical place that would later inspire the Emerald City
in the Land of Oz. But before then, Frank had to find work.
From what I understand, when he first started out,
he would try anything. Worked for Pitkin and Brooks, selling crockery.
It was an experience that inspired
a little-known chapter in The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz.
In it, Dorothy and her companions
cross what Baum called "the Dainty China Country."
In 1891, it also gave him the idea for a new source of income.
He started a home magazine about window-decorating.
When he went on the road after Aberdeen and was selling crockery,
he would go into these retail stores where they had, in their windows, boxes of stuff.
And he said, "Let's design it,"
and, you know, that presumably is where the Tin Woodman came from.
Took a pie pan, took a funnel, made the character of a man out
of tin, stuck it in the window, designed the windows so they'd be
attractive to people and people would want to come in and buy the products.
Income from the magazine came just in time.
Frank was exhausted from travelling.
Worn out by lifting and carrying heavy sample cases filled with crockery.
Doctors now ordered him to rest.
His health wouldn't let him travel, so he started writing.
So I think it was all part of that getting him to a place where he really said,
"OK, I'm just going to write stories now."
When the Chicago World's Fair opened in 1893, Frank got all the inspiration he needed.
More than half the country's population attended and, like them,
he was amazed by what he saw.
Electricity powering lights
which made magnificent structures sparkle like diamonds.
The first Ferris Wheel - an engineering marvel 80 metres high.
And the prototype for a motion picture camera, that Frank dreamt of using himself one day.
He was fascinated about so many different things.
He loved photography, he was into science,
you know as much as he could be in those days, when he went to the world's fair.
I mean, electricity fascinated him.
I think there was just a fascination for the world around him.
The spirit and substance of the Chicago World's Fair found their way into The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz.
Frank always thought of the fair's white city,
built of wood but painted to look like marble, as a fabulous fake.
A grand illusion, like the Emerald City he would soon write about.
An example of how easily appearances can deceive, proof that things are not always what they seem,
and that nothing lasts forever.
I think this is what he also felt with his own life. Things would always get better.
That he would eventually triumph
over all the stumbling blocks throughout his life.
For America, the fair was a great source of wonder and national pride.
For Frank Baum, it also represented the
beginning of the most magical and exciting chapter in his life so far.
This turn of the century was rich
with all of the creative impact of what was happening.
I'm sure he heard Thomas Edison at the World's Fair he went to in Chicago, and got intrigued with film.
He was a big fan of imagination. He talks about that, how important it is to be able to imagine something
and that gives it the possibility of coming into material form.
In The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz, Dorothy and her companions use
their imagination and ingenuity
just as Frank Baum would do after the fair closed.
You know, Maud complained about it, his wife.
He would wake up in the middle of the night and he'd get ideas about things
to do and he'd write on the wallpaper and she was just furious cos she had
to keep changing the wallpaper.
In 1898, after a series of rejections from publishers,
Frank decided to publish his own work, a book of poems.
He collaborated with local artists who provided the illustrations.
And he printed and bound the book himself.
By the Candelabra's Glare
proved to be the best investment Frank Baum ever made in himself
and it would soon lead to his first publishing deal.
The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz was not the first book L Frank Baum wrote.
Actually, he used to tell stories to his children, bedtime stories.
He also told stories based upon Mother Goose rhymes
and this became his very first book.
Mother Goose in Prose.
It was also the very first book illustrated by Maxfield Parrish, one
of the great American illustrators.
Mother goose received good reviews.
It was all the encouragement Frank needed.
Now, he turned to William Wallace Denslow, one of the illustrators of
By the Candelabra's Glare.
They formed a unique partnership, and together would change children's
publishing in America forever,
beginning with their first book, Father Goose.
And they were illustrated by Denslow, and very
lush poster-like illustrations
with the verse hand lettered incorporated into the illustration.
The two of them wanted the book to be published in colour.
They went to a printer
who said that he would publish the book but only if they
paid for the colour plates, because they were so expensive to produce.
They did, and the gamble paid off.
Father Goose was the best-selling picture book of 1900.
This book was a huge hit, so the public,
at least the the book-buying public,
was waiting for the next Baum and Denslow collaboration.
Buoyed by this success, Frank came up with an original fairytale
which evolved as he told it to his children.
His wife and his mother in law were there and they said, "You need to write this story down.
"This is a great story."
The story was called The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz. The first edition
quickly sold out to become America's first publishing phenomenon.
It's no exaggeration to say that Oz and Oz books were the Harry Potter
books of their day, and it's even more impressive when
you look back at what there wasn't in the last century.
