Monday, February 28, 2011

Strumming the Mandolin

When I first saw Disney's Return to Oz I remember being surprised that the Mombi / Langwidere character was introduced while playing the mandolin. The mandolin worked well in the film - it provided a screen motivation for David Shire's creepy Mombi music.

But a few months ago I saw that Eric Shanower and Skottie Young's graphic novel adaptation of Ozma of Oz has Princess Langwidere also playing the mandolin. My first thought was, "Oh, Eric and Skottie are referencing Return to Oz, isn't that cute." But Eric quickly informed me that the mandolin was straight out of Baum - and indeed it is - though the fact that Baum's heady Princess played the mandolin was news to me! Here's the panel from Marvel's Ozma of Oz followed by Baum's original text:

"Princess Langwidere's sitting-room was panelled with great mirrors, which reached from the ceiling to the floor; also the ceiling was composed of mirrors, and the floor was of polished silver that reflected every object upon it. So when Langwidere sat in her easy chair and played soft melodies upon her mandolin, her form was mirrored hundreds of times, in walls and ceiling and floor, and whichever way the lady turned her head she could see and admire her own features."

The mandolin was a popular instrument when Baum wrote that in 1907, indeed the mandolin was a very popular instrument from the 1880s through the 1930s. 

The instrument is a member of the lute family. Mandolins were played both solo or in pairs, and sometimes with other instruments. There were even mandolin orchestras! Baum also references the mandolin in his lyrics for the song Niccolo's Piccolo from the 1903 Wizard of Oz stage musical:

Not with the violin,
Sought he my heart to win,
Nor with the mandolin
Came he a-wooing.

You can listen to Niccolo's Piccolo and download sheet music in our TIGER TUNES archive by clicking here. And there are even more Ozzy mandolin connections!

The music book (above) includes a medley from the 1903 Wizard of Oz arranged for mandolin by T. P. Trinkaus. I recently got another neat set of Wizard of Oz mandolin music - an arrangement of When You Love, Love, Love, one of the hits from the 1903 Wizard of Oz arranged for two mandolins, guitar and piano.

If anyone wants to get up a performance and has access to two mandolins, a guitar, and a piano, I'll be happy to supply copies of the music. Youtube, here we come! And if all the musicians are willing to dress up as Mombi, well, that's even better!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sis Sez Sunday - 35

Poor Sis! I guess she doesn't know that dating a boy from GLEE can have it's drawbacks for a young girl!

This installment of Marge and Ruth Plumly Thompson's SIS SEZ page first appeared in King Comics, No. 35, in February 1939. If you love Marge's Little Lulu you're sure to get a kick out of Sis!

Please note that if you click on the image it will expand to a full-size version which will make it much easier to read! All of the other blog images will similarly enlarge.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Well, well, well ... Roquat the Nome King makes his debut in Skottie Young and Eric Shanower's comics adaptation of Ozma of Oz currently being serialized by Marvel Comics.

His Rocking majesty will adorn the cover of issue No. 6. I can hardly wait. But my, nomes have a lot of teeth!

Remember that you can order signed copies of both The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz  at our on-line store. It's easy! In the "Special Instructions" box simply let us know that you'd like your books signed and if you'd like them personalized to someone in particular.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Thompson's Toothache!

Ruth Plumly Thompson circa 1972

A new FREE Tiger Tale is up on the main Hungry Tiger Press website. This month it's The Toothache of the Sultan by Ruth Plumly Thompson, originally published in the Philadelphia Public Ledger, March 18, 1917. There are over a hundred other free on-line stories by Oz creators in the TIGER TALES archive. Check them out!

Hungry Tiger Press has also reprinted Thompson's first novel, The Wish Express, which was first serialized in the Public Ledger. It's a very interesting little book, and probably the work that got her the job continuing the Oz series. Click here to take a look!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A Majestic Sight

Many of you may know that the 1903 Broadway Wizard of Oz stage musical opened at the Majestic Theatre on Columbus Circle. In fact, Wizard was the show that inaugurated the theatre.

The Majestic (shown at left circa 1904) was demolished in 1954 and replaced by the New York Coliseum. In 2000 the Coliseum was itself torn down and replaced by the Time Warner Center, which, interestingly, much more closely matches the original curving facade of the Majestic Theatre.

There are a handful of period photographs of the Majestic in 1903 and 1904 showing either advertising for The Wizard of Oz or for Babes in Toyland. By all accounts the 1354 seat theatre was a state of the art venue - with no columns obstructing sight-lines, an electric stage lighting system, and air conditioning.

