When the wardrobe department was looking for a coat for Frank Morgan (Prof. Marvel / The Wizard), it decided it wanted one that looked like it had once been elegant but had since "gone to seed." They visited a second-hand store and purchased an entire rack of coats, from which Morgan, the head of the wardrobe department and director Victor Fleming chose one they felt gave off the perfect appearance of "shabby gentility." One day, while he was on set in the coat, Morgan idly turned out one of the pockets and discovered a label indicating that the coat had been made for L. Frank Baum. Mary Mayer, a unit publicist for the film, contacted the tailor and Baum's widow, who both verified that the coat had at one time been owned by the author of the original "Wizard of Oz" books. After the filming was completed, the coat was presented to Mrs. Baum.
Margaret Hamilton, a lifelong fan of the "Oz" books, was ecstatic when she learned the producers were considering her for a part in the film. When she phoned her agent to find out what role she was up for, her agent simply replied, "The witch, who else?"
Many of The Wicked Witch of the West's scenes were either trimmed or deleted entirely, as Margaret Hamilton's performance was thought to be too frightening for audiences.
The Munchkins are portrayed by The Singer Midgets, named not for their musical abilities but for Leo Singer, their manager. The troupe came from Europe, many of them were Jewish and a number of them took advantage of the trip to stay in the US in order to escape the Nazis. Professional singers dubbed most of their voices, as many of the Midgets couldn't speak English and/or sing well. Only two are heard speaking with their real-life voices--the ones who give Dorothy flowers after she has climbed into the carriage.
A reference to something in the book not included in the script can be seen in the movie. It is the kiss Glinda gives Dorothy on the forehead that protects her from the Wicked Witch, as none dare harm someone who bears the kiss of the Good Witch.
Judy Garland had to wear a painful corset-style device around her torso so that she would appear younger and flat-chested, as she was 16 years old at the time of filming, playing the role of a pre-adolescent child.
The famous "Surrender Dorothy" sky writing scene was done using a tank of water and a tiny model witch attached to the end of a long hypodermic needle. The syringe was filled with milk, the tip of the needle was put into the tank and the words were written in reverse while being filmed from below. There was an added phrase to "Surrender Dorothy" which was "...or Die!" It was cut before the movie premiered.
"Over the Rainbow" was nearly cut from the film; MGM felt that it made the Kansas sequence too long, as well as being too far over the heads of the children for whom it was intended. The studio also thought that it was degrading for Judy Garland to sing in a barnyard. A reprise of the song was cut: Dorothy sang it to remember Kansas while imprisoned in the Witch's castle. Garland began to cry, along with the crew, because the song was so sad.
A recent study claimed that this is the most watched movie in film history, largely due to the number of television screenings each year as well as the various video/DVD/Blu-ray/4K releases, which have enabled children of every and all generations to see it.
When the Witch tries to get off the ruby slippers, fire strikes her hands. This "fire" was actually dark apple juice spewing out of the shoes. The film was sped up to make it look like fire.
The Scarecrow face makeup that Ray Bolger wore consisted, in part, of a rubber prosthetic with a woven pattern to suggest burlap cloth. By the time the film was finished the prosthetic had left a pattern of lines on his face that took more than a year to vanish.
The horses in Emerald City palace were colored with Jell-O crystals. The relevant scenes had to be shot quickly, before the horses started to lick it off.
Dorothy's iconic red slippers now live at the Smithsonian Institution, and are so popular that the carpet in front of the attraction has had to be replaced numerous times due to wear and tear.
Terry (Toto) was stepped on by one of the witch's guards, and had a double for two weeks. A second double was obtained, because it resembled Toto more closely. Judy Garland very much wanted to adopt Terry after the two spent so much time together shooting the film. Unfortunately, the owner of the dog wouldn't give her up, and Terry went on to a long career in films. She died in 1945 and was buried in her trainer's yard.
The song "Over the Rainbow" was ranked #1 by the American Film Institute in 2004 on the 100 Greatest Songs in American Films list.
The only location footage in the entire film are the clouds over the opening titles.
In 1898 Dorothy Louise Gage was born to the brother and sister-in-law of Maud Gage Baum, wife of author L. Frank Baum. When little Dorothy died exactly five months later Maud was heartbroken. Baum was just finishing "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and, to comfort his wife, named his heroine after Dorothy, changing her last name to Gale in his second book. Dorothy Gage was buried in Evergreen Memorial Cemetery in Bloomington, IL, where her grave was forgotten until 1996 when it was rediscovered. When Mickey Carroll, one of the last existing Munchkins from the movie, learned of the discovery, he was eager to replace her deteriorated grave marker with a new one created by his own monument company. The new stone was dedicated in 1997 and the children's section of the cemetery renamed the Dorothy L. Gage Memorial Garden, in the hope that bereaved families would be comforted in thinking of their lost children as being with Dorothy from "The Wizard of Oz."
In the famous "Poppy Field" scene (in which Dorothy fell asleep) the "snow" used in those camera shots was made from 100% industrial-grade chrysotile asbestos--despite the fact that the health hazards of asbestos had been known for several years.
The "tornado" was a 35-foot-long muslin stocking, spun around among miniatures of a Kansas farm and fields in a dusty atmosphere.
Judy Garland found it difficult to be afraid of Margaret Hamilton, because she was such a nice lady off-camera.
While filming the scene in which Dorothy slaps the Cowardly Lion, Judy Garland got the giggles so badly that they had to take a break in shooting. The director, Victor Fleming, took her aside, gave her a quick lecture, and then slapped her. She returned to the set and filmed the scene in one take. Fleming was afraid that this would damage his relationship with Garland and even told a co-worker he wished that someone would hit him because of how bad he felt, but Garland overheard the conversation and gave him a kiss on the nose to show that she bore no hard feelings. In the film she can still be seen to be stifling a smile between the lines "well, of course not" and "my, what a fuss you're making." (This is at the very mid-point of the movie, 0:50:53.)
In the song "If I Only Had a Heart," the girl who says "wherefore art thou, Romeo?" is Adriana Caselotti, the voice of Snow White in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). She was also paid $1000 for her only line in the film.
According to lead Munchkin Jerry Maren, the "little people" on the set were paid $50 per week for a six-day work week, while Toto received $125 per week.
The movie's line "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain." was voted as the #24 of "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007. "There's no place like home." was voted #11 in the same. "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." was 62. The latter is frequently misquoted as, "We're not in Kansas anymore, Toto."
When filming first started, Judy Garland wore a blonde wig and heavy, "baby-doll" makeup. When George Cukor assumed the role of intermediate director (after MGM fired original director Richard Thorpe and before it found a replacement), he got rid of the wig and most of the makeup and told her to just be herself.
Bert Lahr's costume weighed 90 pounds. It was made from a real lion skin and was very hot. The arc lights used to light the set often raised the temperature on the set to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Lahr used to sweat so profusely that the costume would be soaked by the end of the day. There were two people whose only job was to spend the night drying the costume for the next day. The costume was dry cleaned occasionally but usually, in the words of one of the crew members, "it reeked."
Over 35 years after the release of this film, Margaret Hamilton revealed her approach to the character of the Wicked Witch in an interview with Fred Rogers for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood (1968). Hamilton saw the Witch as a person who relished everything she did, but who ultimately was a sad, lonely figure - a woman who lived in constant frustration, as she never got what she wanted (this is, in fact, the basis of the novel and musical "Wicked," in which the Wicked Witch of the West is portrayed as an unfortunate protagonist). In the same interview, Hamilton also famously donned the original Witch costume to explain that the witches were only make-believe, and that children shouldn't be afraid of them.