They didn't have this huge, churning
promotional machine. The Oz books, it was a word of mouth, read aloud
fascination that kids just never tired of.
Parents were drawn to the book as well.
They had never seen anything like it before.
Baum and Denslow did plan the book
to be an object as much as the experience of the story.
It's a beautiful object in and of itself. The careful colour choices,
the integration of the text with the illustrations.
Of course Baum's text makes great use of colour within the story.
Denslow's illustrations were drawn
in black and white, and later he worked with printers to add colour.
In chapter one about Kansas, Baum uses the word grey nine times
to refer to the grass, to the sky, to the way
the paint is peeled off the building, the way Aunt Em and Uncle Henry
are old and worn and grey from this,
from the basic drought that is going on at the beginning of that story.
And it wasn't just the colour that made the book such a success.
Baum and Denslow were masters of using humour to
make threatening situations entertaining for children.
I've heard of kids who, when they watch the movie,
they're really scared of the witch or the winged monkeys or other aspects.
But the book is...
There's always humour in it.
The witch in the books looks very funny.
The Denslow illustrations of the witch are quite humorous. She's this little old lady with a raincoat
and an eye patch and three braids sticking out of her head at bizarre angles.
Denslow's artwork brought people to The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz,
but it was Baum's story that held their interest.
Their partnership was unique but it wasn't destined to last.
After one other book, the collaboration ended, the chief reason,
a dispute about who deserved more credit for their success.
Frank Baum wrote 13 more Oz books, only these would be illustrated by
John R Neill.
Neill's style couldn't have been more different from Denslow's.
Denslow obviously was influenced by
the poster movement in the late 19th century.
The design, the flat shapes, the solid colours, the use
of very little perspective - that's all evident in his work.
John R Neill, on the other hand,
was much more influenced by magazine and newspaper illustration.
Neill's drawings transformed Dorothy.
She was older, a modern girl who wore the fashions of the day.
What remained the same was her approach to life
and that of her companions.
I think it's certainly true that it's the characterisation
that made this book popular, one of the things.
These are immediately loveable and interesting characters, and they all
have their own specialty and they're all real and alive.
It's possible for people to see themselves
as a cowardly lion or a scarecrow
or of course for children to identify with Dorothy.
All the themes, having a heart, or having a brain,
being courageous or being afraid is the thing that
universally...touches, goes deepest, I think, into an audience's heart.
Baum's characters were a contradiction in themselves -
a woodman made of tin,
a lion without courage, a figure made of straw who had an intellect.
Readers could care about them,
identify with them and the challenges they faced.
The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz presents complex
philosophical ideas in a simple way
by asking readers to consider what
true courage, intelligence, kindness and compassion are.
Dorothy loses her temper. She throws the bucket of water at the wicked witch
and then she's just washed away.
L Frank Baum creates an easy way of getting rid of the wicked witch.
She melts and Dorothy sweeps it out the door
just gets rid of the last bit of the wicked witch and then everybody's happy.
It's almost as if a nightmare has suddenly just ended.
Allowing a child to express their emotions without fear
of censure was a breakthrough in American children's literature.
He doesn't moralise, he doesn't tell you what to think of his story.
The 19th century tradition
of children's books is that little boys and girls
are improved and transformed, and they learn to be good and they learn
to be kind,
and they learn to work hard and
do their duty, and Dorothy doesn't learn any of these lessons.
She's OK the way she is.
I think one of the greatly attractive things about the story is that a
child character, a powerless character, through no
fault of its own, using only what little power that child may have,
achieves a great amount and becomes powerful by the end.
Children embraced Baum's books
set in the land of Oz, but some adults did not.
There were a lot of people who did not like the book,
who felt it was frivolous, who felt that it did not uplift children.
There was an unofficial ban of The Wizard Of Oz throughout many of the
children's libraries throughout the country.
Despite disapproval from some people, book sales rose.
These books were selling and kids were going crazy and Baum wrote a book a year.
Once he really got going and he had more and more ideas
and saw how the kids loved it, and actually incorporated
what some of the children wrote to him in the letters of, "More Oz, Mr Baum,"
I think it was easier for him to do.
That's when I think he started to branch out
into other forms of writing.
In 1902, Baum's original Oz story was adapted for an entirely new form
of theatrical entertainment - an extravaganza.
Which is what they called big musical shows in those days.
And these musical shows were a combination of comic opera
and vaudeville turns. You could pretty much throw anything in.
