Episode #1448

American Icons: The Wizard of Oz

Originally aired: November 19, 2005

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Friday, November 29, 2013

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.

(Originally aired: November 19, 2005)

    Music Playlist
  1. When You Love, Love, Love
    Artist: Thomas E. Whitbred
    Album: The 1903 Broadway Musical: The Wizard of Oz
    Label: Hungry Tiger Press
    Purchase: Amazon
  2. Wizard of Oz Theme
    Artist: Arthur Pryor's Band
    Album: The 1903 Broadway Musical: The Wizard of Oz
    Label: Hungry Tiger Press
    Purchase: Amazon
  3. Wizard of Oz Theme
    Album: Aeolin Piano Roll
    Label: Hungry Tiger Press
  4. L'Diva de l'Empire
    Artist: Klara Kormendi
    Album: The Best of Erik Satie
    Label: Naxos
    Purchase: Amazon
  5. Somewhere Over the Rainbow
    Artist: Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
    Album: Facing Future
    Label: Mountain Apple Company
    Purchase: Amazon
  6. Somewhere Over the Rainbow
    Artist: Maceo Parker
    Album: Roots Revisited
    Label: Minor Music
    Purchase: Amazon
  7. Ding Dong the Witch is Dead
    Artist: The Chad Lawson Trio
    Album: Dear Dorothy: The Oz Sessions
    Label: Summit
    Purchase: Amazon
  8. Follow the Yellow Brick Road
    Artist: The Chad Lawson Trio
    Album: Dear Dorothy: The Oz Sessions
    Label: Summit
    Purchase: Amazon


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

Produced by:

Ave Carrillo, Jonathan Mitchell and Eric Molinsky


Julie Burstein and Arun Rath

Comments [8]

Jay Moor from Bozeman, MT

Good show, but it brushed off Littlefield's analysis too abruptly. I am a Baum fan who got a new Oz book every Christmas when I was a tyke. I believe they affected my worldview -- sense of fair play, idealism, essential goodness, comeuppance and the possibility of ice cream dispensers in every car. One thing that always bothered me was that the first book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, is qualitatively different from the succeeding books. I can't put my finger on it; it may be the illustrations or the complicated storyline, I don't know. After the first story, though, Baum delivered a new adventure every year in a straightforward, almost formulaic way. What kept them interesting was that each opened new windows on a place that was essentially friendly, even though there were dangers to be encountered. I grew with that idea, believing that my real world was the same sort of place. and that if one were intrepid enough, he or she could explore that world freely and draw on the good to overcome the evil. When I encountered Littlefield's piece, delivered in time for the 25th anniversary of the film, it explained why the first book was so different. It had been written as an allegory. All the pieces fit -- especially the name: Oz. This was the abbreviation for ounce, the unit for measuring gold. Oz, the Great and Good, was McKinley, hiding away in Washington, doing nothing for the farmer and industrial worker except blather about the gold standard. The Wicked Witch of the West was the harsh climate of the prairie, eventually subdued by access to water. Dorothy was instructed by Oz to go forth and beat the witch -- make the West work for America. The flying monkeys were indeed the indigenous people who had to be pacified. Baum was, I have read, rather prejudiced against the Indians. Then there is the poppy field that had the same soporific effect of laudanum, the drug that 3 out of 4 doctors recommended to gentle ladies in the late 1800s and which must have had a damaging effect on productivity. And on and on. I don't know much about Baum, but I am guessing that he condensed a lot of the news of his day into this children's tale, trying not to be too literal. That it was successful may have been a surprise. But when it was, he decided to build on that success. His brilliant decision was to divorce the follow-on stories from that allegory and let them take on a life of their own. Hence, the differences between book one and the others.

