Tuesday, July 16, 2019

The Magic of OzCon

The 55th annual OzCon International will run July 26-28 at Kellogg West Conference Center on the campus of Cal Poly in Pomona, California. I'll be there. Will you?

I'm looking forward to OzCon a lot this year because of two things--an article I wrote for the OzCon 2019 Program Book and a presentation I'll be making on Friday evening at the convention. Themes of this year's OzCon include: the 13th Oz book by L. Frank Baum, The Magic of Oz, which was published 100 years ago; the life and legacy of L. Frank Baum, who died 100 years ago; and the 80th anniversary of the MGM motion picture version of The Wizard of Oz.

I've always been more of an Oz book enthusiast than an Oz movie enthusiast. So I'm amused that both my contributions to OzCon this year are tied to OzCon's celebration of the 1939 movie starring Judy Garland.

Hank the Mule, drawing by John R. Neill
For the OzCon 2019 Program Book I wrote "A Musical Bubble in Two Bottles: The History of Mamzelle Champagne." This stage musical of 1906 featured the first professional script by Edgar Allan Woolf, who went on to become one of the screenwriters of the 1939 MGM Wizard of Oz. Mamzelle Champagne is notorious as the show where Harry K. Thaw committed the "crime of the century" by killing Stanford White during opening night in full view of the audience. Every history of that murder I've seen includes a reference to Mamzelle Champagne. But I'm not aware of any detailed history written about the show itself--not before I wrote that history for the program book, I mean. It turns out that Edgar Allan Woolf isn't the only Oz connection to Mamzelle Champagne. Of course I'm not going to reveal the other connections here. Read the article.

My presentation for OzCon 2019 will be "Hank's Hidden History: The Life and Legacy of Fred Woodward." The name Fred Woodward should at least ring a bell for anyone familiar with stage and screen Oz history. Most famously in Oz circles Fred played Hank the Mule in The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, L. Frank Baum's 1913-14 stage musical. But he did so much more--more, I think, than anyone else now alive but me is aware of--including having a role in Mamzelle Champagne. (There I go, revealing another of Mamzelle Champagne's Oz connections after I said I wouldn't.) How is Hank the Mule tied to the 1939 MGM Wizard of Oz? In two ways. But I'm not going to tell those here. Really. You'll have to wait till Friday evening of OzCon 2019 to find out.

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