Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fun as a Barrel of Baums

In 1889 L. Frank Baum and Maud Gage Baum's first family residence in Aberdeen, South Dakota, was this house at 211 Ninth Avenue Southeast. Their third son, Harry Neal Baum, was born here. According to A Tour of L. Frank Baum's Aberdeen by Don Artz, this house is where eldest Baum son Frank J. was cruel to a cat, so as punishment Maud dunked him into the rainwater barrel.

The second photo shows the backyard. Whoever lives there now clearly wasn't expecting people to stop by and shoot photographs.

There I am standing in front of the house in the photo below. Things like air conditioners and satellite dishes are certainly new, but I don't suppose the basic exterior of the house has changed much since Baum lived there.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Baum's Bazaar

In the center of this photo is the location where Baum's Bazaar once stood. Baum's Bazaar was the fancy dry goods store L. Frank Baum opened at 406 South Main Street in Aberdeen, South Dakota, on October 1, 1888. Baum stocked it with all sorts of exotic goods he thought the citizens of the burgeoning town of Aberdeen might want. According to Don Artz's A Tour of L. Frank Baum's Aberdeen, the establishment even featured Baum's Ice Cream Boudoir, an "elaborate soda fountain." Unfortunately Aberdeen's economy took a downturn. Baum's Bazaar closed on January 1, 1890. Baum's sister-in-law, Helen Leslie Gage, took it over as Gage's Bazaar for a few years, while L. Frank Baum moved on to newspaper publishing.

These days the location is the southern part of the County Community Health offices.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Big Little Judy

I'm not much of a Judy collector. While I am a fan,  the Garland/Oz connection is too weak for me to think of that stuff as Oz material. My Garland LPs are just in with the records - the DVDs are just in the shelf in alphabetical order. But a very few things have made it into the Oz collection, including this - another neat find on the great summer road trip!

As you see, it's a "Big Little Book" just like Frank J. Baum's The Laughing Dragon of Oz (1934). Thus the book is tiny - measuring only 3 3/4" x 4 1/2". You may have noted, too, that the book is actually called a "Better Little Book" on the cover, reflecting Whitman's renaming of the series in 1938.

I'm unsure what the actual title of the book is. On the front cover it just says Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. On the spine it says Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland and how they got into the Movies. And on the title page we get the even bigger mouthful Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, The Story of their Rise to Fame and Fortune in the Movies.

Whatever the actual title is, the book was written by Edward J. Gruskin and published in 1941. Like other BLBs it is profusely illustrated. At least a third of its 425 pages contains illustrations. The illustrator is uncredited, but at least one BLB checklist credits the illustrations to Henry E. Vallely. The pictures are quite handsome, and most seem to be based on actual photos of Judy and Mickey.

I have only skimmed the book thus far. The narrative is divided into four sections. The first few chapters are about Judy and Mickey together, their friendship and working on the MGM lot. Then we get a long section on Judy's life, another long section on Mickey's life, and finally another section about them together and life at MGM. And in that section, beginning on page 378, we get:
"The biggest thrill of her life, however, was the day Mervyn LeRoy, the famous producer, called her on the 'phone. "Judy," Mr. LeRoy asked, "Have you read 'Wizard of Oz?'"

"Oh yes," Judy said. "Often. It's one of my favorite stories."

"Well, we've just bought it for a Technicolor picture."
"Gee! You mean you're going to make it just as it's written with the Land of Oz and the Emerald City and the Munchkins and - and everything?"

"Everything, Judy. Just as Frank Baum wrote the book. And who do you think is going to play the part of Dorothy?"

Judy held her breath, hardly able to wish for what she hoped he would tell her.

"You - You tell ME, Mr. LeRoy."

"You, Judy. You're going to play Dorothy."
To this day, to anybody who will listen, Judy will sit for hours to relate the wonderful experiences she had making the picture; of the thrill she received each morning when she came to the set and found a real "land of make believe."

For her sensational performance in this picture, she won a special Academy Award.

The next chapter is all about Judy and Mickey planning for the premiere of The Wizard of Oz at the Capital Theatre in New York. But I'm gonna save it for a future blog-post.

It's a very neat little book. I mean a Big Little Book, uhh . . . a Better Little Book . . . it's Ozzy!

I am also just happy to have another BLB to keep my Laughing Dragon of Oz company along with my other Oz-related BLB Little Miss Muffet. If you don't know why Little Miss Muffet is Oz-related you can read about that in this previous blog-post by clicking here.

The three Oz-related "Big Little Books."