Dec. 04 2013 10:33 PM
Bruce from California

Unfortunately, KQED FM here in the San Francisco Bay Area has chosen now to broadcast Studio 360 at 1 o'clock AM...just a little too late for me; so guess I'll be listening online from now on. But I awoke at 1:30 on Sunday morning (lack of sleep Fri. night, so early to bed on Sat.) in time to catch the last half hour on your OZ show. At the conclusion, I lie awake for 15 min. or so thinking about the movie. Why, I wondered, did Dorothy live with her Aunt and Uncle...instead of mom and dad. Did this reflect Frank Baum's own childhood? I don't recall any explanation in the movie. And as for the movie, it came out in 1939 (5 years earlier than my own appearance in this world). At that time in America I believe we were in quite an isolationist mode. War was raging in Europe, but, for the most part, Americans wanted no part of it. So the There's No Place Like Home catchphrase of the movie, could indeed reflect America's mood. Go home, stay home. Now I realize that it was decades earlier when Baum wrote the original material. But with Hollywood making the movie in 1938 ('39 release) I think the story resonates with the Time. The Emerald City, then, could represent the idealism --and where troubles melt like lemon drops-- that America attempted to hold onto...and would for as long as possible. But both the beginning and end of the movie with the bleak Kansas landscape, kept in sharp focus the current state of the world, especially in Europe. And, of course, Where had most American's lived originally...and still had family ties.

Dec. 01 2013 10:01 PM
Fred from CT

The Oz series is ideal for little girls because, in most of the stories, a little girl is the hero (not always Dorothy), and the figures of authority are always girls (Ozma and Glinda).

Dec. 01 2013 02:46 PM
Rhett Winthrop-St.Gery from USA

The Wizard of Oz ranks as a Great Allegory about life on earth and in the USA. I totally disagree with your Studio 360 characterization of it. I urge you strongly to RETHINK everything when you have sufficiently more experience. Though your critique wasn't half as bad nor wholly off the enlightenment track as http://www.balaams-ass.com/journal/homemake/wizardoz.htm

I think he had LOTS of help from listening to his wife's point of view and the protagonist is a girl, but the wisdom is from the experienced female perspective, nothing whatsoever to do with 'gay' viewpoints nor encouraging genderless or off-gender roles.

Nov. 30 2013 10:07 PM
Martinr from Pittsburgh, PA

I really enjoyed this show with all its different perspectives.

Like most folks, my knowledge of "The Wizard Of Oz" comes exclusively from the classic film. I always felt that the story was an allegory for growing up, much like "The Odyssey" or other magical land stories. In order to become an adult, you must attain knowledge, a heart, and courage--three qualities that you've had inside of you all along. Beyond that, the metaphor becomes less direct--Is the wizard your own personal mentor who you believe to be a superior being until you reach peerage? Is the Emerald City an illusory dream/goal? Do the witches represent encouragement and discouragement? As with most systems of symbols, the ambiguity becomes the source of play.

Thank you again for such an interesting and thought-provoking program. I love it when something so familiar becomes new again.

Nov. 30 2013 04:15 PM
Grace from Florida

I loved this show! The teasers b/4 the show began sent me into a visceral zone from which I did not want to leave causing me to take your program w/ me from the car seamlessly on my satellite radio on my smart phone.... @ which point others became offended b/c I couldn't tear myself away to engage in idle chit-chat. I've lived this movie for more than 50 years. It's a party of my lexicon and psyche. I loved the analyses provided by 360 & the overlay of the different lenses thru which you viewed it. It warmed my heart & head & even if it lost me 1 "friend" due to my momentary anti-social nature.

Nov. 30 2013 03:40 PM
Barbara Elisse Najar from Potomac MD

Love your show! Would suggest exploring Yoko Ono, one of my heroes. Thanks!

Nov. 30 2013 02:59 PM
Kerri Dietz Pillen, O.D., F.C.O.V.D. from Bellevue, near Omaha

zombies again: I wrote before that you need to see the documentary, "The Year of The Living Dead" which tells the amazing story about the making of the movie. I was watching PBS last week and surprised to see the same movie quoted as "Birth of the Living Dead". It turns out this is the same documentary, new name. I still urge you to see it to complement your zombie repertoire. If you need further support, I see that Rotten Tomatoes rated it 95%.

I am presently listening to your Wizard of Oz re-broadcast talking about the bleak Kansas landscape relieved only by the colors of the rainbow. It was a nice reverberation of Kurt's interview in Omaha of Alexander Payne, discussing the use of black and white and fall/winter skeleton trees to produce this desolate mood.

Today in Omaha the skies are a beautiful blue, and there are still wonderful skeleton trees to enjoy.

Happy trails,

Kerri P

Nov. 30 2013 01:25 PM

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