Wednesday, April 01, 2020

The Latest Oz Reading

Well, with spring break in the district I'm currently working in extended a few more weeks, I may as well catch up on not only my reading, but telling you about it.

  • The Road to Oz: The Evolution, Creation, and Legacy of a Motion Picture Masterpiece by Jay Scarfone and William Stillman. This is the duo's latest book about the famous film version of The Wizard of Oz, and like all the others, it is well-researched and full of all kinds of information. Unlike their previous books, this one has not been licensed by Warner Bros., so they were able to tell the story they wanted to tell without any editorial interference by the current owners of The Movie. There was not a lot in here that was new to me, but I've been reading books on this topic for over forty years now. But that doesn't mean I was totally unsurprised. This book contains the first ever published picture of Hickory's wind machine, for example (cut from the final film), and has details about its early release that I had not heard before. Plus the background information leading up to the production of The Movie was terrific, such as Samuel Goldwyn's plans for a movie (before he ended up selling the rights to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer), or the fact that there were actually three radio shows in the 1930s (not the two I already knew about). This is always a good topic to revisit every once in a while, and I'm glad Scarfone and Stillman can still wring a lot of new information out of a movie that's now over eighty years old.
  • That was a pretty long book, so I thought I'd temper it with a little one, and A Legend in Straw: The Spirit of My Uncle Ray Bolger by Christianna Rickard fit the bill nicely. This is not a biography of Bolger, although there are some biographical touches. It's much more a remembrance of Bolger by his niece, and what his example taught her, especially when Rickard has to deal with a rare form of cancer. (Spoiler alert: She survives, as I bought this book directly from her at OzCon International two years ago. Of course she was kind enough to sign it for me.) It has a clear, nondenominational spiritual bend to it, so in that it reminded me a lot of The Wisdom of Oz by Gita Dorothy Morena, another memoir by an Oz-related relative (for those who don't know, Morena is L. Frank Baum's great-granddaughter). It's not a crucial book for Oz fans to get, but for those who want to know more about Ray Bolger, this is a good introduction.

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