Movie Trivia: The Wizard of Oz

There's so much behind-the-scenes info on The Wizard of Oz, I couldn't possibly touch on all of it in one Neatorama post. I just picked some of my favorites, but if I missed your favorite bit of Oz-related trivia, definitely leave a comment and let all of us know.

Poor Margaret Hamilton (the witch) was really injured in the scene where the Wicked Witch of the West departs Munchkinland in a huff after Dorothy arrives. She was standing on a trap door and was supposed to disappear down into it quickly when the smoke (followed by fire) puffed up, but during the second take of that scene, the fire came too early and her costume started burning. She suffered second and third degree burns and was unable to work for a month. When she came back, she refused to do any more work with fire.

Toto was played by a Cairn Terrier creatively named Terry. Because of her previous experience (she was “Rags” in Shirley Temple’s Bright Eyes) Terry got $125 a week for her efforts, which was more than twice what the actors playing the Munchkins got ($50/week). She got her foot broken during filming when an actor playing one of the guards stepped on her.

Margaret Hamilton wasn’t the first choice for the Wicked Witch. The iconic role almost went to Gale Sondergaard, who was very pretty and balked at the makeup job that would make her the ugly witch. Maggie Hamilton, however, was used to playing plain-Jane roles and had in fact based her career around it. You’re probably so used to the green makeup job that some of her other roles may be totally unfamiliar to you, even if you’ve seen her in them – she was Morticia’s mom in The Addams Family TV show, she portrayed a maid on As the World Turns in the early ‘70s, and played Cora the Maxwell House coffee lady in commercials in the ‘70s as well.

Margaret Hamilton’s son has said that she loved her “I’ll get you my pretty…” line so much, she used it in her personal life on a somewhat frequent basis, just for fun.

The date on the Wicked Witch of the East's death certificate is actually the date of L. Frank Baum's death. The 19th anniversary of his death, to be exact. We can't read it, but this is what the Death Certificate says:

Certificate of Death

Name: The Wicked Witch of the East
Residence: The Land of Oz

I HEREBY CERTIFY that I attended deceased from May 6th to May 6th, 1938

I last saw her alive on May 6th 1938:

Death is said to have occurred on the date stated below at 12:30 p.m.

Date of Death: May 6th 1938

Month Day Year

Signature: W.W. Barister, M.D.

Address: Munchkin City

Can you imagine anyone but Judy Garland as Dorothy? How about Shirley Temple? Although producer Mervyn LeRoy had always had Judy in mind for the role, he was being pressured to “borrow” Shirley Temple from Fox. She was only 10 and Judy was 16 at the time; studio executives thought 10 was a much more appropriate age for this particular role. They ended up auditioning Shirley just to say they had, but in the end it didn’t matter anyway: Fox refused to loan her out.

The first film version of Dorothy depicted her as a blonde with baby doll-esque makeup because that's the way Oz illustrator John R. Neill drew her in the books. Well, he was actually the second person to illustrate Dorothy for L. Frank Baum - the first was W.W. Denslow, who drew her the way we know her today: brunette pigtails and the blue-and-white Gingham dress. But Baum had a falling-out with Denslow and John R. Neill took over for the design from then on out, which amounted to more than 40 stories. People who are fans of the book series over the movie say that they usually picture a blonde Dorothy as opposed to the Judy Garland Dorothy.

When the song “If I Had a Heart” is playing and a girl speaks the words “Wherefore art thou, Romeo?” the voice you’re hearing is Adriana Caselotti – Snow White.

The Horse of a Different Color was created by putting Jell-O paste onto a white horse. It was difficult to keep the horse from licking the paste, so the scene had to be shot quickly. If you look closely, you can see the driver of the buggy subtly restraining the horse from licking himself.

Originally, a scene with an insect called the Jitterbug was shot. It involved a dance sequence with our heroes but was ultimately cut due to time constraints. But you can still hear a reference to the scene in the movie when the Wicked Witch of the West sends the flying monkeys after the gang. She says,

"Take your army to the Haunted Forest, and bring me that girl and her dog. Do as you like with the others, but I want her alive and unharmed! They'll give you no trouble. I promise you that. I've sent a little insect on ahead to take the fight out of them. Take special care of those ruby slippers. I want those most of all. Now fly!"

