L. Frank Baum was the creator and author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the classic story of Dorothy, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion – not to mention the Wicked Witch of the West, flying monkeys, and that guy behind the curtain.
Last month, a new biographical documentary about Baum debuted on PBS as part of their American Experience series. If you’re a writer, I recommend you see this film. Or if you’re a fan of Baum’s creation and the spin-offs others have made from his seminal work (Wicked, The Wiz, etc. ad infinitum), you might also want to look into it.
Titled, American Oz: The True Wizard Behind the Curtain, it’s a thorough look into the man, his world, his life. It also makes quite a few very interesting, even surprising, connections between Mr. Baum’s life and the story he wrote. Can you guess where his inspiration for the good witch may have come from? What about the idea for starting Dorothy’s tale on a farm in the American plains? And the wizard?
This is a fairly deep dive into the subject matter which means the pace can, at times, feel slow. Also, he wasn’t a perfect soul, and the documentary openly exposes some of his disturbing views. Even so, I found it well worth watching. I was fascinated to see how a creative mind can take the events and influences of the real world and translate them into a compelling fantasy for the ages.
You may still be able to catch it on PBS. Check your local listings. If you can’t find it on broadcast or prefer a streaming option, PBS has also been making it available on their website HERE. That’s how I watched it. I believe it’s also listed on Prime Video.