Hot on the heels of Dorothy's red slippers - and OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL's $80 million opening weekend - famed Emmy Award-winning Judy Garland and Oz biographer and historian John Fricke discusses the legacy of L. Frank Baum's classic book series in a new radio interview.
Accumulating more than forty books in the series by 1963, Baum's OZ series is far more than merely the tale of a farmgirl from Kansas and her fantastical journey to a far-off land, complete with Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion, as well as her run-ins with a green-hued Wicked Witch. There is a lot more to it all than that.
Fricke discusses the 1902 Broadway production of THE WIZARD OF OZ as well as 1975's Tony Award-winning THE WIZ, and, of course, Stephen Schwartz's much more modern take on themes from Baum's unique universe, currently-running mega-hit WICKED.
Of course, the 1939 feature film adaptation of THE WIZARD OF OZ starring Judy Garland is a cinema classic and features prominently in the fascinating discussion, with Fricke commenting extensively on the Academy Award-winning music for the film.
Of special note to Oz enthusiasts of all ages, Fricke states, "The legend that the film was not well-received is very much a legend." He says, "The film was one of the top ten critic's picks of 1939; it was one of the top ten box office films of the year."
He clarifies, noting, "It did not make a profit the first time around because two-thirds of the audience for THE WIZARD OF OZ were kids and they paid less at the box office than adults did. So, while the theaters were jammed, the money was not what it would have been if the seats had been filled by all grown-ups paying full price."
He concludes that the enduring legacy of the film is largely because of two primary features. First, the leading lady: "I think Garland's rising star all through the 1940s at MGM - that was the decade when she was in the top ten box office... that list of musicals that made her such an audience favorite."
He adds, "And, I think World War II at the start of the 1940s helped as well."
Fricke says about the Unforgettable Harold Arlen/E.Y. Harburg Masterpiece at the soundtrack's core and its relevance to society, "'Over The Rainbow' became a song about what everybody was hoping for, against all odds, during those rough years."
Listen to the entire interview here.
Pat Cerasaro is a playwright and screenwriter currently in pre-production on his first feature film.|