Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Royal Podcast of Oz: Melody Grandy and Return to Oz

The Royal Podcast of Oz begins 2014 in a new monthly format! Jay interviews Melody Grandy, author of The Seven Blue Mountains of Oz, and then Movies of Oz continues with Jay and Sam discussing Disney's Return to Oz.

As always, you can listen and download at the podcast site or use the player below.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Current Oz Writings

Well, I'm working on a few Oz stories. Thought you might like to know about them...

First up is A Signal From Oz. This is the follow up to Outsiders from Oz. Xander Philly works one of the dullest jobs ever: filing patents in the Evna Patent Office. But one day, a strange newcomer arrives to register a backlog of patents, which soon turns into whirling away into adventure!

Then there's The Guardians of Oz. A prequel to L. Frank Baum's Oz books gives us a peek at a tumultuous time of Oz history, including how Glinda became the Good Witch of the South and how the Good Witch of the North defeated the Wicked Witch of the North. This might not be book-length, so I'm considering publishing it in a book with "The Way of A Lion" and possibly other short stories telling pre-Dorothy tales of Oz. Sam's already been developing some great artwork for this one.

However, I'm mainly working on a couple short stories right now. First up is a rewrite of my short story "Roselawn," which catches up with the titular characters of Dot and Tot of Merryland in 1919. While the plot is the same, this version is longer, making use of a couple more characters and fleshing out the story a bit more.

Then there's a story for an anthology I was invited  to write for. The working title is "A Royal Family of Oz." Ozma reveals a few things about her past, thanks to the arrival of Tommy Kwikstep in the Emerald City. (And oh, how I've brought him back.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Once an Ozma, Never a Dorothy

This morning, we awoke to the news that Shirley Temple Black had died at the age of 85.

Shirley Temple is best known as a child star, featuring in many films for 20th Century Fox. She began training at Meglin's Dance School in 1931 at the age of three. (Meglin also worked with Judy Garland, and the Meglin Kiddies Troupe starred in the rare 1932 film The Land of Oz. Members of the troupe were in MGM's The Wizard of Oz as Munchkins.) Within a year, she was already featuring in a series of short films and was soon doing bit parts in feature films. In 1934, she was promoted to star for Fox Films, turning out four to three films a years until 1939, when she only turned out two. She released two more films with Fox in 1940—The Blue Bird and Young People—which both flopped, terminating her contract.

After a brief stint at MGM, a film with United Artists, and a few years working for David O. Selznik, Temple retired from films in 1950. She had already married in 1945, divorced in 1949, and was married again at the end of the year.

Temple went to TV in 1958 with Shirley Temple's Storybook, a TV show retelling fairy tales with live action. The show was relaunched in 1960 in color as The Shirley Temple Show, offering a wider variety of shows.

Temple became active in politics, losing some local elections in 1967 and 1969, and then became the U.S. Representative to the U.N. for the last quarter of 1969. She became one of the first major voices for breast cancer in 1973, revealing that she had had a tumor removed the previous year. Temple was appointed United States Ambassador to Ghana by President Gerald R. Ford, serving through December, 1974 to July, 1976. From July 1976 to January, 1977, she was the first female Chief of Protocol of the United States tending to Jimmy Carter's inauguration. Finally, she served as the United States Ambassador to Czechoslovakia from August, 1989 to July, 1992.

What was Temple's connection to Oz, though? Aside from her Meglin connection, like many children of the early 20th century, Temple enjoyed the Oz books. A promotional picture of the young star at her desk revealed all the titles up to The Giant Horse of Oz on her shelf.

Many people believed Temple would be a fine choice to play Dorothy in an Oz film, and it's not hard to see why her childish charm and blonde curls made people think of her as a match to the girl suddenly transported to a fairyland. Oz scribe Ruth Plumly Thompson even thought Temple would be a good choice, saying that if Shirley was cast in an Oz film, photos of her with the Oz books could help promote the series.

But it was not to be. When MGM finally got the rights to Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, producer Mervyn LeRoy decided that the role of Dorothy should be a star-making role for Judy Garland. Listening to popular demand, he briefly thought of seeing if Shirley could be loaned to MGM, but he soon decided that Shirley was not the Dorothy they wanted for their film. (It has become urban legend that Judy was second choice to Shirley Temple, but that's ridiculous when you consider how different their ages were.) Temple was popular for depicting wholesome childish innocence, MGM's Dorothy has her moments of running away from home and defying Miss Gulch, and if the Flying Monkeys carrying Judy away frightened children, imagine how much moreso it would be to see a much younger girl in their grip!