Ray Bolger was originally cast as the Tin Man. However, he insisted that he would rather play the Scarecrow--his childhood idol Fred Stone had originated that role on stage in 1902. Buddy Ebsen had been cast as the Scarecrow, and now switched roles with Bolger. Unbeknownst to him, however, the make-up for the Tin Man contained aluminum dust, which ended up coating Ebsen's lungs. He also had an allergic reaction to it. One day he was physically unable to breathe and had to be rushed to hospital. The part was immediately recast and MGM gave no public reason why Ebsen was being replaced. The actor considered this the biggest humiliation he ever endured and a personal affront. When Jack Haley took over the part of the Tin Man, he wasn't told why Ebsen had dropped out (and in the meantime, the Tin Man make-up was changed from aluminum dust to aluminum paste as one of its key components). However, his vocals remain whenever the song "We're off to see the Wizard" is played. Jack Haley's vocals were never used during the song, but were used for "If I Only Had a Heart" and "If I Only Had the Nerve." Ebsen's vocals are also heard in the extended version of "If I were King of the Forest," though the spoken segment has Jack Haley. Although Ebsen didn't appear in the film, surviving still photos show him taking part in the Wicked Witch's castle sequence, and his voice is the one heard in the song "We're Off to See the Wizard."
Contrary to popular belief, the film was anything but a box-office failure on its initial release. Although it did modestly well in the US, returns during the initial 1939-40 release in Great Britain, Scandinavia, Mexico, Brazil and Australia were exceptional.
To compensate for the extreme make-up demands on this film, MGM recruited extra help from the studio mail room and courier service. As most of the Oz extras required prosthetic devices (false ears, noses, etc.), and since application of prosthetics requires extensive training, the recruited make-up artists were each instructed in one area of prosthetic application and then formed an assembly line. Each extra would then move from one station to another to complete make-up application each morning.
In the first take of the scene when the Wicked Witch of the West leaves Munchkinland, the smoke that was supposed to go up around her came early and started forming before she stepped on the platform she was supposed to be on. On the second take, part of Margaret Hamilton's cape became caught in the platform when the burst of fire appeared. Her make-up heated up, causing second- and third-degree burns on her hands and face, and it was later discovered that one of the key components in her make-up was copper. The producers used the first take. You'll notice the early appearance of the red smoke.
L. Frank Baum's novel is considerably more gruesome than MGM's rendition. For example, "Kalidahs" (tiger-bear hybrids) are dashed to pieces in a crevasse, the Tin Man uses his axe to chop off the heads of a wildcat and forty wolves, bumblebees sting themselves to death against the Scarecrow, and the Wizard orders the four to actually kill the Wicked Witch of the West, not simply to retrieve her broomstick.
In the book "The Making of the Wizard of Oz" the author mentions that following the accident in which Margaret Hamilton was burned they had to remove the green makeup from the burned area. To do so they used the strong solvent acetone which, when rubbed on the burned areas, caused agonizing pain.
Jerry Maren, the green-shirted member of the Lollipop Guild, became the center of a cult of celebrity based on this film. Although his career spanned over 70 years, no film gained him recognition like his one brief scene in the film. With the death of Ruth Duccini on January 16, 2014, he was the only surviving actor to have played a Munchkin until his death, on May 24, 2018.
Judy Garland would later refer to the pint-sized Oscar Juvenile Award she won at 1939's Academy Awards as the Munchkin Award.
There was an extra scene back in Kansas at the end of the film which got cut. In it, Hunk (the "real-life" counterpart to the Scarecrow) was going away to agricultural college and Dorothy was promising to write to him. It basically indicated that the slight romantic vibe some viewers picked up between Dorothy and the Scarecrow had a factual basis.
At the end of the sequence in which Dorothy and the Scarecrow first meet the Tin Man, as the three march off singing "We're Off to See the Wizard," there is a disturbance in the trees off to the right. This was long rumored to be one of the crew (or, by some accounts, one of the Munchkin actors) committing suicide by hanging himself. In fact it is the silhouette of a stork stretching its wings, as several large birds had been allowed to wander the background to lend the appearance of mysterious creatures lurking in the woods (a close look reveals the bird's black-tipped white wing as the bird reacts to the actors passing close by). The conspiracy was disturbing enough for Warner Bros to edit the footage, and in all official, remastered version releases since 1998, the "Hanging Munchkin" is gone and the stork has been digitally colored bright pink so that it cannot be mistaken for anything else. However, further confusion grew in the 2000s, when an unknown person released a short clip of "original, enhanced footage" in which the stork had been entirely erased and a clearer image of a hanging human form edited in its place. The urban legend of the "Hanging Munchkin," while false, persists.
Some see L. Frank Baum's story containing political and social satire. The little girl from the Midwest (typical American) meets up with a brainless scarecrow (farmers), a tin man with no heart (industry), a cowardly lion (politicians, in particular William Jennings Bryan) and a flashy but ultimately powerless wizard (technology). Although the little people keep telling her to follow the yellow brick road (gold standard), in the end it's her silver (in the original story) slippers (silver standard) that help her get back to the good old days.
In 1939 Montreal, Canada, lifted its law restricting minors under 16 from admission to theaters, presumably without an accompanying adult. This was done exclusively for this film and apparently sent a rush of children to theaters, according to a 1939 issue of "Variety". Earlier that year, Disney had unsuccessfully attempted to have the ban lifted for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937).
Richard Thorpe, the film's original director, had shot around two weeks of footage before he was fired. Among the scenes he shot were Dorothy's meeting of the Scarecrow on the Yellow Brick Road along with his song and dance, as well as all the scenes involving the Wicked Witch's castle. Thorpe's footage had a remarkably different look from what was seen in the finished film. Most striking was the look of Judy Garland's Dorothy, who in Thorpe's footage had a blonde tousled hairstyle with baby doll make-up. Ray Bolger's Scarecrow also had different make-up, as well as trousers. Margaret Hamilton had different make-up as the Wicked Witch of the West. In addition, Buddy Ebsen was playing the Tin Man. In Thorpe's footage the Yellow Brick Road also had a different look, as it was not curbed and made up of artificial-looking oval bricks, instead of the curbed real rectangular ones in the finished film. Thorpe's footage has not been seen since it was shot in 1938 but surviving home movies, taken by composer Harold Arlen, shows a few shots of a blonde Garland and Bolger rehearsing their Scarecrow meeting scene, giving the viewer a glimpse of what Thorpe's Oz would have looked like.
During the haunted forest scene, several actors playing the Winged Monkeys were injured when the piano wires suspending them snapped, dropping them several feet to the floor of the sound stage.
Walt Disney was the unwitting impetus behind the film getting started. MGM chief Louis B. Mayer was determined to come up with something that would equal the success of Disney's runaway smash Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), which had become the most successful film of all time in a matter of months. Walt originally wanted to make "The Wizard Of Oz" after "Snow White," but MGM owned the rights to the book. Disney would later go on to make the semi-sequel Return to Oz (1985), the somewhat farcical The Muppets' Wizard of Oz (2005) and Oz the Great and Powerful (2013).
The Wicked Witch that Miss Gulch transformed into while Dorothy looks out her bedroom window during the tornado has shimmering shoes as if she is wearing the Ruby Slippers. This suggests that she is the Wicked Witch of the East. Margaret Hamilton has never been credited for playing this role, since it is only a few seconds long. This shimmer from her shoes is even more noticeable when watching a better-quality copy of the film, such as the 1989 50th anniversary laserdisc version or the 1999 60th anniversary Warner Bros. DVD restored version.
Margaret Hamilton, a single mother, got into an argument with the studio over guaranteed time to work, only agreeing to take the role of the Wicked Witch three days before filming. Ironically, although she finally got an agreement for five weeks of work, she ended up working on the film for three months.
Nikko, the name of the head winged monkey, is the name of the Japanese town which houses the shrine featuring the famous Hear No Evil/See No Evil/Speak No Evil monkeys.
The color of the yellow brick road first showed up as green in early Technicolor tests. It was adjusted so that it would read properly as yellow in the early three-strip Technicolor process, which in 1938-39 was still in its experimental stage.
Throughout the rest of his career, Jack Haley denounced the idea that the making of this film was enjoyable: "People question me, like you're questioning me now, say 'Must've been fun making "The Wizard of Oz".' It was not fun. Like hell it was fun. It was a lot of hard work. It was not fun at all."
Rick Polito of the "Marin Independent Journal" in Northern California is locally famous for his droll, single-sentence summations of television programs and movies which the newspaper reports will be broadcast. For this film he wrote, "Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl kills the first person she meets and then teams up with three strangers to kill again."
Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr and Jack Haley had to eat their meals in their dressing rooms, as the make-up they wore frightened the other diners in the MGM cafeteria. Bolger commented in an interview on the reactions that other MGM actors had upon seeing these "weird-looking characters" in the cafeteria.
Jack Haley did not use his normal speaking voice when playing the Tin Man, only when playing Hickory, one of the farm hands in Kansas. His normal speaking voice contained none of the almost falsetto-like quality that the Tin Man's did. This was Haley's own idea, and he himself said that this was the tone of voice that he used when relating bedtime stories to his then-small son, Jack Haley Jr..
The film started shooting on 13 October 1938 and was completed on 16 March 1939 at a then-unheard-of cost of $2,777,000 (approx. $48 million in 2016 dollars, adjusted for inflation). It earned only $3,000,000 ($51.8 million in 2016) on its initial release.
Judy Garland's portrayal of Dorothy was the main inspiration for the character of Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island (1964).
The film's running time was originally 120 minutes. Producer Mervyn LeRoy realized that at least 20 minutes needed to be deleted to get it down to a manageable running time. Three sneak previews aided in his decision of what to cut. The original film in its entirety was only seen once by an audience in either San Bernardino or Santa Barbara, and it was the only time the famed Jitterbug number was seen by the public. After this preview LeRoy cut the aforementioned Jitterbug number and the Scarecrow's extended dance sequence to "If I Only Had a Brain." A second preview was held in Pomona, where the film ran 112 minutes. After the preview LeRoy cut Dorothy's "Over The Rainbow" reprise, a scene in which the Tin Man turned into a human beehive, and the Emerald City reprise of "Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead," as well as a few smaller scenes and dialog, notably two Kansas scenes in which the Hickory character was building a machine to ward off tornadoes, as well as dozens of threatening lines by the Wicked Witch of the West. By the third preview, held in San Luis Obispo, the film finally was down to its 101-minute running time, where it has remained ever since.
Margaret Hamilton said that whenever she saw the scene in which Frank Morgan as the Wizard is giving Dorothy's friends gifts from his "black bag" (a diploma for the Scarecrow, a ticking heart for the Tin Man and a medal for the Cowardly Lion), she got teary-eyed, because "Frank Morgan was just like that in real life--very generous."
Judy Garland's feet hurt so much in the ruby slippers that she could only wear them for shots when they would be on camera. A brief glimpse of Judy Garland wearing her rehearsal soft shoes is visible briefly in the scene where the Tin Man is dancing and then falls backwards.
There are many alleged lyrics to the "Winkie Chant" performed by the Witch's guards, including "All we own, we owe her," "Oh we love the old one." and "Oh we loathe the old one." In the surviving scripts of the movie, it only says: "ELS [Extra Long Shot] - The Witch's Winkies marching about in the Castle Courtyard --" The book makes no mention of a chant.
There are a striking number of coincidences between events in the movie and musical cues (and lyrics) on the 1973 Pink Floyd album, "Dark Side of the Moon." It is highly improbable that the band had a print of the movie with them at Abbey Road, and few attempt to claim it to have been deliberate (David Gilmour dismisses it as nonsense), but the coincidences are remarkable nonetheless. If you begin the album on the third roar of the MGM lion (using the NTSC version of the movie, not the 25 fps PAL version, which runs a little over 4% faster) the coincidences include (but are not limited to): The line "balanced on the biggest wave" comes as Dorothy balances on the fence. The song "On the Run" starts as Dorothy falls off the fence. "The Great Gig in the Sky" begins when the tornado first appears. The song "Us and Them" is played when Dorothy meets the Wicked Witch of the West. The line "black and blue" is repeated when they are talking to one another (Dorothy in her blue outfit, the Wicked Witch in black). The line "the lunatic is on the grass..." coincides with Dorothy meeting the Scarecrow. When we first see Miss Gulch on her bicycle, the song "Time" starts with its bells and alarms. Dorothy asks Professor Marvel what else he sees in his crystal ball as the line "thought I'd something more to say" comes along in the song "Time." As the Scarecrow sings "If I Only Had a Brain," Pink Floyd sings "Brain Damage." Side 1 of the original vinyl album (up to the end of "The Great Gig in the Sky") is exactly as long as the black-and-white portion of the film. As Dorothy listens to the Tin Man's chest, the album ends with the famous heartbeat sound effect. This phenomenon is known as "Dark Side of the Rainbow," "Dark Side of Oz," and "The Wizard of Floyd."
The Tin Woodsman costume worn by Jack Haley was reportedly so stiff that he had to lean against a board to rest. Thirty-eight years later Anthony Daniels (who played C-3PO in the "Star Wars" movie series) had the same problem with his costume.
MGM paid $75,000 for the film rights to L. Frank Baum's book, a towering sum at the time.
The gray circle and zig-zag pattern interrupting the yellow brick road outside the main entrance of Emerald City spell out OZ.
The shot of Dorothy's house falling from the sky was achieved by filming a miniature house being dropped onto a sky painting on the stage floor, then reversing the film to make the house appear to fall towards the camera.
Frank Morgan was a heavy drinker and often would hide liquor discreetly in his dressing room. Despite his drinking habits, he remained friendly and professional throughout his career. One of the few times he was ever noticeably drunk was the Oz guardhouse sequence, where, it was said, he would have fallen over if not for the guardhouse. He attracted attention when he began singing a ribald song. This sort of behavior was atypical, though, for the usually affable actor.
The Scarecrow can be seen briefly holding a pistol in the scene in the Enchanted Forest when they are searching for the witch.
The original concept for the Wicked Witch of the West was to have her resemble a strikingly beautiful woman much in the same way the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) was conceived. Producer Mervyn LeRoy originally cast MGM beauty Gale Sondergaard in the role as a sleek, sexy Wicked Witch of the West. However, the presence of a sexy Wicked Witch left a large plot hole within the script, for it played against the idea that bad witches were ugly. Convinced that the point was important, LeRoy retested Sondergaard as an ugly witch. Looking hideous in the make-up, she immediately declined the role and was replaced with Margaret Hamilton.
Forty-four million people tuned into its first television broadcast on November 3, 1956.
MGM had originally planned to incorporate a "stencil printing" process when Dorothy runs to open the farmhouse door before the film switches to Technicolor; each frame was to be hand-tinted to keep the inside of the door in sepia tone. This process--cumbersome, expensive and ineffective--was abandoned in favor of a simpler and more clever alternative (a variation of this process was used, however, in 1939 release prints of The Women (1939)). The inside of the farmhouse was painted sepia, and the Dorothy who opens the door from the inside is not Judy Garland but her stand-in wearing a sepia-rinsed version of the famous gingham dress. Once the door is opened and the camera advances through it, Garland (wearing her bright blue dress) walks through the door and the audience is none the wiser. This effect does not work on older video/TV prints where the Kansas scenes appear in true black and white, as the changeover to color is all too apparent. With the Kansas scenes returned to their original sepia tints, however, they closely match the magical opening door and the effect is powerful.
A small sign to the left of the door of Professor Marvel's wagon lists "Exhibition Balloonist" as one of his talents.
The name for Oz was thought up when its writer, L. Frank Baum, looked at his filing cabinet and saw A-N and O-Z, hence OZ.There is also another much simpler explanation for the name Oz: the Ozark Plains in Kansas, Dorothy Gale's home state.
The Cowardly Lion's facial makeup included a brown paper bag. Bert Lahr couldn't eat without ruining his makeup. Tired of eating soup and milkshakes, he decided to eat lunch and have his makeup redone.
When Dorothy and her friends are in the Haunted Forest, the Lion has a spray pump with "Witch Remover" printed on it. In the next shot, it's gone. The reason is because there is a deleted scene in which the lion says that "the Witch Remover doesn't work but it's wonderful for threatening with." Disgusted, the Scarecrow takes the spray pump and throws it away. There is a close shot in which the spray pump hits the ground and vanishes.
