Blizzard of Oz

Author Lyman Frank Baum claimed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was simply “a modernized fairy tale” for children but, even in 1900, the story resonated deeply with American adults. In Oz, the heroes’ traits were self-reliance, ingenuity, optimism, and gumption; pseudo-intellectualism and greed withered in the face of good friends and homespun know-how. This American dream translated into a wildly popular stage production and at least nine silent movies before MGM stunned the world with a Technicolor Emerald City. The Wizard of Oz later became the most watched film in history (32 years of annual network broadcasts will do that). Yet surprisingly little has been written about Oz or the real man behind the curtain, and the little that did should be largely dismissed: Dorothy’s red slippers did not represent her first steps into sexual maturity — MGM just wanted to be flashy. In fact, the slippers in Baum’s story were silver, which led to another theory, posited in 1964 by an academic who saw Oz as a populist allegory in which the gold standard was fraught with menace. In his new book Finding Oz: How L. Frank Baum Discovered the Great American Story, journalist Evan I. Schwartz lovingly debunks these notions while unearthing the true origins of Oz in Baum’s life, and he does it without leaching the magic out of flying monkeys. At a reading and screening of Finding Oz and The Wizard of Oz, Schwartz introduces his book — and some of his ideas, such as how the witches were based on his mother-in-law — and then segues into the 1939 classic.
Thu., April 9, 7:15 p.m.; Sat., April 11, 2:15 p.m., 2009

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