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

Friday, May 6, 2011

Scarecrow Ears

In Michael Hearn and Douglas Greene's 1976 biography of W.W. Denslow, there's an interesting passage quoting the artist on how he came up with the images for the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman. This was taken from a 1904 article in the Denver Republican newspaper -

"I made twenty-five sketches of those two monkeys before I was satisfied with them. You may well believe that there was a great deal of evolution before I got that golf ball in the Scarecrow's ear or the funnel on the Tin Man's head. I experimented and tried out all sorts of straw waist-coats and sheet-iron cravats before I was satisfied."

What's interesting here is that Denslow seems to be confusing his illustrations for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and some stage business worked into the theatrical version of The Wizard of Oz. I never understood the reference to the "golf ball in the Scarecrow's ear" until I learned more about the stage play. In Denslow's drawings of the character, I never noticed anything that looked like a golf ball!

But, the stage show is a different story. During the opening Kansas prologue, before the cyclone arrives, a golfer wanders onstage looking for his ball. He flirts with one of the farm girls, the cyclone hits, and he's not thought of again. In the detail on the left, the golf club can be seen at the actor's feet as he reacts to the arrival of the twister.

Then later in Oz, when the Scarecrow comes to life, one of the first things he does is remove a golf ball from his ear - the discovery of the missing golf ball! In the detail on the right from the production, the ball can be clearly seen, and in his autobiography Fred Stone even mentions strapping a golf ball to his ear for the part. Incidentally, it's also humorous to note, in the photo below, that the face of the actor playing Imogene the cow (Fred's brother, Edwin Stone) is clearly visible beneath the bow on the cow's neck! These stage photos are from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York.

So, that's one of my little Ozian mysteries cleared up - and another proof that memories are not always reliable - even the memories of those directly involved in the creation of a legend!


Anonymous said...

The photos are great. I didn't know about the golfball, but I have an article on Denslow from 1905 (Leslie's Weekly, Jan 5) that has the same quote. The article is all about Denslow's involvement in stage design and seems to be talking primarily about his costume drawings for the Wizard of Oz play in this quote. So, it makes sense that he'd mention the golfball. Don't know if it's true of not, but it's clear from the article that Denslow thinks the Scarecrow and Tin-man are his creations, not Baum's. Hence the Scarecrow and Tin-man book and comic strip he created w/o Baum. Very interesting...wouldn't it have been fun to be a fly on the wall during some of those early collaborative meetings between the two?

Bill Campbell said...

It's logical that the article would be related to stage work rather than illustration - the quote makes a lot more sense in that context. I haven't seen the article in full, just the quote I mention, and it was a little puzzling!