The Wicked Witch's crystal ball was previously used as a prop in The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932) and Chandu the Magician (1932). The 25-inch-diameter ball sold at auction for $126,500 in May of 2011.
A minor hiccup occurred while filming the scenes in The Tin Man's forest. After three days of footage had been shot, it was realized that The Tin Man's costume was in the shiny pristine condition it was for the post-"Wash and Brush Up Company" scenes (which had already been filmed), rather than in a state of rust and disrepair. The costume was sent back for appropriate "rusting" and the scenes were reshot.
Judy Garland's daughter, Liza Minnelli, was married to Jack Haley's son, Jack Haley Jr., from 1974-79.
If you look closely, the door the Scarecrow, Tin Woodman and Cowardly Lion rescue Dorothy through isn't the same as the one Dorothy enters the Hourglass Room through. This is due to the deletion of an entire scene in which the room the heroes enter (following the sound of someone humming "Somewhere Over The Rainbow") holds not Dorothy but the Wicked Witch of the West! She paralyzes the heroes, then creates a false Rainbow Bridge from that room to Dorothy's. She sends a Winkie out to test it . . . he falls through the center of the bridge. She then magically compels our three heroes to call out to Dorothy, who runs onto the bridge . . . and is carried across by the magic slippers! Our friends are reunited, and (released from the witch's spell by love/the slippers, whichever) run out of the room, with the witch screaming, "Stop them!" behind them. The scene was cut both for technical reasons--they couldn't pull off a good Rainbow Bridge--and because seeing a Winkie falling to his presumed death was considered too likely to incur the wrath of the Hays Office, the industry's official censors.
None of the Kansas scenes (or the tornado scene) were shown in the original trailer, or in any of the re-release trailers through 1955, in order to give the impression that the whole film was in full Technicolor. This meant that one never saw or heard Judy Garland singing "Over the Rainbow" in one of these trailers. It was not until the 1998 re-release, after millions had already seen the film on television, that clips of the Kansas scenes were shown in a trailer for the film.
In the earlier drafts of the script, the writers often created new incidents to liven up the story. The original idea was to turn the story into a slapstick musical comedy, so there were a few deviations from what was written in the book. Some of the earlier scripts included a son for the Wicked Witch of the West whom she wanted to put on the throne of Oz, a stuck-up niece for Miss Gulch, a rescue from the Wizard's balloon by the Munchkin fire department, a singing princess and her cowardly suitor who gets transformed into a lion, a rainbow bridge that the witch constructs as a trap for Dorothy, and a romance between Dorothy and one of the farmhands. When the script got too bogged down, however, writers Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf would turn to L. Frank Baum's book for inspiration, and the result was closer to the whimsical fantasy Baum had written.
The movie's line "I'll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!" was voted as the #99 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100). "Toto, I've got a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore" was #4. "There's no place like home." was #23.
The title role was written with W.C. Fields in mind. Producer Mervyn LeRoy wanted Ed Wynn, who turned down the role. MGM executive Arthur Freed wanted Fields, and offered him $75,000. Fields supposedly wanted $100,000. According to a letter from Fields' agent (which he claimed was written by Fields), Fields turned down the role to devote his time to writing the script for You Can't Cheat an Honest Man (1939). Since the role was perceived as being too small, additional roles were written for the actor in hopes of balancing the screen time for the actor playing the Wizard with that of the rest of the cast. Thus Frank Morgan plays the roles of the Wizard, Professor Marvel, the Gatekeeper, the cab driver with the "horse of a different color" who performs a musical number and the Wizard's Guard. It is also possible that Morgan was made up for the spooky projected image of the Wizard's face transposed on the billowing steam in his Throne Room.
The movie garnered two more achievements when it was reissued in 1949 (first in a limited release in April, then expanded to a wide release in June). The picture made more money on this release than on its original one, and reassessments by film critics were near-universally adoring. Enthused TIME magazine in its May 9, 1949 edition: "The whimsical gaiety, the lighthearted song and dance, the lavish Hollywood sets and costumes are as fresh and beguiling today as they were ten years ago when the picture was first released. Oldsters over ten who have seen it once will want to see it again. Youngsters not old enough to be frightened out of their wits by the Wicked Witch (Margaret Hamilton) will have the thrill of some first-rate make-believe ('We're off to see the Wizard, the Wonderful Wizard of Oz...')."
The Wicked Witch of the West is named Elphaba in Gregory Maguire's 1995 novel "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," which tells much of the story and back-story from "The Wizard of Oz" from the Witch's perspective and portrays her as a sympathetic victim of circumstances. The name "Elphaba" was derived from "Oz" writer L. Frank Baum's initials, L-F-B.
Although Judy Garland was always the favorite to play Dorothy, there were many other actresses also considered to play her. One story is that MGM made a deal to borrow Shirley Temple from 20th Century-Fox for the role and, in exchange, Clark Gable and Jean Harlow, would be loaned to Fox for In Old Chicago (1938). The deal, however, was voided by Harlow's untimely death. This story is apocryphal, as Harlow died on June 7, 1937, and MGM did not purchase the right's to "Oz" until February 18, 1938. Futhermore, Temple's vocal talents were deemed by producers Mervyn LeRoy and Arthur Freed to be inadequate for the scope of the role. Deanna Durbin, the operatic rival to Garland, was also a consideration, as was Bonita Granville.
The much quoted line "Fly, my pretties, fly" doesn't actually appear in the movie. The Wicked Witch of the West actually says, "Fly, Fly, Fly."
The carriage pulled by the horse of a different color was once owned by none other than Abraham Lincoln. A group of businessmen gave it to him as a gift during the Civil War. At the time of the filming, the filmmakers did not know it was once owned by the president. It now resides at the Judy Garland Museum and houses many different artifacts from the movie, including one of Dorothy's dresses. In 2005, the Red Ruby Slippers that Dorothy wore were stolen from the museum and finally found by the FBI in September 2018. The museum is located in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Judy Garland' s place of birth. The house she grew up in also sits on the museum site.
It took upwards of 12 takes to have Toto run alongside the actors as they skipped down the yellow brick road.
Ultimately it took 14 writers and five directors to bring L. Frank Baum's story to the screen.
The paint that was finally used on the bricks for the "Yellow Brick Road" was standard industrial yellow paint bought from a hardware store several blocks away from the studio.
The woods where the Tin Man is first discovered is inhabited by a number of exotic birds. Look for a small toucan in the tree (where the Witch is hiding) at the opening of this scene; and at least one (perhaps more) large, crane-like birds in the background of where the Tin Man stands for most of the scene.
The Munchkins were awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in November, 2007. Seven of them attended the ceremony: Mickey Carroll, Ruth Duccini, Margaret Pellegrini, Meinhardt Raabe, Karl 'Karchy' Kosiczky and August Clarence Swenson.
One significant innovation planned for the film was the use of stencil printing for the transition to Technicolor. Each frame was to be hand-tinted to maintain the sepia tone; however, because this was too expensive and labor-intensive, it was abandoned and MGM used a simpler and less expensive variation of the process. During the re-shoots in May, the inside of the farm house was painted sepia, and when Dorothy opens the door, it is not Judy Garland but her stand-in, Bobbie Koshay, wearing a sepia gingham dress, who then backs out of frame; once the camera moves through the door, Garland steps back into frame in her bright blue gingham dress (as noted in DVD extras), and the sepia-painted door briefly tints her with the same color before she emerges from the house's shadow, into the bright glare of the Technicolor lighting. This also meant that the re-shoots provided the first proper shot of Munchkinland; if one looks carefully, the brief cut to Dorothy looking around outside the house bisects a single long shot, from the inside of the doorway to the pan-around that finally ends in a reverse-angle as the ruins of the house are seen behind Dorothy as she comes to a stop at the foot of the small bridge.
When Aunt Em tells Hickory that "she saw him tinkering with that contraption" (after Dorothy falls in the pigpen), she's referring to a wind machine that Hickory is trying to invent, which is focused on in a deleted scene. This machine, consisting of a boiler, funnel, wires, tubes, etc., is intended to break up winds in order to prevent tornadoes.
