It was a long road to Oz as we know it. In fact, the journey started in 1900, nearly 40 years prior to the premiere of the film. And it all began in the imagination of author L. Frank Baum who began the series that created the Land of Oz. His stories stood out as wonderful fairytales without the blood, gore and gruesome details of some of the earlier fairytales. He wrote to entertain children and thought such things had no place in children’s literature. His first Oz stories inspired a blockbuster musical in 1902 that greatly increased the demand and popularity for the Oz series. Many more stories were written and more musicals produced, though none had the popularity of the 1902 production.
After Baum’s passing in 1919, author Ruth Thompson, took over the series and created an annual Oz story for the next 19 years. By the time The Wizard of Oz was produced, there were thirty-three Oz books. The stories then went on to radio and were broadcast three times a week for children across the United States. Baum’s son tried for years to sell the rights to a film production company before Samuel Goldwyn finally purchased the rights for $40,000. Even then, it would be another four years before the movie finally began production, and was released two years later in 1939.
From the success of the first play and the original stories, the excitement for a new Technicolor motion picture sent Hollywood abuzz with anticipation. Through a series of pre-screenings, the hype about the movie only continued to grow with positive word of mouth and published reviews. Many viewings were sold out and could offer standing room only to those who couldn’t get tickets. While the film itself is proudly celebrating 75 years, the birth of L. Frank Baum’s Oz far predates that. It is truly remarkable to have a story stand the test of time through decades and generations.