Friday, September 27, 2019

Insert Rainbow Here

There has been debate over whether the St. Louis MUNY version of The Wizard of Oz retained any of Paul Tietjens music in its original production, and even more doubt that any Tietjens music remained once the MUNY version began being performed by other "stock" companies. But it's clear from my research that at least some of Tietjens score was still in use in the MUNY version even as late as 1949, and probably later still.

In the summer of 1949, the Louisville Park Theatrical Association performed the MUNY version of The Wizard of Oz—the main credit for music and lyrics going to L. Frank Baum and Paul Tietjens and "Music of recent screen version interpolated through the courtesy of composers Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer."

August 2, 1949, Wizard of Oz review from Louisville Courier-Journal.

On August 2, 1949, the production was reviewed by Boyd Martin in the Louisville Courier-Journal, under a bold headline:
'Oz' Leaves Out Too Much Delightful Music.

You can read Boyd Martin's review below. But what I find fascinating is how loved the original Baum/Tietjens show still was by some people—especially this late, nearly a half century since the show premiered. Martin remembers specific characters and songs, and clearly loved the "original" Wizard of Oz very much. Here's his review of the 1949 MUNY version as performed at the Iroquois Amphitheatre in Louisville, Kentucky.

Mr. Martin found the new production was "not The Wizard of Oz of happy memory . . ."

For book and lyrics of L. Frank Baum and music by Paul Tietjens and A. Baldwin Sloane of the original have been ignored completely for a decidedly elementary book of cheap wit and a score that leaves out some of the remarkably bright numbers of the original extravaganza.

Imogene Not There.

Such delights as "The Bullfrog and the Coon," "That Must Be Love," "It's Enough to Make A Perfect Lady Mad," "Football," "Would You Like to Go Halves on That," and others which composed the musical background of The Wizard of Oz have been dropped from the amphitheatre version for a very inferior series of airs carrying nothing of the satirical import of the Baum conception.

No longer does poor little Dorothy have Imogene, the cow, for a playmate. No longer does Cynthia Cynch wander a comical zany among the Munchkin maidens. And where is Sir Dashemoff Daily, the poet laureate of Oz, The Poppy Queen, and so many other characters that just have to be to make The Wizard of Oz complete?

Players Work Hard Enough.

No one even really seriously anticipates any plot or tangible story in The Wizard of Oz. Anything of the kind would be honestly out of place. Even originally it was just an evening of entertainment to get one in a good humor and keep him that way until the finale.

But the amphitheatre offering is an illegitimate distortion of a once-imaginative conceit which appealed to one's sense of humor, fancy, and eye. No one can say that Frank Gabrielson's modern adaptation is anything but a gruesome attempt to eliminate charm. In that he has succeeded admirably. As far as the score of Tietjens and Sloane is concerned there isn't enough of it retained to matter. The music is chiefly from the recent screen version, interpolated as the program indicates, "through the courtesy of composers Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer." Had the Park Historical Association known, it could have been sure this loan was no favor.

The lack of theatrical flare or spontaneity in the composition is reflected throughout by the impotency of the players, who working hard enough, failed last night to make the whole thing gel.

Edith Fellows Helps.

Oh, there were some bright moments here and there. A chuckle or two effervesced when Miss Roache [who played the Witch of the West] had tea with her cronies. The idea of the King of Beasts being such a Sissy got what one might consider a lion's share of the laughter.

Not until Ray English [the Scarecrow] went into his dance in the second act was there any indication that he was the fellow who boasted last week that he was born to be funny. [Choreographer] Virginia Johnson's dancing routine made lively moments.

Actress Edith Fellows played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.
Little Edith Fellows [Dorothy] really proved to be something of a wizard herself last evening. She managed to gather some loose ends together when they needed it, which was much too often. But one star doesn't make a heavenly show.

July 8, 1949, Louisville Courier-Journal
That's the end of the review. So how much of Tietjens music actually remained in the show at this point? A write-up on this production of The Wizard of Oz on July 8, 1949, listed the songs MGM had agreed to license (see image at right).

