THE HALLS OF “MONTEZUMA”: In the midst of the WIZARD OF OZ’s original Broadway run, BAUM hopes to strike gold with a second musical comedy
American author (1856–1919) best known for the iconic children’s classic The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900). The book, which spawned more than a dozen sequels, ultimately earned a place among the most cherished and durable titles in the annals of children’s literature; by some estimates, 10 million copies were in print by 1978. Though the book has inspired countless adaptations across a wide spectrum of media—from stage shows to Japanese animé—its most definitive incarnation was the 1939 MGM Technocolor extravaganza, starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, which has become one of the most lauded and beloved films in history. The film was among the first chosen by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry, and in 1997 was ranked Number 6 on the AFI’s inaugural “100 Greatest Movies of All Time.” ALS on three panels of a folding 6.75 x 5 sheet of Sign of the Goose, Macatawh Park, Michigan, letterhead, July 2, 1903. Baum writes to “E,” most likely his sometime collaborator, popular novelist Emerson Hough (1857–1923). In full: “Your favor rec’d. It seems I am unable to locate you since ‘The Claim Agent’ was conceived, and now I shall shy Chicago until Fall. Miss Marbury is trying to place Montezuma in London, and has sent for the musical score. Her N.Y. house is also trying to place it. They believe in the thing. And [music publisher] Isidore Witmark will submit it to the Bostonians. So I am keeping the wires hot. The Marbury outfit are to see Savage about it next week, I believe. We are very comfortable over here and you must not forget you are to run over frequently with the missus and get a dose of ozone. All well and Mrs. B. joins me in warmest regards to you’uns. Sincerely….” “The Claim Agent” is evidently an allusion to Hough’s novel The Law of the Land, published in the following year, which prominently featured such a character. As discussed in the 2003 biography L. Frank Baum: Creator of Oz by Katharine M. Rogers, Montezuma was a musical comedy, co-written with Hough, which never saw production. (In another letter sent to Hough from Macatawh Park a few weeks later, Baum assured him that he was still trying to find a producer.) At the time of writing, Baum’s musical stage adaptation of his best-selling book, written in collaboration with composer Paul Tietjens and now titled The Wizard of Oz, was in the middle of its original production on Broadway. The show ran for 293 performances from January to October 1903, was successfully revived in the following year, and went on a nationwide tour, introducing Baum’s timeless characters to an even wider audience. Intersecting mailing folds (short edge separations, touching one letter of text), mild handling wear (a few tiny chips and tears; light paperclip mark to bottom margin), otherwise fine condition. All autograph material from the Oz creator is uncommon; letters, particularly those with content related to his creative work, are extremely elusive. Auction LOA John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA and R&R COA.