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"The Patchwork Girl of Oz" was the most racist of L. Frank Baum's Oz
featuring the Tottenhots (stereotyped Africans) and also an ambulatory
Victrola phonograph that sings ragtime songs in an offensive "darky"
dialect. Fortunately, this film version (written and directed by Baum
himself) omits the ragtime racism and reconceives the Tottenhots so that
they're only barely recognisable as racist stereotypes. This is a fun
which I recommend without reservation for adults and kids.
It is of course rather a crude film, even by silent standards, and hampered by cross-sexed casting in both directions. The hero of the film, a Munchkin boy named Ojo, is obviously played by an adult woman. The Patchwork Girl, Scraps, is very obviously played by a man. However, Pierre Couderc, the French acrobat who plays this role, gives an incredible performance. He effortlessly turns backward handsprings and shoulder kips, his performance made even more amazing by the bulky costume and elaborate hoop skirt he's wearing. There's one very amusing sight gag when the Patchwork Girl and the Scarecrow meet for the first time. Ah, true love!
The plot of this film is a simplified version of the Oz novel. Orphan boy Ojo and his elderly Unk Nunkie visit Doctor Pipt the magician. Pipt has invented the Powder of Life, which brings life to any inanimate object it touches. (Why doesn't it animate its own container?) Pipt's wife Margolotte has made a girl dummy out of patchwork quilts, which will become Margolotte's maidservant after Pipt animates it. When Pipt brings the Patchwork Girl to life, her exuberance causes her accidentally to spill another elixir over Margolotte and Unk Nunkie, which transforms them into marble statues. Dr Pipt can't reverse the enchantment until he mixes another batch of the Powder of Life, which requires certain ingredients ... including three hairs from a Woozy's tail. Ojo sets forth to obtain the ingredients.
Animal impersonator Fred Woodward does amazing work as several different animals. Woodward is the spiritual father of Janos Prohaska, a 1960s stuntman who specialised in portraying animals and aliens. One of the roles Woodward plays here is the Woozy, a creature whose body is made of cardboard boxes. (This is a very low-budget movie, but that's part of its charm.) The squared-off look of the Woozy in the Oz book's illustrations was obviously inspired by the low-budget costume worn by Woodward in this movie.
TRIVIA NOTE: Watch for Harold Lloyd and Hal Roach Snr (very early in their careers) in grass skirts and body paint as two of the Tottenhots. Shortly after this movie was filmed, Roach received the inheritance which enabled him to set up his own film studio. Juanita Hansen, later a Roach actress, appears briefly here. Also glimpsed is Charles Ruggles, who would soon get his big break as Private Files in L. Frank Baum's stage musical "Tik-Tok in Oz".
"The Patchwork Girl of Oz" is an absolute delight, which adults and children will enjoy in repeated viewings. There are some impressive sets and costumes, despite the low budget. Jaded modern audiences will sneer at the very crude special effects, but I would rather watch this movie instead of a certain overrated MGM musical starring Liza Whatsername's mother.
The enjoyable story and characters in "The Patchwork Girl of Oz" makes
it a fun movie to watch, and it is also pretty resourceful for its era.
It does have a lot of rough edges and shows some signs of age, but its
energy and creativity more than make up for those. As with all of the
Oz features made by L. Frank Baum's own studio, it shows his influence
in the way that the fantasy world of Oz is brought to life with
As with most of Baum's Oz stories, it has plenty of oddball characters and offbeat developments. A couple of odd casting choices add to the curious feel, with Pierre Couderc making Scraps look much like a male, and Violet Macmillan making Ojo seem more like a young girl. But they and the rest of the cast give their characters plenty of life, which really is more significant in a movie like this. As in the other Oz movies in the series, Fred Woodward also gets to perform a number of his costumed animal characters.
The story is one of Baum's most creative ones, telling a complex story in which the agendas and motivations of many different characters come into conflict. This adaptation is imaginative in using a lot of different techniques to reproduce the look of the characters, the magical events, and the hectic activity.