Somebody would say, "Oh, do you remember the song about...?"
And this would have nothing to do with the plot or the characters.
There'd just be a song so that somebody could entertain.
I think the characters that he created were eminently adaptable for
the stage, because they had a level of dimension that made it possible
for an actor to find something in the role that it was a different
animal off the page of a book, putting character on the stage.
Toto became Imogen the cow.
There was a whole chorus line of dancers. He thought it was great.
He could have been really offended - I'm sure they did all kinds of things
to the story -
but he wasn't, so I think his openness was, you know,
when the creativity gets stimulated, how fun that is, how delightful that
is, to see what comes of that.
The extravaganza toured for more than eight years across America.
It made the Baums very rich and enabled them to travel
and enjoy a luxurious lifestyle.
Now Baum wanted to try something very different.
In 1908 he began to give
public readings of his works, as Charles Dickens had done before him.
Only Baum set his performance to music, had a large cast with him
on stage and called it a fairylogue.
Which was the same thing as a travelogue.
Instead of going to China or Japan, he went to the Land of Oz.
He was not happy with the conventional. He wanted everything.
He wanted to change things. He believed in the concept of progress.
But Frank's productions
were extravagant, expensive and impractical.
The costs for the manufacture and transportation of costumes,
scenery and props far exceeded the show's income
and emptied Frank's bank account.
Now Maud took control of the family finances.
She was a strong woman, she was an independent woman,
she ran the house, she did the practical things.
Apparently she handled the money. He wasn't very good with money.
He made money, he spent it as freely as he felt.
By 1909, their finances in tatters,
the Baums decided to move to California to start over.
They rented a small house near the palatial Del Coronado hotel,
where once they could afford to stay.
I think the overwhelming theme of Baum's life
and The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz is that one solves one's own problems.
The wizard says, "The scarecrow has his brains, he's always had them.
"The tin woodman always has had a heart.
"The cowardly lion doesn't have to be afraid,
"he still has courage within himself.
"As long as they draw on it."
The Baums' efforts to solve their financial problems
In 1911, aged 55, Frank Baum was declared bankrupt.
But all was not lost.
Maud inherited money from her mother. This was used to buy land.
The Baums built their last home in an area
which was once an orange grove.
Their house was called Ozcot
and the orange grove became known as Hollywood.
The garden was basically just a weed lot when I was there,
but I had seen pictures and so forth
and I'd always been told this was where he grew his flowers.
You could sense how, if he had all of that
around him and a little pergola and he would write out there,
it was his own little world, which kind of mimicked his early life.
Frank continued writing, but with war in Europe approaching,
book sales fell off
and publishers were less willing to invest in new books.
But the Baums' lifestyle didn't reflect the state of their finances.
They entertained family and friends at Ozcot,
and Frank was accepted
into the socially exclusive Los Angeles Athletics Club.
It wasn't long before he became a member of its inner circle,
the lofty and exalted Order of Uplifters.
There's a picture of him
joining the Uplifters Club of these old guys that were his buddies.
They would put on skits, silly skits that he would write.
The picture of him jumping on the table
and having a chance to act it out,
pulling from what he did when was in his early 20s again in his life when
he's towards the end of his life... He was a ham.
The vivid colours of California and the warm climate
led Frank to believe he'd finally found the Land of Oz.
There, like Dorothy and her companions, he was excited
and hopeful of getting his wish -
the opportunity to tell his stories in a new way,
using technology he first saw at the Chicago Worlds Fair.
He suddenly realised there was this whole film industry
growing up around him, and he contacted a number of friends.
Members of the Uplifters Club were already financing film projects.
All Frank had to do was convince them to back his.
The phenomenal success of his books and the musical extravaganza
made it an easy sell.
Baum thought he could create his own film company producing his Oz books,
and so he formed the Oz Manufacturing Company.
In 1914, Frank Baum was president
and chief scriptwriter of the Oz Film Manufacturing Company.
He set out to conquer Hollywood, making films based on his books.
The first of these was the ambitious Patchwork Girl of Oz.
These were not your usual kind of
motion pictures because they all had an original score with them.
Enormously expensive, unfortunately they were not successful.
Only five films were produced.
Costs to build a seven-acre, state-of-the-art
studio and film lab far exceeded any income the films generated.
When the Edison Company sued studios like Frank's for breaching patents,
investors paid the fine and shut the studio down.
For the first time in his life, Frank Baum was forced to accept
that there were obstacles not even he could overcome,
and business problems were the least of them.
It had to stop. He was getting sick at the end of his life.
