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

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!

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