Saturday, December 5, 2009

Oz – Book vs. Film

The Wizard of Oz is one of the most beloved films and books of all time. I remember reading the book shortly after it came out in 1900. I was drawn to it because author L. Frank Baum described the book as an “American fairy tale.” The story was rich and the characters interesting and it really did remind me of the classic tales more than just about anything else from the time. Baum had tapped into something with his story of Dorothy in the Land of Oz that not only defined his entire career but just about everything else that came out since then (until Tolkien then redefined the genre but that is a topic for another time).

This book still stands today, even when compared to the juggernauts of children’s fantasy literature like CS Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising, and JK Rowling’s Harry Potter. Of course for modern readers, the lack of technology is off-putting I’m sure but honestly if one can suspend his/her disbelief to accept things like talking lions and boy wizards, I think that they can handle a book written at the turn of the 20th century (and if not then they have bigger problems, but I digress).

In 1939 when the big screen adaptation on Baum’s novel came out it was to mild success but I was there front and center (I had Snow White on one arm and Rapunzel on the other…what a night that was). I thought that while deviating from the book, the film was a beautiful interpretation. Judy Garland was just too precious as Dorothy and the moving from the black and white Kansas to the color-filled Oz was just breathtaking. I’m sure this is hard to imagine in the wake of Star Wars but this film truly was a first of its kind.

The thing that is unfortunate now is that in the 70 years since the film was released, most people seem to only know the big screen version of the story. As much as I love this movie, I love the book even more. Sure people seem to know that the movie was based on a book, but how many of them have actually read the book. Look I can totally understand people bypassing The Lord of the Rings now that those amazing movies have been made (because lord knows JRR is thick and cumbersome to read) but that is not the case with Oz. These books are fun and easy reads and should be read to every child and by every adult at least once in their life.

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