The Wizard of Oz (1925)
Director: Larry Semon
Screenplay: Larry Semon, L. Frank Baum Jr. based on The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Starring: Larry Semon, Dorothy Dwan, Frank Alexander, Charles Murray, Josef Swickerd, Oliver Hardy, Mary Carr and Spencer Bell.
Tagline: The Thrilling Comedy Cyclone! The Wonderful Land of Oz! The Den of Man Eating Lions! The Famous Scarecrow and Tin Man! The Startling Airplane Rescue! The 100 Foot Leap for Life! All combined in the greatest screen novelty ever made.
The Overview: Beware of Spoilers…
The movie begins with a toymaker reading The Wizard of Oz to his granddaughter…
Dorothy (Dwan) is a just-turned 18 year old who was left on Auntie Em’s (Carr) doorstep as a baby. In reality, Dorothy is the rightful heir to the throne in the land of Oz. When a tornado deposits Dorothy, and three farmhands in Oz, the evil Prime Minister Kruel (Swickerd) realizes that the true ruler has returned.
Kruel sends his soldiers to do away with Dorothy and crew. To escape, one of the farmhands disguises himself as a scarecrow, another a tin woodsman and later the third ends up in a lion suit. Will Dorothy survive and be crowned queen? Will Prime Minister Kruel and Lady Vishuss be deposed? (Psst! It’s a kid’s book, so what do you think?)
Larry Semon was a popular comedian of the day. Semon wrote, produced and starred in this version of The Wizard of Oz. The Scarecrow gets most film time and he’s played by, you guessed it, Larry Semon. Semon had a love for big budgets and tons sight gags. The Wizard of Oz has both. We get a lot of visual gags, and the ending even features Semon climbing and swinging between towers while being shot at with a canon, a leap to a rope ladder from a passing plane and more.
A young pre-Laurel & Hardy, Oliver Hardy appears in the film playing the farmhand who becomes the Tin Man. Spencer Bell (an African-American actor) is billed a G. Howe Black and appears in a few scenes that even at that time were thought as demeaning as his billing.
The Wizard of Oz (1925) earns a 3 of 5 star rating.