I could go on and on listing every descriptive and positive adjective in the English language to describe The Wizard of Oz – The Official 75th Anniversary Companion and still not convey just how fabulous this new book is. Authors and Oz Gurus Jay Scarfone and William Stillman (courtesy of Harper Design – an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) have given fans (of Oz, Judy Garland, Movie Musicals…) the perfect companion to the upcoming 75th anniversary year of MGM’s Technicolor masterpiece The Wizard of Oz (1939).
Scarfone and Stillman previously coauthored the 50th Anniversary Companion book in 1989, as well as “The Wizardy of Oz” in 1999 (reprinted in 2004). If you’re a fan of those books, as I am, then it’s a no-brainer that you’ll want to add this new book to your library. As noted in the headline, it’s the perfect holiday gift. It’s also the perfect gift for any occasion.
I remember when the 1989 book was released. It was a real eye-opener. Never before had we been given such a comprehensive and lavishly illustrated tome about the making of The Wizard of Oz. I, like my fellow Oz fans, read and re-read every word and inspected every inch of every photo. It was the “making of” book until The Wizardry of Oz came along and gave us even more information and rare photos. Contrary to popular belief, there were (and are) still many unseen photos and untold stories to be shared. Now, with this new 75th Anniversary Companion, we have – dare I say it – the best of the bunch.
At 176 pages, hardbound, with a gorgeous dust jacket, The Wizard of Oz – The Official 75th Anniversary Companion tells the oft-told story of the making of The Wizard of Oz (1939) in a fresh way. Sure, it’s filled with new, previously unseen photos, all housed in graphics that are, in a word, amazing. But it’s more than that.
It’s hard to believe, but even after 75 years there are still unseen photos and untold stories related to the film. That’s what makes books like this so relevant and enjoyable. Some might say “ANOTHER book???” – but if it’s done with the panache and informative manner as The Wizard of Oz – The Official 75th Anniversary Companion, it’s well worth the efforts of all involved. Here and nowhere else will you find rare Technicolor test frames, costume and set illustrations, and the ONLY known color photograph of the blonde Judy Garland as Dorothy on the set prior to the complete overhaul of the film in 1938. The photo was leaked online and spread like wildfire, and here in the book we have the high resolution version. And that’s just one of the book’s many highlights.
The book is more than images. A photo compilation book about The Wizard of Oz is nothing new. We’ve seen dozens. The Wizard of Oz – The Official 75th Anniversary Companion has the text to back up the images with real substance. This is because Scarfone and Stillman are excellent writers. They don’t overuse adjectives or subject readers to oddly worded paragraphs that other authors on the same subject use as a crutch to hide the lack of real writing talent.
Among Scarfone and Stillman’s achievements here is their ability to clearly present the facts. This is probably due to their love and passion for all things Oz. They have a real respect for the film and the work of the filmmakers. This is no “book of worship.” The work of everyone involved in the film shines through, as it should. That’s one of the book’s chief pleasures. From chapter to chapter, and with the help of the gorgeous illustrations & photos (and those amazing graphics), the reader gets a real sense of what it took to make the film. It was no picnic, that’s for sure. But here it flows so smoothly that when you get to the end of the book, you might be surprised, as I did, that you’re done and yet so much was covered. What I’m trying to say is that never is anything thrown at the reader, nor is it like some endless diatribe or overdone adulation. By letting the facts speak for themselves, Scarfone and Stillman bring the making of the film alive.
The book is separated into four main chapters:
- Dreams That You Dare To Dream: Casting a Spell
- We’re Off To See The Wizard: The Great Wizard of Oz Revealed
- If Ever A Wiz There Was: “The Wizard of Oz” Returns to Stay
- Looking For Our Heart’s Desire: Forever Oz
Each chapter features sub-sections focusing on a wide variety of subjects, from the original book’s author L. Frank Baum to the enduring legacy of the film 75 years later. In-between we’re treated to tons of fascinating information and photos. There’s even a page about one of the most overlooked “supporting players” in the film: The raven named “Jimmy” that gets his star turn in the Cornfield scenes.
