Monday, September 3, 2018

The First Oz Fan Fiction

Today's post shares what is almost certainly the earliest Oz fan fiction. This rare find was discovered by Eric Shanower in 2017 while he was helping me with research on my book about the 1903 Wizard of Oz.

The story published June 5, 1909, in the Syracuse Post-Standard, was called Ozma of Oz, Continued; or The Quest for the Magic Belt. It was written by two boys, Henry Kutz, age ten, and Max Stolz, age nine.

The heading states that the story was begun July 7, 1908, and finished on July 9, 1908, and is dedicated with love to Uncle Joe--who is Rev. Dr. Joseph Stolz of Chicago, who came to Syracuse to visit his relatives on July 9, 1908.

The two boys seem to have written the story "round-robin" style, one boy writing a paragraph, the other boy writing the next, and so on. Each section is signed by the initials of the boy that wrote it.

What is especially fascinating is that the two boys combine Baum's non-Oz fantasies John Dough and the Cherub and Queen Zixi of Ix and place them in the Oz universe before L. Frank Baum united his fantasy novels in The Road to Oz. The article clearly says (twice) that the story was written in summer 1908. The boys are also the first to introduce the wireless telegraph into the Oz universe, well before Baum does so in 1913's The Patchwork Girl of Oz.

Henry Kutz, the elder boy, also introduced a new group of villains called the "Hollywogs," described as "monster green giants with axes." These also seem like a precursor to future Baumian villains, the Growleywogs, again not introduced until 1910's The Emerald City of Oz.

Given that this fan fiction was published in Syracuse, it would seem quite likely someone sent a copy to Baum and that he found the two boys' idea of uniting all his fantasies in one universe a good one and promptly wrote it into the next Oz book. Perhaps, too, the Hollywogs and the wireless telegraphy. There is no way to know for sure, but Baum often talked of using his young fans' ideas.

Max Stolz's last section seems a bit garbled. He has the Oz group go to see King Bird of Noland. This would seem either a typo on the part of the typesetter, who couldn't read the boy's handwriting, or young Mr. Stolz misremembered King Bud's name as King Bird. The author has also turned Princess Fluff (from Queen Zixi of Ix) into Queen Fluff of Ax [sic], now married to King Azma.

This is a fun little story written by two boys who very much loved the Oz books and Baum's non-Oz fantasies. Enjoy the very first Oz fan fiction!

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Dorothy Gale "Edition De Luxe"

My fellow blogger Bill Campbell over at The Oz Enthusiast is almost as obsessed with the 1903 Wizard of Oz musical as I am. He's a fellow collector of stage-oriented Oz material and he's even built a tremendously fun toy-theatre version of the show.

In researching for the toy theatre, Bill became quite interested in Carolyn Siedle's costume sketches for the 1903 Wizard of Oz. On a recent trip to New York, Bill took photos of most of the surviving costume sketches and assembled them all in a blog post. He later did another blog comparing and contrasting the sketches with the finished costumes as seen in assorted production photos. But at least one of the sketches was rather a stumper for Bill - an unknown Act III dress for Dorothy.

Carolyn Siedle's original costume sketch.

The image shows Dorothy in a sort of "baby-doll" dress. It's short, like a very young girl's would be at the time, all white, with assorted ruffles and bands of applied ribbon, and most oddly, black knee-socks with little white shoes. It's not a look we've associated with Dorothy in that show and doesn't match any of actress Anna Laughlin's Dorothy dresses that we know from the Broadway stage photos.

Bill wondered if it was a preliminary design, perhaps cut from the show. But I had an idea it might be something else. I had a sneaky suspicion that a number of the sketches were not from the Broadway version of the show but from the revised version of the show dubbed "Edition de Luxe" prepared in the Spring of 1904. The show got many new songs, many new costumes, and a general freshening. So I started digging through my photo archive trying to prove my theory. Finally I remembered a photo from Act III of the Hurtig and Seaman touring production circa late 1906. Lo and behold we get a picture of Dorothy Gale kneeling during the finale, and I think she is wearing this mystery frock!

