The Fairylogues and Radio-Plays (lost early film adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz" children's fantasy novel; 1908)
The Fairylogues and Radio-Plays is the earliest known adaptation of L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, written by and starring Baum as Oz. "Fairylogue" is a play on "fairy" and "travelogue", a popular form of documentary at the time which involved people travelling to exotic places. The word "radio" was an attempt to make the film sound "high-tech" (as "cyber" or "2000" would be used in the 1990s and early 2000s). The film was a mix of live action, magic lantern slides, and film which included colorized slides and narration. The film is also said to be the first film to feature a score, as opposed to D.W. Griffith's 1915 silent film The Birth of a Nation.
The film is recognized for its technical ambition due to these then-revolutionary features. Baum and several stage actors would interact with each other on stage as well as onscreen. The film would start out with Baum giving a lecture of his "travelogue" through the Land of Oz and the characters would eventually "pull" him into their world. There was even a scene where Dorothy would be whisked away from the stage onto the screen by a tornado.
The film was shown for two months straight in Michigan and then in New York before closing on December 16, 1908. Despite the massive critical acclaim and sold-out shows nearly every night it ran, costs were so high that, even though they had doubled the ticket prices, they still couldn't turn a profit. The show's failure to cover its high production costs left Baum disappointed for years, though he continued to keep writing books until his death in 1919. Many viewed the show as Baum's non-literary masterpiece.
Status[edit | edit source]
The film was shown again on September 24th, 1925 until December 16th, 1925 after the Selig Polyscope Company was acquired by First National Pictures (though the re-release was supposed to last through December 31st). The film was eventually discarded after the Baum estate discovered its decomposition, and it is unknown if any other copies survive. A few production stills were uncovered in the late 1980s, and historians scrambled to get as much information as possible. There have been rumors that a few copies may have been made to sell to collectors via a gift shop at the theatre the film was shown. Unless these rumors are true, this film may be permanently lost.