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Oz on Film, Part Seventeen: Oz Talks, or, And The Children Shall Lead

Fred Osbourn as the Tin Woodman in Ethel Meglin's "The Land of Oz" (the only image from the film I've been able to find); some other Meglin Kiddies
Fred Osbourn as the Tin Woodman in Ethel Meglin's "The Land of Oz" (the only image from the film I've been able to find); some other Meglin Kiddies
Photographers unknown

There is a certain appropriateness that a series of books written for children should be played out in its first sound movie adaptation by a cast of children. In fact, it was just about the perfect vehicle for the Meglin Kiddies.

This troupe of child performers, none of them older than sixteen, was established by dancer, choreographer, director, and onetime Ziegfeld Follies girl Ethel Meglin as an outgrowth of her Ethel Meglin Dance Studios, Inc., which she formed in 1928.

Born in 1895, she grew to become a dancer and dance teacher and quickly established herself as a true professional in the trade. She moved to California with her husband Richard Moegling, which name she rendered as "Meglin." She was great believer in fostering talent and an interest in performing in the younger generation; to that end, she began training children in the theatrical arts. With backing from famed film producer Mack Sennett, Meglin began to feature her students in musical films. In 1932 she produced and directed the Meglin Kiddies in a two-reel big-screen version of Baum's second Oz book.

The Land of Oz, a Sequel to "The Wizard of Oz" was, by what I have been able to uncover, a fairly loose adaptation of the story, the first departure being the presence of Dorothy in the proceedings (though many other dramatizations of Marvelous Land have included her).

The cast of miniature characters included Maryeruth Boone as Dorothy, Matt Flynn as Tip, Sissie Flynn as Mombi, Donald Henderson as the Scarecrow, Fred Osbourn as the Tin Woodman, Louise Ringland as General Jinjur, Caryl Roberts as the Soldier with the Green Whiskers, and Glenna Vaughn as Jellia Jamb. A Zoë Boyer is also listed among the stars, though whether she played Ozma, Glinda, or someone else I could not tell you.

Apparently, the tale involves Ozites anticipating the return of Dorothy, who upon arrival finds the Tin Woodman shrunken. She restores him with the Powder of Life and an incantation which includes the word "Wogglebug," (the only reference to that character in the movie). General Jinjur and Mombi are in cahoots, as in the book, and Dorothy eventually becomes stuck in a dangerous trap, requiring Tip to come to her rescue.

The movie was apparently recovered not long ago, though the second reel is missing its soundtrack. Still, we can hope it will become available to see, not only as the first film version of The Marvelous Land of Oz, but as yet another example (for there are many others) of the artistry of the Meglin Kiddies.

And by the way, the Oz book for the year 1932 was The Purple Prince of Oz.

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