Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dorothy's Visit to Oz Was Not Just a Dream

Not in the book version, anyway. There are several differences between L. Frank Baum's book and the movie version with Judy Garland. Most people will point out that the slippers were silver not ruby. That's interesting, but I think a more major difference involves the dream.

The author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book had passed away before the movie came out, but Frank J. Baum obviously had an opinion about it. In the 1950s Baum's son wrote an essay about why the Oz books continued to sell. He cited reasons juvenile fantasy readers found the story appealing such as simple language, the fact that it appeals to adults who read it to their children. He says, "Reality and unreality are so entwined that it is often difficult to know where one leaves off and the other begins...." And then Baum says something that might surprise people who have only seen the movie and not read the book.

The story leaves the reader with a feeling that it all could have happened just as it was told. And the end is not spoiled by the author's explanation that these marvelous adventures were a dream or a hallucination. Never attempt to explain fantasy.

 In 1938 the screenwriters working on the film disagreed. They thought audiences were too sophisticated for that kind of thing. In The Making of the Wizard of Oz by Aljean Harmetz one of the screenwriters is quoted as saying, " cannot put fantastical people in strange places in front of an audience unless they have seen them as human beings first." And he meant that literally, believing that you couldn't just introduce a scarecrow, tin man, and cowardly lion and have audiences identify with them. But Baum did, didn't he? And scores of other film makers have since then if you think about the genre of fantasy...Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Avatar...just to mention a few.

Even so, the movie has survived and continues to entertain audiences, so maybe you can do both or one or the other. I believe it's the quest, the search for home and a place to belong that people identify with. What do you think?