History in Photos: Before Judy Garland, Rare 1921 Silent Film Prints of The Wizard of Oz

Directed by Ray Smallwood, photographic silent film prints from the 1921 screen adaption based on the Wizard of Oz. Photos courtesy of Tom Crossman.

An issue of Film Daily noted that work was about to start on a series of twelve one-reel novelty films based on the Frank J. Baum’s children’s classic. The films would be produced by silent film cameraman-turned-director Ray Smallwood, directed by Ethel Meglin and featuring Meglin’s “Wonder Kiddies.” Former students of Meglin included Shirley Temple, Jane Withers, Mickey Rooney, and Judy Garland.

The first episode would be called The Scarecrow Loses His Throne inspired by Baum’s 1904 book The Land of Oz. The film officially premiered in 1933 but was not released nationally as originally intended. The film could not compete with the big flashy musical shows that were currently being viewed at that time.

Mary Ruth Boone, a renowned acrobat, was cast as Dorothy. The films’ production was completed by 1931 but the release was delayed by more than a year, by which time it was clear no further Meglin-Oz films were to be made.

By Hope Thompson

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