What happens when a relatively unknown actor takes the villain's role in a movie that becomes a classic? It becomes hard for everyone from children up to casting directors to see you in any other kind of role. And that was the story for Margaret Hamilton, a serious actress who took on the role of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz after another actress was afraid it would make her look unattractive.
Hamilton received hundreds of letters from other children all over the country, who would recall her notorious witch cackle and, in some cases, ask why she was so mean to Dorothy. Even during filming, Hamilton worried that her role would leave kids with the impression that she was scary — according to another Wizard of Oz expert, film critic Ryan Jay. Mild-mannered and sweet in real life, Hamilton would never have wanted anyone to be terrified of her.
“Everyone described her as so sweet and so approachable and so kind in her demeanor and personality,” Jay reported. “People of all ages wouldn’t believe it was really her until they asked her to do the cackle.”
But the role of the Wicked Witch of the West would take on a life of its own. Hamilton’s ability to scare became firmly rooted in the public’s mind. In the years that followed the film, she would take on a number of different roles, but it became nearly impossible for anyone to see her as anything other than the witch bent on destroying Dorothy and her dog Toto. Eventually, she started turning down opportunities to appear as the Wicked Witch.
The role that typecast Hamilton was not an easy one. She suffered both injuries and indignities to create the Wicked Witch of the West. Read Hamilton's story at Narratively. -Thanks, hearsetrax!
PS! Sunday is the 80th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, which was released on August 25, 1939. I did not realize that, but found strange things happening when I Googled The Wizard of Oz to find an image for this post. Try it yourself! Click on the ruby slippers in the search results. When your computer settles down, you can click on the cyclone to "return home."