First released in 1939, The Wizard of Oz is a musical fantasy film famous for its Technicolor feature. When it premiered, color cameras had not been invented, so the fact that the film could incorporate colorful visuals in its shots was mind-blowing. It is also famous for its musical score, beautiful characters, and perfect fantasy storytelling. Here, we discuss some amazing facts about the Wizard of Oz.
1. Judy Garland Was Made to Smoke 80 Cigarettes a Day Despite Being 16 Years Old
Although she was only 16, Judy Garland was made to smoke 80 cigarettes a day to suppress her appetite. Her diet was so strict that she was also given prescription drugs to keep her weight down and keep her looking young.
2. The Scarecrow Misquotes the Pythagorean Theorem After Getting His Diploma
After getting his diploma, the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz incorrectly recites the Pythagorean Theorem.
3. Ray Bolger Was the Original Tin Man
From the original casting of The Wizard of Oz, Ray Bolger was to play the Tin Man, while Buddy Ebsen was to be the scarecrow. However, Bolger was inspired by Fred Stone’s onstage performance as a scarecrow and always longed for a similar role. He convinced the producers to recast him, and that’s how he got the role.
4. Buddy Ebsen Suffered a Toxic Reaction During Filming and Was Replaced By Jack Haley
After giving up his role as the scarecrow to Ray Bolger, Buddy Ebsen played the Tin Man, another prominent character in The Wizard of Oz. Unfortunately, he suffered a toxic reaction and had to be replaced 10 days into the film’s production. Apparently, the Tin Man’s costume included an aluminum powder makeup, which Ebsen inhaled and reacted with. He was replaced by Jack Haley after being hospitalized.
5. Jack Haley Thought Buddy Ebsen Had Been Fired When He Replaced Him
When Jack Haley replaced Buddy Ebsen as the Tin Man, he thought his predecessor was fired; he had no idea about his toxic reaction and eventual hospitalization. On the other hand, the film’s production team quietly added a layer of clown white grease paint underneath the Tin Man’s aluminum paste makeup to reduce its toxicity. Jack Haley didn’t report severe reactions, as was the case with Ebsen; he only complained of an eye infection once.
6. No Footage of Buddy Ebsen As the Tin Man Has Ever Been Released
Although Buddy Ebsen played Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz for about 10 days, no footage of his performances has ever been released. Fans have been left to contend with photos taken during filming and makeup tests. However, Ebsen’s voice can still be heard in some songs featuring Tin Man, as Jack Haley only rerecorded a few parts. This was done to manage the film’s thin budget.
7. Judy Garland Had to Wear a Corset-Style Device on Her Chest to Suppress Her Torso
When filming The Wizard of Oz, Judy Garland was 16 years old. However, she was playing the role of a pre-adolescent child, meaning her torso had to match the character’s physique. The producers, therefore, made her wear a painful corset-style device on her chest to appear younger.
8. The Film Did Not Make Any Profits When It Was Originally Released
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) produced the much-hyped Wizard of Oz. Given its use of Technicolor, unforgettable characters, and excellent musical score, the film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture. It even clinched the Best Original Song category (for the song “Over the Rainbow”). However, MGM reported that The Wizard of Oz didn’t make profits from its original release despite its popularity.
9. The Wizard of Oz Was Re-Released in 1949
A decade after its initial release with little success, MGM re-released The Wizard of Oz in 1949. With a budget of about $2.7 million, the film made a profit of $3 million on the second attempt. This was MGM’s most expensive production at the time.
10. Majority of the Film’s Shots Were Trimmed for Various Reasons
The current version of The Wizard of Oz runs for 101 minutes. However, the film was about two hours long for its first test screenings that began on June 5, 1939. Most films at the time had an average running time of 90 minutes, so some shots were trimmed to reach the desired period. Even before that, some scenes from the movie had already been cut because they were thought too intense for families and children. The shot where the tornado completely engulfs the farmhouse is a perfect example.
11. There Are 21 Songs in the Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz’s musical selection is one of the movie’s biggest selling points. It features 21 songs composed and written by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg, respectively. The songs were performed by different characters throughout the movie, with “Over the Rainbow” (performed by Judy Garland) being the most popular. Some, such as “The Jitterbug,” were recorded but later deleted during editing.
12. Judy Garland Struggled With Fearing Margaret Hamilton
Judy Garland plays Dorothy Gale, while Margaret Hamilton is the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. From past interviews, Garland confessed she struggled with acting afraid of Margaret Hamilton because she was a good person off cameras.
13. Margaret Hamilton Was a Lifelong Fan of the “Oz” Books
Even before being cast in The Wizard of Oz, Margaret Hamilton was already a lifelong fan of the “Oz” books. She was elated when she learned that the film’s producers were considering her as part of the cast. She phoned her agent to inquire what role she was being cast for. Her agent replied, “The witch, who else?”
14. The Horses in the Emerald City Were Colored with Gelatin Powder
Interestingly, the horses in the Emerald City were colored with gelatin powder. Consequently, the crew had to quickly film the scene before the horses started licking it off.
15. The Dog from The Wizard of Oz Was Paid More than Some Actors in the Film
Reports say the dog from The Wizard of Oz was paid about $125 a week. This was way more than some of the background actors in the film were paid for their input.
16. Margaret Hamilton Was Badly Burned During the Filming of The Wizard of Oz
During the filming of The Wizard of Oz, Margaret Hamilton was severely burned, leaving her hospitalized. When she recovered, the actor refused to participate in scenes with fire, so her stunt double took over. Interestingly, he double was also injured in a separate fire scene.
17. The Dog in The Wizard of Oz Was Accidentally Stepped on During Filming
While filming The Wizard of Oz, Toto the Dog was accidentally stepped on, leading to a broken toe. Many accidents happened during the film’s production, stalling its release.