Myths Surround 'Wizard of Oz' As Festival Opens


If the populist angle is off, that last comment is not. According to great-grandson Robert Baum, "Maude saw in Frank all the fun she didn't have, and Frank saw the businesswoman in her, someone who could get things done."

2. The Wizard of Oz is a feminist parable.

This is true. Maude Baum was the daughter of Matilda Joselyn Gage, an early suffragette in upstate New York, where the movement was in full swing when L. Frank and his wife lived there. A contemporary of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Gage "was the fiercest of them all," said Schwartz. "She was called the heretic, derided as a radical in her day. She was also an expert on the medieval witch hunts." She lived with the Baums during the winter, and her husband, Henry, was "compliant, like Uncle Henry" in the book.

The "duality" of the good witches and the bad witches, added Schwartz, is "a commentary on how people perceive something like the women's rights movement, depending which side of the fence you're on."

And then there's Dorothy, who at the end of her adventure returns home. "There are lots of ways to read that," said MacLeod. "'Shut up and be quiet and go home, you're a little girl' is one."

"But the real message is that Dorothy does go off on her own, and seek greener pastures," he added. "Do we really believe she's going to be happy being a wife on the farm? She demonstrated wanderlust, and the journey's been thrilling."

3. The yellow brick road is in Peekskill, N.Y.

Peekskill, NY, is a little over an hour north of New York City, an industrial river town that fell on hard times and is now struggling back with the help of local artist and a few snazzy new watering holes. Down by the Hudson River, there's a little street that is in fact yellow brick, not the sparkly kind but older brick from around the time of the Civil War.

What is known is that Baum briefly attended the Peekskill Military Academy – from most reports, he disliked it intensely, and some say the flying monkeys' costumes were based on the uniforms the boys wore.

A local historian, John Curran, has been fighting to have the street recognized for a decade. He recently told the Wall Street Journal that when a 12-year-old Baum arrived in town, he asked for directions to the academy and was told, Just follow the yellow brick road.

"We have no empirical evidence, these roads were all over the country, they weren't just in Peekskill," former mayor John Testa told "It's a feel-good story for the city."

Still, it may be true.

4. A munchkin died in the making of the movie

Not true, says Robert Baum.

Not true, agrees Schwartz. "There's a scene when Dorothy is skipping with the scarecrow and there seems to be something hanging from the tree. It's actually a bird. But this myth is very very popular among fans of 'The Wizard of Oz.'" The story is that "a munchkin committed suicide because he was in love with Judy Garland. It's not true. Although I did hear that one got caught under her dress."

5. Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" is an alternate soundtrack.

It's on YouTube.

When the lyrics are "the lunatic is on the grass," the scarecrow is wiggling on the ground. "The 'great gig in the sky' line happens during the tornado scene," said Schwartz. "There are all kinds of references that appear to synch out.

"People who have done too many bong hits actually believe this."

So what's the real story of Baum's Wizard?

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