austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

But I could show my prowess

[ I'm extremely sorry to be s late. I was at my sister-in-law's and her husband's, and had no idea the visit would run for so long. ]

Oh, and a bit of a heads-up for L Frank Baum fans who've got Turner Classic Movies, United States feed: the Sunday night silent movie, starting at 12:15 am (so, properly, early Monday morning) Eastern Time is Wizard of Oz, and obviously not the famous and well-regarded and popular MGM version. This version is the 1925 take, directed by and starring (as the Scarecrow) Larry Semon, who nobody has heard of since his death in 1928 but who was reasonably successful as a comic actor, well, up until this movie, which also bankrupted the studio.

It takes a lot of liberties with the original story. Now, I don't regard perfect fidelity to the source material as a critically important thing, since different media do require different features, and a scene can work great in one form and not at all in another, and so on ... well, that's one of those value judgements. But Semon's version goes way, way off the book, to the point I get the feeling Semon just wanted to make his own movie and figured Oz would be a useful promotional hook. It does feature Oliver Hardy as a farmhand who becomes the Tin Man. But it's also got some racial humor that has aged much more agonizingly than the homosexual-pansy stuff in the MGM version. (I've also seen it claimed that this was the first production to have the idea of Dorothy's partners in Oz being played by the same actors who play the farm hands, but I'm not at all sure that's true.)

Silent movies are inherently a bit dreamlike and easily become surreal, but this is still not as wonderfully bizarre as His Majesty, The Scarecrow Of Oz. But there is some curious impulse given a movie that has nothing in common with one of the monolithic cultural touchstones of movies, except for (roughly) the whole subject matter of the movie. It's like a glimpse into a different universe's popular culture. The movie (along with His Majesty and some other silent movies along these lines), is also on the three-disc The Wizard of Oz DVD set from a couple years back, if you choose to give this a miss.

Trivia: L Frank Baum organized the National Association of Window Trimmers in 1898. The organization had as goal ``the uplifting of mercantile decorating to the level of a profession''. Source: 1898: The Birth Of The American Century, David Traxel.

Currently Reading: Terraforming Earth, Jack Williamson. Man, it's depressing even for a book that starts with the destruction of all humans on the Earth by asteroid impact.


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