The production probably used the Tietjens "Selection" as an "Overture," and the "Opening Pantomime" music for Kansas, the Tornado, and Munchkin dance music. They probably utilized the Poppy Scene music (without vocals) and I have always suspected that Tietjens's "Phantom Patrol" was the inspiration for the original MUNY Wizard of Oz "Skeleton Dance."  It's one of Tietjens's best pieces and the title would have lent itself to such a new imagining.

Below is another piece of evidence showing how the MUNY version forced the marriage of Tietjens and MGM into their new performing version. The image below is a scan from the "Conductor's Score" of the Tams-Witmark "rental" parts of the Baum and Tietjens Wizard of Oz production. This section of music is from Tietjens's opening music for the show, "Life in Kansas." In the yellow areas you can see penciled notes showing how and where "Over the Rainbow" was jammed into the middle of Tietjens's music. It says: "Fake ending - arpeggio intro to "Rainbow," then a second notation saying "After Rainbow - Dance Here." Click on the image to enlarge it for better viewing.

Notes showing insertion of "Over the Rainbow" into Tietjens's score - Click to enlarge.

Clearly the early MUNY version was a rather bastardized affair. I certainly love the MGM film and score, don't get me wrong. But it's worth remembering how long Tietjens and Baum's extravaganza truly lived in the hearts of its audience—even almost fifty years after Dorothy and Imogene first skipped on stage and into the hearts of the audience—especially one Boyd Martin!

Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Tietjens Goes to FIDDLE-DEE-DEE

Fiddle-Dee-Dee in Chicago, 1901.
On the evening of May 13, 1901, Paul Tietjens went to the Chicago Grand Opera House to see Weber and Fields’s latest burlesque, Fiddle-Dee-Dee. It was the opening night of the Chicago run.

Tietjens could hardly have imagined that little more than a year later The Wizard of Oz would be playing at that same theatre, under the same director, Julian Mitchell, and with many of the same actors. Harold T. Morey, who played Pourboire the waiter in Fiddle-Dee-Dee, would create the part of Brigadier-General Riskitt in The Wizard of Oz and play that part for the next five years. May McKenzie, who played Cinquentieme in the burlesque, would a year later become Bardo the Wizard’s factotum. Weber and Fields chorus girls Ella Gilroy, Virginia Foltz, Clara Selten, Belle Robinson, Grace Heckler, and Carrie Bowman would all eventually appear in The Wizard of Oz. Fiddle-Dee Dee lyricist Edgar Smith would write lyrics for the Wizard’s Irish number in the “Ball of All Nations.” And Will R. Barnes, the costume designer, would design many of the costumes for the original Chicago production of The Wizard of Oz.

Fiddle-Dee-Dee, An Entertainment in Two Exhibits was director Julian Mitchell’s fourth season with Weber and Fields. These annual productions were burlesques in the original sense of the word, comedic send-ups or spoofs of other popular shows—think Saturday Night Live! or Mad magazine.

The first act of Fiddle-Dee-Dee was set at the Paris Exposition in the “Swiss Village," where frolicked Leo, a large Saint Bernard, played by animal impersonator George Ali. Weber and Fields played, respectively, Michael Krautknuckle and Rudolf Bungstarter on a pleasure trip to the Paris Expo. Lillian Russell played Mrs. Waldorf Meadowbrook, a young widow with a longing to do something to startle society. Weber’s and Fields’s characters join up with Shadrach Leschinski, “a Hebrew Prestidigitator” played by David Warfield, in an effort to fleece the athletic young American Hoffman Barr played by DeWolf Hopper, who has “nothing but money and nothing to do but spend it.” Weber’s and Fields’s characters are upended by a recreation of the famous “moving sidewalk” of the Paris Exposition.

DeWolf Hopper (center) in Weber & Fields's Fiddle-Dee-Dee (1901).

The score to Fiddle-Dee-Dee was composed by John Stromberg. Tietjens found “there were some fair musical numbers, a Tyrolean Yodel song, and the great 'Kiss me, Honey, Do,' which is really beautiful.” I think Tietjens is misremembering the title to the latter, which was from Weber and Fields’s Hurly Burly in 1898. In Fiddle-Dee-Dee, Lillian Russell sang the similarly titled “Come Back, My Honey Boy, to Me." Lillian Russell also has an Oz connection—her brother-in-law, Owen Westford, would play Pastoria II in The Wizard of Oz.

