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
Edited by Sam S. Zimbalist
Distributed by Chadwick Pictures Corporation
Laurel and Hardy (re-releases)
Release date(s)
  • 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) reads L. Frank Baum's book to his granddaughter.

The Land of Oz is ruled by Prime Minister Kruel (Josef Swickard), aided by Ambassador Wikked (Otto Lederer), Lady Vishuss (Virginia Pearson), and the Wizard (Charles Murray), a "medicine-show hokum hustler". When the discontented people, led by Prince Kynd (Bryant Washburn), demand the return of the princess, who disappeared while a baby many years before, so she can be crowned their rightful ruler, Kruel has the Wizard distract them with a parlor trick: making a female impersonator (Frederick Ko Vert) appear out of a seemingly empty basket. Kruel sends Wikked on a mission.

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 an obese man with a short temper who shows little love for his niece. He also abuses his farmhands: Snowball (credited to G. Howe Black, a stage name for Spencer Bell, who frequently appeared in Semon's films) and Hardy's and Semon's unnamed characters. The latter two are both in love with Dorothy, who favors Hardy's character. Aunt Em reveals to Dorothy that she was placed on their doorstep as a baby, along with an envelope and instructions that it be opened only when she turned 18.

On her 18th birthday, however, Wikked and his minions come to the farm and demand the envelope. When Uncle Henry refuses to hand it over, Wikked suborns Hardy's character by promising him wealth and Dorothy. Wikked then has Dorothy tied to a rope and raised high up a tower; his men start a fire underneath the rope. Hardy's character finds the note, but Semon's character takes it and saves Dorothy, only to have Wikked and his men capture them all at gunpoint.

Then a tornado suddenly strikes. Dorothy, the two rivals for her affections and Uncle Henry take shelter in a shed. It (and Snowball) are carried aloft and land in Oz. Dorothy finally reads the contents of the envelope; it declares that she, Princess Dorothea, is the rightful ruler of Oz. Thwarted, Kruel blames the farmhands for kidnapping her and orders the Wizard to transform them into something else, such as monkeys, which he is of course unable to do. Chased by Kruel's soldiers, Semon's character disguises himself as a scarecrow, while Hardy's improvises a costume from the pile of tin in which he is hiding. They are still eventually taken captive. During their trial, the Tin Man accuses his fellow farmhands of kidnapping Dorothy. Kynd has the Scarecrow and Snowball put in the dungeon.

Kruel makes the Tin Man "Knight of the Garter" and Uncle Henry the "Prince of Whales". Wikked suggests he retain his power by marrying Dorothy. The Wizard helps the two prisoners escape by giving Snowball a lion costume, which he uses to scare away the guards. Though the Scarecrow manages to reach Dorothy to warn her against Kruel, he is chased back down into the dungeon by the Tin Man, and ends up getting trapped inside a lion cage (with real lions) for a while. He and Snowball finally escape.

When Knyd finds Kruel trying to force Dorothy to marry him, they engage in a sword fight. When Kruel's henchmen intervene and help disarm Kynd, the Scarecrow saves Dorothy and Kynd. Defeated, Kruel claims that he took Dorothy to Kansas in order to protect her from court factions out to harm her, but she orders that he be taken away.

The Scarecrow is heartbroken to discover that Dorothy has fallen for Prince Kynd. He then flees up a tower from the Tin Man, who tries to blast him with a cannon. Snowball flies a biplane overhead, and the Scarecrow manages to grab a rope ladder dangling underneath it. However, the ladder breaks, and he falls. The scene shifts abruptly back to the little girl, who had fallen asleep. She wakes up and leaves. The grandfather reads from the book that Dorothy marries Prince Kynd and they live happily ever after.

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. 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.[citation needed]

Production[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, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly 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 - as a young woman. In a drastic departure from the original book, the Tin Man is a villain.

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.

Reception[edit]

According to Ben Mankiewicz of Turner Classic Movies, the film was poorly received by critics and audiences. Chadwick Pictures went bankrupt during its run, and many theaters did not even receive a print to show. Semon did not fully recover from the financial debacle, and died only a few years later in 1928.

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]