Big film industry came along and started making talking movies,
and he wasn't equipped to compete with all of that.
In 1918, Frank Baum's health was failing.
He urgently required surgery,
but there were concerns about his weak heart.
He was pretty much bedridden but the family stories...
He was still writing his books.
He did as much as he could, even when he was in bed.
In constant pain, Frank was obliged to ask his publisher for an advance
for the operation.
He returned to Ozcot weaker but with characteristic optimism
which enabled him to finish the last of three new Oz books.
L Frank Baum died in 1919, a few days short of his 63rd birthday.
But his greatest creation, The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz,
began a remarkable life of its own.
In 1939 there were indications that America was finally coming out
of a long economic depression.
To boost confidence, a world's fair
was held in New York and it took The World Of Tomorrow as its theme.
Although war in Europe was becoming inevitable,
representatives of major powers came in force.
Through the tough times, Hollywood produced entertaining
and escapist movies which gave people hope
that things would get better.
Now it would get a helping hand from Frank Baum's wizard.
Only MGM would have made The Wizard Of Oz back in 1938, 39.
They were the only studio that had that kind of scope and class
and determination to kind of shine and show off all their resources.
The movie is not a carbon copy of the book.
I mean, that's not Hollywood's style. It took a lot of liberties,
they made a lot of changes, but I think they kept the spirit
of the book, and I think that's the most important thing.
The spirit of Frank Baum's book was retained but a key premise was not.
Unlike the movie - in the Oz books, Oz is
a real place - the tornado actually takes Dorothy's house to Kansas.
The shoes actually take her home at the end.
Frank Baum believed that a spiritual world existed
alongside the physical one.
In The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz
he demonstrates that Dorothy's journey is across both worlds,
that she and her friends were seeking something that they already
had within themselves - courage,
intelligence, kindness and compassion.
The purpose of their journey was to realise that.
He says, "The great author has a
"message to get across, and I was the instrument to deliver that message."
It was a journey Frank Baum took during his life, and when producers
paid his family 40,000 for the rights to
The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz,
they were buying into Frank Baum's philosophy of life.
Hollywood delivered his message as only it could, and it did so
when the world needed it most.
It is a wonderful amalgamation of spectacle and comedy and melodrama.
I mean the forces of good versus the forces of evil,
and incorporated into that is an extraordinary...
just an enormous number of theatrical genius was part of that.
When the script was first commissioned, it bore
little resemblance to Frank Baum's original book.
Whenever they had a problem with the script,
they went back to the book and solved it by seeing
-how L Frank Baum had done it.
-But there were memorable differences,
and one of the most iconic came from setting Frank Baum's story to music.
There is no rainbow in Baum's book.
That was again an MGM invention.
It was EY Harburg, the lyricist of the songs for The Wizard Of Oz,
who realised, "OK, what would bring colour to Dorothy's life?
"What would be the only thing in colour that that little girl
"would see in that grey existence?"
And he thought of a rainbow.
So rainbow became
the movie's literal and figurative arch from reality into fantasy.
The film was a turning point in cinema in the same way that
the book had been in publishing in 1900.
And just as Frank Baum and William Wallace Denslow used colour
as a storytelling device, so did MGM,
and now they had technology to help them.
Technicolor really did something for
The Wizard Of Oz. The Wizard Of Oz really did something for Technicolor.
There were nine 35mm cameras used in the making of MGM's Wizard Of Oz.
These were modified to run three strips of black-and-white film
at the same time, each through a different colour filter -
red, green and blue.
Combining them during processing produced brilliant colours.
The biggest issue with Technicolor filming was that it required
very intense light in order to register that same image coming into
the camera on three different strips of film through coloured filters.
So it required carbon arc lamps, which produced
extremely intense light and could also be very expensive.
Lighting costs increased four fold.
Other production costs rose, too.
What's remembered as being the exemplar of the Technicolor
technology, and the costume designers and set designers
really did go a little crazy in producing the most vibrant and
vivid colours they could in order to take full advantage of the process.
Everything they did in Wizard Of Oz had to be tested.
There was a huge problem getting the yellow brick road
to photograph yellow.
They tried this kind of tinting, that kind of dye,
that kind of lighting effect, and then somebody said, "Why don't you
"just get a bucket of yellow paint and use that?"
And there was the yellow brick road.
As Frank Baum mixed science with magic in his stories,
MGM did the same to create one of the defining moments in the film.
For the first time on screen, a cyclone.
