Category Archives: Oz in Pop Culture

Oz in the News 3.23.21

Ronnee Sass Dies: Warner Bros. Publicist Behind Memorable Home Video Campaigns Best known for her contributions to home entertainment, Sass embarked on a career in this space in 1995. After co-founding Wolff, Freed and Greenberg, an independent PR and advertising firm in Baltimore, and doing a stint in film distribution, Sass found her way to Warner Home Video, where she was tasked with publicizing the studio’s extraordinary film library. In the 20 years that followed, Sass proved a key player in anniversary campaigns for many classic Warner Bros. titles, including The Wizard of Oz, Singin’ in the Rain and Blade Runner. Of particular note was a 2004 campaign in recognition of the 65th anniversary of Oz, for which she brought together all of the film’s surviving Munchkins.

Blakeway to explore Hollywood’s “golden year” for C5 Zinc Media Group-owned, UK-based factual prodco Blakeway Productions has scored a two-part commission with Channel 5, exploring a Hollywood heyday from decades past. Across two 90-minute specials, 1939: Hollywood’s Golden Year will feature a cast of family members, friends and experts such as Judy Garland’s daughter Lorna Luft; actor and writer Stephen Fry (pictured); Laurence Olivier’s son Tarquin and director Peter Bogdanovich to celebrate the films of a pivotal year during which such classics as Wuthering Heights, The Wizard of Oz and Gone With The Wind were made. Daniel Pearl, VP, commissioning editor for Channel 5, said in a statement: “This show will take an in-depth look at one of the most glamorous times in Hollywood which I know our viewers are going to love. With never-before-seen footage and interviews with the people who knew them best, it will reveal some of the best kept secrets of Tinsel town’s most famous icons.”

Oz in the News 3.22.21

This Klingon weapon was inspired by The Wizard of Oz while not much is known about how the spear originated in Klingon customs, the weapon used for the series was a collaboration between TNG’s visual effects supervisor, Dan Curry and prop master Alan Sims. And Curry, according to the book Star Trek The Artistry of Dan Curry, was inspired by both medieval halberds and what the Wicked Witch’s guards carried in The Wizard of Oz.

Oz in the News 3.21.21

Brand New Day In an interview from 1977, Ben Harney, who played the Tin Man in the Broadway production of The Wiz, said that ‘for the first time in a long time people were getting Black theatre that wasn’t hitting them over the head with anger and militancy. This was a show that had universality, and it was fun.’ But after the film was released, white writers compared it to the so-called ‘militant’ productions of the era. Charles Champlin complained in his review that Lumet had directed the film ‘as if it were Roots instead of a musical fantasy film with (new) satiric overtones’. In truth the film fuses both sensibilities, and it’s this that made it unwieldy and hard to classify. That the more strident Roots was a TV sensation and became a cultural phenomenon, while The Wiz failed horribly, says something about the public lack of appetite for subtlety or complexity in Black productions. ‘That music – maybe you’d call it “sophisticated funk” – is a combination of all the music I ever knew,’ Charlie Smalls told the LA Times in 1976. ‘I wrote it all from my heart. The lyrics – they’re my life story – I became the characters to create the characters. I used everything that happened to me on my way here. And believe me, some of it wasn’t so good before it got turned into a song.’

Oz in the News 3.12.21

Explore the Life of L. Frank Baum In “American Oz” Premiering on PBS This Spring According to PBS, the film invites viewers to “explore the life of L. Frank Baum, the man behind one of the most beloved, enduring and quintessential American classics. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900, has been reinterpreted through the generations in films, books, and musicals.” Baum wrote hundreds of works—scripts, poems, novels, and short stories—in addition to the 14 books in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz series, which also includes The Marvelous Land of Oz, Ozma of Oz, Dorothy and the Wizard in Oz, The Road to Oz, The Emerald City of Oz, and the last Oz book, Glinda of Oz. The works have been adapted into several films, including the classic 1939 movie musical starring Judy Garland, as well as plays and musicals, including 2003’s Wicked, which is based upon the Gregory Maguire novel of the same name that itself re-imagines the lives of Baum’s characters. “American Oz” will premiere on American Experience on PBS on Monday, April 19, 2021, at 9 p.m. E.T. (Check local listings to confirm.)

Oz in the News 3.3.21

Wizard of Oz-themed library unveiled at Race Leys Junior School – in time for World Book Day A Bedworth school has unveiled an incredible new-look library to coincide with World Book Day. The old library at Race Leys Junior School in Bedworth has been refurbished and transformed and now boasts a brilliant ‘Wizard of Oz’ theme. Not only does it have an incredible mural on the wall, the new look library also has customised seating and even a book vending machine for pupils to use. Carrie Clare, Executive Head at the school, said: “Griffin Schools Trust believes in wide horizons and high achievement for all its pupils. Providing engaging spaces to promote a lifelong love of reading has the power to transform lives. “Research indicates that reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success, greater than family circumstances, parents’ educational background or income, which is why the library is at the heart of our school.”

Oz in the News 2.27.21

American McGee Reveals Oz: Adventures, a Hybrid TV And Video Game Project Doom, Quake and Alice alum American McGee has revealed Oz: Adventures, a television series and video game project that has been picked up for development by Radar Pictures. The project is based on the Oz series of books, which began with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. McGee said on Instagram that he and his team “will be working to develop the Oz: Adventures concept for production as a TV series and video game. With luck, you’ll soon turn on one of your content providers (HBO? Netflix? Amazon?) and find ‘OZ: Adventures’ (Game and TV show) among your entertainment options,” McGee continues. McGee describes his version of Oz as “Running Man vs. Witches, Quadlings, and Munchkins. Characters are involuntarily pulled into Oz from all over the world and all through time.”

JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure Art Creates Strange Wizard of Oz Crossover The world of the Joestars is a strange one on its own, with JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure giving us some of the weirdest battles in the history of anime thanks to the Stands that appear frequently in the franchise, but one fan has decided to amplify the level of the bizarre by bringing the Hirohiko Araki characters into the world of The Wizard of Oz. This year is promising to be a big one for the anime franchise that continues to pick up steam across the world with each passing year and the future of the series seems bright.

What Song Is In The Army Of The Dead Trailer Among the flailing bodies and flying bullets, a timeless voice rises above the chaos. The Army of the Dead trailer is set to a slightly rejigged, slowed-down version of Judy Garland’s “Lucky Day.” The song was written in 1926 and recorded by various artists including Harry Richman and The Revelers, but perhaps the most famous performance (and the one Zack Snyder uses here) is Garland’s, first recorded in 1956.

Tell Me Something Good: ‘Finding Dorothy’ “Finding Dorothy” has been chosen as this year’s selection for the “Central New York Reads One Book” campaign, urging readers to read the book over the next few weeks and talk about it.  That’s something that really touched the author. “When you say that, I’m getting goosebumps,” Letts says.  “To have the community that I, as an outsider, came in and described a piece of, embracing my story and saying, hey we think you did a good job, that is incredibly validating for me.” As part of “Central New York Reads One Book,” Syracuse Stage will host Elizabeth Letts for a live Zoom conversation, next Thursday, March 4.  There’s no charge to participate, and you don’t have to have read the book.  But you do have to register in advance to get the Zoom link.  You can do that at https://www.syracusestage.org/syracusestories.php   And you can learn more about “Central New York Reads One Book” at https://www.cnyreads.org/.

Oz in the News 2.25.21

A Los Angeles Home With Some ‘Wicked’ Hollywood History Hits the Market A historic Los Angeles home that once belonged to Margaret Hamilton, known as the Wicked Witch of the West in the 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz,” was listed last week for $2.4 million. With three bedrooms and three-and-a-half bathrooms over about 3,000 square feet, the townhouse is the largest of the five residences in the Courtney Villa complex on the Sunset Strip, according to listing agent Jill Galloway at Compass. The residence is one of five homes that make up the Courtney Desmond Estate, a Spanish-Mediterranean revival-style community that dates to 1926. Designed by architects Frank H. Harding and George J. Adams, it was declared a Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument in 1989.

Oz in the News 2.20.21

Fabled ‘Oz House’ in Syracuse sells for $10,000 It’s nicknamed the ‘Oz House’ because it was rumored that ‘Wizard of Oz’ author L. Frank Baum met his wife Maud Gage at the home. That was later debunked (the home where he met Gage has been demolished). The 5,198 sq. ft. home is on Onondaga St. W. and was built in the mid-1800s. In 2015, Greater Syracuse Land Bank sold the home to the “All Things Oz Historical Foundation.” A spokesperson said the Land Bank oversees sales to make sure buyers follow through with rehabbing the properties. After two years, the spokesperson says “All Things Oz” hadn’t done any work so the Land Bank put it back on the market in May 2018. A woman from downstate New York purchased the home and plans to make it her primary residence.

Oz in the News 1.29.21

Why everyone’s going Dizzy for new version of hit retro video game Dizzy – an eight-bit video game back in the 1980s – was seen by many as the UK’s answer to Mario and Sonic. Created by the renowned Oliver Twins, the series became a firm favourite with retro gamers. Now, after fans pleaded for new games to be created, Wonderful Dizzy was released for ZX Spectrum last month. It is inspired by L Frank Baum’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Jarrod continues to design games in his spare time and has been working on his own creation for the past decade. He said: “Designing 2D games is an art form. You work with much less memory than modern computers, eking out every last byte and so every pixel counts. I enjoy the challenge.” Wonderful Dizzy can be played for free at www.WonderfulDizzy.com.

The Yellow Brick Road leads to Sonoma Andy Warhol is credited with coining the phrase about everyone having 15 minutes of fame. Sonoma’s Betty Ann Bruno, one of the last surviving Munchkins, has had more than her share. She writes about it in “The Munchkin Diary,” a memoir detailing her journey from “The Wizard of Oz,” to Stanford University, to working for the CIA, to being a civil activist in Oakland, to a career in television. “I never intended to write about my life,” Bruno, 89, told the Index-Tribune. “Then I thought my kids would like to hear about being on the set with Judy Garland, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and a whole bunch of little people. That story led to many more.” Bruno was born in Hawaii to a Hawaiian mother, her father from Texas. The family moved to Hollywood when she was quite young. Living across the street from the Twentieth Century Fox studios, it seemed only natural that Bruno would go into show business. And the timing was perfect. “The elaborate Oz movie set with all those big colorful plastic flowers, the playhouse-like thatched huts and that famous yellow brick road was magical. It was a 7-year-old’s dream,” Bruno said. Only later would she realize the significance of being part of the 1939 Hollywood classic, one of the most famous movies of all time.

Oz in the News 12.27.20

Batman, Art Heists, Chippendales & Judy Garland’s Slippers…The Podcasts To Watch Out For In 2021 A pair of red sequined slippers worn by Judy Garland’s Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz were found in 2018, 13 years after they were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The culprit, however, has never been caught. This story is now the subject of No Place Like Home, an original non-fiction series from Cadence13, the company behind biker gang story Relative Unknown and the upcoming Unsolved Mysteries podcast. The show, which launches in summer 2021, will detail the theft and the return of the slippers and will also take listeners into the fraught relationship between Grand Rapids and their most famous daughter, the wacky world of Hollywood memorabilia and the conflict between Hollywood and Minnesota, small town suspicions, the tensions between the local cops and the FBI, and the market for lost and stolen art.