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

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I've posted this before but it's appropriate for today. W. W. Denslow created six Thanksgiving postcards in this series, and one of these days I'll get them all!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ozzy Merchandise

Over the years, quite a variety of Oz merchandise has been created. A great many of these items have been inspired by the classic 1939 MGM film, which is an area that I don't really collect. However, I do enjoy running across vintage pieces that are not particularly film related, but refer back to the original books. Here are a couple dating back to my own childhood:

The fabric shown on the left was produced in the late 1950s - early 60s, and sold as yardage for customers to use for various purposes. This piece was recently given to me by a friend - his grandmother had used it as a coverlet/bedspread on a child's bed. Dorothy is wearing silver shoes, and the characters certainly aren't based on their movie counterparts - or on any particular book illustrations. I think it's a charming example, and my favorite among the various Oz fabrics that have been produced.

Paint by number pictures have become a popular collectible. I don't collect them myself, but couldn't resist this particular one, which is intriguing. It includes the Sawhorse from The Marvelous Land of Oz and a young boy (possibly Tip?). The characters are a little more generic, particularly Dorothy who looks remarkably like Alice from Wonderland, but the inclusion of a character from a later book is rather unique. This piece seems to date from sometime in the late 60s/early 70s, and the couple examples I've seen have all had the same frame - it must have been included in the kit!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pictorial Review

John R. Neill was only illustrating one Oz book a year, con- sequently the majority of his work appeared in magazine illustrations. Neill illustrated stories in Pictorial Review magazine over a number of years. I recently picked up an issue from February 1926 with a few of his drawings.

For the story shown above, Neill contributed three pieces of two-color artwork. The way his illustrations are used is interesting - particularly the combination of two pieces on the page to the right. The large drawing on the right of the woman handing the man his coat used to be available from the Neill family a few years ago. If anyone reading this blog happened to buy it, here's what it illustrated!

Another drawing pops up further along in the magazine, illustrating a poem . This piece is dropped into the middle of another story, and the drawing is a simpler vignette.

A third use is found even further along, in an article about Abraham Lincoln. Here, two little drawings by Neill are used in conjunction with the photos illustrating the article. These two pieces are unsigned, but they are unmistakably Neill.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Jean Gros

This little guy is a cut-out advertisement from 1928 for a marionette production of the Oz stories. The image shows the Tin Woodman riding the Hungry Tiger, and the Oz series is advertised on the rear, as well as the puppet show. The owner is instructed to "Keep this Lucky "Oz" Picture and use it for a Bookmark".

A second cut-out, featuring the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion, was also distributed. The advertisement is for Jean Gros' marionette version of The Magical Land of Oz, which was written by Ruth Plumly Thompson. This show would later play at the Chicago World's Fair of 1933. It's a shame that the performance doesn't seem to have been captured on film - I'd love to see it!

The images were taken from the endpapers of The Patchwork Girl of Oz. The original John R. Neill artwork for these endpapers is in the collection of The International Wizard of Oz Club, and can be viewed by looking at the gallery in the Archive section of their lovely redesigned website - http://ozclub.org/Home_Again.html

Jean Gros was a well known puppeteer and showman from Pittsburgh who spent years building up an elaborate traveling marionette show, but lost it all when he attempted to stage a grand opera with puppets, hiding 75 singers behind the curtains. He produced a number of puppet shows based on classic stories, and also designed marionettes for a WPA project in the 1930s. These were used in schools for teaching various subjects - nutrition, safety, history, folklore, etc.

A Time magazine article from 1948 tells of a later business venture, creating parades along the line of those staged by Macy's for Thanksgiving Day. These were to be used by smaller cities and towns or department stores, who could hire Gros and his crew to produce the parade. Apparently a large part of the trick was designing parade balloons which would fit beneath the trolley wires which crossed many city streets!

I mentioned a few posts ago that I used to experiment with marionettes - after some digging in the basement I've managed to locate one of my attempts, a version of Jack Pumpkinhead. I know I have heads for some other characters somewhere - I'll have to keep looking!