Opinion | L. Frank Baum deserves proper recognition


Photo Courtesy of IMDB

Judy Garland, Ray Bolger and Jack Haley star in “The Wizard of Oz” which was released in 1939. Columnist Noah argues that the writer of the book the film is based on, L. Frank Baum, should receive more recognition.

By Noah Nelson, Senior Columnist

When one thinks of classic movies, films like “Gone With the Wind,” “Citizen Kane” and “Casablanca” typically come to mind. One film that stands out above them all is Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1939 classic “The Wizard of Oz.”

As the film has astonished movie critics and fans alike for over eighty years, hardly anyone knows what happened way before the film premiered Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Not many people realize the film was based off of the 1900 children’s book titled “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” by L. Frank Baum, the man who started it all. And his name should be appreciated.

After the publication of the classic book that later became the hit movie, Baum continued to write stories set in the Land of Oz, not only featuring beloved characters like Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Lion, but also ones few folks have heard of. Those include the likes of Jack Pumpkinhead, Tik-Tok and the Nome King. 

Much like what J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter, Baum planned out everything in the Land of Oz. He created well-known locations within the world like the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle, the Emerald City and Munchkinland. While doing so, he also divided the land into four countries, including Munchkin, Winkie, Gillikin and Quadling, all connected by the famous Yellow Brick Road.

Though Baum never saw the premier of the 1939 classic, as he passed away 20 years prior, he left a pop culture legacy that continues to thrive today. 

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Over the years, “The Wizard of Oz” sparked a cultural mania that will never be matched — sorry Marvel and Stars Wars fans. Spin-off films include the likes of 1978’s “The Wiz,” featuring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, 2005’s “Muppets’ Wizard of Oz,” starring Queen Latifah and everybody’s favorite puppets and 2013’s “Oz: The Great and Powerful,” starring James Franco and Mila Kunis.

In 2003, the witches of Oz first told their side of the story, long before Dorothy dropped in. The Broadway hit, which starred Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth as Elphaba and Glinda respectively, follows the Wicked Witch of the West and Glinda becoming friends. Even today, “Wicked” continues to play for sold out shows on Broadway and all across the globe.

Besides the world of film, “The Wizard of Oz” has also turned millions of people into fans, some who have invested way too much in the Land of Oz. In Wamego, Kansas, the small town has dedicated it’s entire downtown to all things Oz, featuring a museum full of artifacts and several businesses named after Oz places and characters. There are also annual Oz festivals in towns like Macedonia, Ohio and Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you’re feeling inclined to do so, there is also the International Wizard of Oz Club.

Not many realize who L. Frank Baum is, but everyone knows and loves the world he created. Next time you watch a movie set in the Land of Oz, catch “Wicked” on Broadway or read one of his children’s books, let Baum come to mind and thank him for all he has done for pop culture. Without him, who knows where the world would be today.

Noah is a junior in the College of Media.

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