Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Here's a silent film from 1914 and written by L. Frank Baum from his book Queen Zixi of  Iz.

Two young children, Fluff and Bud, live with their father, a ferry man on the Vinegar River, until their father drowns.  They, and their pet donkey Nickodemus, are taken in by their Aunt Rivette, who decides to transport the entire family to Nole, the capitol city of Noland.  With her father dead and her having to leave her home, Fluff is probably the most unhappy girl in the kingdom.  Coincidently, the fairies of Oz have just woven a magic cloak that would grant the wearer one wish; the Fairy Messenger is sent to find an unhappy person to whom the cloak should be given.  Of course, Fluff ends up with the cloak and she wishes that she be happy once again.

The king of Noland has just died, leaving no issue.  When such a situation happens, according to Law #67476, the 47th person to enter the East Gate of the City after sunrise will named the supreme ruler of Noland.  Number 47 happens to be Bud, who is made king, while Fluff is named a princess.  The first thing the two do is empty the royal treasury to buy toys.

Nickodemus, meanwhile, didn't really care for Noland, so he runs away, only to be captured by robbers.  The crafty donkey manages to escape, and meets a number of animals in the woods, including a rather ill-tempered zoop (looks like a second cousin to the Wicked Witch's flying monkeys to me), the Lazy Lion (which IMDB has decreed to be the Cowardly Lion), and a friendly crow.  The crow convinces Nickodemus and the other animals to band together and attack the robbers.  They do so and rescue Little Mary, a young girl who had been stolen by the robbers.  After returning Little Mary to her parents, Nickodemus begins to miss his friends Fluff and Bud.  And so the donkey heads back to Nole.

Meanwhile in the nearby kingdom of Ix, the beautiful Queen Zixi hears about Fluff's magic cloak.  Beautiful Zixi might be, but she's also 683 years old and under a curse -- any mirror will reflect her true age.   Zixi disguises herself as a maid and steals the cloak.  This is ill-timed for Noland because the country is then invaded by the Rolly Rogues, a rather silly band of creatures who are fond of soup.

Juvenile and silly and designed -- as were Baum's books -- for very young children.  Yet The Magic Cloak of Oz has a great deal of charm and invention.  Acting chops go to Fred Woodward as the donkey Nickodemus.  Woodward also played various animals in The Scarecrow of Oz and The Patchwork Girl of Oz, both also released in 1914.  His few other recorded roles were also as animals, notably Hank the Mule.  Twelve-year-old Mildred Harris (1901-1944) played Fluff.  Harris had begun her movie career two years earlier and appeared in a number of silent films; most of her appearances in talkies were uncredited.  Violet MacMillan (1895-1953) played Fluff's younger brother Bud.  A strange bit of casting there -- athough shorter than Mildred Harris, she was noticably more developed than Harris.  MacMillan had played a Munchkin boy earlier that year in The Patchwork Girl of Oz and, later that year, played Dorothy in The New Wizard of Oz.  She evidently stopped acting around 1920.

I have not gone back to check, but I thought I saw [**attention:  Bill Crider**] an alligator among the animals marching against the robbers at about minute 22 of the film.  Towards the end of the film, there was also a boxy-looking, robot-looking animal fighting the Rolly Rascals -- a poor animal costume or maybe a Tin Man?  Who knows.

Anyway, I found the movie to be a lot of fun.  So much was thrown into the film that a lot of minor plot points were either unresolved and unexplained.  And, of course, the kids never faced any consequences for spending the country's entire wealth on toys.


Todd Mason will have all of the links to the rest of today's Overlooked Films & Whatnot at his blog, Sweet Freedom.


  1. My kids were addicted to the OZ books. Wish there were more movies available then.

  2. Actually, I had never read an Oz book until a few years ago, Patti. Now I'll pick one up and read it every once in a while. I'm doing the same with a number of books I should have read as a kid.