1939’s The Wizard of Oz has gone down in history as a film with a disastrous production. There are numerous times during the filming of the picture when performers seriously injure. And there were also times where many of them could have died! Although the film stands as an audience favorite today; audiences might not enjoy the picture so much if they knew about the dark side of it’s production. From Margaret Hamilton getting covered in severe burns to Judy Garland getting hooked on amphetamines. Join Facts Verse as we take a look at every actor who almost died while making The Wizard of Oz.
Despite the fact that The Wizard of Oz stands as a favorite amongst family audiences today; the film wasn’t all that positively received upon it’s 1939 debut. It wasn’t until the film’s later broadcast on television during the 1950s that it would begin to catch it’s audience. Leading to it eventually recognize as one of the greatest films of all time. The cast and crew behind The Wizard of Oz likely breathed a collective sigh of relief when the film finally caught on. As many of them had sacrificed a great deal during it’s making.
Although The Wizard of Oz may seem innocent on it’s surface. There is a massive dark side to the film’s production that may change the mind of audience members. The film stands as a groundbreaking technical accomplishment, but it’s technical accomplishments broke more than just ground! The film utilized cutting-edge special effects that weren’t entirely safe. The filmed at a time when studios didn’t have to be very considerate about how they treated their stars. Because of this, the set of the film became the perfect environment for disaster. And it’s lucky that no one ended up dying!
Although no one ended up dying during the filming of The Wizard of Oz, they easily could have! Multiple cast members nearly died during the film’s production. With one of the stars that had the worst luck on the set of the feature being actress Margaret Hamilton. Margaret Hamilton may have played the Wicked Witch of the East, but she was a good person in real life. Because of this, the actress likely didn’t deserve to be severely injured multiple times on the set of her most iconic film. Not only Margaret Hamilton covered in severe burns during a special effects sequence. But she also found out after The Wizard of Oz’s production that the makeup that she had been wearing throughout filming had affected her health and could’ve killed her.
The severe burns that Margaret Hamilton suffered on set came when she was filming the scene where the Wicked Witch of the East makes her escape from Munchkinland. The witch disappears in a puff of smoke, which required real pyrotechnics. The first take of the scene went off fine. However, the director called for another take. And this take ended up covering Margaret in severe burns when the pyrotechnics were set off just a moment too early.
Margaret Hamilton’s son later recalled the moment where he came to the set of The Wizard of Oz and saw that his mother cover from head to toe in bandages. According to him, she looked like a mummy! He got told that his mother simply wearing a costume. After Margaret healed and returned to filming; she understandably balked at the prospect of filming any more scenes that involved fire. This included the scene where the Wicked Witch of the East is writing a message to Dorothy with smoke in the sky. The scene had to be perform by Margaret’s stunt double instead; who ended up receiving lifelong scars when the smoke machine exploded underneath her during filming.
Besides the severe burns that Margaret Hamilton received on the set of The Wizard of Oz; she went on to find out that the heavy green makeup that she had worn throughout the duration of the picture’s filming was incredibly toxic and could’ve easily killed her. Margaret wasn’t the only star from the film that had issues with toxic makeup. In fact, the original actor hire to play the character of the Tin Man also nearly died as a result of his toxic makeup. Buddy Ebsen name of the actor that is originally cast in the role of the Tin Man. But end up being unfairly fire after severe lung problems caused by the toxic makeup. He is force to wear during rehearsals made him unable to perform for a period of time.
Despite the fact that it was studio MGM who was responsible for performer Buddy Ebsen’s hospitalization; The star still end up being fire from The Wizard of Oz. Due to the fact that he could no longer perform in the role of the Tin Man on time. It is to meet the film’s production schedule. Jack Haley replaced Buddy in the role, and the studio found a safer makeup alternative that wouldn’t see Jack hospitalized. It reportedly took several weeks for Buddy’s lungs to recover, most of which spent inside of an oxygen tent.
Bert Lahr, who played the character of the Cowardly Lion. Never had to be hospitalize as a result of filming The Wizard of Oz. But the production certainly took a toll on the performer’s health. Bert already had health issues before taking on the role. It’s physically demanding nature proved nearly too much for the veteran vaudevillian actor. The costume for the Cowardly Lion made from real lion fur. And this meant that it was incredibly expensive to produce. Because of this, Bert force to wear the same suit throughout the majority of The Wizard of Oz’s production. With MGM allowing no amount of money in the film’s budget for extras. The suit was hot and heavy, causing Bert to sweat profusely during physically demanding sequences. Over the course of filming, the suit apparently got incredibly disgusting, exacerbating Bert’s poor health.
Although star Judy Garland didn’t receive any serious injuries on the set of The Wizard of Oz, filming of the picture certainly affected Judy’s life for the worst. MGM had originally wanted Shirley Temple to play the role of Dorothy. But ended up settling on Judy Garland once it became clear that studio 20th Century Fox wasn’t willing to loan the prior star out. Shirley was younger than Judy, and MGM was never quite happy with Judy’s age or appearance during the filming of the picture. In order to keep Judy looking as youthful as possible, she is force to take amphetamines to suppress her appetite. In addition to being force to take amphetamines; she also force to wear a corset so tight that it barely allowed for the young actress to breathe.
The production of The Wizard of Oz had a lasting affect on Judy Garland. Judy remained addicted to substances throughout the majority of her life as a result of being hooked on amphetamines during the filming of the seminal 1939 fantasy picture. In addition to her continued drug use. Judy also continued to suffer from self-esteem issues of the emotional abuse that she encounter through her handlers during The Wizard of Oz’s production. Judy never felt she was good enough, and ended up passing away tragically at the age of 47 after a lifetime of drug addiction. Because of this, it can be said that filming The Wizard of Oz did kill Judy Garland- it just took several decades to occur.
Besides the major players of the film, other performers injur during the filming of The Wizard of Oz include various actors tasked with playing the Winged Monkeys. The performers playing the Winged Monkeys held aloft by piano wires. It took a while for the crew to figure out how many piano wires they needed to use in order to keep the performers from falling. Sadly, the crew didn’t perform trial and error before putting actual performers into the sky. Because of this, numerous performers playing the Winged Monkeys ended up falling during filming, leading to some fairly severe injuries. There’s also the matter that a form of crystallized asbestos use as fake snow during the film’s production. Though it remains uncertain if the usage of the snow ended up causing injuries later on down the line.
Besides all of the verifiable horrors that occurred on the set of The Wizard of Oz. There have disproven rumors about other horrors that said to have occurred during the film’s production. There is an infamous rumor that the corpse of a little person actor that commit suicide by hanging can be see in the background of one scene; There’s also rumor that the little person actors liked to get drunk and act rowdy on the set of the film. Both of these rumors have been disproven. Though the little person actors didn’t like it when the child actors laughed at them. The Wizard of Oz is not initially a success, but it can be consider as one of the best films of all time.
Since The Wizard of Oz utilized numerous cutting-edge effects and made at a time when studios didn’t have to be very considerate about the safety of their performers. The set of the film proved the perfect environment for the cast to receive some pretty serious injuries. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that numerous actors almost died during the production of The Wizard of Oz as a result of toxic makeup, and that child actress Judy Garland hook on amphetamines by studio MGM during the filming of the picture in order to keep her weight down?