The digitally restored and converted 3D version of this film, which was first released in 2013 to celebrate the film's 75th Anniversary--which actually was in 2014--is, as of September 2013, according to publicity for the picture the oldest film ever to be converted to 3D.
Multiple styles of ruby slippers were tested by the MGM wardrobe department before it settled on the low schoolgirl-style pumps with bows. One proposed style had curled-up toes, known as "Arabian" slippers (created by designer Adrian), which now belong to Debbie Reynolds. Another proposed style, the "Bugle Bead" shoes, are without bows and have yet to publicly surface. An entire book was published with trivia and history of the numerous test styles: "The Ruby Slippers of Oz" by Rhys Thomas (Tale Weaver Publishers, 1989). Thomas speculates that there were seven pairs, and the whereabouts of five are known. Each has an estimated value of $1.5 million, making them the most expensive Hollywood memorabilia. They have been dubbed by some as "The Holy Grail" of all Hollywood nostalgia. One pair was sold to Hollywood memorabilia collector David Elkouby for $666,000 in a May 2000 auction. The pair in the Smithsonian are mismatched.
Dorothy, The Scarecrow and The Tin Man meet The Cowardly Lion and Dorothy hits him on the nose for chasing Toto, making him cry. Judy Garland breaks character and laughs at Bert Lahr, covering her laughter into Toto's nose. (This is at the exact midpoint of the movie, 0:50:53.) She recovers quickly and goes on with the scene.
On March 18, 2010, on Celebrity Jeopardy (Jeopardy! (1984)), the contestants were Cheech Marin, Aisha Tyler, and Anderson Cooper. The final category was Authors, and the clue was: In 1890, he witnessed a mild cyclone in Aberdeen, South Dakota, fodder for his most famous novel. The answer was L. Frank Baum (which none of the contestants got right.) While revealing the answer, Alex Trebek also revealed that that film had been "filmed right in this studio lot."
The film had five different directors. Richard Thorpe shot several weeks of material, none of which appears in the final film. The studio found his work unsatisfactory and appointed George Cukor temporarily. Cukor did not actually film any scenes; he merely modified Judy Garland's and Ray Bolger's makeup. Victor Fleming took over from him and filmed the bulk of the movie, until he was assigned to Gone with the Wind (1939). King Vidor filmed the remaining sequences, mainly the black and white parts of the film set in Kansas (the storm and "Over the Rainbow"). Producer Mervyn LeRoy also directed some transitional scenes.
Writer Salman Rushdie acknowledged "The 'Wizard of Oz' was my very first literary influence" in his 2002 musings about the film. He has written: "When I first saw 'The Wizard of Oz' it made a writer of me." His first short story, written at the age of ten, was titled "Over the Rainbow".
Judy Garland could only do 4 hours on set as she was at school at the time and did 3 hours being educated when she was not playing Dorothy.
The House of Winston made a pair of real ruby slippers to celebrate the film's 50th anniversary in 1989. These are valued at $3 million.
The gown that Glinda the Good Witch wears was originally worn by Jeanette MacDonald in San Francisco (1936).
Frank Morgan posed for a test for The Wizard, made up to look as the Wizard looked in the book; this makeup was discarded and the final look was only reached after at least five more tries. The Wicked Witch has two eyes in the movie and only one eye in the book. In fact, Dorothy and her friends are the only characters who look like the ones in the book, because of changes having to do with the Hays Office.
A scene was filmed in which the Tin Man was turned into a "human beehive" by the Wicked Witch; after he crushes a bee, the Tin Man cries and rusts his jaw shut, then has to be oiled by Dorothy to get his jaw working again. This scene was cut and so the scene of Dorothy and her companions that comes after where the "beehive" scene had to be flipped to match their continuity in the earlier scene, causing them to appear blurred slightly.
The "steam" that shoots out of the Tin Woodsman's hat is actually talcum powder. This is obvious since it falls rather than just disappearing.
Besides "The Jitterbug" being completely cut, other songs were trimmed. "Lions and tigers and bears (oh my!)" was a song rather than just a chant. The lion's "If I Only Had the Nerve" was longer, and the Scarecrow had a long dance sequence in "If I Only Had a Brain."
The ruby slippers were silver (like in the book) until MGM chief Louis B. Mayer realized that the Technicolor production would benefit from the slippers being colored.
The first (and for several years the only) MGM film to be televised on an entire network, rather than just a local station, it was initially telecast by CBS in a two-hour time slot, in both B&W and color, as the final episode of the network's Ford Star Jubilee (1955) series Saturday evening, 3 November 1956. It was hosted by Bert Lahr and ten-year-old Liza Minnelli and was such a resounding success that its repeat showings in the years that followed became annual events.
The scene in which the Wicked Witch tries to take off Dorothy's ruby slippers by using a magic force through her hands is the same scene depicted on the Electric Light Orchestra's album "Eldorado," but this album cover version is reversed from the one seen in the film.
Early in the film's development, MGM discovered that Walt Disney was working on his own version of the Oz story at the same time. Rather than going head-to-head, both studios actually held discussions of possibly combining the two projects into a live action/animation hybrid movie, with MGM doing the live action and Disney doing the animation. Scheduling issues ultimately ended the collaboration, and Disney shortly after canceled his own version of the film in favor of other projects so as not to compete with MGM's version.
Meinhardt Raabe, who played the Coroner of Munchkinland, was at one time the shortest licensed pilot in the U.S. During WWII he volunteered for military service, but was turned down. He was accepted as a volunteer instructor in the Civil Air Patrol.
When the film proved popular with audiences, MGM considered re-uniting the original cast for a sequel. Plans never got past the development stage, however, when Judy Garland became a major star, having great success in subsequent movies. Also, Margaret Hamilton expressed hesitation at reprising her role, feeling that the character of the Wicked Witch was already too scary for children. Further, extreme budget overruns and production delays MGM encountered making the original film deterred the studio from moving forward with an official sequel.
Although it has been long believed that Lorraine Bridges dubbed Billie Burke's singing voice in the film, she actually did not. Ms. Burke did her own singing as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.
The film underwent about a dozen script drafts and four writers. Early on, the Cowardly Lion was in fact the cursed form of a handsome prince named Florizel (which is the name of the Prince in the Sleeping Beauty fairytale), who would battle the Witch in midair and kill her by cutting apart her broom while Dorothy watched from the sidelines. A female soda jerk was going to accompany Dorothy from Kansas at one point. Elements from the books floated in and out of the script, and about three characters each served as Professor Marvel's and the Wicked Witch's sounding boards (eventually Professor Marvel talked to his horse and the Witch to the leader of the winged monkeys). One element, however, was in the very first draft and never changed: Kansas in sepia, Oz in Technicolor.
One early script had Aunt Em as the abusive witch who wanted to kill Toto to punish Dorothy.
Even though the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion wanted a brain, heart and courage, respectively, the trio actually had what they desired the whole time. Scarecrow came up with a few ideas such as tricking the talking trees to throw apples for Dorothy to eat, and coming up with a plan to save Dorothy from the Witch's castle. Tin Man was very sentimental and sensitive and worried about Dorothy's welfare. Lion, on the other hand, to a lesser extent showed his courage by being willing to face danger to save Dorothy, though he did back out at first. Also, the three farmhands--especially Hunk and Zeke--showed their personalities matching that of their Oz counterparts. Hunk bragged on about having a brain while Zeke was afraid of the pigs when saving Dorothy. Hickory to an extent compared himself to the Tin Man by saying a statue of him will be made.
At the time this film was made, soundtracks were generally quite simple, with most of the sound recorded on the set, with post-production dubbing and looping being used only when necessary. However, due to the large number of special sound effects in this film, it was one of the rare cases in the 1930s of the use of a sound designer whose job it was just to work out and design the sound elements of the soundtrack (another was Murray Spivack on King Kong (1933)). O.O. Ceccarini (a close friend of Albert Einstein), who occasionally did special sound work at MGM, was brought in to design the soundtrack, with the assistance of special sound effects engineer Franklin Milton (who would later head up the MGM post-production sound department, replacing Douglas Shearer and Wesley C. Miller in the 1950s). Ceccarini was a brilliant mathematician as well, and he applied mathematics to achieve some of the more complicated sound elements.
