Unpublished Wizard of Oz Photos from the Estate of Norman Taurog

By Justin Benttinen, PBA Photographer

Though famous to classic film buffs and aficionados of the “Golden Age” of Hollywood, Norman Taurog is not necessarily a name that resonates with the modern moviegoer. In spite of this, he was well known in his day, with 180 films to his name over the course of his career. Though such a sheer volume of work is impressive in itself, Taurog was also honored with the 1932 Academy Award® for Best Director for the 1931 film Skippy. In addition to that achievement, Taurog directed such films as the 1938 adaptation of What is less well known is his connection to The Wizard of Oz. In July of 1938, MGM announced that Taurog was tapped to direct their upcoming film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s book by the same title. As it turns out, Taurog was eventually replaced by another director after completing test footage for the film’s difficult and extravagant makeup and set design. These previously unpublished photographs tell some of that story.

Production still of a dolly shot in The Wizard of Oz

Production still of a dolly shot in The Wizard of Oz. The man on the camera may be Taurog.

This collection of photographs represents an unprecedented new look into the creation of one of the most groundbreaking films of all time. It consists of 27 images in total, 20 of which are in black and white with 7 sepia toned images mostly of the costume department, including images of costumers working on the suits for the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion. The 20 black and white photos run the gamut from well known scenes shot from unfamiliar angles to behind the scenes looks at the more quotidian aspects of film production. The shots of the sets, rigging and camera work allow one to imagine the richness and depth of the film’s production, especially in light of today’s digitized film industry. Every piece of set, makeup and lighting was carefully crafted to achieve this film’s well known visual splendor. The behind the scene shot of actors at the commissary in full Munchkin garb add a surreal twist by taking fantastical characters that are etched into our collective memories and placing them into everyday environments. The costume shop images give a small but important glimpse into the backstage workings and dedication that went into the creation of this film.
Unfortunately for Taurog, his stint as director of The Wizard of Oz was a short one. As a contract employee for MGM, Taurog had little say in his reassignment to the production of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, thus ending his work on The Wizard of Oz. Later that year, Taurog was nominated for Best Director again, this time for the film Boys Town. Taurog continued to make films for the next thirty years, ending with Live a Little, Love a Little, an Elvis film. Although Taurog may not have been the final director of The Wizard of Oz, his contributions surely aided in the final realization of that amazing film, and his 5 decade career as a Hollywood film director was a great achievement unto itself. We’re excited to give one lucky bidder the chance to own this physical and original piece of film history that cannot be found anywhere else.

The Munchkins take a break at the commissary during filming of The Wizard of Oz

The Munchkins take a break at the commissary during filming of The Wizard of Oz.

Costumers work on the Tin Man

Costumers work on the Tin Man

These never before seen Oz photographs are featured in our upcoming sale 512, which takes place this Thursday, August 8th 2013, at 11:00 AM Pacific. Also in this sale are several Oz books, tons of literature, and other fine and rare lots from around the world.