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Sept 19, 2014 The Legacy of Oz – Part One
[Author’s Note: In honor of next weekend’s annual OZTOBERFEST, centered on the Wamego, Kansas, Oz Museum -- and in response to a request from festival organizers – this week and next week’s blogs will examine the magical, mirthful, and sometimes miraculous impact that The Wonderful World of Oz has manifested on the world’s landscape and populace for more than eleven decades.]
How does one define, explain, or even attempt to summarize the pop culture preeminence of a book that has known epic triumph across one hundred and fourteen years? First published in 1900, L. Frank Baum’s THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ sold well over four million copies in its first fifty-six years in print -- long before our present-day style of media ballyhoo could propel or spur such success. The book then fell out of copyright, which means that (across nearly six subsequent decades) any publisher anywhere has been able to freely reprint, adapt, or abridge Baum’s original text. As a result, the myriad, additional editions of THE WIZARD OF OZ since 1956 would be difficult to list, and their total sales would be impossible to tally.
Yet those awe-inspiring particulars and numbers are but the tip of a massive, ever-growing Ozian iceberg – or, pending one’s point of view, merely the foundation of a constantly expanding continent of popularity and product. It’s commercialism at its peak, to be sure. But better than that, it’s the sorcery of “the first American fairy tale” in limitless sway. It’s also fantasy at its finest. Most of all, it is proof positive of the power of one man’s imagination. The Baum characters, concepts, and colorful locales have happily, ceaselessly permeated and inspired the minds and hearts of human beings everywhere.
That being said, his original book was eventually surpassed as an introduction to Oz by an even more pervasive communicative medium. The famous Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie musical based on his story celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2014, and its appeal and impact are beyond legendary. There’s a long-held claim that THE WIZARD OF OZ film has been seen by more people across the years than any other entertainment in history; this is more-or-less unprovable. But there’s no disputing that it’s the best-known motion picture to date -- and arguably the best-loved of them all. Its quality grew from a coalescence of Hollywood artisans at their finest, and its familiarity was made possible by a combination of twentieth-century technical innovations: more than a half-dozen “formal” theatrical releases between 1939 and 2013, nearly forty national telecasts between 1956 and 1998, multiple cable TV airings since then, and almost thirty-five years of home video accessibility.
There’s further, virtually limitless heritage in the Oz book series. Whether quietly fascinated or passionately devoted, cross-generational readers have delighted in the fact that Baum’s success with THE WIZARD… led him to write thirteen full-length sequels. After his death in 1919, the “Royal Historian’s” Ozzy saga was continued by seven other authors, until (as of 1963) there were forty official Oz titles in all. Even the least promoted of those books now have gone through more than one printing and sold more than ten thousand copies each. Most of the others have achieved ten or twenty times that in sales, and the grand total to date of Oz books in print – whether in English or in diverse foreign languages -- is another inestimable amount.
(to be continued next week)
And a celebratory P.S.! :
One and all are invited and encouraged to participate in the grand events of OZTOBERFEST 2014! Details about the programming and special presentations can be found in the text of the blog for September 12, 2014: JP…AND HIS “FAMILY OF OZ.”
Information is also accessible here on the Oz Museum website or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ozmuseum?ref_type=bookmark
In brief, however, you do NOT want to miss:
• the exciting “launch” of OZTOBERFEST 2014 on Friday, September 26th at 7 p.m. – the one-time-only benefit event, “A NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM”;
• the full range of OZTOBERFEST activities (five different lectures and rare video showings), which take place on Saturday, September 27th; see last week’s blog for specifics and times;
• and the reprise of at least two of those presentations on Sunday, September 28th.
Where Kansas is concerned, of course, Dorothy Gale knew best: There’s no place like home! And there’s no better Ozzy “home” than Oz Museum, during Wamego’s OZTOBERFEST!
Article by John Fricke