The Wonderful Wizard of Oz


13m 1910

Brief Synopsis

In this silent version of the classic tale, a cyclone transports Dorothy to the land of Oz.

Film Details

Genre
Adventure
Fantasy
Release Date
Mar 24, 1910
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Selig Polyscope Co.
Distribution Company
Selig Polyscope Co.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The New Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (Chicago, 1903).

Technical Specs

Duration
13m
Film Length
1,000ft

Synopsis

In this silent version of the classic tale, a cyclone transports Dorothy to the land of Oz.

Film Details

Genre
Adventure
Fantasy
Release Date
Mar 24, 1910
Premiere Information
not available
Production Company
Selig Polyscope Co.
Distribution Company
Selig Polyscope Co.
Country
United States
Screenplay Information
Based on the novel The New Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum (Chicago, 1903).

Technical Specs

Duration
13m
Film Length
1,000ft

Articles

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)


The earliest surviving screen version of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz runs a mere 13 minutes, but packs its single reel of film with an astounding array of characters and memorable moments from the beloved fantasy tale.

Produced by the Selig Polyscope Co., one of the first companies to move its operations to Hollywood, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910) begins a little differently than the more familiar 1939 MGM version. Dorothy (Bebe Daniels) befriends the animated Scarecrow prior to her departure via cyclone, and is accompanied on the voyage not only by the Scarecrow and Toto, but some of the livestock from the family farm: a cow and donkey. As they begin to explore Oz, the band of explorers encounter a royal decree from Oz's king, who offers his crown to anyone who can release him from the wicked witch's spell. The king, by his own admission, is a "humbug" wizard (a "phony" in the P.T. Barnum vernacular), and only wants to return to his home in Omaha. With the help of Glinda the good witch, the Tin Woodman (Robert Z. Leonard), and Cowardly Lion, Dorothy and company face down the wicked witch Momba (a derivative of "Mombi," the name of the evil witch in The Marvelous Land of Oz [1904]) to help the frustrated Wizard.

As was common in films of the period, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz operates on the assumption that the audience is already acquainted with Baum's story. Thus the complex plot is reduced to elaborate setpieces without a lot of narrative explanation, other than a few concisely-worded title cards. The viewers' familiarity with the storyline of Oz not only helps them fill in the plot gaps of the 1910 version, but enables them to discover delightful surprises that are not present in the Judy Garland adaptation. Instead of flying monkeys, the Wicked Witch's lair is protected by giant spiders and flying amphibians. In a moment of unexpected social commentary, the Wizard is thwarted in his escape from Oz by a sign in the hot air balloon factory that reads "Union Rules -- No Work After 12." He arrives, of course, exactly at noon. Whether a celebration or critique of organized labor, it provides a charming moment as the Oz I.W.W.'s leave their worktables and engage in an elaborate dance, much to the Wizard's chagrin.

Certainly inspired by the 1900 novel by L. Frank Baum, the screen version of Oz was equally influenced by the 1902 stage musical by Baum and Julian Mitchell. In fact, the film's director, Otis Turner, had previously directed a stage version of the novel.

Oz is presented in the tableau style of filmmaking common to the early 20th Century. Scenes are played out in unedited wide shots that approximate the view of a music hall stage, as opposed to naturalistic settings and an alternation of shots of varying closeness and angles. Film pioneers such as D.W. Griffith were presently innovating this kind of screen language, but a film like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was more of a cinematic pageant, and therefore suited to the tableau approach.

The most famous practitioner of such theatrical fantasy-films is Frenchman Georges Melies, best known for his 1902 spectacle A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune). Oz is clearly in the Melies mold, replete with levitating beauties, costumed troops marching upon the cramped stage, painted backdrops, and acrobatic imps that appear in puffs of smoke. In its climactic scene, however, Oz outdoes Melies when it comes to packing performers on a single stage, as the full roster of characters are joined by numerous extras, soldiers on horseback and two live camels.

Aside from Daniels, it is uncertain which actors played which role, but historians are confident the Wizard is Hobart Bosworth, a prolific character actor who had left Broadway for Hollywood after tuberculosis forced a change of climate. Robert Z. Leonard, who most likely is the Tin Woodman, later had a distinguished career as a Hollywood director, writer and producer, credited with more than 150 films including Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) (1931) and The Great Ziegfeld (1936). Bebe Daniels also went on to a prosperous screen career, starring opposite Harold Lloyd in the "Lonesome Luke" comedies, produced by Hal Roach, and later became a popular contract player at Paramount in the 1920s. Music Curator Martin Marks adapted his score for this restored version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from the music composed by Paul Tietjens for the 1902 version. He took these musical themes and arranged them to fit its cinematic successor. "At least one leading historian of the American musical theatre, Gerald Bordman, has dismissed Tietjens's musical numbers as 'banal'," says Marks, "Still, I find them just right for this naive, quick-paced and boisterous entertainment."

