Now, please note that I’d made a video about this. Will leave the video below
16 Nightmare Stories From Behind-The-Scenes of Filming ‘The Wizard of Oz
Some stories from the set of The Wizard Of Oz are insanely dark. For such a beloved, ostensibly whimsical film, The Wizard of Oz was a never-ending carnival of misery behind the scenes. Made in 1939, it’s still widely appreciated by both children and adults in modern times. Still, there’s a lot people don’t know about The Wizard Of Oz. While some of the production details are relatively harmless, and at times even charming, you have to remember the movie was produced during the dark days of the old Hollywood studio system.
So, what makes the The Wizard Of Oz behind-the-scenes stories so deplorable? Mix heavy drinking and sexual depravity with a few unfortunate on-set catastrophes, add some early movie-making naivety, and divide among five different film directors. Of all behind-the-scenes movie stories, The Wizard Of Oz has some of the most bizarre and shocking. There’s a lot more to worry about than lions and tigers and bears. The Pink Floyd sync up may be coincidence, but these stories truly show the dark side of the rainbow. Now, take a look at these Wizard of Oz facts and see for yourself just how treacherous filming was at times.
The Munchkins Were Pimps, Sex Workers, And Gamblers
The Munchkin actors’ antics on The Wizard of Oz were, frankly, bizarre. It’s said they engaged in agressively drunken behavior, gambling, and group adult activites at the Culver Hotel where they were staying. The police were called several times, and one crew member referred to the group as “pimps, hookers, and gamblers.”
Supposedly, one Munchkin actor even got stuck in a toilet bowl during a drunken lunch break and had to be rescued. Judy Garland also allegedly accompanied one Munchkin on a date, supervised by her mother.
Judy Garland Was Drugged And Molested
The Wizard Of Oz was both the beginning and end of Judy Garland’s career. Actors in the 1930s were under contract to whatever studio they signed with, and they were systemically mistreated and overworked. Teenage actors were often given adrenaline shots to keep them awake, and barbiturates to help them sleep. Garland was no exception.
Garland was already taking pills before she was hired for Oz, but she began using them more frequently once on set. There are reports she was also molested and sexually harassed by both Munchkin actors and studio executives. Although she went on to star in a handful of other features, it was the alcohol and barbiturate addiction that began on the set of Oz that finally killed her at the age of 47.
The Wicked Witch Got Burned On Set. Twice.
During a take of the scene in which the Wicked Witch escapes Munchkinland in a plume of smoke, the pyrotechnics were accidentally set off too early and a trapdoor malfunctioned, causing actress Margaret Hamilton‘s broom, hat, and makeup to catch fire. Her face and hands were badly burned. Medics had to use alcohol to remove her toxic makeup, which was also extremely painful.
After returning to work, she was asked to film the “Surrender, Dorothy,” scene, which also required smoke effects. She refused (which makes a lot of sense) and her stunt double, Betty Danko, took over. Danko suffered a similar injury during the scene, and was ultimately hospitalized.
The Tin Man Was Poisoned. Also Twice.
After Ray Bolger insisted he would make a better Scarecrow, the part of the Tin Man was given to Buddy Ebsen. However, an allergic reaction to the aluminum powder in the silver-colored makeup forced him to be hospitalized in an oxygen tent. Apparently, no one told the cast why Ebsen left. Due to the way studio contracts functioned at the time, Jack Haley was forced into the role. The production team switched makeup to an aluminum paste, but it caused an eye infection for Haley anyway.
Interestingly, Buddy Ebsen’s voice can still be heard in a few places in the soundtrack.
The Actors Were Sprinkled With Toxic Fake Snow
In the film, Dorothy, Toto, and the Cowardly Lion fall asleep in a poppy field but are magically awakened by gently falling snow. Because history is a never-ending carnival of terrors, that snow was actually asbestos.
Asbestos fibers were often used as fake snow from the mid-1930s to the 1950s, both in people’s homes as holiday decor and in films such as The Wizard of Oz. It wasn’t until years later that people discovered the dangers of asbestos, far too late to help the actors exposed to the carcinogenic snow.
Judy Garland Was Slapped For Laughing
While filming a scene in which Dorothy slaps the Cowardly Lion, Judy Garland supposedly had a giggling fit and was unable to finish the scene without breaking into laughter. Apparently, she couldn’t bring herself to stay serious while slapping a man wearing a lion suit.
Then the professional, director Victor Flemming allegedly slapped her to snap her out of it, and she delivered a flawless lion slap on the next take.
The Cowardly Lion’s Outfit Smelled Awful, And It Was Made Of Real Lions
Cowardly Lion actor Bert Lahr’s costume was very realistic. So realistic, in fact, it consisted of real lion pelts. It allegedly weighed 90 pounds and produced an offensively unpleasant odor from having a sweaty human trapped in it all day. Lahr remembers spending about three hours each day in the makeup chair, as did the Scarecrow and Tin Man.
In fact, the makeup took so much time, all three actors were not allowed to take off their costumes or makeup. Their odd appearance while in costume also frightened people dining in the commissary, so they had to eat their lunch on set. Basically, the actors spent the duration of production as smelly, uncomfortable lepers.
