The Wizard of Oz is possibly the singular most iconic American film of all time. The film was released in 1939, and it was produced by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. The film brought some much-needed light to the lives of Americans who were in the middle of the Great Depression. The use of Technicolor set the film apart from many other movies at the time, and the colorful cast, fun score, and beautiful set design all helped solidify this film in history.
While the film ultimately became a huge success, the budget of over two million dollars made it difficult for the studio to break even. It wasn’t until the film was re-released ten years later that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer finally made a profit. Still, film critics recognized its genius the moment it was released. The Wizard of Oz was nominated for six Oscars, including Best Picture. While the film Gone with the Wind ultimately won the title of Best Picture for that year, The Wizard of Oz still took home the Academy Awards for Best Original Song and Best Original Song.
According to the Library of Congress, The Wizard of Oz is the most seen film in history, and for good reason. The filming process may have taken over a year, but every cast and crew member poured their heart and soul into their work. It was a grueling process, but it yielded wondrous results. Even though the film is decades old, it still holds up to the modern standards of a great film, and it can be easily enjoyed by people of all ages.
However, many trials and tribulations went into creating such a masterpiece of a film. Many of the cast members suffered during the filming process, and some were affected permanently. Because The Wizard of Oz was created so long ago, there weren’t as many safety regulations on set, and the actors were subjected to dangerous and even deadly conditions. The crew members often used harmful chemicals and reckless pyrotechnics to create the film’s special effects. Even though the special effects may have looked great in the final result, they were a huge source of stress for the actors.
Even worse was the fact that actors were not given the protection that they are today. Young Judy Garland was only 16 when she began filming The Wizard of Oz, but she was treated cruelly by the director. Make sure you stick around to find out when director Victor Fleming took things too far. Make sure you stick around to find out what part The Wizard of Oz played in Judy Garland’s untimely death.
The Wicked Witch of the West Put Her Life on the Line
Margaret Hamilton played the film’s iconic antagonist, the Wicked Witch of the West. However, the filming process ended up being disproportionately terrifying for the poor actor. The first complication came in the form of her green makeup. Today, actors are granted all sorts of protections and rights to ensure their safety is the number one priority. However, this simply wasn’t the case back in the day. The paint that was used to make Margaret Hamilton’s skin green actually contained copper, which is incredibly toxic in certain forms. After every shooting, she had to make sure the makeup was completely cleaned off of her skin to prevent any harmful effects.
Even more terrifying than the toxic makeup, however, was when Margaret Hamilton caught fire on set. While she was supposed to descend onto the set with a fiery background, Margaret Hamilton’s broom caught fire, causing her to suffer horrible burns on both her face and hands. She was hospitalized and had to take three months off of filming in order to recover.
Toto Was Ridiculously Overpaid
Toto, Dorothy’s lovable canine companion, took home a check of his own after each week of filming. In fact, he received a paycheck of $125 a week. While that may not seem like much these days, during the Great Depression, that was an exorbitant amount of money! In fact, $125 roughly translates to $2,000 in today’s money!
While it may seem funny that a dog was paid that much during the filming of The Wizard of Oz, it was no laughing matter to some of the other cast members. The actors who played The Munchkins were tragically underpaid in comparison to Toto, and most were given less than half the money that he took home each week! While the actors who played The Munchkins were still relatively well-paid, it was still pretty humiliating to make less money than a dog.
The Tin Man Was Recast Due to a Health Hazard
The Tin Man was originally played by Buddy Ebsen, the star of television shows like The Beverly Hillbillies and Barnaby Jones. However, he only lasted ten days before he had to quit the filming process. Much like poor Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West, the makeup used for the Tin Man was incredibly dangerous. The makeup crew used aluminum powder to make his skin silver, which Buddy Ebsen reacted violently to. He was hospitalised in critical condition, because the aluminum powder had coated his lungs.
Jack Haley was recast as the Tin Man, and while he did an excellent job, you can’t help but wonder how differently the movie would have ended up if Buddy Ebsen had played the iconic role. Thankfully, the makeup crew changed the makeup so it was much safer, and Jack Haley got through the production without any complications. The same can’t be said for Buddy, however, who suffered with breathing problems for the rest of his life.
Judy Garland Was Grossly Mistreated by the Director
The reason the filming process was a nightmare for many of the actors was because they didn’t have as many laws in place to protect themselves. Back in the 1930s, many cruel treatments were considered fair game. Poor Judy Garland, who was only 16 when she was cast to play Dorothy Gale, was treated shockingly by one of the film’s directors, Victor Fleming.
During the famous slap scene, Judy Garland had a difficult time keeping a straight face. Many actors like to have fun while filming, and some can have a hard time keeping themselves from giggling. However, film was, and still is, extremely expensive. After several takes were ruined because Judy Garland kept giggling, the director, Victor Fleming, took her to the side and slapped her in the face. He told her, “Go in there and work,” and, thoroughly chastised, Judy Garland got through the scene without laughing once.
However, this was far from Judy’s worst experience on the set of The Wizard of Oz. Make sure you stick around until the very end, where we’ll reveal the horrible part the film played in Judy Garland’s untimely death. And, if you’re enjoying this story so far, please take a moment to like this video and subscribe to our channel for more.
The Cowardly Lion Had an Uncomfortable Costume
The actor for the Cowardly Lion, Bert Lahr, had one of the most difficult costumes to wear. It was incredibly heavy, weighing around ninety pounds, and it was made with real lion pelts! The special lights used while filming got very hot, and sometimes the set reached temperatures of 100 degrees! Poor Bert Lahr ended up sweating so much in his costume that it had to be thoroughly cleaned and dried every single night.
Shirley Temple Almost Played Dorothy
The iconic role of Dorothy Gale required a special kind of actor, someone young and vibrant with real acting talent, as well as an incredible singing voice. Shirley Temple was a popular actor at the time, and the producers seriously considered her for the role of Dorothy. After much discussion, however, they knew she simply wasn’t the right fit for the role. Despite her talent, her singing voice didn’t match the role of Dorothy, and they realized that Judy Garland would be the perfect choice.
The Snow Was Made from Asbestos
The beautiful poppy field in the Wizard of Oz featured the talents of 22 artists. These incredibly hard workers had to make 40,000 individual poppies, which took a week in all! However, amidst the beauty of the poppy scene was a very real danger. The snow that was used during the poppy scene was actually asbestos! Judy and her companions were all dusted with carcinogens for the sake of the film. We can only hope none of them suffered from any long-term effects.
The Wizard of Oz Ultimately Ended Judy Garland’s Life
Even today, Hollywood often projects unhealthy physical standards on actors, especially women. It was even worse in the 1930s. Even though Judy Garland was at a perfectly healthy weight, studio executives called her horrible names in regards to her weight, often referring to her as a “fat little pig with pigtails.” Even when she dieted herself to the point of being underweight, crew members still wanted her to be skinnier. As a result, the studio chief of MGM, Louis B. Mayer, only let her eat chicken soup, black coffee, and cigarettes, as well as diet pills. She was only 16 years old.
As a result, Judy became reliant on drugs to maintain the “ideal” weight for film producers. Ultimately, she died of a drug overdose when she was 47.
Despite its huge success as a film, The Wizard of Oz hid many dark secrets throughout its production. Were you more surprised to find out about all of the toxic chemicals used during the filming, or by the fact that Judy Garland was forced to starve herself even though she was at a perfectly healthy weight? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to Facts Verse for more!