The Wizard of Oz —1925 Version

Dates: 
March 15, 2014
Times: 
Saturday, 1 p.m.
Location: 
Farnsworth auditorium

Wizard of Oz is a 1925 American silent film directed by Larry Semon, who also appears in a lead role—that of a farmhand disguised as a Scarecrow. The only completed 1920s adaptation of L. Frank Baum's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this film features a young Oliver Hardy (the American comic actor who would later become famous as one half of Laurel and Hardy), (as the Tin Woodman.)

A Toymaker tells a bizarre story about how the Land of Oz was ruled by Prince Kynd, but he was overthrown by Prime Minister Kruel. Dorothy learns from Aunt Em that fat, cruel Uncle Henry is not her uncle, and gives her a note due on her eighteenth birthday, which reveals she is actually Princess Dorothea of Oz, and is supposed to marry Prince Kynd. She, Uncle Henry , and two farmhands are swept to Oz by a tornado. Snowball, a black farmhand soon joins them after a lightning bolt chases him into the sky. They land in Oz, where the farmhands try to avoid capture. Semon becomes a scarecrow, Hardy briefly disguises himself as a Tin Woodman, and Snowball is given a Lion suit by the Wizard, which he uses to scare the Pumperdink guards.

The film departs radically from the novel upon which it is based, introducing new characters and exploits. Along with a completely different plot, the film is all set in a world that is only barely recognizable as the Land of Oz from the books. The film focuses mainly upon Semon's character, who is analogous to Ray Bolger's Scarecrow character in the 1939 version. The major departure from the book and film is that the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion are not actually characters, but are in fact disguises donned by three farm hands who find themselves swept into Oz by a tornado. Dorothy is here played by Dorothy Dwan — Semon's wife. Her version of the character is a young, seductive woman who has just turned 18 and who finds herself in the middle of a love triangle between Semon and Hardy. In a drastic departure from the original book, the "Tin Man" is a villain in this version, as Hardy's jealousy over Dorothy leads him to become the henchman for the evil Prime Minister Kruel. Semon vies unsuccessfully for Dorothy's love, losing at first to the farmhand played by Hardy, and then to Prince Kynd.

"L. Frank Baum, Jr." is top-billed with the writing of the script. This is Frank Joslyn Baum, Baum's eldest son, and although his actual contribution to the screenplay is doubted by Baum scholar Michael Patrick Hearn, he was certainly involved in the business angle of the production.
(running time: 96 minutes)

The 1900 novel by L. Frank Baum The Wonderful Wizard of Oz has been adapted into several different works, the most famous being the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, starring Judy Garland.  Join us over several Saturday afternoons this winter, when we’ll be screening the more infamous and perhaps less critically well-received adaptions of The Wizard of Oz. See for yourself how these adaptations stack up against the classic. All will be shown in the Farnsworth auditorium and are free with museum admission. (Please note, none are recommended for young children.)

 
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