WICKED Author Gregory Maguire Sheds Light on Early Film Script of THE WIZARD OF OZ
Gregory Maguire was just a kid when The Wizard of Oz film came out, but every year, he and his family would cuddle up in front of their black-and-white television to watch the annual television broadcast of their favorite musical movie. It wasn't until years later that that same enchanted, young boy would grow up to author the untold story of the witches of Oz: Wicked.
In an article he wrote for the Smithsonian Magazine, Maguire reflects on all the knowledge and insight he gained about the characters, the plot, and the magical land of Oz while researching for his novel, fully titled "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West." He discovered drastic differences between the original book, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" written by L. Frank Baum (1900), and the film adaptation with Judy Garland (1939), and he shared these developments in his article.
Read the original article here.
According to Maguire, "crossed-out speeches and handwritten substitutions" adorn every single page of the first draft of the film script.
Noel Langley, the main screenwriter, spent a lot of time cutting plot points featured in Baum's book that were simply too excessive for a Hollywood blockbuster. For example, in Baum's novel, there are 55 pages in between the melting of the Wicked Witch and the return of Dorothy back to Kansas. This transition was shortened to a couple of minutes in the film adaptation.
Langley was judicious in his edits, eliminating superfluous populations in Oz (such as porcelain figures and "hammer-heads"), and extravagant obstacles along the yellow brick road. But in turn, he added music, which there was little indication of in the original novel. Most notably, the Academy Award-winning ballad and all-time classic song "Over the Rainbow" was enlivened from its standing in the novel as "The Kansas Song."
Maguire even agrees with famous author-illustrator Maurice Sendak that "The Wizard of Oz film was a rare example of a movie that improves on the original book." However, in his Smithsonian article, the Wicked author does not neglect to acknowledge one conceivable shortcoming of Langley's version of the story: the ending.
While Langley's film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz ends with Dorothy waking up and realizing it was all a dream, Baum's novel gives the impression that Dorothy's experiences were a fair representation of reality.
Maguire empathizes with what many would consider a "cop-out" conclusion by explaining its consistency with the rest of the story. He says, "All the way through the film, Dorothy encounters charlatans and liars. The Wizard has no magic powers. Glinda the Good Witch waits until Dorothy has narrowly averted mortal danger before she reveals the secret of the ruby slippers. The Wicked Witch of the West, bless her little green heart, is the only adult figure who tells the truth."
This being true, Maguire evaluated the ending and decided that it has a distinct purpose, meaning, and message. When all of the adults in Kansas reject Dorothy's journey as real, they are proving that "adults are so accustomed to lying to protect the young that they can't recognize the truth when it is spoken."
At the end of Maguire's article, he ensures the children that "we know that Dorothy went to Oz. We have faith." Despite all the changes made to the original screenplay, The Wizard of Oz has never lost the magic and promise that has made Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tinman, and the Lion such iconic figures in American cinema.