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Kansas Memory Blog

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz turns 80!

Posted by on Mar 11, 2019

By: Haley Suby, Digital Archivist

In the United States eighty years ago, the Wizard of Oz, "America's greatest and best-loved homegrown fairytale" graced the silver screens. MGM based the film on the novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum which was published in 1900. (1) Baum's story, in which the infamous cyclone carries Dorothy and Toto from "grey Kansas" to the "queer land of Oz" introduces readers to Dorothy's travel companions, both good and evil.(2)

 Wizard of Oz sand sculptures in Topeka, Kansas

While traveling the yellow brick road toward the Emerald City, Dorothy begins collecting fellow travelers. First she saves the Scarecrow from his tedious work of scaring the crows from the field night and day. 


Fred Stone as Wizard of Oz Scarecrow

Then she rescues the Tinman from resting by putting oil into his joints. Finally, she knocks sense into the Cowardly Lion after he tries to bite Toto.

In 1939 MGM brought Baum's story to life in Technicolor to be shown in theaters across the United States. Dorothy, played by Judy Garland, took audiences on her adventure from Kansas to Oz and home to Kansas again.

Wizard of Oz view-master reels

Over the past one-hundred and nineteen years, Kansas has celebrated the novel, musical and film The Wizard of Oz. In Wamego, Kansas, the Oztober Fest pays tribute to the film. Shown here is a scene from one of their many productions of the musical.


Wizard of Oz cast on stage at Oztober Fest 

Even the villain of the story, the Wicked Witch of the West, is honored for her part in the story.

Margaret Hamilton, Wicked Witch of the West, in Topeka, Kanas

Adapting the novel to theater and film has led to several changes over the decades. One thing that has remained constant: it is one of the greatest films penetrating "straight to the deepest insecurities of childhood" (3) and bringing children home with three clicks of their heels.

 1. Evina, Frank J. The Wizard of Oz: An American Fairy Tale. May 2000, Library of Congress.

2. Baum, L. Frank. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Chicago: Geo. M. Hill Co., 1900.

 3. Ebert, Roger. "Great Movies: The Wizard of Oz. RogerEbert.com, 22 December 1996. Web. Accessed: 16 February 2019.


 Further reading:











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