by Adina Brenner ‘20
Whether you are eight or 80 years old, it is more than likely you are familiar with the widely known quote, “there’s no place like home.” For generations, “The Wizard of Oz” has brought smiles and laughs to faces all over the country. Originating as a book written in 1900 by L. Frank Baum, the story provides children with a fun outlet as well as an imaginative perspective on life. Shortly before Frank died in 1919, Baum’s wife, Maud, decided to do whatever possible to allow Baum’s tale to live on. In 1939, Maud Baum sold the rights of her husband’s story to MGM studios, but ensured that his vision would be told as it was originally intended.
“Finding Dorothy” tells a fictionalized version of Maud Baum’s contribution to the making of the film “Wizard of Oz.” Novelist Elizabeth Letts explores the outrageous and imaginative lives of Frank and Maud Baum and how Maud’s personal experiences influenced the making of the iconic film. Letts portrays Maud as a determined and honorable woman whose one and only goal is to make a movie whose contents are identical to those of the original novel. Despite MGM’s constant resistance to Maud’s hopes for the movie, she does not back down.
The novel explains the many ideas and processes behind each and every minor detail of the film. One aspect of the film especially focused on by Maud is the proper casting of the role of Dorothy. What many do not already know and discover in Letts’ book is that Dorothy is based on a little girl Frank and Maud cared for while living in South Dakota as a newly married couple years earlier. The girl is depicted as a dreamer, never fearing the consequences of her broad imagination. Upon meeting Judy Garland, the 19 year old actress who would play the iconic role of Dorothy, Maud’s vision of the beloved character instantly came to life. Not only was Garland the perfect example of a dreamer, but she had also experienced similar hardships to those of the young girl Maud once knew. Maud made it her goal to save Garland from the intense pressures of those around her during the filming of the movie while at the same time keeping her vision alive.
From interesting and rare background information about the Baum family and their timeless creation to tons of insight into the making of “The Wizard of Oz,” “Finding Dorothy” proves to be a story full of ups and downs as well as a real page turner. “Finding Dorothy” demonstrates that a childhood tale loved by the masses can turn out to be more than what meets the eye.