Welcome to my blog, featuring various pieces from my collection of Oz books, artwork and memorabilia!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Ozzy Adapting

I recently found my missing half of this set of advertising cards. I've had the Tin Woodman for some time, but the Scarecrow proved elusive! These were produced in 1928 to promote performances of a puppet play written by Ruth Plumly Thompson. I have some more information in an earlier post here.
I find the artwork for these images interesting; they are taken from the endpapers of The Patchwork Girl of Oz, published in 1913. The printing quality is quite poor, when compared with the original book endpapers - a common occurrence with later printings of Oz color plates.
The original artwork is in the archives of the International Wizard of Oz Club. The piece appears to have had a rough life, but this is because it originally served two purposes. The main drawing of the Scarecrow and Tin Man was done to be used as endpapers in the Little Wizard series of books. There was no landscape in the background, just a shadow under each of the figures. The image was printed in blue ink, and the shadow was stippled rather than solid.

In 1932, some of the Little Wizard books were reprinted to be used with sets of jigsaw puzzles, and later as advertising for Jello; this time the image was printed in black with solid shadows underneath. This seems to be what the original artwork would have looked like in its original form.

When looking at the drawing in the club archives, it becomes obvious that the main image of the characters was drawn on a smaller piece of paper, which was later glued to a larger sheet. The shadows beneath the figures were whited out, and a new background was drawn in by John R. Neill. Several of the illustrations from the Little Wizard Series were adjusted and reused in The Patchwork Girl; in this case, the paper size needed to be increased in order to be the correct proportion for the larger book!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Trouble Under Oz

In 2005, The Baum Family Trust began to publish Oz stories with a trilogy of new titles by Sherwood Smith. Unfortunately only two of the titles were published at the time, The Emerald Wand of Oz and Trouble Under Oz, leaving the series in limbo. This year, the final title has finally found its way into print courtesy of Pumpernickel Pickle press.

The first two books were illustrated by William Stout, and in August at
Winkie Con I met Mr Stout. We chatted a bit about John R. Neill's artwork, and I purchased a drawing done as a rough for the cover of the second book, published in 2006. As Mr. Stout is a fan of Oz, and the artwork of John R. Neill, it's not surprising that this image of the Nome King feels very Ozzy!

The new title, illustrated by Kim McFarland, is Sky Pyrates Over Oz. It can be purchased here through Lulu.com.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Peter and the Princess Revisited

Carl Grabo's Peter and the Princess was published by Reilly and Lee in 1920, and has all the features of an elaborately produced gift book of the time. It was sold in a box, used gold stamping on the cover and spine as well as gilt page edges, and had tissue guards placed over each color plate bearing captions for the images. And the images! Counting the cover, endpapers and title page, along with 8 additional inserts, there are 11 lovely watercolors by John R. Neill - making this one of his most elaborate color plate books since the days of The Emerald City of Oz. Sadly, there are no black and white text illustrations.

This copy is presumably a later variant of the book, as it is not as elaborately produced. The gold stamping and page edges are gone, there are no tissue guards, and most interesting, the cover image has changed. The picture used is the same as the book's frontispiece, and the original cover image is gone from the book. Another example of the variations to be found in books published by Reilly & Britton/Lee!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

More Caroline Siedle

This drawing doesn't strictly have anything to do with Oz, but it is another example of a costume design by Caroline Siedle. I'm a bit fascinated by Siedle, who was one of the earliest credited female costume designers on Broadway.

As I've posted previously, she designed costumes for the 1903 Broadway Wizard of Oz (at right is a Cook costume for a chorus member). She was only about 40 years old when she died of pneumonia in 1907. But she had been involved in a large number of productions, both on Broadway and at the Metropolitan Opera where her husband was a well known prop master and technical director.

This particular costume design is labeled American Heiresses, and features a buxom blonde in a striking outfit. The combination of eagle head dress, striped bodice and star-spangled skirt are quite patriotic - and the moneybags are a nice touch! Traces of glitter remain throughout the drawing, adding sparkle to the puffed sleeves, the stars of the skirt, the armbands and bodice. At the upper right, a small partial sketch shows an alternate skirt design - blue, in a tutu style revealing quite a bit of leg.

