Episode #1342

American Icons: The Wizard of Oz

Originally aired: November 19, 2005

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Friday, October 19, 2012

The Wizard of Oz Feature Card_Big

Follow the yellow brick road through America’s favorite story and discover places in the land of Oz more wonderful, and weirder, than you ever imagined.

It's been over seventy years since movie audiences first watched The Wizard of Oz. Meet the original man behind the curtain, L. Frank Baum, who had all the vision of Walt Disney, but none of the business sense. Discover how Oz captivated the imaginations of Russians living under Soviet rule. Hear how the playwright Neil LaBute, the late filmmaker Nora Ephron, the novelist Salman Rushdie, and the musician Bobby McFerrin, found magic, meaning, and inspiration in Oz.


Jeanine Basinger, Nora Ephron, Ernie Harburg, Neil LaBute, Bobby McFerrin, Walter Murch and Salman Rushdie

Comments [21]

Michael A. Montana from Utica, NY

The show on The Wizard of Oz was fascinating and entertaining and certainly educational for me. Living less than 20 miles from Chittenango NY, I must admit I knew nothing about Baum and was amazed to learn that there were a series of OZ books. I intend to read them soon. Thank you again for what you do.

Dec. 01 2013 12:05 PM

"Toto" could have been a reference to teetotaling. The women's suffrage movement began out of the temperance movement. (See Daniel Okrent's LAST CALL or watch the PBS documentary "Prohibition.") If the mother-in-law was influenced by suffragettes, she might have been a temperance advocate as well, and if her influence was as strong as you've said, perhaps Toto was exactly that.

May. 03 2013 09:12 AM
iksc from panam

wizard of Oz-iris...should be enough for those who know.

Jan. 26 2013 03:06 PM

Thank you for the best show ever! Brought me down memory lane, tears and all!

Nov. 02 2012 10:49 AM

There is no evidence for any sort of allegory regarding the Wizard of Oz and the gold standard, Populism, etc. Such interpretations were discovered (meaning: invented) in the 1960s by a college professor. Baum did use satire and allegory (his gentle tweaking of feminism in The Marvelous Land of Oz, for instance) but in this case it's coincidence. Like HAL in 2001 being one step ahead of IBM, this is a link unintended by its creator.

Oct. 25 2012 04:20 PM
Ted Scheffler from Salt Lake City, UT

Thank you for taking me on a journey to Oz. I'm 56 years old, and yet I'd somehow never seen the 1939 movie. Your show about this American icon (international, really) piqued my interest and I finally watched that incredible work of cinema. Thanks again.

Oct. 25 2012 11:47 AM
Allan Murphy from Tokyo

A very interesting program. I hadn't known about Baum's background or that there is a series of books. Selling Japanese lanterns in North Dakota circa 1890 is a good one! I can't access your American Icons suggestions page but here are mine: Route 66; The Marx Brothers and solo Groucho (You Bet Your Life, etc); Roy Rogers & Gene Autrey.

Oct. 25 2012 04:18 AM
Buck Sherwood

Hey NHPR folks/Studio 360 people, others,

Concerning the recent broadcast about L. Frank Baum's "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" [which actually suffered a serious (deliberate?) reduction/alteration of its inherent parable, ...such cinematic perversions called "THE WIZARD OF OZ"]: the first blatant metaphor is found in Dorothy's shoes; the original text having made them silver (i.e. think JFK's Executive Order 11110) as opposed to the diversionary red/ruby dupe. Your broadcast's particular guest (alleged expert on American cinema) whom claimed that the original text had no political implications is obviously ill-of-mind and/or a government employee of propaganda.

If one is interested in investigating further: please see the documentary entitled "The Secret of Oz" (access via YouTube: "The Secret of Oz" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swkq2E8mswI .

I hope you have the gall to mention this on air, and thanks for your time. --Buck Sherwood

"Do you use your own mind, or do you simply accept that which is told to you?" --Crichton E.M. Miller

Oct. 24 2012 04:10 PM
Steve from 02142

Thank you so much for your show today. I couldn't leave my car and I have never heard of your show before!

Oct. 21 2012 07:59 PM
Grace Fleming

I'm trying to get to "Oz" now, to a girlfriend who always says when she sees me she feels she is finally "home". I am still seeking my place over the rainbow. down under, in Australia, 15,732 miles aways, and free myself of this love exile. I so hope I'm not grossly awakened to the fact that my "somewhere" was here in Dallas, or at least Texas, all along.

Maybe once I can get her to the States (legally), we can both finally be "home"...

Oct. 21 2012 07:58 PM
Rita Bullinger from Nashville

Thanks to Kurt Anderson for today's broadcast about "The Wizard of Oz." I particularly enjoyed the academia's ideas regarding the symbolism in Frank Baum's text. Reminded me of a lecture I heard from Bertha Harris who compared Jaws (the movie) to a society's fears and hoped-for annihilation of lesbians. This morning I enjoyed even more the archived interview with the incomparable Nora Ephron, and the audio footage of Salman Rushdie's talk to American students. Made me want to actually read the book; I've only ever watched the movie, back in '62 when I was 9 years old. Remember how the networks played it every year after that? What a world! Thanks again, Mr. Anderson!

