His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz
|His Majesty, The Scarecrow of Oz|
|Directed by||J. Farrell MacDonald|
|Produced by||L. Frank Baum
Louis F. Gottschalk
|Written by||L. Frank Baum|
J. Charles Haydon
|Music by||Louis F. Gottschalk|
|Cinematography||James A. Crosby|
|Distributed by||The Oz Film Manufacturing Company|
|October 14, 1914|
|59 minutes (5 reels)|
His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz is a 1914 film, directed by J. Farrell MacDonald and written and produced by L. Frank Baum. It stars Violet MacMillan, Frank Moore, Vivian Reed, Todd Wright, Pierre Couderc, and Fred Woodward.
The film had a troubled distribution history; it opened on October 14, 1914, to little success, though it was received as well above average fare by critics of the time. Early in 1915, it was reissued under the title The New Wizard of Oz and was slightly more successful.
The film is loosely based on Baum's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but in the screenplay Baum introduced many new characters and a large new story that later became the basis for the 1915 book The Scarecrow of Oz. Similar to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow's origin is revealed, although his life is now attributed to "the Spirit of the Corn", who appears as a conventional Hollywood depiction of a Native American. The Tin Woodman is found rusted stiff and oiled, but he is already Emperor of the Winkies. Dorothy is a slave to Mombi (Wells) who looks like W.W. Denslow's depiction of the Wicked Witch of the West. The Cowardly Lion is encountered only briefly, and battles The Lonesome Zoop, a character who appears in all three films. All of the animal roles are attributed to Fred Woodward, though too many appear in the same shot at once for him to have played them all.
King Krewl (Raymond Russell) is a cruel dictator in the Emerald City. He wishes to marry his daughter, Princess Gloria (Vivian Reed) to a buffoonish pantaloon of an old courtier named Googly-Goo (Arthur Smollett), but she is in love with Pon, the Gardener's boy (Todd Wright). Krewl employs Mombi (Mai Wells) to freeze the heart of Gloria so she will not love Pon any longer. This she does by pulling out her heart (which looks somewhere between a valentine and a bland representation of a heart without any vessels) and coating it with ice. Dorothy (Violet MacMillan) runs away with the now heartless Gloria, accompanied by Pon and eventually the Scarecrow (Frank Moore). Mombi catches up with the travelers and removes the Scarecrow's stuffing, but Dorothy and Pon are able to re-stuff him; Gloria wanders off.
In an effective use of deep focus photography, they meet the lost little boy, Button-Bright (Mildred Harris). The party next arrive at the Tin Castle of the Tin Woodman (Pierre Couderc), who has rusted solid. (The Tin Woodman resides in a Tin Castle in later Oz novels, beginning in The Emerald City of Oz.) Mombi reaches the Tin Castle, and the Tin Woodman chops off her head; however, this merely slows her down as she hunts for it and places it back on. (The Wicked Witch of the East in The Tin Woodman of Oz is later described as having done a similar thing to him when he was still human.) Having replaced her head, Mombi encounters Pon and turns him into a kangaroo.
Dorothy, Button-Bright, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman escape from Mombi by crossing a river on a raft. As in the original novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Scarecrow's barge-pole gets stuck in the river bed and leaves him stranded, until he is rescued by a bird. At one point in this sequence, the Scarecrow slides down the pole into the river, resulting a brief "underwater" sequence featuring puppet fish and a mermaid; throughout, the Scarecrow makes asides to the camera, mostly without intertitles. (At another point, the frozen Gloria even makes a malevolent stare directly into the camera.)
The party encounter the Wizard (J. Charles Haydon), who tricks Mombi by letting the group hide in the Red Wagon, pulled by the sawhorse; when Mombi attempts to follow them, the group escape out the back of the wagon. The four companions meet the Cowardly Lion, who joins them. The Wizard traps Mombi in a container of "Preserved Sandwitches" and paints out the "sand" and the plural, carrying her away in his pocket. The Scarecrow, taking a barrage of arrows, tosses Krewl's soldiers over the battlements to deal with the Cowardly Lion, who cannot climb the rope ladder over the city wall. With the support of the people, the Scarecrow is easily able to depose King Krewl. The Wizard releases Mombi, and compels her to restore Pon to his normal form and unfreeze Gloria's heart.
The opening reel was lost for many years. While it was eventually recovered, it did not contain the opening titles; Dick Martin's titles, designed in the 1960s, continued to be used, which falsely stated that Baum was the director of the film, misspelled Mai Wells' name, and left out Smollett's credit entirely.
The film is currently in need of restoration, including framing and colour correction. Video prints are notoriously bright, particularly for Mombi's decapitation sequence. The framing may no longer be correctable, because the area used for the soundtrack in contemporary films was part of the picture area at the time, though it is a noticeable defect in contemporary presentations of the film. Prints that have not been re-struck in this cropping manner may no longer exist.
- see reviews collected from various trade papers in The Baum Bugle Winter 2006
- His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz at the Internet Movie Database
- His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz is available for free download at the Internet Archive