Much of it works rather well, and all of it represents a very good attempt for its time. Very few film-makers of the era ever tried to make a full-length picture out of such challenging fantasy material, and even if it has a fair number of rough edges, it remains a worthwhile and entertaining effort.
As a child, The Patchwork Girl of Oz was my favorite Oz book. This silent
film version is a charming look at how Oz was envisioned by it's
Frank Baum produced the film. The story however does stray from the book
and some of the scenes are a bit disjointed.
Motion pictures were in their infancy in 1914--most films were stagebound
dramas, so to see a fantasy film from this period is unique.
The Patchwork Girl or "Scraps" is played by French acrobat Pierre Couderc. The part where Scraps catches the eye of the Scarecrow is very amusing. Also, the Yoop character is a forerunner to the Winged Monkeys who terrorized Judy Garland 25 years later.
In the video version I saw, the pivotal scene where Scraps is brought to life and tips over the Liquid of Petrification, is missing or destroyed--but the rest of the film is intact however.
Quite an enjoyable movie. I'd seen it twice before (in the Origins of
Film box set), and watched it again with my grandmother who was born
the year it was released. L. Frank Baum produced, and was evidently on
the set with the director.
A young boy named Ojo (played by a woman) lives with his Unc Nunkie, and they've run out of food. They decide to go to Oz, where there is always more than enough food.
On the way, they encounter a wizard who's been working on a potion for six years to create life. His wife, using a magic wand, assembles a human-size patchwork doll to use the potion on. It won't have brains, since that makes for better servants says the wife. Ojo decides to mix up some magic brains and surreptitiously put them in, however. After the Patchwork Girl (played by a man) is brought to life, there's an accident that results in the wizard's wife, Unc Nunkie, and the Munchkin lover of the wizard's daughter being petrified. Munchkins in this film are not little people, though they do wear different costumes.
Ojo, the Patchwork Girl, the wizard, his daughter and her friends must go out to collect ingredients for an antidote: three hairs from a Woozy's tail, a six-leaved clover, and a gill of water from a Dark Well. The daughter has her father shrink her petrified boyfriend down to doll size, since she can't be without him.
On the way, they meet one-legged Hoppers, tribal Tottenhots, and jolly Horners. They encounter a maid of Oz who helps them, but who also develops a liking for the petrified Munchkin.
The sets are simple, yet nicely establish a fantasy world. Costumes are good too. The wizard character is stooped and knock-kneed (possibly from stirring a potion for six years with his hands *and* legs?). The Woozy is neat, a big boxy cat played by Fred Woodward, who specialized in animal roles (he does several others in this movie). Despite being a simple costume, it seems more real than some CGI creations.
The Wizard of Oz, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, and the Cowardly Lion show up towards the end. The original mission to obtain food is forgotten by that point!
It's a cute movie, and I suspect that despite being silent (with musical score added) and black and white, and ninety-one years old that it would still delight small children.
A young munchkin named Ojo (played by Violet MacMillan) and her Unc
Nunkie decide to set out in search of a better life in the Emerald City
of Oz. Along the way, they meet and befriend a magician and his family.
The magician has long been at work on perfecting a magic powder of
life, his wife having created a patchwork servant girl whom they hope
to bring to life. Things go awry when the newly awakened patchwork girl
accidentally spills a petrification fluid upon the Magician's wife and
his future son in-law as well as Ojo's Unc Nunkie. Now our heroes (the
Patchwork Girl, Ojo, the Magician and his daughter) must combine forces
in search of the different, rare and hard to obtain ingredients
necessary for a spell to undo the petrification process. Many unusual
adventures, magical as only the world of Oz can be, await.
This delightful flight of fancy provides viewers with a fun escape from reality. The actors and actresses breathe such a wonderfully vibrant energy into their lively performances that they prove quite a joy to watch. Basically this starts off as a series of individual stories focused on a wide number of colorful characters. By the film's end however, all these different characters and their individual stories seem to merge together into one near epic tale. Of the three 1914 Oz film produced in part by L. Frank Baum himself, this one is clearly the best and most complete adventure story.
