The Wizard of Oz

We’re off to see the Wizard, the wonderful Wizard of Oz.

The Wizard of Oz

An image from the 1939 film.

When Failure magazine’s editors first conceived this article, it was slated to be a small feature focusing on the life of L. Frank Baum. However, we soon discovered that it was hard to write about Baum without analyzing the Wizard of Oz and its movie legacy. As we immersed ourselves in all things Oz, we were surprised and delighted at the cooperation we received from everyone we interviewed. During our research, we were serenaded by Munchkins, confided in by fans, and encouraged by the experts to clarify the revisionist history that has come to be accepted as fact. It wasn’t long before our small Baum piece took us on a full-fledged journey to Oz.

While this year is the 100th anniversary of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” we opted to focus our attention on the Metro-Goldwyn Mayer movie. After all, for most people, the classic 1939 film is the Wizard of Oz. Phrases such as “I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore,” and “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!,” have become almost universally recognizable—permanent fixtures in our vernacular. But we didn’t neglect Baum and the rest of Oz’s long and complex history. Filled with successes and failures both large and small, when you add them all together you have perhaps the single greatest movie of the 20th century, and a phenomenon that continues to grow even today.

There’s No Place Like Oz
The first thing that distinguishes Oz from other popular entertainment is that nothing else has the same enduring, across-the-board appeal. It’s almost impossible to define a demographic for Oz fans, because “the age range is from fetal to fatal,” says John Fricke, 50, pre-eminent Oz historian, self-proclaimed fan and author of “100 Years of Oz,” published last year to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the movie. Fricke notes that the story has appeal on three different levels: “As a child you relate to Dorothy,” says Fricke. “There isn’t a child who can’t identify with the fear of being lost and having to get home, the fear of losing a pet or the feeling of wanting to run away.”

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