Oz in the News 5.21.11

Oz Comes to Peyton Place  It’s a Friday evening in May, and my husband, Richard, and I are gathered with Tom Wilhite and Willard Carroll in their kitchen, on the outskirts of Camden, drinking wine and watching Willard prepare dinner. Tom and Willard cofounded the film-production company Hyperion Pictures in 1984, and they recently relocated to Maine. Although it’s our first visit to their new house, I’ve known Tom and Willard since our Hollywood days together, and Rich and I want to hear the story of what brought them to Camden. While Willard prepares dinner, he moves adroitly around the kitchen and sneaks the occasional peak at one of his favorite old movies, Bigger Than Life, which is playing on the monitor next to the stove. As I talk with Tom, my eye follows Willard. Above his head, I spot an original movie poster for the 1941 animated film Hoppity Goes to Town. And when we move into the living room, my husband points out an exquisite piece of art above the fireplace, a poster for a 1903 New York stage production of The Wizard of Oz. In the master bedroom, we discover a poster for the 1940 release of the French version of MGM’s Judy Garland classic, The Wizard of Oz. In the bathroom is another original film poster, this one for the 1957 theatrical release of Peyton Place.
Rich and I both have the same question:  “What’s up with all this?” Tom answers, “We collect Oz memorabilia.” Then he quietly adds, “It’s the foremost Oz collection in the world.”

Crystal ball from “Wizard of Oz” to benefit NJ Teen Arts Council  The giant crystal ball used by the Wicked Witch of the West was last seen in 1939 and had been thought lost by Wizard of Oz experts. Amazingly, it was recently discovered in a junkyard, found amongst the discarded remains of a defunct Hollywood prop house. Purchased with the hope of one day turning it into an enormous plasma ball, the bulky, hand-blown item sat unidentified for several years until the new owner, an amateur inventor, stumbled across photos of the item pictured in the Kenneth Strickfaden biography “Dr. Frankenstein’s Electrician.”

Relay for Life draws about 1,000 people to Westside High  The Wizard of Oz served as the theme for this year’s relay, which featured the motto: “There’s No Place Like Hope.” Many of the people walking around the track wore costumes from the classic movie.

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