Some stories from the set of The Wizard Of Oz are insanely dark. For such a beloved, ostensibly whimsical film, The Wizard of Oz was a never-ending carnival of misery 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 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 deplorable? Mix heavy drinking and sexual 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.
In the film, Dorothy, Toto, and the Cowardly Lion fall asleep in a poppy field but are magically awakened by gently falling snow. Because history is a never-ending carnival of terrors, that snow was actually 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.
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.
Then the professional, director Victor Flemming allegedly slapped her to snap her out of it, and she delivered a flawless lion slap on the next take.
Cowardly Lion actor Bert Lahr's costume was very realistic. So realistic, in fact, it consisted of real lion pelts. It allegedly weighed 90 pounds and produced an offensively unpleasant odor from having a sweaty human trapped in it all day. Lahr remembers spending about three hours each day in the makeup chair, as did the Scarecrow and Tin Man.
In fact, the makeup took so much time, all three actors were not allowed to take off their costumes or makeup. Their odd appearance while in costume also frightened people dining in the commissary, so they had to eat their lunch on set. Basically, the actors spent the duration of production as smelly, uncomfortable lepers.
Five different directors are credited with taking the helm on Oz. There were also more than 10 screenwriters working on the script, and it was constantly changing. Original director Norman Taurog was replaced by Richard Thorpe, who was replaced by George Cukor. Only working on the film for several days, he helped the musical numbers improve but was ultimately replaced by Victor Fleming.
Cukor signed on for Gone With The Wind after leaving Oz, but was fired and was replaced once again by Fleming. Since Fleming was now absent from Oz, King Vidor finished the last few weeks of filming, adding the Kansas scenes including "Over The Rainbow," which was almost cut from the final film. Victor Fleming ended up with the sole director credit (as well as the one for Gone With The Wind), since he had the biggest influence on the movie.