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"The Wizard of Oz" (1925)


Three characters, as seen in the film. (Tin Woodsman, Snowball, The Wizard, and Scarecrow)

The 1925 film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz is a very loose adaptation of the first book and would be the last until the 1939 version.

Although it had good reviews at the time, it was considered a box office failure. The film's copyright was allowed to lapse as the distribution company Chadwick Pictures went out of business in 1933. With no extensions, it has been in the public domain since 1954.


The film starred comedian Larry Semon (who also directed) as the Scarecrow, and was primarily a vehicle for Semon's comedy duo with Oliver Hardy, before the latter's legendary films with Stan Laurel. Dorothy Gale was played by Semon's wife Dorothy Dwan. The script was credited to L. Frank Baum's eldest son Frank Joslyn Baum and Leon Lee.

The script departed vastly from Baum's books. Dorothy is an Ozian princess and the heir to the throne, who was kidnapped as a baby and taken to Kansas. A love triangle develops among the 18-year-old Dorothy, the Scarecrow and Tin Woodman; the latter, disappointed in love, connives with the piece's villain, prime minister Kruel. In the end, Princess Dorothea marries her destined match, Prince Kynd.

Kruel is from the film His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz which was later adapted into Baum's ninth Oz novel, The Scarecrow of Oz. Kynd shares a name with a king who was referenced but never seen in the same novel.

In this film the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman, and Cowardly Lion are not real characters, but merely disguises adopted by three farmhands blown to Oz by tornado. The third farmhand is an African-American character, played by Spencer Bell under the Jim-Crow stage name "G. Howe Black."


  • Dorothy Dwan as Dorothy, an 18-year-old girl from Kansas who is later revealed to be Princess Dorothea of Oz (possibly derived from Princess Ozma).
  • Larry Semon as a farmhand who later disguises himself as the Scarecrow. He is hopelessly in love with Dorothy but is too shy to tell her his feelings.
  • Oliver Hardy as another farmhand who becomes the Tin Woodman and is later made the Knight of the Garter by Kruel. Towards the end he essentially becomes a villain.
  • Spencer Bell as Snowball, who later becomes the Cowardly Lion. In the credits he is listed as G. Howe Black.
  • Charles Murray as the Wizard, who cannot do real magic as he claims to but only magic tricks, and recruits the three farmhands into his scam to save his life.
  • Bryant Washburn as Prince Kynd, who marries Dorothy. He is based on King Kynd from the original books.
  • Josef Swickard as Minister Kruel, an evil dictator of Oz. He is based on King Krewl from The Scarecrow of Oz.
  • Mary Carr as Aunt Em.
  • Frank Alexander as Uncle Henry, who travels to Oz with Dorothy and is made the Prince of Whales.
  • Virginia Pearson as Lady Vishuss, Kruel's advisor.
  • Otto Lederer as Ambassador Wikked, Kruel's henchman.
  • Frederick Ko Vert as the Wizard's glamorous genderfluid assistant.



  • In his 2000 nonfiction book Oz Before the Rainbow, Mark Evan Swartz devotes the last two chapters to this production.
  • Dorothy Dwan and Larry Semon were married in 1925 but tragically he died three years later as a result of pneumonia and tuberculosis.
    • When he passed away, Variety specifically blamed the film’s production as a contributing factor to his overall declining health noting that “This screen disaster caused Mr. Semon no end of worry and repeated efforts to recoup only added to his discomfiture. Last March he filed a voluntary petition in bankruptcy, listing debts at nearly $500,000. Ceaseless worry undermined his health making him an easy victim of pneumonia.”
  • The film aired on TCM on November 25th 2018 but only the first half-hour was shown.
  • For publicity, the Roseland Ballroom in New York City held a “Wizard of Oz dance contest” as noted by the Motion Picture News dated May 2nd, 1925. Held on April 17th, the interior was decorated with book characters with an 18 foot cutout of Lemon as Scarecrow on the marquee.
  • Frank Josyln Baum helped with advertising and had stills from the film placed in windows of stores that sold toys from his own Oz Doll and Toy Manufacturing Company that he founded a year prior.
  • The New York Daily News held a special contest asking kids to write letters on why they should be invited to a free special screening and 200 won with the top 50 considered the best receiving an Oz doll. Similarly, The Daily Mail asked kids to color in a picture of the Scarecrow and then mail it in as they gave out 353 prizes.
  • The film premiered at The Forum Theater in Los Angeles on February 7th with a wider release on April 17th. This very large venue could seat 1,800 people with opening tickets needing to be reserved at the price of $1.10. Later showings with no reservations necessary were reduced for adult tickets to be $0.65 in evening and $0.35 for matinee with children only paying $0.15.
    • As an opening act before the film was shown, there was an original short musical entitled “An Adventure in the Land of Oz” that was performed with 12 scenes. Not much information is known besides what was listed in a printed program. Inspired by the film it is believed to have taken elements from the 1902 musical such as girls in flower costumes. This included a cast of Andree Bayley as Dorothy, Harry L. Wagner as Scarecrow, Roy Sager as Tin Man, and Josef Johnson as the Wizard. It featured some foreign language orchestra tunes with the Spanish “Mi Niña” and the Irish “Wearing of the Green”. It is believed the costumes for Scarecrow and Tin Man might have been the ones from the film.

External links[]

  • The complete film on YouTube
  • The Wizard of Oz (1925) on IMDb


  • David L. Greene and Dick Martin. The Oz Scrapbook, New York, Random House, 1977.
  • Mark Evan Swartz. Before the Rainbow: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Stage and Screen to 1939. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.
Site-logo Films Site-logo
Live-Action adaptations Silent films Fairylogue and Radio-Plays (1908) • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910) • His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz (1914) • The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914) • The Magic Cloak of Oz (1914) • The Wizard of Oz (1925)
Modern films The Wizard of Oz (1939) • The Wonderful Land of Oz (1969) • 20th Century Oz (1976) • The Wiz (1978) • Return to Oz (1985) • The Dreamer of Oz (1990) • The Wizard of the City of Emeralds (1994) • The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005) • After the Wizard (2011) • Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) • The Wiz Live! (2015)
Inspired films Flying Monkeys (2013) • OzLand (2015)
Guest Appearances Inkheart (2008) • Space Jam: A New Legacy (2021)
Animated adaptations Feature films Journey Back to Oz (1974) • The Wizard of Oz (1982) • The Wizard of Oz (1983) • The Wizard of Oz (1991) • Lion of Oz (2000) • Tom and Jerry & the Wizard of Oz (2011) • Legends of Oz: Dorothy's Return (2014) • Guardians of Oz (2015) • Tom and Jerry: Back to Oz (2016) • Urfin Jus and His Wooden Soldiers (2017) • The Steam Engines of Oz (2018)
Guest Appearances The LEGO Movie (2014) • The Lego Batman Movie (2017)
Upcoming adaptations Wicked: Part One/Wicked: Part Two (2024-5) • Dorothy & Alice (TBA) • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (film) (TBA) • Toto (film) (TBA)
Short films After Oz (2007) • The Land of Oz (short film) (2015) • Dorothy in the Land of Stars (2017) • Unknown, Lost, or non-English Adaptations