Oz Film/Alliance, 1914. Direction and also scenario: L. Frank Baum. Cast: Violet Macmillan, Frank Moore, Pierre Couderc, Raymond Russell, Todd Wideal, Vivian Reed, May Wells, Mildred Harris, Fred Woodward.  Fans of the 1939 MGM version of The Wizard of Oz might already be aware that an important brand-new book about that film’s production—The Roadway to Oz, by Jay Scarfone and also William Stillman—is due for publication in October. In honor of the occasion, I’m taking a fresh look at one of the Oz movies that preceded the MGM variation. There actually were a surpincreasing variety of pre-1939 Oz movies, starting at least as beforehand as 1910 through numerous one-reelers created by Selig. But I for one have actually constantly been specifically intrigued by the attribute movies developed by the Oz Film Manufacturing Company—a motion-photo production agency establiburned in 1914 by L. Frank Baum himself, the author of the original Oz stories, to develop films based on his very own works. This, I think, is a priceless facet of the Oz cinematic legacy: the original author’s vision, adjusted to the display screen by his own hand also. And, I hasten to include, it looks nothing prefer what one can expect. For those unfamiliar via these films, it’s important to bear in mind the prodiscovered affect the MGM manufacturing has had actually, in hindsight, on our perceptions of The Wizard of Oz. For audiences at the rotate of the twentieth century, the title had actually a much various connotation: it signified Baum’s publications, and also a musical phase variation mounted in 1902. The phase display was aimed mainly at adults and consisted of generous doses of satire and also political jokes; today’s fan would find it unrecognizable. But it was hugely effective in 1902–03, and also in reality was still being periodically revised, and also still playing in stock and local theaters, in 1914 as soon as Baum formed the Oz Film firm. Starting with this differed background, Baum plainly felt bound to no certain scenario in building his movies. Instead he unleashed his creative thinking, indulging in a kind of freewheeling whimsy as he concocted new adendeavors in the land also of Oz. His stock firm of players included Violet Macmillan, who had played Dorothy in the stage production; Pierre Couderc, an acrobat formerly of the Folies Bergère; and Fred Woodward, that donned a sequence of costumes to play a selection of fanciful pet personalities. Lovely Vivian Reed was the “Oz Girl,” a type of living logo design for the studio, that introduced each film in a smiling closeup and then doubled in a featured role in the taking place story. In His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz she is viewed as Princess Gloria, that scorns the suitor her father selects for her, and also drops in love with the gardener’s boy rather. Her father, King Krewl, stays as much as his name by directing a witch to “freeze” the Princess’s heart to all mortal loves—after which she wanders listlessly via the film, concerning everyone and every little thing via cold disinteremainder. Dorothy and her friends, the Scarecrow and also the Tin Woodmale, collection out to enlist the help of the Wizard of Oz to break the witch’s spell. (The Cowardly Lion does show up in this film, yet only briefly; below Dorothy’s party is rounded out by Button Bright—played by Mildred Harris, who is ideal remembered now for having actually married Chaplin a couple of years later.)

That’s the basic plot instance. I won’t provide away the resolution—yet, in any type of instance, what’s amazing in the Oz functions is not the plot resolution, but how the film gets tright here. His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz takes a meandering path, to say the least, with its five reels. As the Oz company’s 3rd release, it is possibly a little bit more cinematic than its predecessors—but it still has a really loose, spontaneous high quality about it, as if Baum and also company are consisting of the story as they go alengthy. In 1914, of course, the feature-length film itself was still in a developmental state, however even compared to various other modern fantasy films—for instance Paramount’s Cinderella, starring Mary Pickford, released in the very same month—His Majesty has an extremely impromptu look. Lest this sound favor a criticism, let me add that this spontaneity is, for me, part of the cdamage of the Oz films. As we watch His Majesty, we have actually the feeling that Baum is improvising a brand-new fairy tale and also has actually invited us to join in the fun. The turbulent edges only add to our enjoyment. The distinct effects are rudimentary, and primarily no enhance for the illusions that Méliès was creating ten years earlier. Magical changes, as once the witch spitefully transforms the gardener’s boy into a kangaroo, are easy cross-dissolves.

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In one scene Dorothy and her companions, traversing a stream on their method to the Wizard, sail their raft up a “Wevery one of Water” and earlier down the various other side—an impact which the cameramale accomplishes simply by tilting the electronic camera on its side! But, aacquire, this refreshing simplicity is part of the film’s appeal. As we celebrate the lasting cinematic heritage of The Wizard of Oz, I think it’s necessary to remember all the elements of that legacy—including this endearing little side road, bearing the unique stamp of the stories’ original writer.