100 Years of Oz: A Century of Classic Images from The Wizard of Oz collection of Willard Carroll, by John Fricke (New York: Stewart, Tabori, & Chang, 1999), Cloth, $29.95, 638pp, ISBN 1-55670-940-4.
Merchandising tie-ins to films and books are believed to have reached epidemic proportions in the last two decades, with American closets and nurseries overflowing with comic books, lunch pails, stuffed toys, action figures, and god knows what else spawned first by kids’ books and then by kids’ movies. But perhaps the granddaddy in this regard is L. Frank Baum’s The Wondeful Wizard of Oz.
John Fricke’s 100 Years of Oz tours this heady realm through the collection of ultimate Oz-ophile Willard Carroll. As eye-popping in its own way as the Technicolor in the 1939 musical version of the film, the book is a glamorously visual trip through a century of Emerald City commercial imagery starting with the publication of the original book in 1900. Fricke is a leading historian of Baum, and painlessly steps the reader through the author’s history and the unparalleled popularity of his creations. Oz generated a breathtaking array of tie-ins from the beginning, everything from dishware (a 1903 collapsible metal cup) to notepaper to lithographed posters to comics to games to WPA hand puppets of Dorothy and Toto. This most adored of children’s books gave birth to 39 written sequels (less than half of them by Baum), uncounted stage versions, and a vast array of filmed productions, most notably, of course, the 1939 MGM musical The Wizard of Oz. With the advent of television showings and then video, interest in the simple, sweet message and zany characters of Oz skyrocketed, resulting in such familiar items as lunch boxes and dolls, along with such collectible Oz oddities as Wizard coat hangers and a Latvian litho poster.
All these items are on splendid display in this sumptuous book. Of course, the reader may wonder what Baum would have thought of the vast reach — in geography and time — of what he saw as a book with a simple mission: “To please a child is a sweet and lovely thing that warms one’s heart and brings its own reward.”