Actual color film and recording of Lillian Russell circa 1913.

The second act of the show featured a series of shorter burlesques on recent Broadway hits. Tietjens enjoyed the first two: “The acting of DeWolf Hopper and especially of Fay Templeton . . . was really great in the burlesque of The Gay Lord Quex. . . . The sextet from Florodora was burlesqued. It is very pretty.”

The original sextet from Florodora, “Tell Me, Pretty Maiden,” was one of the most popular moments in the musical theater of the early 20th century. The beloved production number featured a chorus of six “pretty maidens,” who coyly flirted with six male suitors, each group singing in turn. The girls stood, posed, tapped their parasols to the music, and did little else—until the chorus of the song, when the men and women formed six strolling pairs and took “a little walk” in unison to the lively and catchy tune (which you may listen to here).

The original sextet from Florodora - Click to enlarge.
In the Weber and Fields parody, “Tell Me, Pretty Ladies,” Warfield, Weber, and Fields attempted to get friendly with Bonnie Maginn, Allie Gilbert, and Belle Robinson. Armond Fields, author of From the Bowery to Broadway (1993), explains: “the women feigned complete indifference as the men bowed, stumbled, argued, and tried to outdo each other with exaggerated shows of gentility.” Edgar Smith’s lyrics were a goof-ball send-up of Paul Rubens’s original. You may listen to Weber and Fields’s version by clicking here. In the photo below, Weber is the gentleman at center, and Fields, the fellow at right.

Weber & Fields's parody of the Florodora sextet in Fiddle-Dee-Dee
Tietjens found the burlesque on The Royal Family “not as clever, with the exception of the part DeWolf Hopper played in it.” Tietjens also enjoyed Julian Mitchell’s choreography and attention to detail. “One of the chief features of the production was the dancing and the pretty costumes.”

Fiddle-Dee-Dee shared one other feature with The Wizard of Oz—a three-hour-plus running time. “The performance,” Tietjens noted in his diary, “lasted until 11:25.”

In closing, here is a fun clip of the "Tell Me, Pretty Maiden" sextet as performed in the 1930 Marion Davies film The Florodora Girl. It's not terribly authentic, but it does give a feel for how the number might have been performed back in the early 1900s. Also of interest is the fact that Marion Davies's sister, Reine Davies, played Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz in early 1906.

"Tell Me Pretty Maiden" as performed in The Florodora Girl (1930).

Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

How It All Began - Part V

The following in an excerpt from my forthcoming book. Please note, this early draft does not reflect corrections, changes, and more recent discoveries. There may be substantial differences between the following text and that to be included in the final work.  —David Maxine


W. W. Denslow circa 1903.
W. W. Denslow had a vested interest in encouraging Tietjens to adapt The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and abandon The Octopus. He was the illustrator of the book and also copyright holder, along with author L. Frank Baum.
Baum and Denslow had frequently argued over who deserved more credit on their two best-selling children’s books, Father Goose, His Book and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The continuing friction between Baum and Denslow caused Tietjens worry. Adapting The Wonderful Wizard of Oz would necessitate bringing all three men into frequent contact. Denslow would also require some kind of financial compensation. Tietjens wavered over whether to bring up the idea with Baum. The probable tensions didn’t seem worth the effort. And Tietjens needed an income—and quickly. Finishing The Octopus seemed the most sure route to financial stability. 

At the end of June, Tietjens traveled to Slater, Missouri, to visit his family. He was in such financial straits he bought his train ticket from a scalper. Tietjens had not visited the farm since he was eight years old,  “. . . but it has harbored my nearest and dearest . . . It is more home to me than Chicago ever will be.” He arrived in Slater on July 1, 1901. He found his previously well-off family in dire circumstances. All the farmhands but one had been let go and the drought made it difficult to grow anything. “We had hardly anything to eat . . . and none of it was very good."