L. Frank Baum himself produced and wrote this adaptation of his own Oz book, a full quarter century before Judy Garland strolled the yellow brick road. What survives is an intriguing artifact from cinema's infancy, antiquated in style and naive in sentiment, but compensating with plenty of charm for what it lacks in sophistication. The influence of theater can still be seen in the histrionic acting and static camera set-ups, but the affection Baum lavished on his creations (munchkins, magicians, 'hoppers', the 'woozy') is clearly evident, even today. His fertile imagination, reinforced by some clever (if primitive) camera tricks, makes this an enchanting fantasy with more than merely academic interest for students of early film history.
Having now seen all of Baum's Oz films, I can say with certainty that this film is the best acted of any of them. Even the animal impersonators brought a spark of life and whimsy to their characters that few men in animal suits can approach! Fred Woodward's Woozy is funny, irritable, and ridiculous, just as he should be. As always, it's fascinating to see how Baum imagined Oz, but this is the best look we get at how he imagined the Oz celebrities. Unfortunately, we don't get to see Dorothy in this film, but we do get to see Ozma, briefly. She is just as he described her- beautiful, ethereal, almost floating above the earth with grace, but she is still full of joy and humor. You should go see this movie, definitely!
I watched this on a VHS from the American Movie Entertainment box set (1996) of four early Oz films. The print was OK, fairly sharp and without too many pops or scratches -- but with at least one significant scene missing (where Scraps accidentally turns three of the other characters into statues) and some lengthy portions where the right side of the screen is burnt/melted. The music was weird; it vacillated between fairly appropriate ragtime-esquire piano and an electronic score more appropriate to a Tarkovsky film! Those caveats aside, I really liked the first half of the film a lot, as Ojo and Unc Nunkie set out for the Emerald City but end up delayed and sidetracked after encountering magician Dr. Pipt, his wife and his magical creation Scraps, the Patchwork Girl. The adventures up through that point, and the finding of the Woozy, and the sequence around the Dark Well are all inventive and fast-moving, but the film gets a bit bogged down and repetitive once the action shifts to the Emerald City. I did like that the characters for the most part looked like they came straight out of the original illustrations -- Scraps and Mr Pipt in particular looked and acted just right; also some of the sets, like Dr. Pipt's house, are quite excellent, busy and full of clutter, which seems appropriate. The special effects are pretty well done and there are a surprising number of them; especially nice is the way in which Scraps is put together. I think this one is more for true fans of the books than general silent film buffs, and I suspect that will be true of the other films.
You really have to look at "The Patchwork Girl of Oz" in context, otherwise you'll just dismiss it as a dull and incomprehensible movie. But, back in 1914, it was a rather impressive tale--but one that even audiences back then probably struggled to understand unless they'd read the Frank Baum story. Heck, I tried watching it was was TOTALLY confused until I read a summary of the story on the internet! That's because the narrative is really scant--with almost no intertitle cards. Instead, it's shown as a series of tenuously connected vignettes which are described on the card and then acted out...as was the style up until about 1914 or a bit later. It comes off almost like a slide show that is acted out for the audience! This certainly is NOT all that entertaining and too often the characters just cavort about aimlessly or do acrobatics instead of acting--and it comes off pretty poorly. BUT, again, it was pretty much the style of the day. The ladies in the film and sets and 'magic' were pretty similar to the work done a decade earlier by the groundbreaking French film maker Georges Méliès. By 1914, these amazing effects and story telling really were a a bit passé--definitely on their way out--which might explain why the film was a critical flop--that, and the fact that the audience probably had no idea what was occurring on screen! Interesting from a historical perspective and having excellent production values for the time, but still very easy to skip unless you adore very early silent films.
Thomas Edison not only was the inventor of the motion picture camera, but he was the one of the earliest movie producers. I have been a fan Baum's "Wizard of OZ" books for years so when I saw this movie at my local library I was intrigued. Techincal the movie shows its age being silent and some parts of the movie missing, and the special effects looking primitive. The movie closely follows the book, while being quality family entertainment.
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