15 facts you didn’t know about the Wizard of Oz
For fans of The Wizard of Oz the mere mention of MGM’s movie masterpiece conjures instant memories: Judy Garland’s tender rendition of “Over the Rainbow”. The Wicked Witch of the West cackling, “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!” Dorothy and her friends dancing down the winding Yellow Brick Road. And how many kids were terrified of those sinister Winged Monkeys?
Since its Hollywood debut on August 15, 1939, more than one billion people have seen Dorothy’s whirlwind journey from Kansas to the Land of Oz. No matter how many times we’ve watched, it’s hard not to be awed when the farmhouse door opens on a Technicolor world. Decades later, there’s still no place like home…
1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz wasn’t Dorothy’s only journey to Oz. L. Frank Baum wrote 14 novels and six short stories about her adventures. Recent movies such as Oz, The Great and Powerful and Dorothy of Oz were based on these books. Bradford Press has recreated these elaborately illustrated first editions. Learn more about these replica books at OriginalOz.com.
2. Ray Bolger wore an asbestos version of his Scarecrow costume for the scene in which the Wicked Witch lights him on fire. Men with fire extinguishers stood out of camera range.
3. The 1939 movie is a remake. Two silent film versions preceded it, in 1910 and 1925. The latter starred Oliver Hardy as the character then called the Woodsman.
4. No shade of expensive yellow paint seemed to photograph properly on the Yellow Brick Road – until someone tried an ordinary house paint.
5. The jacket Frank Morgan wore as Professor Marvel came from a thrift shop. MGM spread the story that, by coincidence, the jacket was later found to have belonged to L. Frank Baum.
6. Judy Garland wore a corset throughout filming to give her a younger physique.
7. Judy Garland was 16 years old when filming began. As a minor, she was only permitted by Californian law to work four hours a day.
8. Oscar winner Gale Sondergaard was originally signed to portray a glamorous Wicked Witch of the West. When MGM realised it would affect the whole plot, actress Margaret Hamilton was cast as a more cantankerous witch.
9. The film cost $2,777,000 to produce but earned only $3 million when it was first released.
10. The actors who played the Munchkins were reportedly each paid $50 per week, while Toto earned $125 per week.
11. The Emerald City horses had jelly crystals sprinkled over them to give them their colour.
12. Toto, a terrier, was sensitive to noise, and had to be concealed during the filming of the explosion caused by the Wicked Witch’s arrival in Munchkin Land.
13. MGM Studios boss Louis B. Mayer bought the rights hoping it would follow the success of Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs(1937).
14. The caps that the inhabitants of the Emerald City wore caused some extras’ hair to fall out.
15. The Wicked Witch’s crystal ball has a large zodiac on the floor encircling it. This is considered by many as a homage to the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, who has pictures of the zodiac surrounding her magic mirror.
Written by Jay Scarfone & William Stillman. This article first appeared in Reader’s Digest. For more of what you love from the world’s best-loved magazine, here’s our best subscription offer. , here’s our best subscription offer.