Flying monkey among Maine Oz exhibit draws


By Clarke Canfield, AP

ROCKLAND, Maine — Far from Kansas, far from any yellow brick road and all the way to Maine, fans of “The Wizard of Oz” can catch a peek of Dorothy’s blue gingham dress, a pair of her ruby slippers and even a flying monkey.

A new exhibit that opened Saturday at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland features those items and more from the world’s largest Wizard of Oz collection. The 107-piece display includes props from various Wizard of Oz movies, rare first-print copies of the original Wizard of Oz book, movie posters and an array of Oz memorabilia.

The exhibit, which runs through March, will give fans a sense of all things Oz, starting with L. Frank Baum’s 1900 book “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” said Willard Carroll, a filmmaker from nearby Camden who owns the items with his longtime partner. Carroll, 57, has amassed more than 100,000 Oz items since he first became enthralled with the story at age 10.

The Wizard of Oz story has endured for more than a century and is enjoying a resurgence this year with the release of the 1939 movie in 3D and the approach of the movie’s 75th anniversary. There was also the film “Oz the Great and Powerful,” a prequel to the 1939 film, starring James Franco that explores the origins of the wizard, and the hit musical “Wicked” continues to run on Broadway.

“It’s one of these pop culture things that really has held on,” Carroll said. “There are times it’s spiked, and it’s spiking now because of the 75th anniversary.”

The story of Oz originated with Baum’s book, which spawned numerous movies and stage productions, a radio series, animated cartoons and spinoff products such as toys, dolls, puzzles and even wallpaper panels. It’s best known, of course, from the 1939 “The Wizard of Oz” movie starring Judy Garland as Dorothy, whose color, music and fantasy storytelling captured the fascination of moviegoers.

Maine resident Hamilton Meserve, son of the late Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West, said his mother would be thrilled to see the exhibit.

Hamilton bought a seasonal home on an island near Boothbay Harbor in 1961, which came to be locally known as “the witch’s island.” Meserve, who lives in a mainland home overlooking the island, still has vague memories of being on the set as a 3-year-old while the movie was made, he said at the museum last week.

“This exhibit is a celebration of a great movie that mother was privileged to be part of,” he said. “To have it up here in my backyard is kind of exciting. And the Farnsworth is a prestigious name, so that validates what they’re doing.”

Items from Carroll’s collection have been exhibited only once before, back in 2000 at the Los Angeles Public Library when he lived in California. He said he’s not aware of any other Oz material exhibition for the movie’s 75th anniversary.

The collection brings back memories for anybody who’s watched the movie.