The northeast facing walls of the theatre provided space for painting large-scale ads for the shows that played at the theatre. You can see an example in this previous blog post. But there is still another way to catch a few fleeting glimpses of the legendary Broadway landmark.

You can see the Majestic for a few fleeting seconds in the 1949 technicolor movie musical On the Town (see right) when a taxi drops off the three sailors at Columbus Circle.

The Majestic almost has a starring role in the 1954 Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon film It Should Happen to You in which Gladys Glover (played by Holliday) tries to make a name for herself by renting ad space on the side of the Majestic Theatre to launch her career as a celebrity.

The Majestic underwent multiple name changes over the years and by 1954 it was called the NBC Television Theatre and was the home of Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows.

I had never heard of It Should Happen to You until several years ago when a friend told me of the connection to the Majestic Theatre. If you like classic old comedies, in the Frank Capra vein, I highly recommend it. Judy Holliday and Jack Lemon are wonderful. The film has a very funny screenplay by Garson Kanin, and it's directed by George Cukor! What's not to like? I'm surprised the film isn't better known.

So that's your Ozzy lore for today.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sis Sez Sunday - 34

No one makes a monkey out of Sis - except maybe a monkey! I think the monkey might have had a hand in this episode's poem, too!

This installment of Marge and Ruth Plumly Thompson's SIS SEZ page first appeared in King Comics, No. 35, in February 1939. If you love Marge's Little Lulu you're sure to get a kick out of Sis!

Please note that if you click on the image it will expand to a full-size version which will make it much easier to read! All of the other blog images will similarly enlarge.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Scraps and Stills

Last spring I presented a talk on Oz composer Louis F. Gottschalk at the Oz conference at California State University - Fresno. As most Oz fans know, Gottschalk composed the scores to L. Frank Baum's 1914 Oz films as well as writing the music for the 1913 Tik-Tok Man of Oz stage musical.

Since I needed a few stills from the 1914 Patchwork Girl of Oz film for my lecture, I made my own screen-grabs, and was amazed at how much detail could be brought out with a little tweaking in Photoshop and making sure to grab a well-illuminated frame. Here's a good example:

Look at the lovely and Ozzy sculpting work! This is almost invisible in the flickery and dimly-lit video releases. You can click on the image to enlarge it a bit.

Here's a favorite screen-grab showing Pierre Couderc as Scraps. It looks so much like a John R. Neill drawing brought to life.

You can hear Gottschalk's film score to The Patchwork Girl of Oz, as well as a suite from The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, on our CD Before the Rainbow: The Original Music of Oz. It would be so great to get a good restoration job done on the film and include the original score, too.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Extra! Extra! Friends of Dorothy Make Good!

Here's a quick heads-up to our southern California readers and those that are otherwise interested. Eric Shanower and I are interviewed in the current issue of San Diego LGBT Weekly.

The magazine is a paper-and-ink freebie given away in coffee-houses, bookstores, bars, etc. but there is in an on-line version, too.

Here's the link to the interview with me and here's a link to the interview with Eric Shanower. The Shanower article focuses on his various Oz Comic, Little Adventures in Oz, and his current bestselling Oz series from Marvel Comics. The interview with me is about the 1903 Wizard of Oz and my Grammy-Award nomination several years ago.

There is a third article of Ozzy interest as well. The current bus-and-truck tour of the MGM Wizard of Oz will be playing in San Diego this weekend. Here's a link to that article, too.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Sonny Sayings Strikes Again

One of the fringe benefits of writing this blog is the occasional e-mail I get from a stranger who has learned something from the blog, or someone who wants to share something with me. I just received a nice little packet in the mail from one of my readers.

The packet contained a letter and envelope dated March 9, 1927. In the fold of the letter were 26 clippings of Fanny Y. Cory's cartoon SonnySayings.

Fanny Cory, of course, was one of Baum's early illustrators. She illustrated both The Master Key (1901) and The Enchanted Island of Yew (1903), and she was an important and early woman cartoonist, best known for these SonnySayings cartoons and her depression era comic strip Little Miss Muffet.

The letter to "Betty" from "N. M." makes reference to the clippings: "Am sending some clippings I cut out of the N. Y. paper, thought they were 'cute,' expect you will think I'm a nut."

SonnySayings is an acquired taste. Or put another way, a little Sonny goes a long way. I have a couple scrapbooks full of clippings at this point - these were a nice addition. I think they're sorta cute, but expect you'll think I'm a nut.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Goose for Valentine's Day

This is the month the bashful youth
Invests in valentines for sooth -
All decked with cupids, hearts, and lyres - 
To send the girl he most admires.

