Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Follow the Grey-Brick Road...

Last week, Erik had a post about a piece of writing from Chicago author L. Frank Baum that was considerably less whimsical than Baum's usual fare-- it was, astoundlingly, an argument for genocide of Native-Americans. Not what one would expect from the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the basis for the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz.

On the way to work every day, I pass by the bland townhouse that is now where the house that Baum lived in was when he wrote the book (it's at 1667 N. Humboldt Blvd., for all you Chicagoans).

I've never actually read the book. Like every child in America, I grew up watching the movie on television.

When I was a junior in college, my parents moved to California. There was no big problem with this: they'd given me a car, and I lived in off-campus housing. I enjoyed the fact that it gave me an excuse to go to California over Christmas break.

On Spring breaks, I'd stay at my aunt's apartment, in Chicago's South Side Beverly neighborhood. My aunt was often off with her boyfriend on vacation trips around then, so I usually got the place to myself.

My senior year, she was there for a couple of days of my visit. One afternoon, the movie The Wizard of Oz was playing. She and I sat down to enjoy it.

Toward the end of the movie, something went wrong with the television-- or so I thought. The color disappeared. I got up to try to adjust the set, and my aunt asked me what I was doing. I told her that I was trying to fix the picture-- it had just gone all black and white.

My family did not own a color television until I was in high school, so I had never seen The Wizard of Oz in color before. And so it was at that moment, at the tender age of 22, that I learned that the beginning and end of the movie, where Dorothy is on the farm, is in black and white, while the middle, where Dorothy is in Oz, is in color.


cheer34 said...

I think many people would be amazed at the amount of hate respectable persons have inside. (is persons the correct word here?)

Ford (of the model T Ford) was an anti-semite at it's worst.

SamuraiFrog said...

That's sad about Baum and the Native Americans, though I have read it before. It's a shame. I actually love his children's books; I read all 14 of his OZ books as a kid, plus several others. Most of them I have in hardcover now.

Splotchy said...

I haven't read Baum's anti-Native American screed, but keep in mind that a large number of respected people in the US said some pretty heinous things about them as well. Not that mitigates Baum's writings, but it does place it in a broader context.

What a cool, unique experience you had with the B&W Wizard Of Oz, then the realization of its color. That's neat. Waaay better than any Dark Side Of The Moon horsecrap.

Mob said...

Loved your Oz tale, I too remember it being a black and white film from my childhood, as we always had a black and white television.

I honestly don't know if I've seen it in its entirety since I was quite young.

Natalie said...

There are some questionable things in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz Book. Dorothy and friends running crazy in "dainty china town" and breaking people and the horrific enslavement of the Winkies are what I remember most. Still loved the book and want to read it again.

I always find it sad when great artists of any kind have really zany beliefs. Unfortunately, it happens more often than i would like. Roald Dahl has always been a little suspect in some of his view/literary choices. Does it mean he hasn't also written great and eye-opening works, not at all.

kim said...

Wow Mr. Yen, I never knew that about explains a lot!

The stepping from black and white into color is an inspiration for a blog post.

By the way, the Pop-up Deluxe version of Wizard of Oz is awesome. The girl has it if you want to look at it.

Skylers Dad said...

Your OZ tale reminds me of Gary Larsons final cartoon, I smell a post a comin!

Tenacious S said...

Johnny, that reminds me that my Mom was a huge Cubs fan. We only had a black and white TV until about 1976. She told me she was shocked when she went to Wrigley for the first time because it was so green. My best memory of her is her watching the Cubs while she was sewing.

GETkristiLOVE said...

I didn't realize that about Baum. Cool story.

My dad worked for RCA during those years so we had color TV right away. We also had one of the beta versions of RCA's first VCR - you know the kind with the big buttons and you had to press record and play at the same time to record the TV. Big, honking thing.

BTW, have you ever done Pink Oz? It's great... well, for about five minutes, and it helps to be looped.

Coaster Punchman said...

We didn't have a color TV until I was about 9. I remember seeing so many ads for TV shows that would say "In Color!" and I didn't understand why we couldn't see them in color after all that bragging. Ah, the good old days.