I’m going to continue with my reviews of all things Oz with a TV movie that NBC aired in 1990 called The Dreamer of Oz.
The movie was a fictionalized biography of the adult life of L Frank Baum and how he was inspired to write The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I remember watching much of this when it originally aired. My family had no desire to watch it so I was vetoed during commercials and had to switch back and forth, sometimes missing chunks of the story. However, I remember it fondly and I wanted to revisit it for my Oz series.
In the movie, L Frank Baum was played by John Ritter.
Baum’s wife, Maud, was played by Annette O’Toole. Maud’s mother, Mathilda Gage, was played by Rue McClanahan.
Also of note, Ritter’s real life son, Jason, played one of his sons in the movie which I thought was a nice touch.
The movie is actually book ended by scenes at Grauman’s Chinese Theater (aka, TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood) in 1939 during the world premier of the MGM musical version of The Wizard of Oz. A reporter takes an elderly Maud Baum aside and asks her about her husband Frank and how he came to write the book.
The rest of the story is told in flashback and begins about the time Maud meets Frank during a party thrown by one of Frank’s sisters. We see the courtship of the couple and the many lean years in which Frank tries to do different jobs and make ends meet. We see him start to tell his children and the children of the neighborhood pieces of a larger story about what he calls “The Magical Land”. The ideas are developed over the years and we see some of the inspirations for characters along the way. Eventually Baum meets WW Denslow while writing the book Father Goose which would go on to be a big hit. Baum gambles the royalties of that book to sell what is now called “The Land of Oz” book. And, obviously, it hits. Big time.