She gives the precious thing a glance
Of scorn - perhaps of arrogance - 
And hands them to her little brother
To send some school-girl friend or other.

The valentine does double duty -
Or triple, if it is a beauty;
So lovers, heed this wise advice;
Don't buy the things at any price.

- L. Frank Baum
Father Goose's Year Book

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sis Sez Sunday - 33

Who ever would have guessed that Ruth Plumly Thomson and Sis were Swing Kids! Is this what RPT was doing at night after she finished writing Ozoplaning with the Wizard of Oz?

This installment of Marge and Ruth Plumly Thompson's SIS SEZ page first appeared in King Comics, No. 34, in January 1939. If you love Marge's Little Lulu you're sure to get a kick out of Sis!

Please note that if you click on the image it will expand to a full-size version which will make it much easier to read! All of the other blog images will similarly enlarge.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Costumes in Oz

Shaggy Man's Brother, Glinda, & the Silver Princess
The Winkie Con, the longest-running Oz convention, is held each year in Pacific Grove, California. Winkies has always been one of the best Oz conventions when it comes to Oz costuming, especially if one wants to dress up as a character from the Oz books and not just the more famous MGM film. We would really like to see a fabulous turnout for the Winkie Costume Contest this year. So why not start planning now! Come join us this summer and we'll make this the best Oz Costume Contest ever!

With that in mind, I wanted to remind you that in addition to the two regular prizes, Best Adult Costume and Best Juvenile Costume, there is a new category and prize this year for Best Themed Costume.

The Woozy

The prize for this new category is an award of $50 to the costume - or group of costumes - that in the opinion of the judges most successfully and appropriately represents the theme of the Winkie Con 2011 "Oz Under the Sea." This theme specifically includes the books The Sea Fairies by L. Frank Baum and Pirates in Oz by Ruth Plumly Thompson but all costumes representing "Oz Under the Sea" will be considered.

Judges will also consider craft, attention to detail, and overall presentation. The 2011 Winkie Con Masquerade Prize of $50 for Best Themed Costume will be presented to the winner by Oz author and illustrator Eric Shanower during the awards presentations at the convention.

You can find out more about the WINKIE CON by clicking on the Winkie Convention tab in the blog header. It runs from July 8-10, 2011. The Costume Contest is on the morning of the 9th. So start sewing and sculpting and get ready to join us for a weekend of Ozzy fun!

Quox the Dragon

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Sad Loss

I just received word that John R. Neill's youngest daughter, Joan Neill Farnsworth, passed away on January 28, 2011. She and her husband Don had both been hospitalized with pneumonia for the last two weeks and were improving. But Don caught a virus and passed away on January 27th and Joan died the next day.

Joan was a good friend over the years, generously allowing Hungry Tiger Press to reprint rare drawings and showing us her wonderful collection of her father's artwork. She will be sadly missed. I will post some more detailed memories of Joan later in the week.

The Holiday card below, drawn by Neill, shows his three girls. Joan, of course, is the littlest one on the left. John R. Neill's eldest daughter, Natalie Neill Mather is still living and we send her and Joan's family our deepest condolences.

A Belated Ozzy Christmas Present

A friend just gave me a slightly late Christmas gift . It's a charming, and very Ozzy pencil case and pen. They were obtained at Mitsukoshi, a Japanese shop at Epcot Center in Disney World. I don't know much about them except that they're cute and well made. The metal case has Oz scenes printed on its interior as well.

The back of the case says designed by Shinzi Katoh. After much poking around online i found the same image used on some other Japanese Oz collectibles, too.  It's interesting they don't refer to The Wizard of Oz at all, only "Wonderland of Oz" and the slogan "Can we find the country of Oz?"

I think it's very spiffy!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sis Sez Sunday - 32

Sis is really cookin' in this week's Sis Sez! I wonder if Ruth Plumly Thompson ever played drums! You never know ...

This installment of Marge and Ruth Plumly Thompson's SIS SEZ page first appeared in King Comics, No. 32, in November 1938. If you love Marge's Little Lulu you're sure to get a kick out of Sis!

Please note that if you click on the image it will expand to a full-size version which will make it much easier to read! All of the other blog images will similarly enlarge.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Cat Fight in Oz

Issue No. 4 of Eric Shanower and Skottie Young's comics adaptation of Ozma of Oz hit the stores on Wednesday. It's very grand! Our beloved Princess has so much personality! You can see how the Shanower/Young Tip became this Ozma.

