William Selig

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Short Starts typically presents a weekly short film from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career. This week we present a short film from the start of a film property. Say what you will about Oz the Great and Powerful (I’m not a fan, but the $80 million gross implies some of you are), but you can’t dismiss it simply out of loyalty and preference for MGM’s The Wizard of Oz. That film may be a classic, but it’s far from being an original product that can be ruined by any remake, sequel or prequel. Sure, the new Oz strangely attempts to get away with as much visual linkage to the 1939 film as Disney could get away with, but it’s also just another in a very long list of adaptations of L. Frank Baum‘s children’s stories, which includes animated versions, Muppet versions and all-African-American versions, as well as silent incarnations going back more than a century, many of which involved Baum directly. The first cinematic treatment of Oz was in 1908, as part of a compilation of stories adapted from Baum’s books (including non-Oz works) titled The Fairylogue and Radio Plays. I don’t technically qualify the project as the first Oz movie because it only partly involved colorized film material in addition to slides and live performance, all wrapped up in a traveling stage show. Naturally, this means it doesn’t survive — also it was not financially successful, resulting in Baum’s bankruptcy in 1911, so that may be […]

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