Wizard of Oz (1925 film)

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Wizard of Oz
Wizard of Oz FilmPoster.jpeg
Directed by Larry Semon
Produced by Larry Semon
Written by Larry Semon
L. Frank Baum, Jr.
Based on The Wonderful Wizard of Oz 
by L. Frank Baum
Starring Larry Semon
Bryant Washburn
Dorothy Dwan
Virginia Pearson
Oliver Hardy
Charles Murray
Cinematography Frank B. Good
H.F. Koenekamp
Leonard Smith
Editing by Sam S. Zimbalist
Distributed by Chadwick Pictures Corporation
Laurel and Hardy (re-releases)
Release dates
  • April 13, 1925 (1925-04-13)
Running time 93 minutes
Country United States
Language Silent film
English intertitles

Wizard of Oz is a 1925 American silent film directed by Larry Semon, who also appears in a lead role—that of a farmhand disguised as a Scarecrow. The only completed 1920s adaptation of L. Frank Baum's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, this film features a young Oliver Hardy as the Tin Woodman. "L. Frank Baum, Jr." is top-billed with the writing of the script. This is Frank Joslyn Baum, Baum's eldest son, and although his actual contribution to the screenplay is doubted by Baum scholar Michael Patrick Hearn, he was certainly involved in the business angle of the production.

Plot[edit]

A toymaker (Semon) makes a Scarecrow doll for his granddaughter. He tells her about how the Land of Oz was ruled by Prime Minister Kruel (Josef Swickard), after the baby princess of Oz was mysteriously snatched away from her crib. Kruel's despotic rule is aided by the manipulative Ambassador Wikked (Otto Lederer), who is the originator of many of Kruel's ideas; the aide Lady Vishuss (Virginia Pearson); and the Wizard (Charles Murray), who knows only parlor tricks and not any actual magic, such as getting a female impersonator (Frederick Ko Vert) out of a basket in an exotic and seductive way. The people have begun to revolt and their leader, Prince Kynd (Bryant Washburn), demands the return of the princess so she can be crowned. Kruel sends Ambassador Wikked on a mission to prevent this from happening.

Meanwhile, in Kansas, Dorothy lives on a farm with her relatives. While Aunt Em (Mary Carr) is a kind and caring woman, Uncle Henry (Frank Alexander) is a cruel, obese man who constantly yells and berates Dorothy. He also abuses his farmhands Snowball (credited to G. Howe Black, a stage name for Spencer Bell, who frequently appeared in Semon's films), Hardy, and Semon when he feels they are not doing their work. Hardy and Semon are both in love with Dorothy, who toys with them but doesn't commit to either of them, driving them both crazy with her indecision. After a particularly grueling day on the farm, Aunt Em reveals to Dorothy that they are not her birth relatives and that she was found on their doorstep with an envelope, instructing that it only be opened when she turned eighteen.

When her birthday comes, however, Wikked and his minions come to the farm, demanding that the envelope be given to them unopened. It turns out that the note inside is in fact a royal decree which reveals Dorothy to be the long-lost Princess Dorothea of Oz. As long as she never reads the decree, she cannot legally become the queen according to the laws of Oz. Uncle Henry refuses to hand the envelope over, and so Wikked takes Dorothy hostage, threatening to kill her, and orders the entire farm to be searched. While doing so, Wikked finds out that Hardy is in love with Dorothy, and promises wealth and her love if he gets the note to him first. Tempted by the riches given to him by Wikked, he readily agrees and manages to find the note. Before he can give it to him, he is ambushed by Semon, who takes it back and saves Dorothy.

As Hardy and Wikked chase Semon, a tornado suddenly forms, sucking everybody in and forcing Dorothy to take shelter in the farmhouse. It is blown towards the entrance to Oz, smashing into pieces upon hitting the ground. Semon then gives the envelope to her who promptly reads the decree; by the time Kruel and Kynd come out to intercept her, she has already finished reading it. Thwarted, Kruel and Wikked proceed to blame the farmhands for kidnapping her and order the Wizard to change them into monkeys, which he is unable to do. Semon and Hardy try to help him out by disguising themselves as the Scarecrow and the Tin Man respectively but the disguises are soon seen through and they are promptly arrested. During their trial, Hardy betrays his fellow farmhands and accuses them of kidnapping Dorothy, and Kynd sentences them to imprisonment.

