Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Making of the Wizard of Oz

There is one book consistently referred to by fans of the MGM film: Aljean Harmetz's The Making of the Wizard of Oz. Aljean managed to interview some of the actors and many members of the crew as well as extras in the mid to late 70s.

One thing to know about the book is that as new information has arisen, the book has been revised several times over the years, including for the 50th and 60th anniversaries of the film. Most recently, it was reissued last year, newly revised for the 75th anniversary. For this review, I read that edition.

My father once checked the library's rebound copy of the 50th anniversary edition, which I remember enjoying looking over. When I got back into reading the Oz books, I checked it out again and gave it minor skimming, barely picking up any information. (Or maybe I remember it poorly as I began my research on the original Oz books about the same time and focused on that.)

When I heard Aljean would be at the 2014 Winkie Convention, I knew I needed to get a copy, but I wound up buying it then, letting her know I'd enjoyed a previous edition as a child, but had focused more on the illustrations. (I'd actually bought a copy of the 50th anniversary edition, but had held off reading it when I heard a new edition was being put out.) This time, I feel I finally gave Aljean's text its well-earned reading.

I have read over the production of the film before and even wrote a couple pieces about it, so if you're already familiar with that, you probably won't find stunning new revelations, particularly since many resources on the film use this book for reference. What you will find is further detail about the creation of the film. Even by the time the book was first published in 1977, movie studios had changed their mode of operation from what they were in 1939 and Aljean discusses that.

Unlike some other resources, Aljean also looks into the major players in the film, from the main cast to the directors and writers. She tells more about their lives and backgrounds, so you can understand what each one would be bringing to their role in the film. Furthermore, she discusses what was going on at MGM as the film was being made and what kind of place it was.

The book has been updated, however, in this edition, it becomes clear where the new additions are. Instead of resetting the text of the entire book (which seems odd as a Kindle edition was released simultaneously), the pages are altered with new type when there's something new to insert. Personally, I would have preferred the text to be newly set so it would have a uniform appearance, but otherwise, it's just fine.

I'd recommend getting this book in this edition if you want to read up on the MGM film. (And for more recommendations, check the "MGM's The Wizard of Oz" tag.)

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