There Were Five Directors And More Than Ten Screenwriters
Five different directors are credited with taking the helm on Oz. There were also more than 10 screenwriters working on the script, and it was constantly changing. Original director Norman Taurog was replaced by Richard Thorpe, who was replaced by George Cukor. Only working on the film for several days, he helped the musical numbers improve but was ultimately replaced by Victor Fleming.
Cukor signed on for Gone With The Wind after leaving Oz, but was fired and was replaced once again by Fleming. Since Fleming was now absent from Oz, King Vidor finished the last few weeks of filming, adding the Kansas scenes including “Over The Rainbow,” which was almost cut from the final film. Victor Fleming ended up with the sole director credit (as well as the one for Gone With The Wind), since he had the biggest influence on the movie.NOSTALGIAStrange Things You Definitely
Judy Garland Was Tortured To Look Younger
Originally, the producers wanted Shirley Temple to play Dorothy, but contract issues and doubts about her singing ability led them to offer the role to girl-next-door Judy Garland. She was asked to lose about 12 pounds so she would more closely resemble a 12-year-old.
Then 17, Garland was forced to follow a strict diet (which included cigarettes) and wear a painful corset to flatten her breasts. Dorothy’s look at the start of filming included blonde hair and feminine makeup, but George Cukor decided she should look younger and less fantastic than the Technicolor world she was about to enter.
Margaret Hamilton’s Skin Stayed Green For Weeks
In addition to being highly flammable, the Wicked Witch’s green makeup was also toxic. Margaret Hamilton accidentally swallowed some and was unable to eat for days. Her skin was also dyed green for several weeks, due to the copper in the makeup.
Hamilton and the Tin Man weren’t the only characters with makeup woes, however. The prosthetic Scarecrow mask Ray Bolger wore left imprints on his face that supposedly lasted for a year.
A Winkie Trampled Toto And Broke Her Paw
Toto was played by a female Cairn terrier named Terry. During filming, one of the Wicked Witch’s Winkie guards accidentally stepped on Terry and broke her paw. Terry had to be replaced for the next four weeks of filming.
Despite her injury, it was said that Toto received a higher paycheck (for her owner) than many of the Munchkin actors. Old Hollywood really was disgusting.
The Studio Lighting Brought Temperatures On Set To Over 100 Degrees
Technicolor became popular in the early 1930s, as it allowed colors to appear vivid and highly saturated. However, it also required very bright lighting for filming. The intense lighting set-up caused temperatures in the studio to soar above 100 degrees, and there were issues with carbon dioxide buildup.
Production needed to be stopped occasionally so the studio could be aired out. The Winkies and the Winged Monkeys wore heavy costumes and struggled in the heat, some allegedly coming close to heat stroke.
Some Wicked Witch Scenes Were Cut For Being Too Scary
The original look for the Wicked Witch was sultry, but producers decided “evil” should translate to “ugly.” Gale Sondergaard was cast first, but dropped out because she exclusviely wanted to play beautiful roles. Her replacement, Margaret Hamilton, was very good at being “ugly scary.” So good, in fact, that many of her scenes had to be cut for being too scary, and she wound up appearing in less than 20 minutes of the final film.
She reprised her role in a 1976 episode of Sesame Street, but was also considered too scary, even away from the land of Oz. The episode aired once and was subsequently banned.
A Magical Horse Was Smeared With Jell-O
If a filmmaker wanted to alter a horse’s color today, they could use CGI. In 1939, however, they had to get more creative. Here, “get more creative” means “use a bunch of Jell-O.” The production team cast a white horse in the role of the Emerald City chauffeur (which, of course, was red), and sponged it down with gelatin powder in between shots.
The horse apparently liked the flavor, and would try to lick the powder off. If you watch the scene closely, you can actually see the cart driver visibly trying to keep the colorful horse from licking itself. While that may seem kind of adorable, it’s actually pretty macabre when you remember gelatin in the ’30s was often made of collagen derived from horses.
L. Frank Baum’s Jacket Makes A Surprise Appearance
The elegant but shabby coat worn by Professor Marvel in the Kansas scenes came from a thrift store. But, according to legend, actor Frank Morgan found a label in one pocket indicating it once actually belonged to L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard Of Oz book series.
Baum’s widow was contacted, and she confirmed the coat did once belong to him. It was given to her after filming.
One Scene Was Cut For Fear Of Association With Alcohol
There’s footage of a cut scene (you can check it out above) that includes a song and dance number called “Jitterbug.” The group is on their way to the Wicked Witch’s castle, when they’re attacked by bugs.
The scene was cut mostly because the producers didn’t want the film associated with the popular Cab Calloway song “Call Of The Jitterbug,” which associated the “jitterbug” with alcohol. Weirdly, in the final film, a line referring to this scene still exists. If you’ve ever wondered what the Witch was referring to when she mentioned sending insects after Dorothy, this is it.
So, you see, the life on the set of the Wizard of Oz wasn’t all peaches and cream. But I don’t want to spoil it, so click it at the end of this video. Love you all, bye