Unfortunately there are no other markings on the board to identify what production this was designed for. But, in 1905 there was a musical comedy titled Miss Dolly Dollars, with a score by Victor Herbert and costumes by Siedle. There was even a number titled An American Heiress - so that could be a possibility!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Fun with Father Goose

In 1900, W. W. Denslow created two Father Goose comic pages. Father Goose, His Book had been a huge hit the year before, and Denslow owned a joint copyright on the characters, together with L. Frank Baum. In some opinions, the success of the book was largely dependent on the artwork; it was certainly a uniquely produced book.

This is the second comic page, from June, presenting Father Goose at the Seashore. The verse is written by Paul West, who would co-author The Pearl and the Pumpkin together with Denslow a few years later. This image has had some quick digital touch-up, as the original is rather rough around the edges!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stone and Montgomery

The New York Public Library has added some more images to its digital archive site - I've mentioned it before on my blog, it's a fun source for a variety of things. Since I last checked in, there are a few new photos featuring Fred Stone and David Montgomery from the 1903 Broadway Wizard of Oz. On the left is Fred Stone as the Scarecrow, in his third act disguise of an old suit of white clothes and top hat.

This white costume was useful in pulling off the effect of the Scarecrow being dismantled and reassembled, as seen in the poster on the right - it stood out nicely against a black backdrop. This is a traditional bit of stage magic, but very effective! Stone would stand in the dark guard box covered in black fabric - as arms, legs, etc were put in place, portions of the fabric would be removed to reveal the matching limb. I'm sure it was a third act highlight for audiences at the show.
These three photos of Montgomery as the Tin Woodman are quite fun. The first appears to be from the 1902 Chicago run of the show, while the other two are from New York. The central photo was the source for the well known show poster, featuring the Tin Man oiling himself. It also appears to be the basis for Ike Morgan's watercolor of the character.

I'll finish off with two additional shots of the Scarecrow - both showing Fred Stone at his ragamuffin best!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Groucho in Mo

In October 1960, NBC television tried to promote interest and find a sponsor for a version of L. Frank Baum's The Magical Monarch of Mo, starring Groucho Marx. Groucho had scored a success earlier in the year with a TV version of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado, and the network felt the time was right for an hour long fantasy story that could possibly develop into a weekly series. With the long running series of Marx Brothers comedies, and Groucho's previous run as the host of You Bet Your Life, the project must have looked like a sure-fire hit.

This is a promotional pamphlet created to try and sell the idea to potential sponsors. For $200,000 you could be the single sponsor of the hour long show! A number of interesting points are brought up; the success of The Wizard of Oz, which had then been shown twice on television, and the high ratings for other TV fantasy productions such as Peter Pan, Cinderella, Babes in Toyland and Pinocchio. Groucho's Q-rating (a scale measuring a performer's popularity) was high, with 93% audience familiarity.

Shirley Temple's Storybook specials are referenced several times, not surprisingly as they were produced by Henry Jaffe Enterprises - the same production team proposing Mo. The script for the initial show was co-written by Frank Gabrielson, who had adapted The Marvelous Land of Oz for Shirley Temple earlier that season. According to the promotional booklet:
 "Integrated into the Gabrielson - (Robert) Dwan script will be elements from MAGICAL MONARCH OF MO teleplays that have been written by Gore Vidal and Joseph Schrank for subsequent use, should this property evolve into a series."
Clearly plans were being made for a ongoing project! (As it happens, David Maxine has a copy of the Gore Vidal script, which apparently reads as a one time story rather than a series). And what would this show be like?
"Enacting the dual role of THE MAGICAL MONARCH OF MO and a modern, henpecked husband with three unmarried daughters and a mischief-minded nine-year-old son, Groucho will be transported from today's world and its problems into the mythical paradise created by Baum."
"...This is a magical land into which Groucho and his family enter when the realities of his frustrating daily existence drive him to seek refuge in fantasy .... "
"Groucho's land of Mo reflects the limitations of the real-life character he portrays. As its Monarch, he transforms Mo into his own private Utopia, complete with cigar trees, money weeds and beautiful blondes, but is unable to dispense with his "family," which accompanies him to his new realm in the slightly more palatable guise of his Queen, three unwed princesses and a brash juvenile court magician."

