Shirley Temple's Storybook: Season 2, Episode 1

The Land of Oz (18 Sep. 1960)

TV Episode  -   -  Family | Fantasy | Romance
7.1
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Lord General Nikidik wants to take over Oz, so he goes to Mombi and asks her to transform the beloved Princess Ozma into a marble statue. Mombi instead changes her into a boy, Tip, to be ... See full summary »

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Title: The Land of Oz (18 Sep 1960)

The Land of Oz (18 Sep 1960) on IMDb 7.1/10

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Cast

Episode credited cast:
...
...
...
Ben Blue ...
...
Gil Lamb ...
Arthur Treacher ...
Graves, Nikidik's Butler
Frances Bergen ...
Charles Boaz ...
Colonel
Mari Lynn ...
...
Lightning Bug Repairman (as Norman Levitt)
Louis Merrill ...
Court Doctor
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
...
Sawhorse / The Book (voice)
Maurice Dallimore ...
William Keene ...
Royal Army of Oz
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Storyline

Lord General Nikidik wants to take over Oz, so he goes to Mombi and asks her to transform the beloved Princess Ozma into a marble statue. Mombi instead changes her into a boy, Tip, to be her servant, with no memory of her former life. Written by Scott Andrew Hutchins <scottandrewh@home.com>

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based on novel


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18 September 1960 (USA)  »

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1.33 : 1
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More Shirley, less Judy
9 November 2002 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

After writing "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz", L. Frank Baum wrote "The Land of Oz" ... the first in a long line of sequels. "The Land of Oz" is my favourite of the Oz books, because it's the only one which does NOT include that annoying little brat Dorothy. But "The Land of Oz" (written before women had the vote in America) is the most problematic of the Oz books. One reason for this is General Jinjur, the leader of the all-girl army that conquers Oz and overthrows the Scarecrow. These militant girls are an unsubtle parody of the women's suffragists ("suffragettes") who were so visible during Baum's lifetime. (In fairness to Baum, his wife was active in the women's suffrage movement, and he strongly supported her efforts. "Girls are better than boys anyhow", the Tin Woodman told Tip, and this reflected Baum's true sentiments.)

But the most troubling aspect of "The Land of Oz" is that its hero is a boy who turns into a girl ... or, rather, he was a girl all along. Ozma, the rightful ruler of Oz, was kidnapped in her infancy and given to Mombi the witch, who transformed the infant Ozma into a baby boy ... who grew older with no memory of his true female gender. Near the end of the book, when the boy Tip learns that he must be turned back into a girl, he naturally protests.

Baum knew what he was doing. "The Wizard of Oz" had already been adapted into a successful stage musical, and Baum hoped to do the same with "The Land of Oz". He wrote the novel with a stage adaptation in mind. Jinjur's all-girl army were envisioned as a female chorus in military costumes. The "boy" hero Tip was intended to be played onstage by an adult actress (in the tradition of the "principal boy" from English pantomime), who would reclaim her female appearance in the final scene.

This 1960 television special "The Land of Oz" follows the book's plot -- from a distance -- and it dilutes the troublesome sex-change plot line. Princess Ozma is played by the adult Shirley Temple, looking rather matronly but bringing with her the deep legacy of all her childhood roles. I find it difficult to look at this mature woman without seeing the most famous little girl of all time.

The opening scene has no resemblance to anything in Baum's novel. Nikidik and Graves (who weren't in the book) conspire to overthrow Oz. They will abduct Ozma and give her to Mombi: she will transform Ozma into a boy who has no knowledge of having been a fairy princess. The talents of Jonathan Winters and Arthur Treacher are wasted in this scene, although Agnes Moorehead (pre-Endora) gets to cackle and shriek as Mombi the witch. I found her far more enjoyable than Margaret Hamilton.

We first see Shirley Temple as Tip, looking rather an unconvincing boy. Tip runs away from Mombi, bringing along the animated creature Jack Pumpkinhead, played by Sterling Holloway ... whom film historian William K. Everson considered the most annoying actor in movie history. Fortunately, Holloway's annoying face is concealed here beneath a jack o'lantern head, but he still has that annoying sandpaper voice. In later years, Holloway's annoying voice became a cliché in children's movies, due to the Disney Studio's unwise habit of casting him in roles as disparate as the Cheshire Cat, Winnie the Pooh and Kaa the Python. In 1960 (post-Cheshire, pre-Pooh), Holloway wasn't yet typecast, so his voice is not as annoying here as it would be later.

The Tin Woodman is played by Gil Lamb, a lanky acrobatic comedian who deserved a more successful career. (He was the American equivalent of the great English comedian Nat Jackley.) Unfortunately, his Tin Woodman costume is too stiff and constricting to allow Lamb much chance for his splendid physical comedy. Ben Blue, another comedian whose physical talents were sadly under-used, is effective here as the Scarecrow. Perhaps unintentionally, he brings a Jewish inflection to his dialogue which evokes the wonderful comedy of the Yiddish theatre.

This TV special has a very low budget and is stagebound. Much of the action takes place outdoors but was clearly shot indoors on cramped sound stages. The camera barely moves at all.

OBVIOUS SPOILER. As played by Shirley Temple in trousers and a bust suppressor, Tip is clearly an adult female, so we have to wonder at the intelligence of all the Oz characters who fail to notice that this "boy" is neither male nor a child. When Tip learns that he is really a girl (well, a woman, actually) he makes very little protest when told he must be turned into a fairy princess. In the final scene, Shirley Temple wears elaborate finery as Ozma ... looking too much like Billie Burke as Glinda.

"The Land of Oz" is low-key and low-budget: hardly a complete success, but a pleasant alternative to that overstuffed MGM musical ... and without the "camp" humour which ruined that Judy Garland movie for me. P.S.: Back in 1939, Shirley Temple was the original choice to play Dorothy in MGM's "Wizard of Oz". Now THAT would be a movie I'd pay good money to see!


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