The Wizard of Oz is one of the greatest movies of all time and became legendary for its innovative use of Technicolor. It won more awards than we can count and holds a special place in American culture and history. But the things you didn’t see on camera might just shock you. From near-death experiences to stunt failures, this article has all the juicy details. Read on to find out some amazing behind-the-scenes facts that are almost impossible to believe. If you loved The Wizard of Oz, then this is the place for you.
1. Wicked Witch Woes
Actress Margaret Hamilton played the role of the Wicked Witch of the West, and trust us when we say she didn’t have an easy role to play. In the Munchkinland scene, she disappears in a fiery exit (there was actually a trap door underneath her) but all didn’t go as planned.
The first take went fine, but the director wanted a second take just to be safe. During the take, Hamilton’s broom, hat and cape caught fire, leaving the actress with second-degree burns on her face and third-degree burns on her hand. She was forced to take six weeks off to recover.
2. Thoughts of a Different Dorothy
Early on in the production of The Wizard of Oz, the production budget started to balloon to an unprecedented amount. As such, the directors considered replacing Judy Garland for a younger and cheaper actress. That actress was, in fact, Shirley Temple.
Shirley Temple was already a popular actress and the directors thought that she would bring some star power to the film, and she was more age appropriate (according to the books) for the role. But it turned out that she didn’t have the right singing voice needed for the role so the idea was dropped.
3. Bolger and the Tin Man
Actor Ray Bolger, who played the Scarecrow, was originally cast in the role of the Tin Man and he wasn’t particularly excited about. “I’m not a tin performer. I’m fluid,” the actor said. Bolger thought that his talents would better be put to use as the Scarecrow.
He ended up talking to Buddy Ebsen, the actor who was originally cast as the Scarecrow, about his concerns and convinced him to change parts. The directors agreed and Bolger was cast as the Scarecrow. Good thing too! We couldn’t imagine Bolger in any other role.
4. A Tin Man Disaster
Buddy Ebsen was fine with changing his character from the Scarecrow to the Tin Man, but it turned out to be a disastrous decision for him. Just nine days into production, Ebsen was sent to the hospital due to the silver makeup.
“My lungs were coated with that aluminum dust they had been powdering on my face,” Ebsen later revealed. The actor was replaced in the role, and the makeup department changed from a silver powder make-up to a paste. Actor Jack Haley took over the role of the Tin Man after Ebsen. Oh, and that oil everyone used on him? Chocolate syrup.
5. A Dangerous Shade of Green
The set of The Wizard of Oz was full of makeup experiments and many of them went terribly wrong. For example, the green makeup used on the Wicked Witch of the West, played by actress Margaret Hamilton, was in fact, toxic.
The green makeup was copper based, which she didn’t know at the time of filming. Had the makeup not been removed promptly, she might not have lived to tell the tale. During filming, she had to eat through a straw to avoid ingesting the toxic makeup. Even once the face paint was removed, her skin remained a greenish color for weeks.
6. Toto’s Pay Check
Dorothy’s dog, Toto, reportedly made a whopping $125 per week for his work on The Wizard of Oz. That was big bucks back in the Great Depression Era and over double what the munchkins were paid!
According to Margaret Pellegrini, who played the role of one of the munchkins, she was paid a mere $50 per week for her work on The Wizard of Oz. That was still good money back then, but when a dog is making more money than you, it has to be a blow to your self-esteem.
7. The Lion Costume
Although the directors were thrilled to have their movie in Technicolor, the cast of The Wizard of Oz suffered greatly from it. The cowardly lion’s costume weighed in at almost 100 pounds, and due to the special lights needed for Technicolor at the time, temperatures reached around 100 degrees Fahrenheit on set.
Actor Bert Lahr sweat so much in the costume that it had to be professionally cleaned on a daily basis. Also, the costume was made from real lion pelts…man that must have been boiling. Good thing Lahr didn’t suffer from heat stroke.
8. Escape From Nazi Germany
Some of the Munchkins that appeared in The Wizard of Oz were actually part of a European troupe of little people, hailing from Bavaria, Germany. Most of the members of the troupe were unable to speak English and the voices heard in the movie were dubbed later.
The movie was filmed just a few years after Hitler came to power in Nazi Germany and many members of the troupe were Jewish. The actors took advantage of being in the US and decided to stay in America to avoid persecution and their near-certain death in anti-Semitic Nazi Germany.
9. The Poppy Field
The poppy field scene is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in the entire movie. Where did all those flowers come from though? It took 22 people to hand make each of the over 40,000 fake flowers just for the scene and it took them an entire week to do it.
