Wizard of Oz: 7 Weird Myths & 8 Weirder Facts About the Original
The Wizard of Oz is one of the most classic films of all time. Several crazy stories surround the making of this musical, some true, some false.
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MGM’s The Wizard of Oz has been a classic almost since the day it was released all the way back in 1939. There is a reason that the ruby slippers have their own display room at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.
However, with fame comes rumor and fabrication. Star gossip and intrigue has followed the film for almost the entirety of its existence. Some of the outlandish stories are in fact true, while a few of the myths have made their way into our collective consciousness without ever being confirmed or proven. Here are a few of the best.
Updated by Lianna Tedesco, September 29th, 2020: A classic such as The Wizard of Oz doesn’t just fade out over time and as vivid as the ruby slippers were in technicolor, that’s how vivid the memory is of watching it for the first time. For many, the idea of landing in a magical world full of mythical creatures was nothing short of the greatest notion of adventure. Now, 81 years later, the story of Dorothy descending into the world of Oz is still just as enchanting and wonderful as it was when the film first premiered. As the film itself is looked back on with fond memories, more behind-the-scenes facts are discussed at length – meaning there’s always more to love (and debunk) about the wonderful world of Oz.
15 Fact – Dorothy’s Costume Was Pink
Are you obsessed with the white and blue gingham dress that Judy Garland wore as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz? Well, then it may surprise you to find out that Garland’s costume was not in fact blue and white but rather blue and pink.
How, you might ask or, more importantly, why? The Wizard of Oz (the scenes in Oz in particular) was shot in technicolor, a special dye-transfer technique that required combining film shot on more than one camera. Due to the particulars of the process, it was simpler to film pink and make it look white later on.
14 Myth – Famous Quote, “Fly, Fly, My Pretties.”
Very much along the same lines as, “Luke, I am your father” (which is a misquote) the Wicked Witch of the West is often quoted as calling, “Fly, fly, my pretties,” when she sends off her army of flying monkeys. Again, in Star Wars the real line is simple, “No, I am your father.” In The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch actually simply yells out, “Fly, fly, fly.” That’s why, like Star Wars, The Wizard of Oz is one of the most misquoted films in movie history.
13 Fact – Professor Marvel Wears Author L. Frank Baum’s Jacket
In The Wizard of Oz’s sepia-colored opening, Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland) attempts to run away from home and ends up in the company of false fortune teller Professor Marvel. While most may remember the turban the professor is wearing in the scene, the jacket he also has on happened to once belong to the Wizard of Oz author, L. Frank Baum, himself. This was a surprise to cast and crew alike, as the jacket had been purchased at a second-hand store. Baum’s name was later found stitched in a pocket.
12 Myth – Pink Floyd’s Album Dark Side of the Moon was Written to Synchronize with the Film
Many people have claimed that if you watch The Wizard of Oz with Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon playing at the same time, many of the songs and lyrics match up with what is happening on the screen. For example, the song, “The Great Gig in the Sky” begins playing just as the twister appears and Dorothy is walking home from Professor Marvel’s. The band continues to claim this is all pure coincidence.
11 Fact – The Original Tin Man Actor Was Almost Killed by his Makeup
Jack Haley is who we watch on screen as the Tin Man in the MGM classic, but he was not originally cast. Buddy Ebsen, who went on to fame in The Beverly Hillbillies, was the original Tin Man, and had already begun rehearsals when he became incredibly ill and was rushed to the hospital because he couldn’t breathe. The reason? The aluminum dust in his makeup had given him a serious lung infection which kept him the hospital for two weeks. He then took another month at home to fully recover.
10 Myth – A Munchkin Hung Himself on Set
This is a fairly popular story that continues to haunt the movie to this day, with some people claiming they can see or have seen screenshots of the supposed suicide that actually made it into the film. Actors, executives, and historians continue to insist that the incident never took place. The film’s schedule also backs up the truth. The scene where the suicide can be supposedly seen (when Dorothy and the Scarecrow meet the Tin Man) was filmed before any of the Munchkin actors were even on set.
