The 1939 film The Wizard of Oz is one of the most iconic films of all time. It is a musical comedy-drama fantasy film and the best-known and most commercially successful adaptation based on the 1900 novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.
The film’s production and special effects were way ahead of its time. Wizard of Oz was well-known for its use of Technicolor, fantasy storytelling, musical score, and unique characters, and has become an icon of American popular culture over the years.
It also launched Judy Garland’s career and catapulted her into major movie stardom. Although the film established Judy Garland’s career, it also ruined her life. Oz was an impressive, Technicolor film, but there was an undeniable darkness on set. From drug addiction and assault to injury and near death. Read on to know the behind the scenes secrets of Wizard of Oz.
12. Judy Garland Got Slapped On Set
Yes, it’s true. Victor Fleming, the director slapped Judy Garland on set. To make things worse, the actress was just 16 years old at the time of the film’s shooting. It happened when Victor Fleming ran into a bit of trouble filming the scene where Dorothy slaps the Cowardly Lion. Apparently, Judy just couldn’t stop laughing. She was obviously an amateur but Fleming had high standards.
According to producer Pandro S. Berman, after Garland’s unstoppable case of the giggles, Fleming pulled her aside, slapped her and then told her to get back to work. Harsh but that’s what he did. Obviously, it was a quick way of wiping off the giggles off the teenagers face.
11. Judy Garland Almost Didn’t Play Dorothy
Judy Garland helped made The Wizard of Oz what it is, and while she eventually became a studio favorite for the role, she wasn’t the first choice and studio favorite. Executives believed Shirley Temple was a better fit since she was a better age and a bigger star. Despite Temple’s fame, producers were worried that she didn’t have a good enough singing voice for the part since the movie was part musical.
Luckily for Judy Garland, Shirley Temple was closed to 20th Century Fox and, not MGM. MGM wanted to trade Clark Gable and Jean Harlow for Temple, but the idea was shot down when Jean Harlow died unexpectedly at the age of 26. According to reports, it may have been Harlow’s toxic hair dye that caused her liver to fail and led to her premature death.
10. Tin Man Was Poisoned on Set
Buddy Ebsen was cast as the hilarious, quirky tin man. But his task on set was cut short. Ebsen was poisoned in a freak accident that happened just nine days after filming started. The culprit? The silver makeup used in his character’s costume contained aluminum dust, which he accidentally inhaled. His lungs failed, and he was hospitalized.
Ebsen spent two weeks in the hospital and it took six more weeks for him to recover at home. His role had to be recast and Ebsen was eventually replaced by Jack Haley. He, fortunately, did not suffer from the same aluminum allergy. But to avoid the same situation, the makeup artists used aluminum paste instead of aluminum power.
9. Judy Garland Was Drugged to Get Through Filming
In 2017, this would be a public outrage. But in the ’30s, this was sadly common. Child actors had to be drugged to keep up with their often nerve-wracking and intense filming schedule. Now you know.
Judy Garland was given barbiturates and amphetamines to keep her skinny and keep her awake. This practice may have helped her during the filming process, but it left her an addict until she became an adult. The Wizard of Oz established Garland’s career, but it also ruined her life. She died from an overdose at age 47.