The music and vocal tracks for all the deleted sequences have survived and can all be heard on Rhino Records' Deluxe 2-CD soundtrack edition of the film's songs and score. Every track on that album is heard in the exact order in which it would have appeared in the film had the movie never been edited to its final release length.
The chant of the Wicked Witch of the West's Palace Guards was later incorporated into the songs "I'm That Type of Guy" by LL Cool J, "Games" by New Kids on the Block , The Frayed Ends of Sanity, by Metallica and in a faster form in "Jungle Love" by Morris Day and The Time.
Ray Bolger's original recording of "If I Only Had a Brain" had been far more sedate compared to the version heard in the film; during this time, George Cukor and Mervyn LeRoy decided that a more energetic rendition would better suit Dorothy's initial meeting with the Scarecrow (initially, it was to contrast with his lively manner in Richard Thorpe's footage), and was re-recorded as such. At first thought to be lost for over seven decades, a recording of this original version was rediscovered in 2009.
Though not stated it is strongly implied Henry is Dorothy's biological uncle especially as both share the same surname Gale.
When it first opened in 1994, the MGM Grand Casino in Las Vegas had extensive decor related to this film decorating the casino and various parts of the resort, including life-sized statues of the main characters (including Toto) near the casino entrance. In 2000 nearly all of this decor was removed in a major renovation, and the casino is now generically themed around motion pictures.
There was originally meant to be a reprise of "Over the Rainbow" when Dorothy is trapped in the Witch's castle. As Judy Garland would have had to incorporate a lot of acting into the song, it had to be recorded live during the take. Reportedly it reduced the entire crew to tears.
The Cowardly Lion's speech about courage contains the line "What makes the dawn come up like thunder?" This is a reference to a line in the poem "Mandalay" by Rudyard Kipling: "An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!"
E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen were given 14 weeks (and a Hollywood bungalow) to come up with the film's musical score.
In the restoration of the original film, each frame was scanned at 4K resolution and the three Technicolor frames re-registered. Scarecrow's burlap headgear actually extends the weave pattern all over his face. Previously, this was not clearly visible due to limitations of film registering in the theater, television conversions, etc. Perhaps the first good view of Scarecrow's face in closeup is at the 1-hr. 37-min. 36-sec. mark. Here the burlap pattern is clearly visible on Scarecrow's face.
Ranked #1 on the American Film Institute's list of the 10 greatest films in the genre "Fantasy" in June 2008.
After the Wizard is first exposed as a humbug, note the bouquet of flowers visible on the counter inside his booth; these were intended for a deleted scene, in which the Wizard tries to pacify Dorothy and her friends by doing common magic tricks, including making a bunch of flowers suddenly appear.
The original costume of The Cowardly Lion that Bert Lahr wears sold for $3.1 million in November 2014 to a collector.
A heart-shaped leaf can be seen over the Tin Man's left shoulder as the he begins singing "If I Only Had A Heart."
A sequence in which Dorothy and her companions make a triumphant return to the Emerald City after melting the Wicked Witch, known as the "restoration scene," was cut.
Fred Stone, who played the Scarecrow in the 1902 stage musical of "The Wizard of Oz," was briefly considered for the role in the movie. However, at age 65 in 1938 he was physically not up to the demands of the role.
"Lux Radio Theater" broadcast a 60-minute CBS Radio adaptation of the movie on December 25, 1950 with Judy Garland reprising her film role as Dorothy.
Margaret Hamilton was reluctant to do the scenes where Miss Gulch attempted to take Toto away to be put down, and when, as the Wicked Witch of the West, she ordered Toto to be drowned when Dorothy refuses to give her the ruby slippers. Hamilton was very fond of animals. Like Judy Garland, she had a bond with Terry who played Toto.
Despite the fact she played an adversary to Judy Garland's Dorothy, Margaret Hamilton and Garland got along well on set. Garland showed off a dress to Hamilton that Garland was going to wear on stage for her graduation. However, Louis B. Mayer sent Garland on a tour with Mickey Rooney and Garland never got a chance to wear her dress on stage with her classmates. Hamilton was so angry she called Mayer and yelled at him.
Some viewers who never read the novel have become confused about Glinda and have postulated that she was not a friend of Dorothy. They use conflicting statements made in the movie--i.e., in Munchkinland Glinda tells Dorothy in reference to the Ruby Slippers, "Their magic must be very powerful or she wouldn't want them so badly." Then at the end Glinda tells Dorothy she has had the means to go home all along--"just click your heels together three times and say, 'There's no place like home'." The problem here is that the movie combined two different people, the two Good Witches of Oz. In Munchkinland the witch was actually the Good Witch of the North, Gillikin country, to whom L. Frank Baum never gave a name. She was very old, traveled by bubble and did not know anything about the Ruby Slippers. Glinda was the Good Witch of the South, Quadling country, and was the one who helped Dorothy get home. Dorothy traveled to see her after the Wizard took off in the balloon. Glinda, who had red hair, sent Dorothy right home shortly after their first and only meeting. No mystery. Two different people. The movie changed a lot, for its own reasons.
In 2007 the American Film Institute ranked this as the #10 Greatest Movie of All Time.
Farmhand "Zeke" makes a reference to courage by saying "have a little courage, that's all" (he then plays the Cowardly Lion) while "Hunk" says "you think you don't have any brains at all" and then plays the "Scarecrow." Jack Haley, who plays Hickory who then later became the Tin Man, mentions about a town turning him into or making a statue out of him.
When MGM bought the rights to L. Frank Baum's novel, "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," it also purchased the rights to the 1902 stage musical by Baum and Paul Tietjen and The Wizard of Oz (1925), Larry Semon's failed silent comedy. From the latter it derived Dorothy's companions as farmhands she knew in Kansas, and the it-was-all-a-dream ending--an element of fantasy literature Baum decried in several essays but used in his "Laura Bancroft" titles for very young readers. From the former, it took only the snowstorm summoned by the Good Witch of the North to destroy the poppies, which in the play was a huge set piece that concluded Act I (in the novel, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman carry Dorothy out and hoist the Lion onto a truck that is pulled on strings by hundreds of mice). A lengthy debate occurred at MGM as to whether or not to include the songs from the play, but as the vaudeville-style show mostly included songs of no relevance to plot or characterization, they were replaced with new ones.
Producer Mervyn LeRoy had originally intended to use MGM's Jackie the Lion in the role of the Cowardly Lion and dub an actor's voice in for the dialogue. However, that idea was dropped when Bert Lahr came up for consideration for the part.
The film began its legendary run on network television on November 3, 1956, as the series finale of the CBS anthology series Ford Star Jubilee (1955). The broadcast was a smash, but the film was not shown on TV again until 1959. In a programming stroke of genius, it was decided to air it at an earlier hour (6:00 pm E.S.T.) as a Christmas season special--independent of any anthology packaging. This broadcast attracted an even wider audience, because children were able to watch, and from that moment on the film began airing annually on television. It was aired first on CBS (primarily in late winter), then on NBC (usually in mid-spring, often on Easter Sunday) and then again on CBS, where it finished its network run of nearly 40 years in 1998, after which it was officially integrated into the Turner vault of motion pictures. It now airs only on Turner-owned networks: WB, TNT, and most prominently Turner Classic Movies.
The Wizard was originally supposed to have a song routine in which he hands out the awards to the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tin Woodman. This was scrapped because E.Y. Harburg, the lyricist, felt the scene would work better as a non-musical one, so he translated the lyrics into prose form.
The Wizard only has one close-up; when he is revealed behind the curtain and declares himself to be a good man but a bad wizard. All of his other shots are medium close-ups or two-shots. Similarly, Professor Marvel is never shown in a close-up, but rather in medium close-up or two-shots.
For the film's 1998 theatrical re-release, Warner Brothers was considering editing the extended Scarecrow "If I Only Had A Brain" sequence into the movie (it was deleted from the film before its 1939 premiere) but ultimately decided not to. It is available as a supplemental feature on the Warner Bros Special Edition DVD of the film.