What has been consistently fascinating (and wonderful) in these Marvel Comics adaptations is that everything looks so different from John R. Neill's original depictions but still feels absolutely correct. Consider this aggressive ultra-zaftig Princess Langwidere going at it with our beloved Princess Ozma. The characterizations are spot-on - yet so very different from what I've seen in my head when I've read Baum's original book.

So far, Ozma of Oz is my favorite of the Marvel adaptations. But I must admit I can hardly wait to start reading Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz (which is already in the works!), due to hit the stands this Fall!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Some Novel Ideas

This past November I participated in National Novel Writing Month. To participate in this event, a person is supposed to write at least 50,000 words of a novel in thirty days.

The rules state it should be a new novel, not something you've already begun, but you can work from an existing outline and notes. By November 27th I had topped 50,000 words and thus won this year's NANOWRIMO, along with everyone else that hit the word-count bullseye by the end of the month.

My novel is not Oz-related, it isn't a fantasy, and it isn't a children's book. It's probably a Young Adult novel - possibly just a novel. In any case, the reason I am blogging about it here in Oz Land is that I've been reading a lot on fiction writing and the novel.

And one of the books I've gone back to is Techniques of Fiction Writing (1959) by Eloise Jarvis McGraw. Perhaps you didn't know that a Royal Historian of Oz had written a book on writing fiction. It's a very good nuts-and-bolts book assembled from a series of articles by McGraw that were originally published in The Writer magazine.

Over the years McGraw taught many classes and seminars on fiction writing, and in 1979 she recorded a Books-on-Tape lecture series, How To Write Fiction for Young Readers, for Monosette Productions.

I'm currently relistening to the tape series and making digital copies of the tapes for fear the thirty-year-old cassettes are going to disintegrate any minute.

The twelve tapes cover much more than McGraw could cover in her book, and she reads many examples from books she likes. She also peppers the tapes with personal information and anecdotes about her life, her kids' and grand-kids' lives, and with thoughts on a lifetime of writing stories.

Eloise sent me the tape series when I was about nineteen and first began writing fiction. I haven't written much fiction in the last twenty years, but I suspect I'm permanently bitten this time. I wish I could send my novel to Eloise. I miss her.

On a side note, I've also been devouring John Gardner's two books on fiction writing, The Art of Fiction and On Becoming a Novelist. I highly recommend both - especially if you like opinionated perfectionists.

So, next year maybe YOU should sign up for NaNoWriMo!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Window Shopping in Greece

When Eric and I were in Athens earlier this Fall, we were staying in the area around Kolonaki Square. One night we went went for a walk, looking for ice cream as I recall, and stumbled upon a  high-end boutique selling very expensive purses, boots, wallets, little cases, and even umbrellas, all decorated with original Wizard of Oz artwork.

The store was closed that night but we went back a few days later to take pictures of the window display. The designer handbags and assorted stuff are part of the Leitmotiv Collection from Furla, an Italian handbag company. Here's a bit describing the collection:

"The new Leitmotiv for Furla collection takes us beyond the confines of reality, towards the land of Oz. It tells the story of Dorothy; her enchanted journey, her red shoes and her wonderful encounters through a visionary, playful journey. The prints for this season are colourful, rich with the green of plant life, the blue of streams and the colours of flowers, all inspired by the Land of Oz in an interweaving of fairy-tale-like, surreal motifs. Each print narrates the tale with a juxtaposition of scenes and their protagonists: the house swept away by the wind under the incredulous gaze of the little dog, flying through waters and luxuriant woodlands, little Dorothy floating through imaginary landscapes, her travel companions. Like the backdrops, the characters also evoke the dreamlike language of the Leitmotiv.

"The lion has the body and clothes from times gone by, the tin man is a collage of robotic contraptions and period armour, the scarecrow an intellectual peasant and the child an eighteenth-century young lady. The prints are dynamic and full of movement, suggesting a collection for globetrotters or travellers of the mind. The accessories are all designed to be light, portable companions for adventurous travel. The shoppers are collapsible and soft, the backpacks may be enclosed in nylon wallets and the k-way, a new accessory for this collection, can be packed away inside itself. Old favourites include printed umbrellas, leather gloves and doctor bags with a transparent sphere clasp, decorated inside like a marble, which recalls the Wizard of Oz’s emerald altar. To go home, simply click your heels three times…"

Everything was VERY expensive! Some of the items were over 350 Euros and the cheapest thing I saw was actually the umbrella at 175 Euros! I didn't buy anything. The images are different on each item - though all based on the main representation of each of the four characters featured in the window display below.