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6 Degrees Entertainment

American Experience: American Oz
(DVD / NR / 2021 / PBS)

Overview: Explore the life of L. Frank Baum, the man behind one of the most beloved and enduring American classics. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900, has been reinterpreted through the generations in films, books and musicals.

DVD Verdict: American Oz tells the story of L. Frank Baum with a heavy emphasis on his one book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

Sadly, and much like many recent documentaries, it wastes far too much time viewing its subject through todays socio-political lens, while omitting many details of the mans life that are far more interesting and could just stand on their own without trying to make them conform to the way we see things today; and thus reading too much into each aspect of the novel that may or may not have been intended by Baum.

Indeed, no mention is made of Baums growing disenchantment with the Oz series and his attempts to end it and move on to other characters and books such as the exceptional Life and Adventures of Santa Claus and The Sea Fairies, among others.

And zero mention is made of Ruth Plumly Thompson picking up where Baum left off with the Oz series. How about a nod to John R. Neill who illustrated many of the books in the series after W. W. Denslow?

Numerous clips from The 1939 Wizard of Oz are interspersed throughout, which may appeal to the most casual viewer, but have little to do with the author who had actually been dead for two decades by the time the movie was released!

In my humble opinion, and although there are times here that I found myself engrossed in certain pockets of celluloid information, more time could also have been spent detailing his many moves and the effect it had on his family.

Aside from these quibbles, they do cover a good deal of his life but there is nothing new here except for those who know nothing of the man and simply are tuning in because they are fans of the 1939 filmed version of his novel.

Worth watching/buying? Yes, for no matter what my OCD mind would have rather seen more of, PBS cover a lot of ground here and for that alone the job is well enough done (under their scope, of course). [RST] This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.

Official PBS Purchase Link