A few more highlights for me that I’m sure will be highlights for others:
- Set reference stills. I never tire of admiring the amazing sets.
- The previously unpublished scene still of Jack Haley, Judy Garland, and Ray Bolger in dress rehearsal on the Lion’s Forest set. That set is one of my favorites in the film for its lavishness and beauty.
- The hair, makeup, and wardrobe test photos of Judy Garland as Dorothy. Most are previously unpublished, including the April 29, 1938 initial hair and makeup tests done by Max Factor . All never fail to amaze me in reflecting the care and time it too to get it “just right.”
- The Technicolor test frames, notably those of the Wizard’s head used in the Wizard’s Throne Room scenes.
- The section about “Over the Rainbow.”
- As noted earlier, the amazing look and feel of the book, thanks to the talents of the graphics designers.
Last, but most certainly not least: Inside the book is an envelope of printed treasures. This envelope includes the following:
- A faux “Oz Herald” newspaper clipping proclaiming the death of the Wicked Witch of the East.
- Reprint of a 1939 herald advertisement.
- Copy of the “Certificate of Death” as shown by the Munchkin Coroner to prove that the Witch of the East is “most sincerely dead.”
- A handy new Oz bookmark.
- Lobby card and poster reprints.
- A nifty Ozzy “frame” with separate insertable images of the main characters.
- “Gifts Presented By The Wizard Of Oz.” Framable certificates of awards for Brains, Heart, Courage, and Home.
Eagle eyed fans might notice that these printed inserts, the envelope that houses them, and various graphics on and in the book itself, are inspired by the various designs in the film. The little details include:
- The “Oz Herald” newspaper’s volume number is “1924” – the year MGM was founded, and the “No. 1060” references the production number of the film.
- The graphic on the back of the envelope that houses the printed extras has the same design as the part of the Emerald City Gates (door) that the knocker hits.
- The typography on the Wizard’s certificates is in the same style as the typography on the side of Professor Marvel’s wagon to “subtly recall his Kansas character.”
- “The decorative border elements on the cover of the book and a few places throughout reference that amazing art deco design seen on the doors to the Wizard’s chambers.”
(Thanks to on of the graphics artist for the book, Raphael Geroni, for pointing these out.
- There are more…can you find them???
In the end, this is by far the book to get this year or any year. It’s the perfect holiday gift, birthday gift, or gift for any occasion. Oz fans, Garland fans, MGM fans, musicals fans, and so on, will enjoy this book for years to come. CLICK HERE to purchase it from Amazon (at the time of this posting, it’s available at a reduced price!)
© 2013 Scott Brogan, The Judy Room
Unless otherwise noted, all images on this page from the Scarfone/Stillman Collection – used with permission.
The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion by William Stillman and Jay Scarfone. Published by Harper Design, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers;
© 2013 by Author.
Jay Scarfone and William Stillman are the authors of several books on the creation and legacy of the motion picture The Wizard of Oz. Historians and collectors since the 1970s, they have amassed one of the world’s largest and most comprehensive archives of memorabilia from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s (MGM) The Wizard of Oz, the holdings of which include rare photographic images and authentic costumes and props from the film’s production. Additionally, they have been contributors and advisors to countless other books, periodicals, and documentaries on Hollywood history, memorabilia, and collectibles. They have appraised rare The Wizard of Oz material for auction houses and have lectured audiences about the classic film through numerous venues. They live in Pennsylvania.
Copyright © 2013 Turner Entertainment Co.
THE WIZARD OF OZ and all related characters and elements are trademarks of and © Turner Entertainment Co.
“Judy Garland as Dorothy from THE WIZARD OF OZ”
WB SHIELD: ™ & © Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.