Director: Otis Turner
Producer: Selig Polyscope Co.
Screenplay: Otis Turner, based on the novel by L. Frank Baum
Music: Martin Marks
Cast: Bebe Daniels (Dorothy), Hobart Bosworth (Wizard of Oz), Robert Z. Leonard (Tin Woodman), Eugenie Besserer (Aunt Em).
BW-10m.

by Bret Wood
The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz (1910)

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)

The earliest surviving screen version of L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz runs a mere 13 minutes, but packs its single reel of film with an astounding array of characters and memorable moments from the beloved fantasy tale. Produced by the Selig Polyscope Co., one of the first companies to move its operations to Hollywood, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910) begins a little differently than the more familiar 1939 MGM version. Dorothy (Bebe Daniels) befriends the animated Scarecrow prior to her departure via cyclone, and is accompanied on the voyage not only by the Scarecrow and Toto, but some of the livestock from the family farm: a cow and donkey. As they begin to explore Oz, the band of explorers encounter a royal decree from Oz's king, who offers his crown to anyone who can release him from the wicked witch's spell. The king, by his own admission, is a "humbug" wizard (a "phony" in the P.T. Barnum vernacular), and only wants to return to his home in Omaha. With the help of Glinda the good witch, the Tin Woodman (Robert Z. Leonard), and Cowardly Lion, Dorothy and company face down the wicked witch Momba (a derivative of "Mombi," the name of the evil witch in The Marvelous Land of Oz [1904]) to help the frustrated Wizard. As was common in films of the period, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz operates on the assumption that the audience is already acquainted with Baum's story. Thus the complex plot is reduced to elaborate setpieces without a lot of narrative explanation, other than a few concisely-worded title cards. The viewers' familiarity with the storyline of Oz not only helps them fill in the plot gaps of the 1910 version, but enables them to discover delightful surprises that are not present in the Judy Garland adaptation. Instead of flying monkeys, the Wicked Witch's lair is protected by giant spiders and flying amphibians. In a moment of unexpected social commentary, the Wizard is thwarted in his escape from Oz by a sign in the hot air balloon factory that reads "Union Rules -- No Work After 12." He arrives, of course, exactly at noon. Whether a celebration or critique of organized labor, it provides a charming moment as the Oz I.W.W.'s leave their worktables and engage in an elaborate dance, much to the Wizard's chagrin. Certainly inspired by the 1900 novel by L. Frank Baum, the screen version of Oz was equally influenced by the 1902 stage musical by Baum and Julian Mitchell. In fact, the film's director, Otis Turner, had previously directed a stage version of the novel. Oz is presented in the tableau style of filmmaking common to the early 20th Century. Scenes are played out in unedited wide shots that approximate the view of a music hall stage, as opposed to naturalistic settings and an alternation of shots of varying closeness and angles. Film pioneers such as D.W. Griffith were presently innovating this kind of screen language, but a film like The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was more of a cinematic pageant, and therefore suited to the tableau approach. The most famous practitioner of such theatrical fantasy-films is Frenchman Georges Melies, best known for his 1902 spectacle A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la lune). Oz is clearly in the Melies mold, replete with levitating beauties, costumed troops marching upon the cramped stage, painted backdrops, and acrobatic imps that appear in puffs of smoke. In its climactic scene, however, Oz outdoes Melies when it comes to packing performers on a single stage, as the full roster of characters are joined by numerous extras, soldiers on horseback and two live camels. Aside from Daniels, it is uncertain which actors played which role, but historians are confident the Wizard is Hobart Bosworth, a prolific character actor who had left Broadway for Hollywood after tuberculosis forced a change of climate. Robert Z. Leonard, who most likely is the Tin Woodman, later had a distinguished career as a Hollywood director, writer and producer, credited with more than 150 films including Susan Lenox (Her Fall and Rise) (1931) and The Great Ziegfeld (1936). Bebe Daniels also went on to a prosperous screen career, starring opposite Harold Lloyd in the "Lonesome Luke" comedies, produced by Hal Roach, and later became a popular contract player at Paramount in the 1920s. Music Curator Martin Marks adapted his score for this restored version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz from the music composed by Paul Tietjens for the 1902 version. He took these musical themes and arranged them to fit its cinematic successor. "At least one leading historian of the American musical theatre, Gerald Bordman, has dismissed Tietjens's musical numbers as 'banal'," says Marks, "Still, I find them just right for this naive, quick-paced and boisterous entertainment." Director: Otis Turner Producer: Selig Polyscope Co. Screenplay: Otis Turner, based on the novel by L. Frank Baum Music: Martin Marks Cast: Bebe Daniels (Dorothy), Hobart Bosworth (Wizard of Oz), Robert Z. Leonard (Tin Woodman), Eugenie Besserer (Aunt Em). BW-10m. by Bret Wood

More Treasures from American Film Archives on DVD


Four years ago the National Film Preservation Foundation released a groundbreaking four DVD set of shorts and feature films from long ago. Representing the cream of America's movie archives, this collection of some of the first movies ever made rubbed shoulders with silent features, documentaries, newsreels and even home movies to provide a multi-faceted look at the nation through the 20th Century. Proving that the first scoop did not exhaust the selection, the Foundation has now released its sequel, More Treasures From American Film Archives 1894-1931, with three more DVDs of material, and this one is often more fascinating and enjoyable than the first.

