If you’re like me, it was an exciting annual event to watch The Wizard of Oz on television. The classic 1939 movie taught us there’s no place like home and we all have brains, heart and courage.
One of the Greatest Movies of All Time
According to the Library of Congress, it’s the most viewed film of all time mainly due to those TV rebroadcasts.
It’s also rated the 11th Greatest Film of All Time (Greatest Films) and the Most Influential Movie of All Time, and The World’s Favorite Movie (Parade).
For many of us, It was our first lessons in realities of life. After all Auntie Em and Uncle Henry couldn’t stop wicked Miss Gulch from taking Toto away after she gets bitten by the dog. They’re also helpless to protect their farm, or Dorothy, from the tornado.
Later, the film’s defining moment comes when we learn that the “great and powerful” wizard is indeed powerless. It’s at this point some of us begin to realize Dorothy, Glinda and the Wicked Witch, all female, are the most powerful figures in the movie. The Scarecrow, Tinman, Lion and even the Wizard, not so much.
“If you ever go looking for your heart’s desire, you don’t have to look any further than your own backyard” reminds me that although I had desires to escape, venture off, and grow up, my roots remain important. Sometimes I long for my parents, grandparents and simpler times of childhood. There’s no place like home.
The Big Lesson
The big lesson for me affirmed that I have the ability to get what I want, and that this power comes from within.
My fascination with The Wizard of Oz continued into adulthood. I made certain all four of my children saw it on the big screen individually. Some of my momentos include autographs of cast members including Tinman, Jack Haley, the Mayor of Munchkinland Karl “Charlie” Becker, Lollipop Guild munchkin Jerry Maren, and Buddy Ebsen (TV’s Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies and Barnaby Jones).
Ebsen was the original Tinman until he became ill from a serious allergic reaction to the silver makeup.
Wizard of Oz Trivia
Did you know the Cowardly Lion costume from The Wizard of Oz was made of real lion hair? Bert Lahr’s costume weighed over 100 lbs. A fishing pole line was used to wave his tail.
“I am now about to make the great adventure,” Clara Blandick, whose role was Auntie Em wrote years later, in 1962 . “I cannot endure this agonizing pain any longer. It is all over my body… I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.”
She carefully did her hair and makeup, put on her nicest outfit, and took an overdose of sleeping pills. She then tied a bag over her head and left the note.
Margaret Hamilton, aka the Wicked Witch, suffered second-degree burns on her face and third-degree burns on her hand when a stunt went wrong.
The trap door didn’t drop fast enough while shooting a scene, and Hamilton had to spend six weeks recuperating in the hospital and at home.
Before returning back to set, she said: “I won’t sue, because I know how this business works, and I would never work again. I will return to work on one condition — no more fireworks!”
Shirley Temple as Dorothy?
Shirley Temple was promised the role of Dorothy. She was signed to 20th Century Fox, and for years she was expected to star in some type of Oz film series. The movie rights were fought over between studios, but ultimately the rights went to MGM.
There was gossip about casting over the next few years, and the part ultimately went to Judy Garland.
Soon after, the press announced that Temple not being cast as Dorothy was “the greatest disappointment of her brief and eminently griefless career.”
A few decades after that, Shirley Temple commented on the fact that Judy Garland had been picked for the movie and graciously said, “Sometimes the gods know best.”
The snow scene was done with asbestos.
(Using asbestos on production sets was actually really popular back in the day, and Steve McQueen believed it contributed to his death.)
McQueen died in 1980. He had pleural mesothelioma, a cancer that’s associated with asbestos exposure. He attributed his sickness to his time on movie sets and in the military, where he was exposed with asbestos.
Most on the munchkins’ voices were dubbed in the film because the majority of them had fled from Nazi Germany to seek refuge in the U.S.
Actors who played Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz were only paid $50 a week, while Toto the dog earned $125 per week.
Adjusted for inflation, the Munchkins would have made just over $900 in today’s world, while Toto would have received about $2,300 per week.
The original dog playing Toto, Terry, was accidentally stepped on during filming, and was replaced by a doggy double for two weeks while she recovered from her injuries.
The Tin Man’s tears were actually made from chocolate sauce.
Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Tin Man and actually went through the first 10 days of filming. But he fell tragically ill and was rushed to the hospital amid rumors that inhaling the aluminum powder slathered on him for the part may have been the cause. So when Jack Haley took over the part, they made sure to switch over to aluminum paste.
The tornado that spooked every child who saw it was created using a 35-foot-long muslin stocking. They spun it around and around with plenty of dirt, dust and wind involved to give it a disastrous look.
Did you notice this article featured photos in black and white and then in color—just the way the movie was filmed in 1939?