There's a storm blowing up, a whopper to speak in the vernacular
of the peasantry. Poor little kid, I hope she gets home all right.
Better get those horses loose. Where's Pickering?
It's a twister, it's a twister!
'The special effects...
'again, what a challenge. No computers, just what they could
'create out of the imagination of all these amazing artisans.'
They used a lot of dust, a lot of wind machines,
a 35-foot-long muslin stocking from the top of a sound stage
to a little car underneath so that the bottom of the tornado
could move around the ground.
And that is how they created a very, very realistic tornado.
The magic of Hollywood recreated Frank Baum's landscapes,
but it was the cast that brought the story to life.
The actors seem to be in on the illusion that they are creating.
So therefore they're not playing it just for the face value
of the character, they're bringing their own persona to the roles.
I love the cowardly lion.
And I don't know how much it's
the writing of the screenplay and how much of it is the work of Bert Lahr.
The lion, the royal lion who was afraid, incorporated
all his early vaudeville business,
the dancing, the "Put 'em up, put 'em up."
That's all from his cop act in vaudeville.
The fighting and all that you see in the film, that's all stuff he did
years before. But all mannerisms fed into that role.
The MGM movie made Hollywood history,
but in 1939 it was its underlying message
that would be embraced by people around the world.
So you have all that energy focused on telling a story
to a people who for just about a decade, had seen the collapse
of capitalism, the collapse of most of their dreams, the change
of what they thought was going to be the trajectory of their lives.
Behind all that was the thunder of
things happening in Europe and perhaps
the possibility of going to war.
We'd been through one world war, we were getting ready to
go into another one.
People... The world had changed a lot,
so I think the question of where's home base?
Where are we? How do we get back to what's important to us?
How do we discover who we are?
And that story marks that journey.
Three weeks after the film premiered, Germany invaded Poland.
Britain declared that the country was at war.
And in 1941, America entered the war,
as did the music from The Wizard Of Oz.
# Somewhere over the rainbow
# Way up high
# There's a land... #
I don't think anybody realised
at the time that Over The Rainbow would be the success that it was.
But it wasn't until World War II
when she started going around to sing to the troops and she found
that her most requested song was Over The Rainbow.
Somewhere Over The Rainbow embodied the spirit
of Baum's story to give the world hope.
Other songs like We're Off To See The Wizard would rally troops
as they faced the enemy.
Winston Churchill mentions in his memoirs that The Wizard Of Oz
was so popular in Australia that troops went into combat singing
the song from Wizard Of Oz as they went into battle.
# Happy little bluebirds fly beyond the rainbow
# Why, oh, why can't I? #
L Frank Baum was the greatest fantasy writer for children
America ever had.
MGM was the greatest traditional studio system, motion picture-making
edifice that America ever had.
And Judy Garland was America's greatest entertainer.
You put them together, you get The Wizard Of Oz.
It's a simple story but it's satisfying and it speaks to anybody.
It resonates throughout time, and as long as people can read,
people will be reading that book.
And I think probably because we're in an, at the moment in a very...
as close probably spiritually to the place
that the people were when they were making that film, in terms of
the economic recession and the fear - different kinds of fear -
but a certain terror imposed from the outside on life,
that it still plays,
it still satisfies.
L Frank Baum may have believed he was the humbug which was his model
for The Wizard Of Oz.
But in his later books the wizard
has learned the art of magic and becomes a wizard after all.
Baum set out to write an American fairytale
to give pleasure to a child,
and produced a story that has been embraced by people of all ages
across the world.
He will be best remembered for the journey he and his partners in Oz
took to show others how to find their way back home.
He enjoyed pleasing children, and I think he really did it
to please the child in everyone.
It's quite an honour.
I feel quite honoured to be in this family, in this way, at this time.
And quite fantastic that 100 years later it's still, 110 years later,
it's still quite popular and dynamic
and people are really touched by it. It's amazing.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
This iconic American story was written in 1900 by L Frank Baum, a Chicago businessman, journalist, chicken breeder, actor, boutique owner, Hollywood movie director and lifelong fan of all things innovative and technological. His life spanned an era of remarkable invention and achievement in America and many of these developments helped to fuel this great storyteller's imagination.
His ambition was to create the first genuine American fairytale and the story continues to fascinate, inspire and engage millions of fans of all ages from all over the world. This documentary explores how The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has come to symbolise the American Dream and includes previously unseen footage from the Baum family archives, still photographs and clips from the early Oz films, as well as interviews with family members, literary experts and American historians as it tells the story of one man's life in parallel to the development of modern America.