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

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Ozma of Oz, 1964

The Children's Theater Company of Minneapolis is well known nationwide, and is particularly known by Oz fans for their lavish 1981 production of The Marvelous Land of Oz. This show was filmed and released on video, and can be seen on YouTube. But in 1964 there was an earlier Oz production by a forerunner to CTC, The Moppet Players: Ozma of Oz.

This show was reviewed by Ruth Berman in a 1964 Baum Bugle, in the Oz Behind the Footlights section. I've always been intrigued as to what this production might have been like, and recently ran across photos on the CTC Alumni Archive blog. This is a blog featuring photos, sound clips and video clips from productions at the theater over the years.

According to Ruth's review, the show was very faithful to the book. From the photos, it appears that the Tin Woodman was left out of the story, and there is no sign of the Hungry Tiger or Cowardly Lion. The photo at the top of the page shows the Queen of Ev and her son, Tik-Tok, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Ozma (in a strange choice of costume - all blue and black, including the poppies in her hair!), and Billina the hen.

Above, Dorothy and Billina are trapped on a rocky hill by the Wheelers. On the left, Ozma confronts Princess Langwi- dere, who has shut Dorothy up in a tower. Below, Princess Langwidere is seen changing heads with the help of her maid, Nanda.

There are more photos on the theater blog. The Children's Theater Company split away from The Moppet Players not long after this time, and the show is clearly simpler than the productions that CTC became known for. But it is fun to see documentation of this play!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The End of an Era

This is a letter, dated September 10th, 1943, to John R. Neill from Reilly & Lee, the publishers of the Oz books. The letter is written by Margery Peterson, secretary to Frank O'Donnell, the president of the company; she states that they have not yet received the new Oz manuscript, and laments the fact that a new Oz book will probably not be published that year.

I find this letter rather poignant for two reasons. First, this means the tradition of a new Oz book every year was coming to an end after a 30 year run. From 1913 through 1942, a new title had been published each year. The next book in the series would not be published until 1946, and several more titles were added sporadically after that.

More importantly, Neill died nine days later, on September 19th, 1943, leaving a void in the Ozzy universe. Starting in 1904, he illustrated 35 Oz books, not counting the Little Wizard series and other L. Frank Baum fantasies. His artwork was an indelible part of Oz, and after working for so many years with Baum and his successor, Ruth Plumly Thompson, he took over authorship of the Oz series. Three books were published with Neill as author and illustrator, and while these titles tend to rank low on the scales of favorite Oz books, the tradition of a new story each year was upheld. This year is the 70th anniversary of his death.

The book in question was The Runaway in Oz, which didn't receive commercial publication until 1995, when it was edited and illustrated by Eric Shanower.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Ozzy Advertising

Here are Montgomery and Stone, as the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman, in an ad that ran in Playbill in 1936. Clearly The Wizard of Oz still held great nostalgic value for audiences of the day, even though it had opened on Broadway over 30 years earlier. In fact, not only was it remembered fondly, it was a reference point being used to help sell advertising in Playbill !

This particular program was for the show The White Horse Inn, a musical comedy/operetta set in Austria. It starred William Gaxton, a popular Broadway star and Kitty Carlisle, who had recently returned from Hollywood after starring in (among other things) the Marx Brother's A Night at the Opera. Among the boys of the chorus was Alfred Drake, who would become another celebrated star!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Original Prices

Lately I've been looking at the original pricing of the Oz books - it's trivial but interesting!

1900: Wonderful Wizard - $1.50
This was an elaborate children's book, with 24 inserted color plates and color used throughout the book. The price was a little higher than the $1.25 average at the time, but it sounds like a bargain to me!
1904 - 1916: Marvelous Land through Rinkitink - $1.25
The earlier titles had 16 color plates or color throughout the book, while titles after 1913 were standardized with 12 color plates. So, while the price stayed the same, there was a definite cutback in printing costs.

1917:  Lost Princess - $1.35
This was a price increase as America entered World War I. This was also the period when sales of the Oz books began to climb, after a few slack years.
1918 - 1919: Tin Woodman and Magic - $1.50
Another increase along with the end of World War I.
1920 - 1924:  Glinda through Grampa - $2.00
This period was a height of Oz popularity, and the books achieved the highest prices charged prior to 1950. The jump to $2.00 in 1920 was a substantial increase, and this price can be seen on the dustjacket spines of other Oz books published that year. In fact, it's an easy way to date a jacketed book to 1920!
1925 - 1930: Lost King through Yellow Knight - $1.60
A considerable price drop from the previous titles, even before the start of the Great Depression in 1929. I have 2 non-Oz titles by Baum from 1930, both of which are priced at $1.00 - John Dough and Sea Fairies. Clearly the less familiar titles were fading as Oz continued.
1931 - 1932: Pirates and Purple Prince - $1.75
A price raise in the midst of the Great Depression - but not for long!
1933 - 1942: Ojo through Lucky Bucky $1.50
This is the longest period with one price, and the lowest price for the books since 1919!  Color plates were dropped after Wishing Horse in 1935, which would have affected printing costs.
1946: Magical Mimics - $1.75
1949: Shaggy Man - $2.00
1951: Hidden Valley - $2.50
1963: Merry Go Round - $3.95 - all older titles were priced @ $3.50
As the series continued, prices increased regularly. Still, over a 63 year span, prices stayed relatively level!