Oct. 21 2012 07:44 PM
Janet Cormier from Boston, MA

I was torn while listening to the Wizard of Oz segment As a child, I was a fan of the Wizard of Oz.
Things changed, as an adult when I learned L. Frank Baum called for the genocide of Native Americans. I was chilled...if Baum advocated for the extermination of Native Peoples, what did he think of African-Americans and other Peoples of Color.!?!
I can see the "No $(#)*$) allowed in Oz." signs. One more place that is not for person who looks like me. And, yes I know about the black production, The Wiz but ...
INCIDENT written by Countee Cullen

Once riding in old Baltimore,
Heart-filled, head-filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight and very small,
And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
His tonge, and called me, "Nigger."

I saw the whole of Baltimore
From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
That's all that I remember.


Oct. 21 2012 03:29 PM
Peng Hardin from Jamiaca Plain, MA

Thanks for this week's show! Like so many others I grew up watching "The Wizard of Oz" every year and got tired of it after so many airings but after hearing so much of the background of the story I find myself wanting to see it again.

There are two places audio clips from the movie have been found in that are forever linked in my mind. The first is the Wicked Witch's threat against Dorothy and Toto that always prompts my mind to go to "Existential Blues" by Tom 'T-Bone' Stankus, a song I used to hear a lot on the Dr. Demento show. You can see how Stankus uses the clip at about 2:36 in the YouTube video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8nJ30dodvdc.

The second is Dorothy's comment about not being in Kansas anymore, which immediately takes my mind to the song "Emerald City" by the progressive Christian band Prodigal. The song is part of their 1984 album "Electric Eye" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_Eye_(album)), and I wish I could find a link to share but the song starts off with that familiar line and after hearing this week's show last night I had to fire it up.

Of course now I also want to go read the books, which is one of the things I love about Studio 360. I always find out something new, and so often it's something new about something I thought I already knew. Thank you!

Oct. 21 2012 12:02 PM

Nothing turns me off more quickly than telling me someone is an expert about something that is supposed to be interpreted by the individual for themselves.

Oct. 21 2012 11:50 AM
darrel boeckman from Blue Earth, Mn

I have to be honest I have not read the book, though I probably will now. Though like a lot of other Americans I have seen the movie.
The comment I would like to make is concerning Oz as a Location. I have started reading a series of books by James A. Owen, “The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica.” These books are based on the premise that all places real and imaginary exist if you know how the get to them. And the first book is based on the protection of an Altas that maps out the Imaginary lands. Book two sends you through a section of Oz, as well as other areas of Imaginary lands. Book six has you meet L. Frank Baum as well as a few other noted authors, sceintics, and other notable figures in history.
The premise of these books though a fiction really make on think of the webs and ties between the worlds of the real and imaginary.

Oct. 21 2012 08:18 AM
Mike A from Washington, DC

Great piece, but I wish the reporters had been a little more "balanced" when discussing Baum's deeper meanings conveyed via Wizard of Oz. It's not just internet kooks and academics who've explored this. Check out:

The Secret of Oz: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=swkq2E8mswI (Winner, Best Documentary of 2010)

Also, (1) Ellen Brown's recent book “Web of Debt”, (2) the earlier “Creature from Jekyll Island” by G. Edward Griffin, and (3) “Secrets of the Federal Reserve” by Eustace Mullins. The third one's the true eye-opener...

And: http://www.monetary.org

Thanks, and Enjoy.

Oct. 20 2012 07:34 PM
Sarah from Tucson, AZ

When I was a little girl of four my uncle took me to see the Wizard of Oz in the theater. It was the first moving picture I had ever seen (hippie parents), and I thought I was watching real people. I couldn't separate the movie from reality. Dorothy became my imaginary friend for the next year. Thank you for this segment! Love it.

Oct. 20 2012 06:24 PM
Carol Morton from Apison, Tennessee

Thanks for a great show Just had to add a comment though. Although I love the books and the movie, I hate the very end of the movie as it is completely WRONG. Perhaps it is because I read many of the books long before ever seeing the movie, but I (and "everyone" who knows anything about Oz) know that it is a real place surrounded by the Deadly Desert. That sappy few minutes at the end of the movie is an unfortunate addition which has left me grinding my teeth
every time I've seen it since goodness knows how many years ago. And few want to listen to my complaint on this subject. Thanks for being there so I tell someone.

Oct. 20 2012 05:11 PM
Daniel from Lexington, MA.

I've enjoyed listening to you, and this mornings 'Wizard of Oz' show is just beautifully done, and so much fun too.

I am glad I did not miss it, thank you for wonderful shows like this!

Oct. 20 2012 11:28 AM
Ron Brabson from Chester, PA

Ok Here is error number 2.
Before The Wiz hit broadway, Pearl Bailey won the Tony Award in 1968 for Best Actress in an all Black production of Hello Dolly. Certainly there was an audience back then for such productions prior to 1976 and The Wiz.

Oct. 20 2012 07:50 AM
Ron Brabson from Chester, PA

Your "expert" is totally wrong about the end of movie.
Dorothy was not angry at the Witch, she was trying to save Scarecrow who had been set on fire by the Witch. She throws the bucket of water to the Scarecrow and mostly misses, hitting the Witch and melting her.

Oct. 20 2012 07:17 AM

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