Oh my, did he really write like this, how come I didn't know?
|Elephants, tigers, and bears, oh my!
In pursuit of expanding my education in creative writing. I have been researching many of the classics, L Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is one of the most recent. (Here is a link to a free online copy if you like: http://www.literature.org/authors/baum-l-frank/the-wonderful-wizard-of-oz/index....)
I was disturbed to find how much MGM's 1939 version differs from the original story written and published by L Frank Baum in September of 1900. The first edition of 10,000 sold out in pre-sales before it was printed. The second printing of 15,000 also sold out before they could finish printing it. In spite of this success, the first publisher went bankrupt and Baum had to find a new publisher. The next printings netted total sales of 250,000 books by the end of 1902. By 1938, when Sam Meyer bought the movie rights, the book had sold over a million copies. It was the unexpected commercial success of the twentieth-century. What makes these numbers so fantastic, is it means that one out of every seven households in America had a copy of his book.
The aforementioned is more astonishing if you read the book. Even considering the fact that Baum wrote it as a children's story, the writing is poor at best. It is chocked full of almost every novice mistake we are told about in our writing classes and online forums. A gigantic, 'Tell,' of the first order. If you had not seen the movie, and just wanted to know, what the late Paul Harvey would call, "The rest of the story." I doubt many modern readers or writers would finish reading the book. Yet, this story has made millions of people happy all over the world. Of course, MGM's rewrite, their casting, and the first showing of color in movie theaters, did much to transform this story into the classic we all now think about. There were only two movies made in this new color format in1939: The Wizard of Oz, and Gone with the Wind.
Though MGM left out much in the screenplay rewrite, they did keep some of Baum's story in the movie; I was surprised to, finally, understand why the start and finish of the movie was made in black in white. I originally thought it was Victor Fleming's surprise introduction of color into the movies. However, in fact, it was his keeping with Baum's story description of the dank and gray Kansas. In nearly every image, that Baum constructed, the word gray is included; this is in bold contrast to the vibrant colors Dorothy experienced when she finds herself in the land of OZ.
I was bowled over to find there was no Mrs. Gulch, (she was invented for the screenplay.) Uncle Henry and Aunty Em's house was but a small one-room building, and the entrance to the storm cellar was through a trap door in the middle of the room. There was not a single mention of the farm-hands Hunk, Zeke, or Hickory; they simply did not exist.
Here is a colossal let-down; Dorothy's shoes were not ruby slippers, they were heavy silver shoes, not silver colored, but silver as in the metal. Oh ...Oh ...Oh, and the good witch of the north was not Glinda, she was not a young, beautiful, floating vision, with a shiny jeweled crown, but instead, was short, old, and wrinkled, with a pointy hat. Glinda is the good witch of the south. Which Dorothy seeks out, after the premature take-off of Oz; in his old balloon. (Which happens in the middle of the story not at the end.)
How dazed, I was to find out that the tin-man was once a real man. That he lost his limbs to misfortune with his axe, which had been cursed by the wicked witch, so his wife to be would not marry him. She was to stay at home, to serve the old woman she lived with. To prevent his marriage, the old woman purchased the curse for the sum of two sheep and a cow.
I was taken aback to learn that they were nearly eaten by Kalidahs! What is a Kalidah you may ask?
To quote the Lion; "They are monstrous beasts with bodies like bears and heads like tigers," replied the Lion, "and with claws so long and sharp that they could tear me in two as easily as I could kill Toto. I'm terribly afraid of the Kalidahs."
Then there is the matter of the Poppy field, they did not get there from the woods. No! the foursome landed there after a great stork rescued them from their run-away raft; when they tried to cross a river.
It was not Glinda that saved them from the poisoned poppies, with snow. But rather, it was the queen of the field mice. Who after the tin-man chopped off the head of the wildcat that was chasing her. She commanded her army of mice to carry the stranded lion out of the field of sour poppies. The scarecrow and tin-man had already carried Dorothy, as they were not affected but they were unable to get the lion he was too heavy for them.
No horse of a different color, in fact, no animals at all allowed in the city of OZ.
Oh my goodness, MGM screwed the pooch, when they left out the backstory of the winged monkeys in chapter 14. Who knew how sad was their origins, or how vain the princess of the north, who we knew nothing of. In addition, we never were told of the Quadlings, or the Dainty China Country; where both people and animal alike were made of porcelain. There was nothing of the Winkies either, the kindly, green whiskered, people; enslaved by the wicked witch of the west.
It appears that I still need to learn about being concise, as it has taken all this time to try to explain my point; that Hollywood seldom does any story justice, and just because something is a classic success, does not mean it is well written. The next new wonder on the bookshelves could be the story you or I just ripped apart in a Writing.com review.
I will be mindful with my advice when offering my opinions. Because, no matter how dreadful his writing; Baum's adventure will air at-least twice this year on Network Television as it has for the last 57 years.
I should comment that in his following books, which did not gain anywhere near the notoriety as his first endeavor, his skill as a writer is very much improved. These other works, too are available online for free. http://www.literature.org/authors/baum-l-frank/
Though of the week from Joey C