Despite the lighthearted material, some of the stories from the set of The Wizard Of Oz are quite dark. For such a beloved, ostensibly whimsical film, the production of The Wizard of Oz was a never-ending carnival of misery for those who worked behind the scenes. Made in 1939, it's still widely appreciated by both children and adults in modern times. Still, there's a lot people don't know about the making of The Wizard of Oz. While some of the production details are relatively harmless, and at times even charming, you have to remember the movie was produced during the dark days of the old Hollywood studio system.
So, what makes the The Wizard Of Oz behind-the-scenes stories so dark? Mix heavy drinking and depravity with a few unfortunate on-set catastrophes, add some early movie-making naivety, and divide among five different film directors. Of all behind-the-scenes movie stories, The Wizard Of Oz has some of the most bizarre and shocking. There's a lot more to worry about than lions and tigers and bears. The Pink Floyd sync up may be coincidence, but these stories truly show the dark side of the rainbow. Now, take a look at these Wizard of Oz facts and see for yourself just how treacherous filming was at times.
The Munchkin actors' antics on The Wizard of Oz were, frankly, bizarre. It's said they engaged in agressively drunken behavior, gambling, and group adult activities at the Culver Hotel where they were staying. Supposedly, one Munchkin actor even got stuck in a toilet bowl during a drunken lunch break and had to be rescued. The police were called several times to the hotel.
By many accounts, The Wizard Of Oz was both the beginning and end of Judy Garland's career. Actors in the 1930s were under contract to whatever studio they signed with, and many of them were systemically mistreated and overworked. Teenage actors were often given adrenaline shots to keep them awake, and barbiturates to help them sleep. Garland was no exception.
There were also reports she was also harassed by both Munchkin actors and studio executives. In his book Judy and I: My Life with Judy Garland, the actress's late husband Sid Luft stated about her co-stars:
They'd make Judy's life miserable on set by putting their hands under her dress … The men were 40 or more years old. They thought they could get away with anything because they were so small.
Behind the camera, Garland was allegedly called "the fat little pig with pigtails" by studio execs.
During a take of the scene in which the Wicked Witch escapes Munchkinland in a plume of smoke, the pyrotechnics were accidentally set off too early and a trapdoor malfunctioned, causing actress Margaret Hamilton's broom, hat, and makeup to catch fire. Her face and hands were badly burned. Medics had to use alcohol to remove her toxic makeup, which was also extremely painful.
After returning to work, she was asked to film the "Surrender, Dorothy," scene, which also required smoke effects. She refused, and her stunt double, Betty Danko, took over. Danko suffered a similar injury during the scene, and was ultimately hospitalized.
After Ray Bolger insisted he would make a better Scarecrow, the part of the Tin Man was given to Buddy Ebsen. However, an allergic reaction to the aluminum powder in the silver-colored makeup forced him to be hospitalized in an oxygen tent. Apparently, no one told the cast why Ebsen left the production. Due to the way studio contracts functioned at the time, Jack Haley was forced into the role. The production team switched makeup to an aluminum paste, but it caused an eye infection for Haley anyway.
Interestingly, Buddy Ebsen's voice can still be heard in a few places in the soundtrack.