In the book, Glinda is the Good Witch of the South, not the North. The two Good Witches were combined into one character for time’s sake in the film. She is, however, restored to her proper direction in The Wiz.

Likewise, Dorothy’s slippers were silver in the book. They were changed to the famous ruby red version for film to take full advantage of the new Technicolor technology. There are many authentic versions of the ruby slippers – some counts say at least seven. Among those, one pair is housed at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian, Debbie Reynolds owns a never-used pair with curled toes, and one pair was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.

Bert Lahr, AKA the Cowardly Lion, was the first to use the phrase “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” that Snagglepuss later became famous for. Snagglepuss’ voice was based on Lahr’s. His son, John Lahr, is the senior drama critic at The New Yorker.

As most people know, the Tin Man was originally supposed to be played by Buddy Ebsen, but when Ebsen discovered he was severely allergic to the Tin Man’s makeup job, he was forced to drop the role. Jack Haley replaced him, using a voice that he used to tell his son bedtime stories. Somewhat strangely, Jack Haley, Jr., was married to Liza Minelli for about five years in the ‘70s.

The classic “Over the Rainbow” almost didn’t make it into the film. Studio heads thought the black-and-white beginning was too long and wouldn’t entertain kids like the Technicolor part would, and they also thought it wasn’t appropriate to make Judy Garland sing in a barnyard.

When the witch first tries to take the ruby slippers from Dorothy at the beginning and her hands are zapped with fire, you’re actually seeing dark apple juice squirting out of the shoes. The footage was later sped up so the streams of apple juice resembled fire more closely. So says IMDB, anyway – I couldn’t verify that through any other source.

This one sounds like a total urban legend, but Snopes says it’s true. The costume designers were looking for a very fancy coat for Professor Marvel – the Wizard’s Kansas counterpart – but one that had gotten quite shabby. Some of the crew went to a secondhand shop and bought a bunch of coats to go through; Frank Morgan (the actor who played the Wizard), the director and the wardrobe people selected one out of the bunch that seemed perfect. It had a velvet collar but the nap was worn off of the velvet and it was looking a little worse for the wear. It even fit Morgan just right. Morgan was wearing the coat one afternoon and discovered a label that said “L. Frank Baum.” The coat had originally been made for Baum in Chicago – the tailor verified it, and Baum’s widow did as well. She was given the coat after the movie wrapped.

I loved looking for creepy things in movies when I was in high school, and I totally bought all of them - the “ghost” in Three Men and a Little Baby and the “munchkin suicide” in The Wizard of Oz among them. In case you haven’t seen it, it’s allegedly at the end of the Tin Man sequence, right before Dorothy and Co. head back down the Yellow Brick Road. I remember very clearly seeing this image back then (the clip below will show you exactly where) and having no doubt that it was clearly a suicide, and how creepy it was. Ever since I’ve discovered that it was just the wing of an exotic bird, that’s all I can see. I can’t even fathom how I used to buy that it was a munchkin suicide. Check out the clip below of TV Land’s “Myths and Legends” to get the whole scoop.

Here’s another myth, sort of. I tried this one in high school too – matching up Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon with the movie. And it works! It really does. But various members of Pink Floyd have denied that they wrote the album while watching The Wizard of Oz or that they were inspired by the movie or anything of that sort at all. But it does eerily match up. It gives the whole thing a very spooky vibe. If you don’t want to rely on YouTube and have both the album and the movie, here's how to do it: start the album at the third lion’s roar in the MGM movie title right before the film starts. Otherwise, here’s the YouTube version. I suggest also checking out “The Great Gig in the Sky” which coincides with the tornado scene – it’s kind of amazing.

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Hey kids...this doesn't work with the images. I edit. I watch a lot of films. This does not work...unless you are stoned. It doesn't work and it's off. Maybe you started at the wrong point. I wish I liked this album more then I do...but I don't. Animals is way better...
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