His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz (1914)
This third film by the Oz Film Manufacturing Company is the closest they ever came to producing a silent version of “The Wizard of Oz.” Strangely, what’s missing is a lot of the plot motivation – most of the characters lack the clear goals we are familiar with from the 1939 version, and so much of the story just involves people wandering around an enchanted wood for no apparent reason. It reminded me somewhat of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for that reason, and also because various people fall in love with the wrong person or are turned into animals. We do get Dorothy (played by Violent MacMillan, who finally got to be a girl for once), the Tin Man (Pierre Couderc, who had been the Patchwork Girl), the Cowardly Lion (Fred Woodward, who also turns up in his familiar mule costume), the Wizard himself, a witch called Mombi, and, of course, the Scarecrow. The Lion was also odd, because he never seemed very cowardly to me charging at cavalry brigades, storming castles and so forth, although he failed to climb a ladder, so maybe he’s afraid of heights. The title is basically a spoiler for the end of the film, and again we get various creative Méliès-style effects and magical creatures dancing and pantomiming along the way.
Director: J. Farrell MacDonald
Produced and Written by L. Frank Baum
Camera: James A. Crosby
Starring: Violet MacMillan, Pierre Couderc, Fred Woodward, Mildred Harris, Vivian Reed
Run time: 58 Min