Temple did work with some of the cast of the MGM film: Terry the terrier played Rags in Shirley's first big movie, Bright Eyes. Jack Haley's character pretends that Shirley Temple is his daughter in The Poor Little Rich Girl. Frank Morgan played her grandfather in Dimples. Finally, Buddy Ebsen, MGM's first Tin Man, appeared in Captain January (a film that made me think that perhaps Shirley should actually have played Trot).

In many ways, Fox's The Blue Bird was their response to Oz. The property was a famous stage show featuring a quest with child protagonists, strange settings and characters, and a message that happiness can be found at home. It had been previously adapted for silent film twice (in my opinion, the existing film from 1918 is unsurpassed by any subsequent film version) and would now become a Technicolor fantasy spectacular with a black and white opening.

Temple played Mytyl, who became a discontented little girl living with her poor parents and brother Tytyl. One night, Mytyl and Tytyl are tasked by the Fairy Berylune to find the Blue Bird of Happiness, and led by the spirit of Light and accompanied by their Dog and Cat (who take human form, the villainous cat being played by MGM's almost Wicked Witch Gale Sondergaard), they travel through many lands before realizing the Blue Bird was at home all along. The Oz similarities in the treatment of Mytyl's character and the plot are quite blatant.

During her brief stint at MGM, the idea of a sequel to The Wizard of Oz was thrown around, and Noel Langely even wrote a treatment for The Marvelous Land of Oz that would make Oz a delirium again, but this time for a girl named Tippie who had run away from an orphanage. It was suggested that Shirley take the lead role, but the film never happened.

Among the stories in one of the books released to tie in with Shirley Temple's TV show was an excerpt from The Scarecrow of Oz. But the TV show soon produced another Oz connection with its first color episode: an adaptation of The Marvelous Land of Oz, in which Shirley played Princess Ozma.

The adaptation, though loose and low-budget, was quite well-done, setting up Oz lore in a manner that didn't require viewers to be familiar with the Oz books. The transformation of Ozma to Tip was shown at the beginning, depicting Ozma already on the throne. Jinjur was replaced with Lord Nikidik, and it's not hard to imagine Jonathan Winter's portrayal (and in fact, the entire production) being reinterpreted in color artwork by Dick Martin. You can see the episode for free on Hulu.

Thus, join me in remembering one of our screen Ozmas as she crosses the Shifting Sands.

Monday, February 10, 2014

The Characters of Oz — Aunt Em and Uncle Henry

I've written about Aunt Em and Uncle Henry before in 2009. As that blog still works quite well, I'll take a different approach to this one.
A gentle knock was heard on the door of Aunt Em and Uncle Henry's room in the palace.

"I wonder who that could be?" asked Em, who was comfortably dressed in a night dress and robe.

Henry, dressed in slippers and pajamas (he would have to ask Jellia about getting a night shirt the next day), got up from the love seat and answered the door to find the Wizard of Oz and the Shaggy Man standing in the hall.

"Pardon me," said the Wizard, "but I thought you might like to get a little more acquainted on your first night in Oz."

"Well, come on in," replied Henry.

The two men entered the room and sat down on a couple of chairs. The Shaggy Man had brought a bottle of Gillikin wine and poured a few glasses.

"We didn't get much company in Kansas," admitted Em after a sip. "The last visitor we had was that man from the bank, and it wasn't such a happy visit."

"You're from America, right?" Henry asked the Wizard.

"That's right," the Wizard replied. "Omaha born and bred, until I ran off with the circus. By the way, you can call me Oscar. It's my real name, after all. I could go on with my whole name, but it's late."

"I just go by Shaggy," added the Shaggy Man.

"Well," said Uncle Henry, "my name is Henry Carpenter, and my sister Matilda was Dorothy's mother."

"I'm sure she was a delightful sister," commented Oscar.

"Oh, she was such a dear," said Em. "A little wistful, I'd say, but very much a dear."

"She was a dreamer," Henry replied. "I thought Dorothy was, with all her tales about the Land of Oz, but now I see she really wasn't."

"It certainly is a delightful place," the Shaggy Man said. "I'm sure you'll grow to love it."

"I hope so," Em said.

"How did you two meet?" asked Oscar.

"Oh, dear," chuckled Em. "My family had just moved in near Henry's family's farm, and he came home from the war between the states, and decided to pay his new neighbors a visit."

"What's so funny about it?" the Shaggy Man wondered.

"Well," Henry grinned, sipping from his glass, "Emily was the prettiest girl I'd ever seen. I thought she was their maid!"

"We started courting and then we got engaged," Em added. "Then we got married and spent our honeymoon at the Topeka Hotel!"

"Yes," Henry added. "I'd come down with scarlet fever, and she would come by and check on me every day. After the doctor said I'd recovered, I offered to make her go from Emily Marie Stanton—"

"—to Emily Marie Carpenter!" finished Em. "After the honeymoon, we stayed with our folks until the Spring when we loaded up a wagon and built our little house on the Kansas prairie to start our farm."

