The wizardry of Oz: French echoes in an American classic?

Have you ever noticed:

— The Cowardly Lion played by Bert Lahr in the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of Oz, bears a striking resemblance to Louis XIV, king of France from 1654 to 1715…

infocowardlylionLouis XIV(Note the arched eyebrows, the hair parted in the middle, Louis’s bouncy coiffure–whose profile is mirrored in the Lion’s perky ears and little red bow– their serious  jowls, and the magisterial gaze.  Moreover, Lahr’s solo, “If I Were King of the Forest,”  spoofs the pretensions of kingship with hilarious effect. )

— General Jinjur’s Army of Revolt, from L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz (1904) bears a strong resemblance to 18th- and 19th-century imagery of the “Amazons” of October 1789 and other agents of unauthorized female politicking…


Prettypoissardes1789 (Note the comely women warriors and the bemused expressions on their erstwhile enemies in these illustrations, and especially their pointed weapons–knitting needles in General Jinjur’s army, pikes in revolutionary Paris.  A textual comparison reveals more similarities; consider The Marvelous Land of Oz, pp. 83-95; and Pierre Roussel’s lampoon of women’s political clubbing in Le Château des Tuileries [1802], 2:36-38.)

Did the Oz team (author L. Frank Baum, illustrator John R. Neill, and comedian Bert Lahr) borrow from French history in their search for the marvelous?  Is the Cowardly Lion skewering Louis XIV’s pretensions with his “woofs” and “growls” to the chipmunks under his command?  Read the lyrics and judge for yourself!

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