9 Fact – Buddy Ebsen Was Originally Cast as the Scarecrow
Buddy Ebsen could have avoided his hospital stay and still starred in the Wizard of Oz film if he hadn’t been so accommodating. Ebsen was actually originally cast as the Scarecrow while Ray Bolger was cast as the Tin Man. Bolger very much wanted the Scarecrow part and campaigned to producers to make the switch. Producers finally agreed, and so did Ebsen. Obviously Ray Bolger went on to great success as the Scarecrow, and Ebsen just went to the hospital.
8 Myth – The Horse of a Different Color Was Covered in Jell-O
It has long been said that the Horse of a Different Color that pulls Dorothy and company in a carriage in the Emerald City was covered in Jell-O to achieve the color changing effect on film.
It’s also said that the horse found the Jell-O coating delicious and kept licking it off. While a great story, this is also untrue. Vegetable dye was used on the horse instead.
7 Fact – The Wicked Witch’s Makeup was Toxic
Makeup did not have a great reputation on the set of The Wizard of Oz. While Margaret Hamilton, the actor who played the Wicked Witch of the West, was not hospitalized or unable to make the film, her green makeup, like the original silver makeup for the Tin Man, was poisonous. While the original Tin Man makeup had aluminum dust in it, the Wicked Witch’s included copper which, if ingested, could be fatal. This meant that Hamilton was not able to eat while in makeup/costume on set.
6 Myth – L. Frank Baum Named Oz After His Filing Cabinet
Later in his life author, L. Frank Baum claimed that he came up with the name for the magical land of Oz by stealing the letters of the lowest drawer of his filing cabinets. The myth has persisted because, let’s be real, that’s a pretty good story. However, both Baum’s wife and children have said the story is pure fantasy, like the author’s books. We may never know for sure, but for now, it seems unlikely that the story was in fact true.
5 Fact – Someone Did Actually Step On Poor Toto
The rumors might say that the film set was cursed but despite many injuries while filming, luckily, no one was seriously hurt. However, poor Toto did have an unfortunate run-in with one of the Wicked Witch of the West’s soldiers during a particularly active scene. While diving, the actor accidentally landed on the tiny Cairn terrier, resulting in the pup spraining her (yes, Toto was actually female!) foot. A dog stunt double was brought in although Terry – as was her name – was able to resume being Kansas’ favorite pup a few weeks later.
4 Myth – The Actors Portraying The Munchkins Harassed Judy Garland
There are some pretty heinous stories that have revolved around certain members of The Wizard of Oz cast, however, this is one factoid that has not been proven. Supposedly, the actors who portrayed the munchkins would go out partying in Culver City before coming back and harassing Judy Garland. While it’s true that the actors would often visit Culver City when they were off the clock since it was close to their hotel, anything else is simply hearsay, according to Time.
3 Fact – Dorothy’s Shoes Were Originally Silver Until Technicolor
The most iconic part of the movie was undeniably Dorothy’s bright, apple-red heels that glimmered perfectly under the stage lights. However, the famed ruby slippers were not originally anything close to that bold of shade. In the books by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy’s magic shoes were actually made of silver.
It wasn’t until the 1939 film was in production that the screenwriter, Noel Langley, decided that bright red was the way to go due to the fact that it would show up against the yellow of the brick road. Thanks to Technicolor, the change was able to be done and allowed for one of the most enchanting and colorful scenes of any movie at that time.
2 Myth – The 1939 Film Was The First Movie Adaptation Of The Story
While it did become immortalized in Hollywood history, the 1939 adaptation was not the first to portray the book series with actors. The first adaptation was actually done in 1910 with a silent film that was only 13 minutes long. It was called The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and it’s far rougher around the edges (albeit creepy, as well), and doesn’t follow the book series nearly as well as the 1939 film adaptation. Interestingly enough, another silent film adaptation came out in 1925 with the same name as the beloved 1939 film but also varied greatly from the books.
1 Fact – Frank Morgan (Professor Marvel) Actually Played Five Different Roles
It’s not uncommon to admire actors for their ability to portray multiple characters across a wide array of origins. But in the case of The Wizard of Oz, Frank Morgan, who played Professor Marvel, actually portrayed five characters – all in the same film. Many caught on by the second time they watched the film but for those who didn’t, keep an eye out for these characters: the Wizard of Oz, the Emerald City doorman, the cabbie during the horse-of-a-different-color scene, and the hysterical Wizard’s Guard.