"Did you have any children?" asked the Shaggy Man. "I heard Dorothy had a cousin."

"I think you mean Zeb, her second cousin," commented Henry. "No, we never had any children. We almost did, though."

Em suddenly looked a little sad and uncomfortable.

"I'm sorry," said Oscar. "We didn't mean to pry."

"I was pregnant once," explained Em, "but I lost the baby."

"Well," interjected the Shaggy Man, attempting to change the subject, "how did Dorothy come to live with you?"

"Matilda married almost thirteen years after Em and I did!" explained Uncle Henry. "She was my sister. Married a fine chap named Charles Gale. About a year later, Dorothy was born."

"Charles was a military man," Em added. "He and Matilda and Dorothy lived in town, but when he had to be away for awhile, Matilda and Dorothy would often come out to the farm and live with us."

"What happened to Charles?" asked Oscar, curiously.

"He died while in service," Henry answered. "Quite honorably, I must say."

"That was how Dorothy lost her father," Em replied. "We tried to help Matilda stay strong, and she tried, but before long, she'd gone too."

There was a moment of sad silence in the room.

"There was no question about who should take in Dorothy," Henry continued. "She'd already learned to love us, and even though she'd lost her parents, she was still such a merry thing. Quite a wonder."

"No," interrupted Em. "Dorothy was very sad for quite some time after Matilda died. Lucky for us, a friend gave her a puppy to play with."

"Toto?" asked Oscar.

Em nodded.

"It gave me such a start to hear her laugh when she first got him," Em remembered. "And that's really most of our story. A few years later, the cyclone blew away our old house with Dorothy and Toto inside."

"That was when I realized how much Dorothy meant to me," remarked Henry. "I stayed quiet and somber for years, feeling much worse over Dorothy's losses than she was herself. But it took losing her and getting her back again to make me realize how much we really cared for each other."

"And then your health broke down," Em said. "That was when we had to get another mortgage so we could send you and Dorothy to Australia so you could get better again."

"And as we know now," Oscar commented, "Dorothy visited Oz twice during that trip."

"And then she disappeared again during last August!" Em exclaimed. "That girl has had such a knack for slipping away and then coming back with the most outlandish tales. But as outlandish as they might have been, they were true!"

"So they were," commented the Shaggy Man, standing and collecting the bottle and the now empty glasses.

"Well, you're part of the Land of Oz now," said Oscar, likewise standing. "And you're among friends. I'm very glad Ozma brought you to live with us."

"I'm glad as well, though we're still getting used to things," admitted Henry. "Still, in a land like this, I'm sure our best years are yet to come!"

Monday, February 03, 2014

The Characters of Oz — Ozma's guests

So Dorothy and her friends had arrived in Oz in time for Ozma's grand birthday party. Now having established herself as ruler of Oz and having the Wizard as her aide, Ozma was ready to show off her kingdom to outside nobility.

Many readers spot curious faces and names in the list of Ozma's guests, but anyone who had been avidly reading Baum's output since 1900 was rewarded in The Road to Oz: they are all characters from his other works!

First was John Dough, the gingerbread king of Hiland and Loland. Accompanying him is Chick the Cherub, the androgynous Head Booleywag, and Para Bruin, the Rubber Bear.

John and Chick were the title characters of Baum's 1906 novel John Dough and the Cherub. John was made to display in a bakery store window, but a magic elixir got mixed into his dough and brought him to life. Fleeing on a Fourth of July rocket, John wound up on the Isle of Phreex where he met Chick, the Incubator Baby. Needing to flee, the two eventually wound up on Mifket Island, where they made new friends in Pittypat the Rabbit, Jacqueline the Island Princess and her parents, the King of the Fairy Beavers, and Para Bruin, a bear made of Para rubber, able to bounce from high places.

However, John's arrival spurred the nasty actions of the cruel little Mifkets. Jacqueline and her family soon fled the island, and the King of the Fairy Beavers helped John, Chick and Para leave as well, and they soon wound up on the island containing the twin nations of Hiland (populated by tall, thin people) and Loland (populated by short, rotund people), where an agreement between the nations allowed John to become the King.

Chick's gender was curiously left a mystery. A publicity article for the book claims that the editors noted it to Baum after he dropped off the manuscript, and he said the readers would decide if the Cherub was a boy or girl. As this was to lead in for a write-in contest where readers would decide Chick's gender, I'm a little suspect of it being truthful. Word has it the contest ended in a tie. On the other hand, the fact that Chick's gender isn't specified could be seen as a huge step to dissolving gender-based barriers in Baum's fantasy world.

