Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion

And the celebration of the 75th anniversary of MGM's The Wizard of Oz has brought another book from Jay Scarfone and William Stillman. And covering the production of the movie in The Official 50th Anniversary Pictorial History and the production design in The Wizardry of Oz, what's left to cover?

Surprisingly, The Official 75th Anniversary Companion still manages to bring new material to readers. The three books form a rather comprehensive trilogy about the making of the film, and there are still other aspects that Stillman and Scarfone haven't touched on. (Aljean Harmetz's The Making of the Wizard of Oz—yet to be covered on the blog—covered a lot of the studio head's work, and John Fricke's book for the Rhino soundtrack album covered the music. Both of these aspects are not highly covered in the Scarfone/Stillman books.)

The book endeavors to bring a number of previously unseen or rarely seen images from the production of the film. There are several that I haven't seen before, while there are still some pictures that will be familiar to those who have read up on the film.

The book is broken into several segments. First and foremost is Baum, then Samuel Goldwyn's attempts to bring Oz to screen before he sold the property to MGM. Stillman and Scarfone tell of a rarely known friendship between Walt Disney and Mervyn LeRoy. (Including that during the many rewrites of the script, Disney loaned MGM a print of Snow White for them to get a better idea of what kind of a story they were going for.)

Sections cover each of the main cast, then the peculiar peoples of Oz, using rarely seen photos to show some of the development of the character's look. Then a summary of the production of the film, how Thorpe began (including the only color photo of Judy Garland in her blonde "Lolita Gale" wig) and Fleming took over after Cukor did some revisions. What exactly the cast did in between shots is also covered, turning up new material.

Then special effects and the design of the film are covered, including some revisions to what we'd thought we'd known about how they created the cyclone and the Horse of A Different Color. Then, the release of the film and its re-releases, and debut on television and legacy. On each topic, the authors dig up some new information.

In the back of the book, there's a silver-colored envelope containing a number of paper memorabilia, some newly designed, some recreated from 1939 items. There's a bookmark, a lobby card, two posters, a booklet of reduced size lobby cards, the death certificate of the Wicked Witch of the East, certificates from the Wizard for Dorothy's friends, a cardboard frame that shows your choice of several paper photos of the Oz characters, and a large mock newspaper clipping from the fictional Oz Herald. It almost feels like the recent Collector's Box set of the film intentionally left any 1939 replicas out just for this book. (Which, remember, it does have two advertisements for.)

Overall, though, the book doesn't really need the bonus memorabilia. The rare photos and new information in the book are worth the price of the book alone. Well done to Stillman and Scarfone!

1 comment:

Mike said...

Glad to read your review of this, Jared. I have been going back and forth about getting one, but, as the MGM movie was my intro to Oz (though I moved very quickly onto Baum's 14 books), sounds like it is worth picking up. Thanks!