Hmmm..... it never happened.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

A Letter From Baum

As a popular children's author, L. Frank Baum received many letters from his young readers. He refers to the volume of correspondence in many of his book introductions, and declares that the letters supply ideas for his stories.

This letter is a recent acquisition, and a nice example of the effort Baum took to respond to his readers. It was written in 1908, in reply to a letter from Master Sam Cleag Field, of Knoxville, Tennesee. Master Field was about 10 years old at the time, and apparently had sent some drawings to L. Frank Baum. It's too bad Sam's letter and drawings don't still exist - I'd love to see them! In his response, Baum writes:
My dear Sam:

I was very glad to get your nice letter, with the pictures you drew, and to know that you like my books.

I think you are very clever to be able to make all my queer characters, and I wish I could see them all. One little boy sent me a Mifkit he had made, the other day, and it looked just like a Mifkit.

If you think best, I won't end the Tin Woodman and the others, but save them to use in another story.

I shall hope to hear from you again, Sam, for to be able to make things must be nicer than just to think them.

Always your friend
L Frank Baum
The letter is on stationary from the Hotel Del Coronado, where Baum was staying at the time. It's dated April 20th, 1908, which was prior to the publication of Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (issued in June of that year); the first of three Oz books to be written at Coronado.

I like Baum's promise not to "...end the Tin Woodman and the others...". In the introduction to Dorothy and the Wizard, he mentions his regrets that he knows other stories he would like to write - but the children want Oz. Of course, Baum would attempt to leave Oz behind two years later - but his fans would not let him.

The stationary itself is rather fun, with the nautical logo and a place to write in the noon day's temperature. I picked up an example of the hotel's current stationary, but in comparison I think it lacks some of the charm.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Oz Anniversary

This month marks the 75th anniversary of the classic MGM film The Wizard of Oz. When the movie was originally released in 1939, new editions of the original book were published by both the American publisher Bobbs Merrill, and the English publisher Hutchinson. Reilly and Lee, the publishers of the rest of the Oz series but not the first book, also produced new editions of three older titles - Land of Oz, Scarecrow of Oz and Tin Woodman of Oz - clearly hoping to ride the wave of publicity for the movie.
Of all these books, the English edition is the most interesting. The cover and dust jacket have a full color wraparound design featuring a scene from the film, plus there are 8 additional color plates of characters from the movie. These are publicity stills that have been colorized. On the downside, many of the Denslow illustrations have been dropped, and those that remain are printed in black and white.

The American version features a new dust jacket design, with artwork based on Denslow's illustrations. The endpapers are printed in sepia with stills of characters and scenes from the film. The interior is very much the same as the English version, but rather than the color plates of movie characters, there are still 8 two-color plates by Denslow. The English edition does seem to have tried harder!

Reilly and Lee come in a distant third with their efforts - the three titles produced are slightly over-sized with new cover designs by an anonymous artist. While the covers are colorful, I would prefer to have seen what John R. Neill might have come up with for new covers - after all, he had already re-designed several other Oz titles!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Winkie Con

This past weekend was the 50th annual Winkie Con, the longest running Wizard of Oz convention. It was a fun filled weekend, featuring panels and programs on everything from L. Frank Baum's connections to the San Diego area (the site of the convention), to examinations of feminism and masculinity in the Oz books. There was a slew of special guests drawn from artists, writers and actors who all have a special connection to Oz. I even served as a panelist!

