We’ve been celebrating The Wizard of Oz over the past couple weeks, and today we celebrate the 77th anniversary of its worldwide release!
Though it didn’t open to great reviews or massive success, The Wizard of Oz has found its rightful place in cinematic movie history and now sits at #8 on IMDb’s list of 100 Greatest Movies of All Time.
It also shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that this movie is also riddled with crazy rumors about filming and production. While some of them are true (Toto did make more than The Munchkins), others were not (no, the colored horses were not covered in Jell-O).
To help debunk some of those crazy stories and celebrate this gem of a movie, here are 33 Fun Facts about The Wizard of Oz.
- Judy Garland almost lost the role of Dorothy to America’s sweetheart, Shirley Temple. Metro-Goldwyn Meyer outbid 20th Century Fox for the movie rights and if Fox had won, Shirley Temple would have had the starring role.
- Talk about having courage…the Cowardly Lion’s costume was made of real lion skin!
- Toto the Dog reportedly earned $125 a week during filming. Each Munchkin actor earned $50 to $100.
- The horses in the Emerald City were colored with vegetable dye, not Jell-O as rumored.
- In the book, Dorothy’s slippers are silver…however, the studio didn’t think silver would show up on film, so they changed them to red.
- The Oscar-winning song, “Over the Rainbow”, was almost cut from the film to shorten the length.
- Wanna try on Dorothy’s slippers? She sported a tiny size 5!
- Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West, was a kindergarten teacher before becoming an actress.
- The tornado in the film was actually a 35 foot long muslin stocking spun around with dust and dirt.
- The Wicked Witch also has a death certificate, dated May 6, 1938…the 20th anniversary of L. Frank Baum’s death (the author of the book).
- Baum apparently invented the name ‘Oz’ when looking at an alphabetical filing cabinet label, ‘O – Z’.
- The Munchkins have a collective star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
- Garland won an Oscar Juvenile Award for her role as Dorothy Gale, which she later called the Munchkin Award.
- The Smithsonian exhibit housing Dorothy’s red slippers is so popular, the carpet in front of the slippers has been replaced numerous times due to wear and tear.
- The fire that blazes out from Dorothy’s shoes when the Witch tries to touch them was actually apple juice spraying out of them, sped up on film.
- Several actors playing Winged Monkeys in the forest were injured when the wires suspending them above the sound stage snapped, sending them falling several feet.
- MGM paid $75,000 for the film rights to Baum’s book, equating to about $1.2 million today.
- Margaret Hamilton suffered severe burns during the scene in which she vanishes in a cloud of smoke (her skin makeup ignited).
- Production costs for the film were around $2.7 million dollars, equating to about $45.6 million today!!
- The actress who played Auntie Em, Clara Blandick, committed suicide in 1962 after battling debilitating arthritis and impending blindess.
- Comedian W.C. Fields was offered the chance to play the Wizard, but he wanted $100,00 for the role. MGM offered $75,000, which he turned down.
- Judy Garland was 16 when she starred in The Wizard of Oz.
- The cast of The Wizard of Oz was tight off screen as well. Jack Haley (Tin Man) was the godfather of Bert Lahr’s son (Cowardly Lion). Judy Garland’s daughter, Liza Minnelli married Jack Haley Jr., the son of Jack Haley (Tin Man). Ray Bolger (scarecrow) gave the eulogy for the memorial service for Margaret Hamilton (Wicked Witch).
- The role of Toto was played by a five-year-old female Cairn terrier named Terry. She was owned by Carl Spitz, who started the Carl Spitz Hollywood Dog Training School.
- After the film was released, Terry’s name was permanently changed to Toto.
- Over her lifetime, Terry/Toto appeared in 17 films!
- Judy Garland earned $500 a week for the film, however Ray Bolger and Jack Haley earned roughly $3,000 a week.
- There were four or five pairs of ruby slippers made for the film. Each shoe was made of red satin and covered by 2,300 sequins.
- One of those pairs is waiting to be displayed at the future Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles. A group of wealthy donors, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Stephen Spielberg, pooled together their funds to purchase this pair. The price they paid has not been released, but it’s thought to be between $2 and $3 million.
- It took 22 men one week to make the 40,000 fake flowers that made up the film’s poppy field.
- One of the last surviving actors of the film is Jerry Maren. He played a Munchkin and was a member of the Lollipop Guild. He was the one to hand Dorothy a lollipop.
- In the film, the Witch wrote “Surrender Dorothy” with her broom in the sky. In real life, it was written by a production designer with a hypodermic needle filled with dye in a tank of cloudy water. He had to write the words backwards in order to be filmed.
- The early Technicolor process required more light than a normal film production, so the set temperatures often exceeded 100 degrees.
Sometimes you just need a little fun in your life! Check back every week for a new “Just Bee-cause” post, where I discuss everything from celebrity news to favorite videos and websites!