If you remember the scene, it magically starts to snow. Surely they used synthetic safe snow, right? Nope. Remember that this was the ’30s so the directors just coated the cast of The Wizard of Oz with asbestos flakes. Asbestos is a substance that we now know can cause deadly health issues such as lung cancer and mesothelioma.
10. Frank Morgan’s Five Roles
Almost every character in The Wizard of Oz played at least two roles, that of their Kansas character and that of their Oz counterpart. But one actor, Frank Morgan, had the pleasure of playing a total of five different characters throughout the movie.
Morgan played Professor Marvel, the Wizard, the doorman to the Emerald City, the cabbie for the horse of a different color, and a wizard’s guard. Wow, now that’s a lot of roles to play in just one movie.
11. Glenda The Good Witch
Glenda the Good Witch was played by actress Billie Burke and the famous gown that she wore was actually a recycled dress that appeared in the 1936 movie San Francisco. Many rumors swirled after the release of the movie that her voice was dubbed.
In reality, Billie Burke’s own voice was used in The Wizard of Oz for both her speaking and singing parts. Myth busted! Read on for some more surprising facts about the epic movie The Wizard of Oz. You wont be sorry.
12. Ruby Red Slippers
It wouldn’t be The Wizard of Oz without Dorothy’s iconic ruby red slippers. But what you might not have known is that those slippers weren’t supposed to be ruby red at all. In L. Frank Baum’s 1900 book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the shoes were a different color altogether.
In the book, which the movie is based on, the slippers were made of silver. The directors, however, wanted to take advantage of their use of the new Technicolor technology and thought that the ruby red would make for a nice pairing against the yellow brick road.
13. Almost Out
One of the most famous and memorable songs from the movie, “Over the Rainbow” was actually cut from the movie three times. The directors felt that the song wouldn’t appeal to younger audiences, the same ones that they were trying to target.
In the end, the song was left in and it’s a good thing because it has become one of the most popular and recognizable songs of all time. Read on to find out some more fascinating facts about the classic movie The Wizard of Oz.
14. Childlike Judy
Judy Garland was only 17-years old when she landed the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. But the producers didn’t think that was quite young enough. Garland had to jump through a few more hoops to convince them she was right for the part.
July Garland had to wear a very tight corset during filming to make her look as flat-chested and childish as possible. The directors also ordered her to lose at least 12 pounds in preparation for the role. In the end, all her hard work certainly paid off.
The scene where the Wicked Witch of the West writes “SURRENDER DOROTHY” in the sky while flying around on her broomstick used a very interesting and creative technique to make it happen. Can you guess what it was?
There was no actual writing in the sky. Instead, a tank of water and milk was used with a tiny witch model. The model was attached to a hypodermic needle which was filled with black ink. The words were written in the tank in reverse.
16. Another Fiery Accident
If it wasn’t enough that Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West, was severely burned by pyrotechnics, so was her stunt double Betty Danko. During the skywriting scene, Danko had to ride a pipe like a broom while it emitted smoke.
The pipe emitted smoke in order to look like she was writing “SURRENDER DOROTHY” in the sky. Unfortunately, it ended up exploding and Danko was severely burnt and needed to spend about two weeks in the hospital. Needless to say, neither the actress nor the stunt double ever worked with fire again.
17. A Deleted Dance Number
Prior to the attack of the flying monkeys, there was supposed to be a dance number, instigated by the Wicked Witch to “take the fight out of them.” She sent a “jitterbug” to drive the gang into a dance craze.
Unfortunately, the scene was cut from the movie as the director felt that adding a dance popular at the moment to The Wizard of Oz would date the movie and make it harder for future generations to appreciate it.
18. Judy Garland’s Look
The initial look for Dorothy, played by renowned actress July Garland, was very very different from what audiences eventually saw on screen. Her initial getup was a blond wig and heavy makeup, used to make her look like a baby doll.
The directors wanted to use the makeup to make Garland look much younger than she really was. After just a few days of trying out the look, director George Cukor scrapped the look and gave in to letting Garland look natural.
Making a realistic-looking tornado without the help of advanced CGI technology wasn’t an easy task. Just ask the directors of The Wizard of Oz. Their first attempt to create a tornado failed miserably and cost the studio tons of money. According to the directors, it looked like the exact opposite of a tornado.
They eventually decided on a much simpler design. They created a miniature mockup of the Kansas farm and used a 35-foot long woman’s stocking that spun. Dirt, dust and wind were used to make the stocking look like it was a real rotating tornado.
20. Horse of a Different Color
Ever wonder how that horse of a different color kept changing color? Well, movie effects just weren’t as advanced back then as they are now. Still, they managed to get the horse to turn purple, then red, and finally yellow. How was it accomplished?
