Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Wizard of Oz: The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History

I haven't really done a lot of reading up on MGM's classic adaptation of L. Frank Baum's famous Oz book, but this year, I've finally rescinded and picked up a few books about the making of the movie.

This is one of the big ones, and one I think I would have enjoyed as a child due to how heavily illustrated it is.

The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History details the origins of The Wizard of Oz story briefly but details the making of the film much more. It actually shows the covers of all of the Famous Forty Oz books and then some (Who's Who in Oz, the Reilly & Lee Visitors from Oz, Yankee in Oz, The Enchanted Island of Oz, The Forbidden Fountain of Oz and Dick Martin's The Ozmapolitan of Oz).

The section on pre-production of the movie proved very fascinating, with the different adaptation concepts nicely detailed. (At one point, none of Dorothy's friends were going to be actually a Scarecrow, Tin Man or Lion, but only people who thought they were brainless and heartless, and a man who'd been transformed into a lion.) Even some pages from abandoned screenplay drafts are included, making me wish some of them would be published in their entirety. Although modern critics sometimes say that the MGM film is nothing like the book, surprisingly, a lot of what it got right was simply stepping back to the source material.

The casting is detailed along with the long, arduous production schedule that went through several directors, a complete scrapping of filmed footage, and the studio almost shutting down the production due to high costs.

Finally, the premiere and re-releases and TV airings are discussed, as well as noting the passing of the principal cast.

Other books have been produced about the making of the film since (Stillman and Scarfone even produced a book dedicated mainly to the design of the production and are coming out with a new book at the end of the month), but this one is an easily readable one if not fully comprehensive. Although out of print, used copies in paperback and hardcover (mine is an ex-library with minimal markings) can be found easily and inexpensively.


Eric said...

And I'm thanked in it (I still don't know why). This one is probably the best overall book about the making of The Movie, and I second your recommendation. If you haven't already tracked down a copy, however, also get The Making of The Wizard of Oz by Aljean Harmetz, as she goes into a lot more detail about not only the actual making of The Movie, but also what it meant to work at MGM at the time.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jared! Hi, Eric! It's so funny how my Oz thoughts/activities this week have been in sync with this blog. I'm out of town right now and brought with me to read the Harmetz book. It's very interesting! Tons of details of the production and how the movie industry used to work back then. And since I was so into all those topics while reading I was counting the days to be back home and grab my 50th Anniversary book to read. I checked the blog last night and found you both talking about both books. :) By the way, a 75th Anniversary version is coming out in a few weeks, right? I believe it's the same author(s), but don't quote me on that. Are you buying it? I wonder how different it will be from the 50th Anniversary edition...
Have a good one! As always, thank you very much for always sharing all your huge OZ knowledge.

Jared said...

It's titled "The 75th Anniversary Companion," and seems to contain different content. I'm sure some of the same ground will be covered, but it appears to be a different book entirely.