Shirley Is in Her Holy Temple

I don’t know how seriously Shirley Temple was considered for the role of Dorothy in the 1939 Wizard of Oz, but I do seem to recall reading that she was actually familiar with the Oz books. Many years later, she would get her chance to appear in an Oz feature, but as Ozma (and Tip) instead of Dorothy.

Her show Shirley Temple’s Storybook ran from 1958 through 1961, featuring adaptations of fairy tales. One of these was The Marvelous Land of Oz, in a version that was pretty faithful to the book, only considerably abridged. Well, the show DID only run for an hour. The main change was that Jinjur was replaced by the over-the-top Lord Nikidik (named after a different, unseen character in the book), played by comedian Jonathan Winters, with Arthur Treacher as his butler Graves. Yeah, Treacher is the guy the fish place is named after, and much of his acting career consisted of playing butlers. Agnes Moorhead played Mombi a few years before her recurring role as a different witch, Endora on Bewitched. Jack Pumpkinhead was portrayed by Sterling Holloway, and I guess Jack does have some similarities to Winnie-the-Pooh, although he doesn’t eat. And Mel Blanc provided the voice for the Sawhorse, who sounded like a tough-guy New Yorker in this adaptation. There were a few nods to the MGM film, with the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman costumes looking pretty similar to the ones from the movie, and a bit of a piece of music that was close enough to “Off to See the Wizard” to be recognizable.

As you might expect, the effects were cheap and obvious enough as to be amusing in their own right. There was a lot of expository dialogue as well. I think it was pretty good for what it was, though, and it was nice that they largely stuck to the book. There wasn’t any Wogglebug, however.

Included on the same disc was Temple’s take on Kenneth Grahame’s The Reluctant Dragon. Being a considerably shorter story than The Land of Oz, it was padded out quite a bit. Temple played the protagonist’s sister, who was busy avoiding the advances of a self-absorbed burgher with a goofy sidekick. It was basically the Gaston plot from Beauty and the Beast long before that movie was made. The titular dragon had some stereotypical gay traits, and the costume was pink and purple, but this wasn’t quite as emphasized as in the Disney version.

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2 Responses to Shirley Is in Her Holy Temple

  1. I have this DVD. I thought The Reluctant Dragon was pretty cute, but Marvelous Land is one you’ll want to watch without an audience because it’s dire! Temple is not easy to watch, the Lord Nikidik character is sleep-inducing, and the expository dialogue makes everything move at a snail’s pace. That said, Agnes Moorehead as Mombi was a stroke of genius, and it’s a shame they didn’t use her in that role for a big budget production. Frankly, I never understood why MGM didn’t go forward with a sequel to the Wizard of Oz.

    • Nathan says:

      I remember seeing a description of a script someone was working on for an MGM Wizard sequel, and it didn’t sound very good. Apparently they wanted to continue the dream motif, but with a girl dreaming about being Tip.

      Beth thought Moorhead’s witch voice was overdone, but she was definitely an effective Mombi.

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