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Monday, September 5, 2011

An Interview with Baum

L. Frank Baum was clearly a master of self promotion, and of the "story that suits the moment" style of interview. Consequently, I tend to take most of his statements with a large grain of salt. A fun example of this is an article published in the August 1909 issue of The Theatre magazine. Titled L. Frank Baum and His New Plays, this interview covers Baum's then-current theatrical projects, none of which were to make it to fruition.

According to this article - and this all sounds very optimistic, as the descriptions of the various projects are very vague for shows opening in a month or two - the fall season was to see a comic opera titled The Pipes o' Pan, an extravaganza titled either Ozma of Oz or The Rainbow's Daughter, and the opening of a new Children's Theatre in New York. Another comic opera, possibly titled Peter and Paul, was being written for Montgomery & Stone. Both this piece and the coming Ozma of Oz were said to be starring Montgomery & Stone, so there would seem to be a conflict!  

Ozma of Oz did finally see production in 1913 as The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, which played in Los Angeles and toured. However this is not quite the same show described in the article - for one thing, a different composer wrote the music, and Montgomery & Stone were nowhere to be seen.

Baum does discuss Oz as well. He manages to add a year to the run of The Wizard of Oz - the show started in Chicago in 1902, and here in 1909 Baum states that it has been running 8 years. At the time of the interview, Baum also mentions that he is working on The Road to Oz, and that there will be only one more Oz book.

But the part I like best about this article, is the correction that the magazine had to publish in the next issue! While talking about the possible Peter and Paul production, Baum mentions that the music is being written by Arthur Pryor, the famous trombonist who played with John Phillip Sousa's band. Baum is quoted as attributing the success of Sousa to Pryor, something which apparently did not go down well. In the next issue of the magazine a correction was published, including a letter from Pryor expressing his astonishment at Baum's statement. The magazine wrote to Baum for an explanation, but there doesn't seem to have been a reply....perhaps this contributed to the non-existence of the Peter & Paul show!

The full article can be read here, on the Hungry Tiger Press website.


scott o. said...

Thanks for posting this! I had never seen (or heard of) the correction that appeared in the later issue.

I should add that it was the publication of this interview in The Baum Bugle (in the early 70's) that sparked the interest in finding the home in Coronado pictured in the article. The house was found and is still standing.

I should add that since the article contains so much hyperbole, I've had my doubts for some time that Baum ever lived there at all. Why leave the comforts and luxury of the Hotel del Coronado (where you've always stayed) and instead rent a house where you wouldn't have the comforts of a luxury hotel?

David Maxine said...

I strongly suspect that Baum's living at that address has been corroborated by addresses on family correspondence - though I don't know that for a certainty.

I think Baum had moved out of the Del because that was a vacation resort for the Baum's - not a home. And by 1909 they had decided to live in California and this house was a base camp while they figured out if the wanted to stay in San Diego or Los Angeles, etc. By the summer of 1909 it's possible Ozcot's property had already been purchased and the Hollywood house was being designed.

Bill Campbell said...

I was thinking along the same lines, that there might be some record of that home within the Baum family history, although I know nothing of it myself.

Scott O. said...


I can assure you that Baum had no recorded interest in the home. But obviously if there's correspondence with the home's address like Eric or David claim, that certainly would prove Baum stayed there.

I had always understood that on reason Baum decided on Los Angeles because he believed it would be easier for his sons to find employment there.

David Maxine said...

I've always understood the Coronado house was a stop-gap measure between visiting the Del and moving to Los Angeles. There is another home they rented in LA before Ozcot, too.

A number of years ago Eric and I spent an evening with Michael Patrick Hearn in Coronado and he had info (presumably from correspondence) that Baum did his writing on the upper floor of the house. This isn't mentioned in the interview.

David M.

Anonymous said...

Does the music that Arthur Pryor composed still exist?

Bill Campbell said...

I don't think anything has ever turned up for this show - It may have never gotten past the initial idea stage, but I don't know that for certain.