The 1939 film The Wizard of Oz is one of the most iconic films of all time. It is a musical comedy-drama fantasy film and the best-known and most commercially successful adaptation based on the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.
The film’s production and special effects were way ahead of its time. Wizard of Oz was well-known for its use of Technicolor, fantasy storytelling, musical score, and unique characters, and has become an icon of American popular culture over the years.
It also launched Judy Garland’s career and catapulted her into major movie stardom. Although the film established Judy Garland’s career, it also ruined her life. Oz was an impressive, Technicolor film, but there was an undeniable darkness on set. From drug addiction and assault to injury and near death. Read on to know the behind the scenes secrets of Wizard of Oz.
12. Judy Garland Got Slapped On Set
Yes, it’s true. Victor Fleming, the director slapped Judy Garland on set. To make things worse, the actress was just 16 years old at the time of the film’s shooting. It happened when Victor Fleming ran into a bit of trouble filming the scene where Dorothy slaps the Cowardly Lion. Apparently, Judy just couldn’t stop laughing. She was obviously an amateur but Fleming had high standards.
According to producer Pandro S. Berman, after Garland’s unstoppable case of the giggles, Fleming pulled her aside, slapped her and then told her to get back to work. Harsh but that’s what he did. Obviously, it was a quick way of wiping off the giggles off the teenagers face.
11. Judy Garland Almost Didn’t Play Dorothy
Judy Garland helped made The Wizard of Oz what it is, and while she eventually became a studio favorite for the role, she wasn’t the first choice and studio favorite. Executives believed Shirley Temple was a better fit since she was a better age and a bigger star. Despite Temple’s fame, producers were worried that she didn’t have a good enough singing voice for the part since the movie was part musical.
Luckily for Judy Garland, Shirley Temple was closed to 20th Century Fox and, not MGM. MGM wanted to trade Clark Gable and Jean Harlow for Temple, but the idea was shot down when Jean Harlow died unexpectedly at the age of 26. According to reports, it may have been Harlow’s toxic hair dye that caused her liver to fail and led to her premature death.
10. Tin Man Was Poisoned on Set
Buddy Ebsen was cast as the hilarious, quirky tin man. But his task on set was cut short. Ebsen was poisoned in a freak accident that happened just nine days after filming started. The culprit? The silver makeup used in his character’s costume contained aluminum dust, which he accidentally inhaled. His lungs failed, and he was hospitalized.
Ebsen spent two weeks in the hospital and it took six more weeks for him to recover at home. His role had to be recast and Ebsen was eventually replaced by Jack Haley. He, fortunately, did not suffer from the same aluminum allergy. But to avoid the same situation, the makeup artists used aluminum paste instead of aluminum power.
9. Judy Garland Was Drugged to Get Through Filming
In 2017, this would be a public outrage. But in the ’30s, this was sadly common. Child actors had to be drugged to keep up with their often nerve-wracking and intense filming schedule. Now you know.
Judy Garland was given barbiturates and amphetamines to keep her skinny and keep her awake. This practice may have helped her during the filming process, but it left her an addict until she became an adult. The Wizard of Oz established Garland’s career, but it also ruined her life. She died from an overdose at age 47.
8. The Wicked Witch Got Burned On Set
The producers cut some of Margaret Hamilton’s scenes because she might be too scary for the kids, but she also became so badly injured on set that she had to be removed from the production for six weeks.
Margaret Hamilton’s injury happened in the scene where the Wicked Witch of the West leaves Munchkinland in a puff of flames. She was supposed to drop down safely into a trap door before the flames came out. But the door malfunctioned and didn’t open quick enough, but the flames came out as they were supposed to. This left Hamilton’s hands and face with terrible burns that took weeks to heal.
7. Judy Garland Was Molested By The Munchkins
According to Judy Garland’s third husband, Sid Luft, the actress was repeatedly molested by the actors who played the Munchkins. Luft exposed this information in his scandalous posthumous memoir, Judy and I: My Life with Judy Garland. He claimed that they made her life “miserable on set by putting their hands under her dress.” All of the men were 40 or more years old.