An exhibit of costumes worn by Judy Garland during her career, including this one from The Pirate (a favorite of mine), was displayed by collector Michael Siewart.
An Oz costume contest is a traditional part of the convention, and a number of contestants turned out in full regalia.
The Saturday evening program was a recreation of the 1913 stage show The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, a production that hasn't been seen in 100 years - the photo below, taken by Atticus Gannaway, shows the cast in action.
An auction of rare and vintage Oz items is also a traditional part of the convention, taking place Saturday morning and afternoon. There were many opportunities to add a new piece to a collection.
On Sunday, an additional event was brunch at the famous Hotel Del Coronado. Baum spent time at this hotel over the course of several years, while working on some of his early Oz books. We also happened to pass the house where Baum and his family lived after leaving the hotel, before they moved to Hollywood. I believe it may be the only L. Frank Baum residence still standing.
At the convention, a new edition of the book Queen Ann in Oz was introduced. This was the first time my partner Irwin and I, illustrators of the story, met the authors Karyl Carlson and Eric Gjovaag (photo below by Jay Davis).  The new edition includes a new story about the kingdom of Oogaboo, and may be purchased through Lulu.com.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Violet Macmillan

Here's a fun little Oz oddity - This is an autograph from Violet MacMillan, one of the stars of the Oz Film Manufacturing Company. Beneath her signature, she lists three productions she was featured in - "KayBee", "Domino", and what appears to be "Branco". Unfortunately, I've been unable to find any record of these films. There is no date, and no mention of her Oz work; perhaps not surprising, as the Oz films were not successful!
Violet played various roles in the L. Frank Baum films. She was the first actress to play Dorothy in a feature length Oz movie - there were previous short films like the Fairylogue and Radio Plays with Romola Remus in the role, as well as the 1910 Wizard starring a young Bebe Daniels. The Oz Company films were full length productions, and Violet appeared as Dorothy in His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz. She also played the leading role of the boy Ojo, in The Patchwork Girl of Oz and she appeared as Prince Bud in the adaptation of Queen Zixi of Ix, which was renamed The Magic Cloak of Oz.
In her Oz film work, Violet was billed as "the Daintiest Darling of Them All". Throughout her career, she was known as the Cinderella Girl due to the smallness of her feet - during her time on the vaudeville stage, it was an ongoing claim to fame with a number of mentions in newspapers of the day. In 1913, when performing in San Francisco, she lent a shoe to be displayed in a Market Street shoe store where women could attempt fitting it on their own foot.

Even in June of 1922, the Washington Times reported that she won a contest for the smallest feet in New York, and was awarded a pair of golden slippers - it's too bad they weren't silver, that would be very fitting for a Dorothy! Her foot measured 7 5/8" from heel to toe, and she could wear a shoe measured at 6 1/2" long - a 4" inch heel shortened the footprint of the shoe. According to one article, with such small feet she needed to be careful to keep her weight down to 90 pounds.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The White Elephant

The White Elephant was a short-lived monthly magazine of short fiction, published in the late 1890's. It's best remembered by fans of L. Frank Baum for publishing one of Baum's earliest stories, The Suicide of Kairos, in September of 1897. This is a dark tale of the death of a Greek money lender, at the hands of an upstanding bank clerk. There is no moral retribution to the story, it's a simple tale of a means to an end.

The magazine featured very whimsical color covers, with the namesake white elephant prominently displayed in a wide range of activities. It started publication in June of 1896 as Poker Chips, and changed to White Elephant in December of that year. It survived under that name through September of 1897 before folding. I don't think its failure would have been due to dull cover design!

An interior page proudly announces that the magazine has celebrated its second birthday, which seems a bit premature, and invites submissions for future issues. It even gives some writing tips, such as "Quick action and the "get there" quality in a story will assure prompt acceptance" Stories were to be from 2,000 to 4,000 words in length, and humorous stories were in "especial demand". Baum's name and story title are featured on the front cover of what ended up being the final issue, along with the other authors and their tales - perhaps, if it had survived, additional tales by Baum would have been featured. At any rate, I suppose this may have been the first time Baum was on the cover of a nationally available magazine!

The story was reprinted in 1954 in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. A couple minor alterations were made, to delete two remarks by the Greek moneylender concerning his Jewish competitors. This time Baum didn't rate front cover space, but he was in good company - the issue also featured stories by Agatha Christie, Jack London, and Erle Stanley Gardner!