Buddy Ebsen revealed on The Jerry Springer Show (1991) that he almost had his testicles cut off by the Tin Man's metal suit.
Herbert Stothart, who scored this film, also scored Marie Antoinette (1938). A recycled piece from that film can be heard during the scene in which Dorothy and her friends attempt an escape from the Witch's castle.
Pictured on one of four 25¢ US commemorative postage stamps issued 23 March 1990 honoring classic films released in 1939. The stamps featured Stagecoach (1939), Beau Geste (1939), The Wizard of Oz (1939), and Gone with the Wind (1939).
Dorothy's hair changes lengths throughout the course of the film, most noticeably in the Scarecrow cornfield sequence, which was the first sequence to be shot. As production progressed, refinements were made to Judy Garland's hair and makeup. At the end of filming, reshoots were done of the cornfield sequence and, thus, the shots do not match. The reshoots are believed to have been done by King Vidor, who also directed the Kansas sequences, including "Over the Rainbow", after director Victor Fleming left the production to direct Gone with the Wind (1939).
The film received a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records as the film to which a live-action sequel was produced after the longest period of time--Return to Oz (1985) was released 46 years later.
At the time that CBS purchased the television rights to this film, MGM had sold most of its pre-1950s film library to individual stations across the US. The two major films they had not sold were Gone with the Wind (1939) (for which MGM controlled the rights) and "The Wizard of Oz." It would be 20 more years before "Gone With the Wind" would come to television.
Production on the bulk of the Technicolor sequences was a long and cumbersome process that ran for over six months, from October 1938 to March 1939. Most of the actors worked six days a week and had to arrive at the studio as early as 4:00 or 5:00 a.m to be fitted with makeup and costumes, and would not leave until 7:00 or 8:00 p.m. Cumbersome makeup and costumes were made even more uncomfortable by the daylight-bright lighting the early Technicolor process required, which could heat the set to over 100 °F (37.8 °C).
MGM talent scouts searched the country to come up with over 100 little people who would make up the citizens of Munchkinland; this meant that most of the film's Oz sequences would have to already be shot before work on the Munchkinland sequence could begin. According to Munchkin actor Jerry Maren, each little person was paid over $125 a week for their performances. Munchkin Meinhardt Raabe, who played the coroner, revealed in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: 50 Years of Magic (1990) that the MGM costume and wardrobe department, under the direction of designer Adrian, had to design over 100 costumes for the Munchkin sequences. They then had to photograph and catalog each Munchkin in his or her costume so that they could correctly apply the same costume and makeup each day of shooting.
During the rescue scene in the Witch's castle, Modest Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" plays as the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion follow Toto up the stairs to where Dorothy is being held.
The famed Jitterbug number was in actuality a leftover of an abandoned subplot that was discarded in early rewrites of the script. In the original Oz movie there was to be a large subplot involving characters named Princess Betty and the Grand Duke of Oz, to be played by MGM contract players Betty Jaynes and Kenny Baker. Jaynes, known for her refined operatic style of singing, was supposed to offset Judy Garland's jazz type of singing and a number was devised highlighting the differences. The Jitterbug number was devised by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg to showcase Garland's talents. Both Jaynes' and Baker's characters were deemed unnecessary in early script rewrites and were removed from the picture, as well as their subplot. However, the Jitterbug number survived in the script and was filmed for the movie, although it also was cut from the picture in early previews. A reference to the Jitterbug number survives in the Wicked Witch's orders to Nikko, when she tells him to "send the insects on ahead to take the fight out of them" before the Flying Monkeys take off.
The uniforms of the Flying Monkeys match the uniforms worn by the Witch's castle guards (Winkies).
The film, while run on network television, used to be packaged as a special event and, as such, was initially introduced by on-camera hosts (including Red Skelton, Dick Van Dyke and Danny Kaye). This practice ended after CBS' first contract with the film ended in 1967. From 1968 on the film was aired host-less, save the 1970 broadcast which was the first to air following the death of star Judy Garland. Gregory Peck gave a short tribute to her before the film aired that year on NBC. Ironically, when the film went into the Turner vault and began airing on Turner Classic Movies, it returned to hosted introductions, usually by TCM's Robert Osborne. The same is true for recent airings on the Cartoon Network--it is one of the few live-action films to be shown on that channel--but whenever it is shown on Turner Network Television or the CW network, it is not hosted.
The theatrical trailer for the 1998 theatrical re-release (viewable on the 2000 Warner Bros. DVD) features the Kansas footage in black and white instead of its proper sepia tone. The sepia-tone footage was restored to the film during its 1988 restoration and was thus available; but Warner Bros. chose to show it in its black-and-white form for the trailer.
During the "Wash and Brush Up Co." scene, the lyrics "We can make a dimpled smile out of a frown/Can you even dye my eyes to match my gown" are sung in counterpoint to the orchestra playing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow."
George Cukor not only changed Judy Garland's physical appearance in the film to the way it looks in the finished version, but also modified the Scarecrow's makeup. Later, when Victor Fleming had been assigned to direct, Jack Haley began filming his first scene as the Tin Man, the scene in which Dorothy and the Scarecrow first discover him. Buddy Ebsen, who had been playing the Tin Man, had to back out because of an allergic reaction to his makeup, and never filmed this scene; he had only filmed scenes that take place in the second half of the film, after the four travelers have been to the Wash and Brush Up Co. at the Emerald City. Haley had been filming his first scene for three days before anyone realized that he had no "rust" on his "tin" costume, even though in the story he was supposed to have been standing rusted for an entire year. The rust was immediately applied to it.
The first album of songs from the film, issued by Decca in 1940, featured only Judy Garland from the cast. Her only vocal tracks on that album, "Over The Rainbow" and "The Jitterbug" (which featured "Oz" composer Harold Arlen as the Scarecrow, Bud Lyons as the Tin Man, and Gurney Bell as the Cowardly Lion), had already been recorded in 1939 and released that year as a 78-RPM single, but they were later included as part of the 1940 album. This was not really a soundtrack recording at all, despite what some websites say, although it did contain the film's songs. It was, instead, a sort of "cover version" featuring Garland (this procedure was common practice at a time when there really was no such thing as a record album made directly from a movie soundtrack). The other songs on this 1940 Decca album were all sung by the Ken Darby Singers, and in some songs in which Dorothy is featured another vocalist substituted for Garland. It was not until 1956 that an official soundtrack album (featuring the film's cast, of course) was issued. This 1956 MGM Records album featured extensive dialogue from the film (enough for listeners to follow the story), and was taken directly from the movie's final printed soundtrack, which meant that it also featured the film's sound effects. A new deluxe 2-CD album of the soundtrack, containing all of the songs and music ever recorded for the film (plus demos and outtakes), was issued by Rhino Music in 1995. This album, however, did not contain any of the dialogue, unlike its predecessor.
All the Oz sequences were filmed in three-strip Technicolor. The opening and closing credits, as well as the Kansas sequences, were filmed in black and white and colored in a sepiatone process. Sepia-toned film was also used in the scene where Aunt Em appears in the Wicked Witch's crystal ball.
'Lorna Luft' (q) has said interviews that her mother Judy Garland was deeply disappointed in the film, at least initially after it came out; since it was considered to be a box-office failure. It would take years for it to recoup its costs and did not really take off with audiences until CBS started showing it during the holidays every year starting in 1959.
The original producers thought that a 1939 audience was too sophisticated to accept Oz as a straight-ahead fantasy; therefore, it was reconceived as a lengthy, elaborate dream sequence. Because of a perceived need to attract a youthful audience through appealing to modern fads and styles, the score originally featured a song called "The Jitterbug", and the script originally featured a scene with a series of musical contests. A spoiled, selfish princess in Oz had outlawed all forms of music except classical and operetta and went up against Dorothy in a singing contest in which her swing style enchanted listeners and won the grand prize. This part was initially written for Betty Jaynes. The plan was later dropped.
