The Patchwork Girl of Oz, released in 1914, was remarkably faithful to the book of the same title. To be sure, any changes could not be seriously challenged, since the screenwriter of the film was also the author of the book. Nearly six decades later, history was to repeat when British author Roald Dahl adapted his book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory into the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory—incorporating greater changes to that story than Baum made to his.
As in the book, Ojo (Violet MacMillan) and his Unc Nunkie (Frank Moore), nearly out of food, go to Dr. Pipt (Raymond Russell) and his wife Margolotte (Leontine Dranet) for provisions, but this time they are accompanied by a mule named Mewel (Fred Woodward). Ojo provides a secret addition of brain powder to the Pipts’ Patchwork Girl Scraps (Pierre Couderc), who springs to life and accidentally douses the doctor’s wife and Unc Nunkie with the potion that turns them to stone, only now they are joined in their petrifaction by Danx (Dick Rosson), a Munchkin engaged to the Pipts’ daughter Jesseva (Bobbie Gould).
Shrinking Danx into a statue Jesseva puts in her pocket, she, Ojo, and Scraps head out to find the ingredients to reverse the effects of the potion. Although Bungle the Glass Cat and the Living Phonograph were too difficult to create as special effects, Our Travelers do encounter the Woozy (Woodward again), who joins their party, as well as Jinjur (Marie Wayne), who takes a shine to the shrunken, petrified Danx, whom she takes for a trinket and highly desires, much to Jesseva’s displeasure.
More romantic hi-jinks ensue soon after Ojo is taken before Ozma (Jessie May Walsh) for the crime of picking a six-leaved clover. The Scarecrow (Herbert Glennon) becomes bored with the proceedings and steps outside, where he meets Scraps—and it is love at first sight for both of them.
Further complications arise in the form of the Hoppers, a race of one-legged people (prefiguring the Dufflepuds of C.S. Lewis’s The Voyage of the Dawn Treader), and the Tottenhots. But eventually everything is settled and Unc Nunkie, Margolotte, and Danx are restored to life and their loved ones.
Oz stalwarts the Cowardly Lion (Woodward yet again), the Tin Woodman (Lon Musgrave), the Hungry Tiger (Andy Anderson), and the Wizard himself (Todd Wright) all make brief appearances in a film laden with invention, amusing sets, and excellent costumes, some looking like leftovers from The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays and the Wizard stage musical.
Though elementary by today’s standards, the special effects are good, from the stop-motion construction of Scraps to the restoration of Danx from a shrunken statue into a tall Munchkin (!). The performances are excellent, and none more so that that of Monsieur Couderc; whether acting coquettish as the Scarecrow pours out his heart to Scraps or turning effortless backflips like the weightless creature Scraps is, he steals the show.
And as the title character, he has every right to!