The festival begins with the earliest sound film, fifteen seconds of a man playing a violin into a sound-recording horn while two other men dance inside Edison's "Black Maria" studio way back in 1894. The movies that follow are too numerous to completely describe in the space of this review. What follows are just a few of the highlights.

The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz (1910) is the first surviving movie version of L. Frank Baum's fantasy adventure. There are no songs of course, but all the characters are there, and Toto, too!

The Breath Of A Nation (1919), a cartoon parody of Prohibition the year it went into effect that is also one of the first films directed by Gregory La Cava, later to receive Best Director nominations for My Man Godfrey (1936) and Stage Door (1937).

Children Who Labor (1912), an anti-child-labor movie made by the Edison Company that is as shocking and effective now as it was then and remains a powerful model for future political filmmaking.

Early Color Films includes a segment from the first color fictional film shot at Eastman Kodak's plant in 1916. Color photography has become so associated with the 1950's and later that it is somewhat unsettling to see color footage of a woman in a dress from the 1910's and realize it was not worn as a period costume.

The collection ends with a selection of trailers that are all that exist from famous lost films such as the first movie version of The Great Gatsby (1926), Louise Brooks' first film The American Venus (1926) and the Oscar-winning movie The Patriot (1928).

In addition there are two great features, the Rin-Tin-Tin adventure Clash Of The Wolves (1925) and director Ernst Lubitsch's remarkable silent version of Oscar Wilde's play Lady Windermere's Fan (1925) where Wilde's epigrams are replaced with elegant visual touches.

All of the selections come with extensive liner notes and most add commentary tracks as well. Prints are beautifully presented despite the age and deterioration that almost removed these films from our view and all the silents feature new musical scores. From early talkie recordings of George Bernard Shaw and Calvin Coolidge to Gus Visser and his Singing Duck, More Treasures from American Film Archives provides exactly what its title states, treasures that provide entertainment and astonishment. May many more dips through the archives follow this bounty.

For more information about More Treasures from American Film Archives, visit the National Film Preservation Foundation. To order More Treasures from American Film Archives, go to TCM Shopping.

by Brian Cady

More Treasures from American Film Archives on DVD

Four years ago the National Film Preservation Foundation released a groundbreaking four DVD set of shorts and feature films from long ago. Representing the cream of America's movie archives, this collection of some of the first movies ever made rubbed shoulders with silent features, documentaries, newsreels and even home movies to provide a multi-faceted look at the nation through the 20th Century. Proving that the first scoop did not exhaust the selection, the Foundation has now released its sequel, More Treasures From American Film Archives 1894-1931, with three more DVDs of material, and this one is often more fascinating and enjoyable than the first. The festival begins with the earliest sound film, fifteen seconds of a man playing a violin into a sound-recording horn while two other men dance inside Edison's "Black Maria" studio way back in 1894. The movies that follow are too numerous to completely describe in the space of this review. What follows are just a few of the highlights. The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz (1910) is the first surviving movie version of L. Frank Baum's fantasy adventure. There are no songs of course, but all the characters are there, and Toto, too! The Breath Of A Nation (1919), a cartoon parody of Prohibition the year it went into effect that is also one of the first films directed by Gregory La Cava, later to receive Best Director nominations for My Man Godfrey (1936) and Stage Door (1937). Children Who Labor (1912), an anti-child-labor movie made by the Edison Company that is as shocking and effective now as it was then and remains a powerful model for future political filmmaking. Early Color Films includes a segment from the first color fictional film shot at Eastman Kodak's plant in 1916. Color photography has become so associated with the 1950's and later that it is somewhat unsettling to see color footage of a woman in a dress from the 1910's and realize it was not worn as a period costume. The collection ends with a selection of trailers that are all that exist from famous lost films such as the first movie version of The Great Gatsby (1926), Louise Brooks' first film The American Venus (1926) and the Oscar-winning movie The Patriot (1928). In addition there are two great features, the Rin-Tin-Tin adventure Clash Of The Wolves (1925) and director Ernst Lubitsch's remarkable silent version of Oscar Wilde's play Lady Windermere's Fan (1925) where Wilde's epigrams are replaced with elegant visual touches. All of the selections come with extensive liner notes and most add commentary tracks as well. Prints are beautifully presented despite the age and deterioration that almost removed these films from our view and all the silents feature new musical scores. From early talkie recordings of George Bernard Shaw and Calvin Coolidge to Gus Visser and his Singing Duck, More Treasures from American Film Archives provides exactly what its title states, treasures that provide entertainment and astonishment. May many more dips through the archives follow this bounty. For more information about More Treasures from American Film Archives, visit the National Film Preservation Foundation. To order More Treasures from American Film Archives, go to TCM Shopping. by Brian Cady

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