With Hardy now aiding him, Kruel is free to continue ruling as a dictator, using Dorothy and Kynd as his puppets. He allows Dorothy to give Hardy and Uncle Henry high positions in the army (Knight of the Garter and Prince of Whales) while also plotting to keep her from knowing his schemes. He eventually decides, with Wikked's persuasion, to cement his power by marrying her, and also forces Semon and Snowball to work in his underground prisons. The Wizard helps them escape by giving Snowball a Lion costume, which he uses to scare off the guards. Though Semon manages to reach Dorothy to warn her that she was being used, he's chased back down into the dungeons by Hardy, and ends up getting trapped inside a lion cage for a considerable amount of time. He and Snowball eventually escape, and Semon gets to Dorothy's room in time to save her and Kynd from Kruel's treachery. Cornered by Semon and Kynd, he admits that he was the one who had kidnapped Dorothy as a baby and took her to Kansas, in order to keep her from court factions that meant to do her harm.

After Kruel is taken away, Semon attempts to tell Dorothy how he feels about her, only to find that she has fallen in love with Prince Kynd and intends to marry him and rule Oz. Heartbroken, Semon is then chased by Wikked and Hardy's men, who attempt to blast him with cannon balls. Snowball flies a plane over and grabs him before he can be hit, but the ladder breaks, and he falls. Outside of the story, the granddaughter's Scarecrow doll falls off of a chair, implying that the Scarecrow in the story may have died from the fall. This wakes her up, and she is comforted by the toymaker and bidden to go back to sleep. He then secretly reads the last page of the book, which shows that Prince Kynd and Dorothy lived happily ever after in Oz. Given that he created dolls that were the exact likeness of several of the characters in the story, the implication is that he is actually Semon's character.

Cast[edit]

The names of William Hauber and William Dinus appear in the cast list at the beginning of the film but the characters they play are not given; possible roles for them include farmhands, guards, Oz citizens, and Wikked's henchmen. It is also thought that Chester Conklin and Wanda Hawley made minor appearances in the film, but their names do not appear in the credits.

Production history[edit]

The film departs radically from the novel upon which it is based, introducing new characters and exploits. Along with a completely different plot, the film is all set in a world that is only barely recognizable as the Land of Oz from the books. The film focuses mainly upon Semon's character, who is analogous to Ray Bolger's Scarecrow character in the 1939 version.

The major departure from the book and film is that the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Lion are not actually characters, but are in fact disguises donned by three farm hands who find themselves swept into Oz by a tornado. Dorothy is here played by Dorothy Dwan — Semon's wife. Her version of the character is a young, seductive woman who has just turned 18 and who finds herself in the middle of a love triangle between Semon and Hardy. In a drastic departure from the original book, the "Tin Man" is a villain in this version, as Hardy's jealousy over Dorothy leads him to become the henchman for the evil Prime Minister Kruel. Semon vies unsuccessfully for Dorothy's love, losing at first to the farmhand played by Hardy, and then to Prince Kynd.

Some elements of the narrative have their roots in earlier adaptations of The Wizard of Oz. For example, Prime Minister Kruel has a predecessor in King Krewl, the antagonist of His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz. The note explaining Princess Dorothea's true heritage is signed "Pastoria", a name used for the exiled King of Oz in the 1902 stage version of The Wizard of Oz and for the father of Princess Ozma in The Marvelous Land of Oz and later Oz books.

Distribution[edit]

Many theaters that had originally booked this film never received it because its production caused Chadwick Pictures to go bankrupt, and distribution ceased long before it was intended to.

Home media[edit]

The film is in the public domain,[1] and many home media releases of the film, including Betamax, VHS, Laserdisc, CED, DVD, HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc, are available.

The film is also included in all of the home media releases of the The Wizard of Oz along with earlier silent films based on the Oz stories, beginning with the 2005 3-disc Collector's Edition of the film.

Music[edit]

The film's premiere in 1925 featured original music orchestrated by Louis La Rondelle, conducted by Harry F. Silverman, featuring Julius K. Johnson at the piano.

Many home video releases of the film completely lacked a score, as with many early releases of public domain silent films.

The version with an organ score performed by Rosa Rio was made in 1986, and was included in the Video Yesteryear edition.

In 1996, a new version was made. This version was included in all of the home media releases of the film, beginning with the "L. Frank Baum Silent Film Collection of Oz", released by American Home Entertainment on November 26, 1996, and features a score performed by Mark Glassman and Steffen Presley, and a narration performed by Jacqueline Lovell.

In 2005, another version was made. This version features original music composed and arranged by Robert Israel and performed by the Robert Israel Orchestra (Europe), and is included in all of the home media releases of the 1939 film, beginning with the 2005 3-Disc Collector's Edition DVD of the film.[2]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fitzpatrick, Eileen (December 14, 1996). "For Oz Fans, There's No Place Like American Home". Billboard. p. 62. 
  2. ^ from the cable television broadcast of "Wizard of Oz," Turner Movie Classics, Monday, December 1, 2008, 12:15 AM EST—2:00 AM EST, with Introduction by Robert Osborne

External links[edit]