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Oz on Film, Part Six: The Company of the Oz Film Manufacturers

Three of the players from the Oz Film Company: Vivian Reed (top), Violet MacMillan (lower left), and Pierre Couderc (lower right).
Three of the players from the Oz Film Company: Vivian Reed (top), Violet MacMillan (lower left), and Pierre Couderc (lower right).
Images public domain; montage by Peter Heimsoth

What sort of movies did the Oz Film Manufacturing Company manufacture? As should come as no surprise, two of them were adaptations of Oz stories, specifically The Patchwork Girl of Oz (from the book of the same name) and His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz (from the more modestly titled The Scarecrow of Oz). The latter was released as The New Wizard of Oz to capitalize on the still-popular stage extravaganza, which had by this time officially folded.

In a tradition which goes back to Shakespeare's day and lasted well into the era of "talkies," the studio had what is called a stable of performers, all prepared to play any character in any movie.

Among these was Violet MacMillan, hailed in the studio’s advertisements as "The Daintiest Darling of Them All." She was to essay both "principal boy" parts, such as Ojo in Patchwork Girl, and ingénue roles like Dorothy Gale in His Majesty, the Scarecrow, not to mention being spotlighted in four of the Company’s short films (Violet’s Dreams) and even, it is reported, directing one of them.

Fred Woodward, who had originated the role of Hank the Mule in Baum's 1913 stage show The Tik-Tok Man of Oz, played the majority of animal characters in both films, including the Cowardly Lion in Scarecrow, as well as reprising Hank (or at least a mule) in both pictures.

A French acrobat by the name of Pierre Couderc possessed a physicality and capacity for expression that made him perfectly suited to the medium of silent film. He actually starred in the title role of The Patchwork Girl of Oz as well as playing a very robot-like Tin Woodman in His Majesty, the Scarecrow.

Vivian Reed not only played romantic leads for the company, including Princes Gloria in Scarecrow, but was the company’s living logo, appearing at the beginning of each movie as the lovely face of Ozma, though she did not play the part in either of the company’s Oz films.

Ozma herself was present in Patchwork Girl in the person of Jessie May Walsh.

In an interesting diversity of roles (thought not quite as great as that of Couderc’s), Todd Wright was to appear in Patchwork Girl as the Wizard of Oz and in Scarecrow as the romantic hero Pon, beloved of Princess Gloria.

Consistency, as we know, was never one of Baum’s strongest points in his writing. This seems to have been the case with his casting as well, for the Wizard also appears in Scarecrow, but played by C. Charles Haydon. Similarly, the Tin Woodman was played by Lon Musgrave in Patchwork Girl and, as you’ve already read, Couderc in Scarecrow. The Scarecrow himself was played in the first film by Herbert Glennon and in his eponymous film by Frank Moore (The Tik-Tok Man's Shaggy Man)—who had played Unc Nunkie in Patchwork Girl!

And even though Fred Woodward was in both movies, he was only the Lion for Scarecrow, the shaggy beast having been played by Al Roach in Patchwork Girl.