Denslow’s suggestion of adapting The Wonderful Wizard of Oz kept working its way into Tietjens's thoughts. The old farm itself urged him on. “A breeze was constantly blowing . . . which in the day was almost suffocating. It was the ‘hot wind’ of Kansas, of which I had so often heard, and when it struck you it felt as if [your] face were being immersed in hot water.”

“In great anxiety” Tietjens waited “to have the remaining lyrics” of The Octopus. Finally, on July 12, after nearly two weeks with no contact, a letter arrived from Baum. It included a letter from producer Henry Savage, who would be in Chicago on July 15 and wanted to read the libretto. “Baum asked me to send it and said it might be well for me to be on hand.” Tietjens departed for Chicago the next day.

Baum and Tietjens met with Savage at the Studebaker Theatre, located in the Fine Arts Building, where both Morgan and Denslow had their art studios. 

The Studebaker Theatre in the Fine Arts Building, Spring 1901.
Tietjens played the score for Savage, who commented favorably on “The Traveler and the Pie” and “Love is Love,” then took his leave, libretto in hand.

While they waited for Savage's response, the Baums invited Tietjens to join them at their lake-front cottage for a couple weeks. Baum and Tietjens traveled across Lake Michigan on the night-ferry from Chicago to Macatawa, where Tietjens enjoyed their kindest hospitality. The two men discussed ideas for their next comic opera—Baum suggested the “theme” of King Midas. But a couple days into the leisurely visit Savage returned The Octopus. He was not interested.

For once Tietjens did not fall into a depression after a rejection. Instead, he built a strong case for adapting The Wonderful Wizard of Oz as their “best chance for an immediate production.” Baum was reticent at first, not wanting to bring Denslow in on the royalties. Tietjens offered to share equally in the burden of paying Denslow a percentage. “Baum and I reasoned that [Denslow] could not reasonably demand more than a 1/10 or a 1/5 interest at the most.” 

L. Frank Baum's Macatawa cottage circa 1901.
Baum quickly wrote a scenario. Tietjens found it “impracticable and too long, but began to work . . .” He was energized, free of the creative paralysis that had so often tortured him during the writing of The Octopus. The new project filled the final days of July. He quickly composed several songs, including an “Opening Chorus” for the Munchkins and the Wicked Witch of the East, and “When You Love, Love, Love” for the Tin Woodman, which Tietjens “wrote in less than an hour.”

Tietjens returned to Chicago at the end of July. He played the beginnings of the score for Denslow, who told Tietjens he would immediately begin looking for a manager to produce the show. Denslow announced that he would design costumes and posters for the production. For all this and as co-owner of the children's book, Denslow suggested his share of the profits should be one third. Tietjens worried how hard Baum would kick at this suggestion.

Baum at the Window Trimmers' Convention.
Any kicking would have to wait. Baum needed to focus his energies elsewhere for much of August. During the first week, he attended the convention of the National Window Trimmers’ Association in Indianapolis. He was Treasurer and had founded the organization in 1898. 

When he returned to Macatawa, he became preoccupied with preparing a “Venetian Evening” featuring “a combination of electrical effects and moonlight” to launch the fifth annual regatta of the Macatawa Bay Yacht Club. The newspaper announced that “all the yachts, launches, hotels, and clubhouse will be decorated with Chinese lanterns and colored lights, and there will be a procession of the boats around the bay, followed by a hop at the clubhouse.” 

Baum also had four books scheduled to be released in the coming weeks: a new edition of Mother Goose in Prose, the book collection of American Fairy Tales, and two new books—The Master Key and Dot and Tot in Merryland, the latter illustrated by Denslow.

In late August and early September, Denslow was overseeing the printing of Dot and Tot in Merryland. But he made time to start promoting the new "extravaganza."

Denslow had solid theatre credentials in Chicago, which he would use to get the show produced. In 1895 he had designed costumes and posters for the smash hit Little Robinson Crusoe starring Eddie Foy and Marie Dressler. That show had featured scenic designs by Walter W. Burridge, who would later design The Wizard of Oz.