By the magic of Jell-O. Yes, that same delicious dessert was used to dye the horse’s fur. There was one issue though: the horse started licking the sweet powder off its fur, so the scenes had to be filmed very quickly.
21. Technicolor Dreams
Technicolor was still a new type of technology when The Wizard of Oz was being filmed and it proved tricky for all the colors to come out right. For example, the first attempt at filming the yellow brick road didn’t go well.
Due to the shade of yellow, the brick road actually looked green on film. The crew eventually had to repaint the road with a yellow industrial paint to get it to show up properly. The green brick road just wouldn’t have sounded as enticing… and it doesn’t go with the song.
22. The Munchkin Rumor
It has long been rumored that one of the munchkins hung himself during the filming of The Wizard of Oz and that it appeared in the final cut of the movie if you looked closely enough. But no, that just isn’t true.
What many saw as the alleged suicide was actually just a shadow seen in the background, one projected by a flying bird, a stork in this case. Several wild animals were let loose in the background of the forest set to make the scenery look more realistic. They were on loan from the Los Angeles Zoo. Warner Brothers Studios was so concerned over the conspiracy theory that they eventually took the scene out of later versions of the movie.
23. Amazing Quotes
If you think the quote is “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto,” then we’re here to correct you. The correct quote from the movie is “Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” The quote was voted the 62nd most popular quote ever.
Other famous lines from The Wizard of Oz include “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” which was voted as number 24 and “There’s no place like home,” which was voted number 11. Read on for more amazing facts you probably didn’t know from The Wizard of Oz.
24. Permanent Makeup
In another makeup faux pas, actor Ray Bolger, who played the role of the Scarecrow, had to wear a prosthetic over his face. The prosthetic was made of rubber and consisted of a woven pattern, one that would suggest that his face was made out of a burlap sack.
However, when Bolger took it off, the woven pattern left an indentation on his face that wouldn’t disappear. It took a full year before his face returned to looking normal. That’s going above and beyond for a role!
25. Deleted Scenes
Many of the deleted scenes from The Wizard of Oz may terrify you — at least that’s what the directors thought. Lots of scenes featuring Margaret Hamilton, also known as the Wicked Witch of the West, were deemed “too scary for kids.”
As the target audiences of the movie were young adults and children, the scenes were either trimmed or completely left out of the final cut of the movie. It wasn’t enough that Hamilton was set on fire, but lots of her scenes were left out too. Talk about adding insult to injury!
26. A Misunderstood Witch
In an interview 35 years after the release of The Wizard of Oz, Margaret Hamilton revealed the way she approached portraying the Wicked Witch. According to the actress, she saw the witch as a “sad, lonely figure- a woman who lived in constant frustration.”
That, in fact, became the basis of the novel and eventual broadway musical, Wicked. Hamilton also had a dark sense of humor and she requested that upon her death, her obituary have the headline “Ding, dong the witch is dead!” Some newspapers actually ran with the headline after her passing.
27. The Set
It might surprise you to hear, but only two scenes were filmed on location: the clouds in the opening credits and the clouds in the ending credits. The rest of the film was filmed entirely on sets, 65 of them to be exact.
The sets were built in Culver City, and all 65 sets were built on six sound stages. That definitely contributed to the massive production cost of the film, not that anyone is complaining today! The Wizard of Oz has certainly made a huge profit since its release.
28. Age Doesn’t Matter
In The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West is depicted as an old hag and Glenda the Good Witch is depicted as youthful and beautiful. But in reality, the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton, was 18 years younger than Glenda.
Glenda, the Good Witch of the North, played by Billie Burke was 54 years old at the time of filming. That’s some movie magic for you! Read on for some more epic facts from The Wizard of Oz.
29. Second-Hand L. Frank Baum
The wardrobe department had a difficult time finding just the right coat for actor Frank Morgan, who played the role of Prof. Marvel and the Wizard among others. They wanted a coat that looked like it had once been regal and elegant, but had fallen into disarray.
So, the team headed to a second-hand clothing store and bought a number of coats. One of the coats purchased turned out to be a coat that L. Frank Baum (author of the books) himself had donated. His name was still stitched into a label in one of the pockets. After filming, the coat was presented to Baum’s wife.
30. No Laughing For Judy Garland
Kids will be kids and all, but things were very different back in the 1930s. In one scene Judy Garland couldn’t help breaking out in laughter every time the Cowardly Lion made his entrance, so director Victor Fleming took her aside for some a stern talking to that definitely wouldn’t fly nowadays.
Fleming took her aside and slapped her across the face, telling her to “go in there and work.” WOW. Today that director would have been fired on the spot and have charges pressed against him, possibly ruining his entire career. The times have certainly changed for the better.
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