The next guest to be announced at Ozma's party is none other than Santa Claus himself, accompanied by Ryls and Knooks from the Forest of Burzee. This is, of course, the same version of Claus from The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus and the short story "A Kidnapped Santa Claus."

Claus was adopted by the Immortals of the Forest of Burzee, and raised as an innocent man, unaware of the hardships of humanity. When finally shown other mortal humans, he decided to dedicate his life to easing their hardship, by making children happy. This soon led to his inventing toys and eventually, his Christmas Eve deliveries with a reindeer-drawn sleigh. When he was about to die, he was granted the Mantle of Immortality to indefinitely continue his work.

Then next is the Queen of Merryland and the Candy Man, who had previously appeared in Dot and Tot of Merryland.

The Candy Man was the man who befriended Dot and Tot as they sailed through his second valley of Merryland, explaining that his flesh is rather like marshmallow. (Dorothy notes that one of his thumbs appears to have been bitten off by someone very fond of candy. It was Tot.) To keep himself from sticking, he liberally dusts himself with powdered sugar. As long as he doesn't get eaten, he's quite cordial. (Disturbingly, he mentions that if someone is too badly damaged in his country and are beyond repair, they may be eaten.)

The Queen is a large wax doll who rules Merryland with her fairy wand and thinking machine. A running plotline in the book was that the Queen forgot to tell Dot and Tot her name. At the end of the book, Tot realizes it must be Dolly. A little disturbingly, the Queen of Merryland can choose when her the dolls in her Valley will have motion and when they won't.

The Royal Family of Ev arrived next, soon followed by the Braided Man of Pyramid Mountain, who Dorothy had met in Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz. One might wonder if the Braided Man moved away permanently since he seems to be able to get away. (According to some non-Famous Forty Oz books, yes he did.)

Also arriving was King Dox of Foxville, who had befriended Dorothy on her journey to Ozma's party and had actually informed her of it. Despite him giving Button-Bright a fox's head, Dorothy rewarded him by asking Ozma to invite him. He had several fox children, and also had the private name Renard IV.

Queen Zixi of Ix by Neill
Next was a triple royalty arrival: King Bud of Noland, his sister Princess Fluff and Queen Zixi of Ix, all from Baum's 1905 book Queen Zixi of Ix.

Fluff is actually Bud's older sister, but thanks to some luck and a magic cloak, Bud was named the new King of Noland when he arrived in the city of Nole with his sister and Aunt Rivette. The cloak would grant wishes, and after a few mishaps with it, the cloak became famous and attracted the attention of Queen Zixi of the neighboring country of Ix. Zixi set about to steal it, and after trying trickery and open war, finally got the cloak through disguise and making a duplicate cloak. However, she didn't know the cloak wouldn't work for anyone who had stolen it, so she left it by a river.

Zixi wanted the cloak because she was an ancient witch and had to mask her natural ugliness with her magic which would not be reflected in a mirror. However, when Bud and Fluff were forced to flee to her kingdom, Zixi confessed her crime, helped them find the cloak and rescue Noland from invaders. Thus, the three became good friends, though Zixi was never able to make her wish.
Bud, Fluff and Zixi by Fredric Richardson

While Dorothy didn't receive them, she noted that further guests included King Kika-bray of Dunkiton (who had given the Shaggy Man a donkey's head when Dorothy visited his town), Johnny Dooit (a quick working man the Shaggy Man summoned with the Love Magnet to make a sandboat that carried Dorothy over the desert), and the Good Witch of the North.

Baum would later introduce more countries seemingly snubbed by not being invited: King Rinkitink of Gilgad, the rulers of Boboland, and of course Thompson would introduce a multitude of new kingdoms and sub-kingdoms. But of course since they hadn't been introduced yet, they wouldn't be mentioned in the book. John R. Neill himself added the Queen of the Field Mice to Ozma's party by placing her on the table at Ozma's banquet.

To me, the biggest snub was that there was no delegation from the Valley of Mo. The Monarch of Mo likely would gladly attend the festivities with his queen and their children and likely the Wise Donkey. But Baum doesn't mention them. So they weren't there? Or were they? The Wise Donkey of Mo appears in The Patchwork Girl of Oz, mentioning he's been cut off from returning to Mo after visiting Oz on the day it was made invisible to outside world. Could it be that this delegation had attended Ozma's party and the Wise Donkey planned a second visit?

I brought the Monarch of Mo into my book Outsiders from Oz and briefly considered him mentioning that he hadn't been invited to attend Ozma's grand party. But since Outsiders certainly takes place a long time after The Road to Oz, I decided that the Monarch would be very friendly to Ozma, who actually at one point questions her diplomatic relations with Mo. (This is the scene in which she questions where she'll go for help.)

But what do you think? Were there more guests at Ozma's party than even Mr. Baum could describe?