Chicago Record-Herald building
Denslow had newspaper connections, too. On September 5, 1901, his friend, reporter Lyman B. Glover, broke the news in the Chicago Record-Herald that the three men were adapting The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for the stage as an “extravaganza.” This publicity was completely overshadowed the next day. “This afternoon at 4:30,” Tietjens wrote in his journal on September 6, “President McKinley was shot and critically wounded by an anarchist assassin named Czolgosz.”

On the morning of September 8, Tietjens called on Denslow, and played him the latest additions to the score, the Munchkin's “Farewell Chorus” and Dorothy’s solo, “I’m an Innocent Kansas Girl.”

Tietjens returned home and packed. He was to go to Macatawa to play the new music for Baum and finish the contract negotiations. Tietjens was ready to depart when Ike Morgan informed him there was no day-ferry. He would have to wait for the night-ferry. But that night the lake was so rough, he chose to wait until the next evening to travel. By chance, Ike Morgan and his wife planned to take the same ferry, so the three agreed they might as well travel together. Shortly before they were to depart the next evening, Morgan sent word that he would be unable to leave the newspaper office “owing to the extra work on account of McKinley’s attempted assassination.” Exasperated by the obstacles, Tietjens abandoned the trip to Macatawa and instead wrote Baum a long letter, “urging him to accept our terms without further wrangling . . . I said that Denslow and I would draw up an agreement and send it to him . . . the understanding being that each of us receive a third of the royalties, [with] the sales from music to be divided between Baum and myself.”

Denslow wrote to Baum, too, saying he “was going right ahead as if the agreement were signed, trusting to [Baum’s] word.”

Scenic designer Walter W. Burridge, Denslow's old theatre colleague, arranged for him to meet with Henry Savage that afternoon at the Studebaker Theatre. Denslow asked Tietjens to join him. Unfortunately, Savage failed to appear. After waiting half an hour, Denslow and Tietjens left. “We did not want to appear too anxious.”

Paul Tietjens circa 1902.
On September 13 the morning mail brought a letter from Baum, “decrying Denslow as usual. He has no doubt good cause for this . . .”  Denslow had gone to Macatawa and tried to convince Baum that the success of the extravaganza would rest on the success of their children’s book. Denslow asked Baum to persuade Tietjens, a relative unknown, to accept a one-fifth share of the profits, leaving two-fifths for each of them. Tietjens refused the insulting proposal and dismissive view of his contribution as composer. “It puts me on my guard . . .” he wrote in his journal. His growing concern at Denslow’s and Baum’s escalating tendencies to claim sole credit for their collaborative works forced Tietjens to decide that “I shall hereafter insist that my name appear in all notices and advertisements.”

While newspaper headlines trumpeted that President McKinley had died from his wounds, Denslow and Tietjens argued about the newly-proposed royalty split, finally agreeing to go back to the previously agreed upon equal three-way share. On September 18, Denslow telegrammed Tietjens. Baum was back in Chicago and had drawn up a contract. The three men met that evening at Baum's.

The contract “embodied, among other points, the following: that the royalties were to be divided equally among us, each to receive thirty-three and one third percent, and that the return from sale of music be divided between Baum and me. The agreement was not signed, a few alterations having been suggested.” Tietjens said he would agree to the three-equal-shares royalty split, but over the next two days he wavered.

“I have decided not to sign the contract with Baum and Denslow tomorrow,” Tietjens wrote on September 20. “Denslow is not entitled to a 1/3 interest, and I will rather throw over the whole thing than to allow him so large a share. I deserve one half at least.”

The next day Tietjens and Denslow quarreled. “I told him he was not entitled to any of my share which should be half as composer.” Tietjens had a point. The fact that Denslow and Baum shared the copyright to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz should not have been Tietjens’s burden

On Sunday, September 22, Tietjens discussed the situation with Baum. They decided, “after some deliberation, it was best to give Denslow his [one-third] share, rather than to let The Wizard go by default.”

A few days later at the Chicago Athletic Association, after weeks of discord, harmony prevailed. L. Frank Baum, W. W. Denslow, and Paul Tietjens met and signed the contract for Baum & Tietjens' Musical Spectacular Fairy Tale THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ.
All three signatures on the original contract of September 21, 1901.
(Special thanks to Robert Baum.)
Copyright © 2019 David Maxine. All rights reserved.