L. Frank Baum was born on this day in 1856 in Chittenango, New York.
A failed theater owner, dry goods seller and magazine editor, and a some-time breeder of fancy poultry, Frank Baum began writing books for children in 1899, publishing the modestly successful Father Goose. The following year he wrote the book which would make his name in pop culture, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), a fantasy tale with decidedly Nietzschean undertones about a Kansas girl and her adventures with a scarecrow, a tin woodsman and a lion in a magical other-world. Baum took the name for his other-world from the letters on the bottom drawer of his filing cabinet: "O-Z."
Wildly popular, the book was almost instantaneously turned into a musical, but the most familiar musical version, preserved in MGM’s classic film, The Wizard of Oz (1939; directed by Victor Fleming, with Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Bert Lahr), did not take shape until shortly before that movie was made, when Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg collaborated on such songs as "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and "If I Were King of the Forest."
Following the book’s success, Baum wrote 13 more Oz books, none of which came close to matching the first in its irresistible, mythically pregnant plot or its lasting popularity. He unsuccessfully tried to promote his books with a traveling vaudeville slide show and toured in Europe for a time before filing bankruptcy in 1911 and settling in Hollywood on his wife's money in a home he called "Ozcot." He died there on May 6, 1919.
Categories: Literature, Pop-Culture