Dorothy at the end of Act III in the Hurtig and Seaman production circa late 1906.

The hat seems similar enough, but the banding on the hem seems spot on. The Hurtig and Seaman production is also just a bit dowdier than the original Julian Mitchell version, too. Hence the slightly frumpy look (though she is kneeling and pleading for help from the Witch of the North).  Below you can see Anna Laughlin in the original Act III dress at the same moment from the show.

Anna Laughlin Act III original Broadway version of the dress.

I strongly suspect that Anna Laughlin made the request for a new Act III dress in Edition de Luxe. The dress above looks heavy and hot, while the little white frock looks quite breezy and cool. A good thing when playing in warm theatres, under the lights with no air-conditioning.

One reason I think the request may have come directly from Anna Laughlin is that the new Act III dress bears a striking resemblance to a dress Anna Laughlin had worn onstage back in August of 1900.

Anna Laughlin in The Casino Boy, circa August 1900

I was fairly convinced several of the sketches Bill found were from the post-Broadway "Edition De Luxe" but he just obtained a photo of another sketch that is explicitly from "Edition De Luxe," one of the Cowgirls from the "Sitting Bull" number introduced in the new 1904 edition. I'm sharing a photo of one of the chorus girls (Theresa Van Brune) in the realized costume. Note that the Ozzy cowgirl in the photo is having a smoke!

In closing, I must say that the Oz Cowboy chorus girl is a really lovely and very modern looking costume. I can see why they called it "Edition de Luxe!"

Friday, July 6, 2018

Evelyn Copelman in the Tiger Den!

There's nothing better to motivate one to get back to blogging than a new treasure to share! And this time it's a painting by an Oz artist I never had much thought of acquiring, Evelyn Copelman, the second major illustrator of The Wizard of Oz.

Watercolor by Evelyn Copelman.

Alas, the painting isn't from Wizard, but a watercolor of a country street scene. The image is a bit larger than 8" x 11", signed at the bottom right in pencil.

For those of you not acquainted, Evelyn Copelamn was the first illustrator to reillustrate a full-length edition of The Wizard of Oz after W. W. Denslow. After World War II, Wizard publisher Bobbs Merrill wanted a new edition of Wizard. The MGM film had made the book more popular than ever,  and the original Denslow illustrations were difficult to make attractive. The first edition of Wizard is stunning, but by 1903 Denslow's art was already suffering from cheap and simplified printing. By the 1920s and '30s the book was decidedly unattractive.

In 1944, Bobbs Merrill decided on a major overhaul and hired Evelyn Copelman to reillustrate the book. It was her first book illustration job. In the printed book the publisher slyly suggests the drawings are based on those of Denslow, but they are clearly much more inspired by the MGM film.

Copelman's line drawings (actually scratchboard work) in the early printings are sometimes a bit stiff and often overworked. Her paintings are much better. A few years after this new edition of Wizard was released, Copelman went back and redrew almost every image and added several new color plates, creating a much more handsome volume.

In 1947, Bobbs Merrill asked Copelman to reillustrate Baum's The Magical Monarch of Mo. She's become a much more gifted illustrator by this point, too, though her style is at odds with Baum's text. (You can read my analysis here).

However, one can see more stylistic parallels between my newly acquired painting and her Mo watercolors than one can find when examining her Wizard paintings - such as in the Mo frontispiece below.

Frontispiece of THE MAGICAL MONARCH OF MO by Evelyn Copelman.

Note how much looser her style has become in the watercolor sky above, and the similarity in technique of the forested hills at the left in the distance.

But even more similarities can be seen with my painting and the most important work of her career - illustrating the Sally, Dick, and Jane school readers!

Illustration from WE COME AND GO (1946-'47) by Evelyn Copelman as "Eleanor Campbell."

Looking at the lovely watercolored grass, the trees across the road, one can imagine Sally, Dick, and Jane walking down the country street scene in my painting. Evelyn Copelman did all of her school reader work under the pseudonym Eleanor Campbell.

Well, that's it for today in the Tiger Den. "See David Blog. Blog, David, blog!"