Thursday, March 21, 2013

20 Things You Didn't Know About The Wizard of Oz

Ancient shit.
  1. The Library of Congress recognizes The Wizard of Oz as the most-watched film in history, mostly due to its annual television broadcasts prior to the advent of home video release.
  2. Walt Disney originally tried to secure the film rights to L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for an animated adaptation before MGM got them.
  3. Despite the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, other fantasy films had not fared well at the box office, and many of the magical elements of the story were toned down or eliminated in early drafts of the script. Various writers were attached to the script at different production phases, and although only 3 writers received credit for the script, at least 17 other writers contributed to the final product. Additionally, while Victor Flemming is credited as the sole director, 5 other uncredited directors worked on the project.
  4. Often referred to as the first color film, much consideration went into how each color would be used. It took producers a week alone to decide on the shade of yellow for the Yellow Brick Road. Additionally, Dorothy's magic slippers, which are silver in the original novel, are ruby in the film in order to take advantage of the color.
  5. The original novel is episodic in nature, so the film cut much of its content to create a cohesive story. A village of people made of china, an army of field mice, and an elongated sequence in which Dorothy and the Cowardly Lion are imprisoned in the Witch's castle were all eliminated. Additionally, the characters of Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, and the unnamed Good Witch of the North were combined into the Glinda we see in the film in order to simplify the story.
  6. For the role of Dorothy, MGM initially hoped to get Shirley Temple on loan from 20th Century Fox. The studio was hesitant to cast Judy Garland in the role because of her lack of experience as a lead.
  7. Judy Garland, 16 at the time of filming, wore a corset and had her breasts bound during filming in order to portray the 12-year-old Dorothy Gale. Additionally, the famous blue checkered gingham dress was chosen for its blurring effect on Judy's figure.
  8. The set was a hostile working environment, especially for Garland. The film's leading men—Frank Morgan (The Wizard), Ray Bolger (The Scarecrow), Bert Lahr (The Cowardly Lion), and Jack Haley (The Tinman)—were concerned that the young actress would upstage them and shunned her. Director Victor Flemming bullied her into obedience by reminding her she was the second choice for the role and telling her she was neither pretty nor talented. He even reportedly slapped her across the face when she could not get through a scene without laughing. Ironically, the only friend Judy had on set was Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch.
  9. In addition to the aforementioned rewrites and director swaps, The Wizard of Oz was riddled with production issues, many of which stemmed from the new technology and elaborate costumes and make-up. Most notably, Buddy Ebsen, who was originally cast as the Tinman, was hospitalized after breathing in too much of his aluminum-based make-up, and production halted while a replacement was found. Margaret Hamilton was also severely burned while filming the Munchkinland scenes. She later refused to film any more scenes involving fire, so a stand-in was hired. That stand-in was also severely burned.
  10. "Over the Rainbow" was almost cut from the film, as studio heads felt that the Kansas sequence was too long, the song's content went over the audience's head, and having a movie star sing in a barnyard was degrading. Additionally, many of the Wicked Witch's scenes were cut because test audiences reported that they were too scary.
  11. An urban myth claims that a Munchkin actor can be seen hanging himself in the background while Dorothy, the Scarecrow, and the Tinman sing "We're Off to See the Wizard". However, the object in question is actually a crane or emu, which were rented from the Los Angeles Zoo to populate the forest scenes.
  12. Originally, Judy Garland wore a blonde "baby doll" wig and heavy make-up for Dorothy and was instructed to act in an exaggerated fashion. George Cukor, one of the uncredited directors, made the changes we see in the film today and told Judy to "be herself."
  13. Many of the Munchkin actors were refugees of Nazi Germany who fled the country once Hitler sought to eliminate the "undesirables." Over 100 unique costumes had to be fashioned for the munchkins, who were extensively photographed so their hair, make-up, and ensemble could be recreated each day of filming
  14. Terry, the dog who played Toto, received $125 a week.
  15. As white is often difficult to film, Dorothy's blouse is actually pink but appears white on film.
  16. At least five pairs of ruby slippers were made for the film, but the exact number is unknown. They varied in sizes, as Judy's feet would swell as the shooting day progressed.
  17. Though a beloved classic today, the film originally underperformed at the box office and did not turn a notable profit until after several re-releases.
  18. For her performance, Judy Garland received a non-competitive Oscar Juvenile Award, which she referred to as the Munchkin Award later in her life. It's the only Oscar she ever got, though she was nominated for Best Actress in 1955 for A Star is Born.
  19. Though the original novel is public domain, much of the iconography of the 1939 film is copyrighted by Warner Bros. For this reason, Disney's 2013 film Oz the Great and Powerful, an unofficial prequel to the original film, was forbidden from using ruby slippers, the swirling design of Munchkinland's Yellow Brick Road, or the likeness of any of its actors. Mila Kunis' Wicked Witch could not use the same chin mold as Margaret Hamilton's and the shade of her green skin had to be legally approved.
  20. Like Judy Garland herself, The Wizard of Oz is heavily associated with the LGBT community. "Friend of Dorothy" is slang for gay man and refers to the Scarecrow, the Tinman, and the Cowardly Lion—Dorothy's misfit, or queer, friends that she encounters in Oz. The song "Over the Rainbow" is often cited as the inspiration for the gay pride flag.


Taylor Tanton said...

Poor Judy!

MKlass said...

Shirley Temple as Dorothy? Thank God that didn't happen.