There were also many rumors about the Munchkins that sort of back up this claim, saying that the actors were absolutely out of control on set. Several reports claim they were involved with prostitution and gambling while filming.
6. Secrets Of Judy Garland As Dorothy Gale
Judy Garland may have been the second choice, but we believe she may have been better off without the role. Beyond the well-documented fact of drugging her, she also had to wear a corset, since her body had started to develop, she was 16. She was also told to lose 12 pounds.
The Wizard of Oz may have catapulted her to stardom, but the evidence of exploitation is also troubling. She was already sensitive about her weight (she believed she was overweight), so the constant failure and demands on her to improve her appearance just further damaged her self-esteem. She once said, “I was frightful. I was fat – a fat little pig in pigtails.” Something a 16-year-old should never be concerned of.
5. The Wicked Witch’s Sickness?
You already know how poisonous and toxic the paint was for the original Tin Man, but you may not know how the Wicked Witch was affected by her make-up as well. Yes, the Wicked Witch’s makeup was also toxic. Actress Margaret Hamilton reportedly accidentally swallowed some of her make-up. No one knows how. She got so sick that she was on a liquid diet for days.
The green make-up was so penetrating, with copper-based ingredients, that she couldn’t easily get it completely off. So, her face stayed green for weeks even after the shooting for Wizard of Oz was over. We wonder if the makeup artists test their makeup before using them on the actors? Obviously, not.
4. Lost Little Girl
Biographers have referred to Judy Garland as a “lost little girl.” She was completely made over to be a different person than the Frances Ethel Gumm she once was. The person she was before she became Judy Garland. She also lost her father at a young age.
Frank Gumm, her father, died in 1935 and was raised by her mother alone. She often said, “My father’s death was the most terrible thing that happened to me in my life. I was always lonesome. The only time I felt accepted or wanted was when I was on stage performing. I guess the stage was my only friend; the only place where I could feel comfortable. It was the only place where I felt equal and safe.” Her loneliness reflected in the multiple marriages she had.
3. Judy Garland Was Spied On
Judy Garland was an important part of the Wizard of Oz production. But its creepy and unnecessary that Louis B. Mayer had people who were sent to spy on her. If she dared to stray from her diet of chicken soup, coffee and 80 cigarettes (to control her appetite), she received his infamous reprimand. It was especially bad if they caught her with a sundae. Plus, a doctor would prescribe more diet pills to keep her thin.
All of the spying and control over her life just crammed into her already poor self-esteem. She already thought she was overweight, so those actions were just worsening many of her psychological issues. These issues made her an adddict and led to her premature death.
2. Exploitation And Groping
You’ve already seen how MGM exploited Judy Garland, but the most common answer was, “That’s how it was done back then.” That may be the reality of how young child stars were treated, but it’s obviously not right.
The other sickening reality is that Garland claimed that Louis B. Mayer also groped her when she was in his office, saying that it made her sing from the heart. She was a 16-year-old girl, unaware that she could say “no” and was forced to work an insane schedule. She was always afraid her contract would be torn up, and she also said that Mayer’s word was “law” at her house.
1. Over The Rainbow
Judy Garland sang “Over the Rainbow,” but then seemed to want to forget the rainbow, after it never quite turned out as she would have hoped. She said, “We cast away priceless time in dreams, born of imagination, fed upon illusion, and put to death by reality.”
Even through all the tragedies in her life, you know her name, and her legacy will always be remembered. She was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997, long after her death. Some of her recordings have also been enlisted to the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Who knew that this classic children’s film had a lot of dark secrets behind the scenes. The world may have loved and enjoyed Dorothy Gale but in the end she became a victim of her own dreams.
Even the other characters had to endure a little suffering for the film but not as much as Judy Garland. Now you know these secrets, you’ll never see Wizard of Oz the same again.