15 Nightmare Stories From Behind The Scenes Of 'The Wizard of Oz'

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 storiesThe 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.

  • Many Of The Actors Playing Munchkins Were Completely Unruly And Inappropriate 

    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.

  • Judy Garland Was Harassed And Treated Poorly 

    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. 

    Garland was already taking pills before she was hired for Oz, but she began using them more frequently once on set. She was also given diet pills to slim down. 

    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. 



  • The Wicked Witch Got Burned On Set. Twice

    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.

  • The Tin Man Was Poisoned. Also Twice.

    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.

  • The Actors Were Sprinkled With Toxic Fake Snow

    In the film, Dorothy, Toto, and the Cowardly Lion fall asleep in a poppy field but are magically awakened by gently falling snow. Sadly, that beautiful snowfall was created using asbestos.

    Asbestos fibers were often used as fake snow from the mid-1930s to the 1950s, both in people's homes as holiday decor and in films such as The Wizard of Oz. It wasn't until years later that people discovered the dangers of asbestos, far too late to help the actors exposed to the carcinogenic snow.

  • Judy Garland Was Slapped For Laughing

    While filming a scene in which Dorothy slaps the Cowardly Lion, Judy Garland supposedly had a giggling fit and was unable to finish the scene without breaking into laughter. Apparently, she couldn't bring herself to stay serious while slapping a man wearing a lion suit.

    According to some sources, director Victor Fleming allegedly slapped her to snap her out of it, and she delivered a flawless line delivery on the next take.