On August 25, 1939, the movie The Wizard of Oz, arguably one of the most watched movies of all time, first graced the silver screen. This movie gave us lines like “There’s no place like home,” “Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore” and “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain,” as well as wonderful songs like “If I Only Had a Brain” and “Over the Rainbow.” Almost everyone you meet will have seen this movie at least once in his or her life, but as much as we enjoy this classic film, it wasn’t easy to make. In the words of the Tin Man, Jack Haley: “It was work!”
Here are a few facts about The Wizard of Oz that prove Haley’s point and show the dedication of the artists and staff who made this piece of movie history possible.
- When filming first started, actress Judy Garland’s Dorothy wore a blonde wig and heavy, “baby-doll” makeup, but when George Cukor was hired as director, he got rid of the wig and most of the makeup and told her to be herself. However, she still had to wear a painful, corset-style device around her torso to make her appear flat-chested and much younger.
- During one take, as the Wicked Witch was leaving Munchkinland, a burst of fire appeared on the platform where the witch was to disappear in a cloud of smoke. The witch’s makeup heated up, causing actress Margaret Hamilton to suffer from second- and third-degree burns on her hands and face.
- The woven pattern on the rubber prosthetic that made up part of the Scarecrow’s face makeup left lines on actor Ray Bolger’s face. Those lines remained on his face for more than a year after the movie was completed.
- The Tin Man suit was so stiff that actor Jack Haley had to lean against a board to rest because he couldn’t sit down.
- The Cowardly Lion’s costume was made from a real lion skin and weighed 90 pounds. Combined with the arc lights that lighted the set, actor Bert Lahr would sweat so much that the costume would be soaked by the end of the day, and two people would spend all night drying out the costume so it could be used the next day.
- Even poor Toto, whose name was actually Terry, suffered during shooting when one of the witch’s guards stepped on him. He had to have a double play his part for two weeks while he recovered.
Other interesting facts about the movie:
- In the song “If I Only Had a Heart,” the voice of the girl who says “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” is the voice of Adriana Caselotti, who voiced Snow White in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
- The song “Over the Rainbow” was almost cut from the movie because the Kansas scene seemed too long.
- The Horses of a Different Color were colored with Jell-O crystals, and their scenes had to be shot quickly, before the horses started licking the Jell-O off their bodies.
- Looking for a coat for Professor Marvel, the wardrobe department bought an entire rack of coats from a second-hand store. One day actor Frank Morgan was on set and stuck his hand into one of the pockets of the coat they had chosen and found a label indicating the coat had been made for L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz. After filming, the coat was presented to Mrs. Baum who had verified that the coat had been her late husband’s.
If you would like to learn more about the movie The Wizard of Oz, stop by your local Half Price Books and look for books like The Making of the Wizard of Oz, by Aljean Harmetz, The Wizardry of Oz, by Jay Scarfone and Down the Yellow Brick Road, by Doug McClelland. Also, look for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum to read the original story, which has a much spunkier Dorothy, and many more adventures than what you see on the screen.
And, as always, Happy Reading!