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Archive for Sunday, March 3, 2013

Oz over the years

March 3, 2013

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1939’s “The Wizard of Oz” may be the most famous film in “Oz” history, but it wasn’t the first.

1939’s “The Wizard of Oz” may be the most famous film in “Oz” history, but it wasn’t the first.

The highly successful stage musical “Wicked” is a prequel to “Wizard of Oz” based on a 1995 novel. A film version is currently in the works.

The highly successful stage musical “Wicked” is a prequel to “Wizard of Oz” based on a 1995 novel. A film version is currently in the works.

A look at some of the forms (successful and not so much) “The Wizard of Oz” has taken over the years:

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” — The credits to this 1910 silent short film, the earliest surviving “Oz” movie, are lost. It is known that this short film and at least three sequels were made by the Selig Polyscope Company before it closed its doors in 1918.

“The Wizard of Oz” — This 1925 full-length silent film adaptation bears little resemblance to Baum’s novel, creating completely new characters and adventures. It is probably best known for starring a young Oliver Hardy (of Laurel and Hardy fame) as the Tin Man, who, remarkably in this version, is a villain!

“Journey Back to Oz” — Using Baum’s second ‘Oz’ book “The Marvelous Land of Oz” as its source material, this 1972 animated feature (not shown in the U.S. until 1974) was billed as a sequel to the 1939 MGM classic. Liza Minnelli voices Dorothy— the role that her mother, Judy Garland, made famous — while Paul Lynde voices Pumpkinhead, Mickey Rooney is the Scarecrow, and Milton Berle is the Cowardly Lion. When the film aired on ABC in 1976, live-action segments featuring Bill Cosby as the Wizard were added.

“The Wiz” — Sidney Lumet was known for hard-hitting dramas like “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Network,” but he turned his attention toward this Broadway musical adaptation in 1978. Diana Ross plays a shy Harlem teacher named Dorothy who gets transported to a Land of Oz that looks a lot like New York City, and she dances with a Scarecrow made of garbage (Michael Jackson). Joel Schumacher (who would later ruin the Batman movies) reworked the musical for the film’s screenplay, while Quincy Jones supervised the music and added some new songs. “The Wiz” was the most expensive film musical ever made, and it was a critical and commercial flop.

“Wicked” — Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West” revised the legend of Oz from the untold perspectives of the witches themselves and became a parallel fantasy best-seller. Composer Stephen Schwartz and librettist Winnie Holzman adapted this adult re-imagining as a hit Broadway musical in 2003, winning three Tonys and a Grammy for its cast album. The original production is still running today, and a film adaptation is currently in the works.

“The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz” — This 2005 TV movie starred Ashanti as Dorothy, a singer with dreams of escaping her Kansas trailer park, and Queen Latifah as Aunt Em. A tornado sweeps her up into the Land of Oz and she befriends Kermit, Gonzo, and Fozzie along the way, in the guise of the Scarecrow, the Tin Thing, and Cowardly Lion, respectively. An extended version features a bizarre cameo by Quentin Tarantino, where the director discusses violent ways in which Dorothy can defeat wicked witch Miss Piggy.

“Tin Man” — Back in 2007 when it was still called the SciFi network, a three-part miniseries starring Zooey Deschanel as DG (Dorothy) and Alan Cumming as Glitch (the Scarecrow) was the top-rated show in the cable channel’s history. Critics were mixed on the revisionist miniseries, which added modern elements of science fiction and a steampunk sensibility to the story.

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