Although most of screenwriter Noel Langley's ideas were used in the finished film, and he is credited as being the principal screenwriter as well as the adaptor, there were some revisions to his material. Langley was incensed that they had been done, and walked out on the project several times, although he was always persuaded to return. He was bitterly resentful of the final screenplay, and is on record as saying that he hated the finished film when he finally saw it. However, years later he changed his opinion, calling the film "rather sweet."
In 1989, The Wizard of Oz (1939) was added to the National Film Registry by the United States Library of Congress.
The pre-release 112-minute version was only seen once, while the film was in test showings before its official release.
The Cowardly Lion was the only character in Dorothy's gang that was not seen being tortured or chased by the flying monkeys.
Jack Haley and Bert Lahr are known to have written some of their own dialogue for the Kansas sequence.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
At the time, MGM had adopted a technique of recording the musical numbers first, then lip-syncing to them on set. Just before going into a song, you can hear the sound change from ambient studio set to ultra-dry studio sound once they start singing and dancing.
Originally, Mervyn LeRoy's assistant William H. Cannon submitted a brief four-page outline. Because recent fantasy films had not fared well at the box office, he recommended that the magical elements of the story be toned down or eliminated. In his outline, the Scarecrow was a man so stupid that the only way he could get employment was to dress up as a scarecrow and scare away crows in a cornfield, and the Tin Woodman was a hardened criminal so heartless he was sentenced to be placed in a tin suit for eternity. The torture of being encased in the suit had softened him and made him gentle and kind. His vision was similar to The Wizard of Oz (1925), in which the magical element is absent.
The film rights of L. Frank Baum's book were initially sold to Samuel Goldwyn in 1933. Goldwyn hoped to have Eddie Cantor star as the Scarecrow, with Ed Wynn supporting as the Wizard. Cantor was busy filming Roman Scandals (1933) and Wynn wouldn't accept a mere "cameo role," so the property was sold to MGM the following year, where producer Irving Thalberg hoped to get W.C. Fields to play the Wizard (he was about to begin filming David Copperfield (1935)) and Charlotte Henry for Dorothy. Neither were available, however, and the project was shelved until 1937, when producers Roger Edens and Arthur Freed began crafting "Oz" as a project for Judy Garland.
The Wicked Witch of the West never directly speaks to, threatens, or even acknowledges the Cowardly Lion except obliquely, as when she says "the last to go will see the first three go before her" and when watching him say "I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do I do I do," to which she replies "you'll believe in more than that before I'm finished with you." Similarly, Miss Gulch never speaks directly to Dorothy, and the Wizard never acknowledges Toto except when he mumbles "somebody get that dog."
The scarecrow is completely inaccurate with the Pythagorean Theorem. In reality, it is the sum of the squares of both legs of a right triangle that is equal to the square of the hypotenuse, or A2+B2=C2. Isosceles triangles have no such relationship.
As a tribute to the Dorothy Gale character, in Twister (1996) the tornado-catching device was named Dorothy because the twister/tornado actually brought Dorothy Gale from the farm in Kansas to the magical land of Oz.
Owing, perhaps, to the Emerald City's liberal immigration policy, their coach driver has an otherwise unaccountable Cockney accent.
No mention is ever made about what happened to Miss Gulch after Dorothy wakes up. Was she caught in the tornado...
The title of the movie would become the nickname of St. Louis Cardinals' Hall-of-Fame Shortstop Ozzie Smith.
When the Wizard awards the ticking heart to the Tin Man, the word he flubs and replaces with "Good-Deed-Doers" was "Philanthropist". In real life, Jack Haley was well renowned and recognized as a Philanthropist for his tireless works to raise money for various charities.
The transition from black and white to technicolor as Dorothy opens the cabin door to the Land of Oz is handled very simply. The whole scene is filmed in Technicolor. It's just that the interior of the cabin is painted in shades of gray to simulate black and white photography. A double for Dorothy (carrying Toto) wearing a dress in shades of gray to match the colored patterns on Judy Garland's dress is shot from behind. The double hands Garland the dog, just before she walks into frame, to create the seamless illusion from black and white to color.
In Jim Steinmeyer's 2003 book "Hiding the Elephant: How Magicians Invented the Impossible and Learned to Disappear," he notes of Harry Kellar: "Kellar was almost certainly the inspiration for the wizened Wizard of Oz described by author L. Frank Baum; he was America's leading magician when Baum's book was written."
The location of the Munchkins' star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is 6915 Hollywood Blvd.
Dorothy's house plops down into Munchkin City at precisely 4:53 in Oz. It is seven minutes from this point to the moment she meets the mayor, whose waist clock reads 5:00.
Included among the American Film Institute's 1998 list of the Top 100 Greatest American Movies.
It is never clearly stated what period the Kansas scenes takes place. For example Dorothy wears a gingham dress while Miss Gulch and Aunt Em wear dresses that date back to the late 19th century and early 20th century. It is most likely the Kansas scenes take place in the late 1930s when this film was released.
Because Clara Blandick's voice was inaudible during the tornado sequence, one of the Munchkin actors Mickey Carroll dubbed her cries telling Dorothy to get in the house.
Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West, was burned when her clothes caught fire during the filming of a special effect sequence. She returned to the production under the condition she would not have to work around fire again. Ironically, when she passed away, she was cremated.
Judy Garland's stand-in, Bobbie Koshay, is also seen when Dorothy falls into the pig sty.
The concept of Emerald City was used by John Broome and Gil Kane in order to create Oa, home-planet of intergalactic police force Green Lantern Corps (created in 1959). Subsequently it was shown in Green Lantern (2011).
In the scene before where Dorothy meets the Tinman, after the three go skipping down yellow brick road, it is a common misconception that you can see a munchkin, an actual actor had hung himself in the beck of the set. In reality, there are numerous large exotic birds milling about in the background during this scene. You can very clearly see that as the trio skips down the road, it is a bird in the background opening its wings that gives this illusion.
Dorothy's last name is Gale, which means "a very strong wind". A tornado is a very destructive vortex of violently rotating winds, thus Dorothy's last name.
The set was a major safety hazard. The Tin Man who was to originally be played by Jed Clampett (Beverly Hillbillies) how to quit when aluminium dust from his make up put him in an iron lung. Hamilton (Wicked Witch) suffered burns from a faulty trap door and missed 6 weeks of filming while her stand in spent 11 days in hospital suffering permanent burns to her legs when the broomstick prop exploded. Hamilton's make up was also so toxic (copper based) she could only consume liquid during filming and her green skin lasted months after production wrapped.
Some versions shown on TV in the UK since 2013 are edited to drop the song, "Ding-Dong! The Witch Is Dead", a mainstay of the individual songs towards the end of the film. The song was promoted by political activists in celebrating the death of the very divisive Margaret Thatcher.
George Cukor did not actually shoot any scenes for the film, merely acting as something of a "creative advisor" to the troubled production, and, because of his prior commitment to direct Gone with the Wind (1939), he left on November 3, 1938, at which time Victor Fleming assumed the directorial responsibility. As director, Fleming chose not to shift the film from Cukor's creative realignment, as Mervyn LeRoy had already pronounced his satisfaction with the new course the film was taking.
Mervyn LeRoy hired screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz to work on a script. Despite Mankiewicz's notorious reputation at that time for being an alcoholic, he delivered a 17-page draft of the Kansas scenes, and a few weeks later handed in a further 56 pages. Noel Langley and poet Ogden Nash were also hired to write separate versions of the story. None of the three writers involved knew anyone else was working on a script, but it was not an uncommon procedure at the time. Nash soon delivered a four-page outline, Langley turned in a 43-page treatment and a full film script. He turned in three more, this time incorporating the songs that had been written by Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg. No sooner had he completed it than Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf submitted a script and were brought on board to touch up the writing. They would be responsible for making sure the story stayed true to the Baum book. However, producer Arthur Freed was unhappy with their work and reassigned it back to Langley.
At the midpoint of the movie, 0:50:53, Judy is suppressing a laugh at Bert Lahr's blubbering Cowardly Lion.
The movie was named as one of "The 20 Most Overrated Movies Of All Time" by Premiere.
Beatrice Lillie was considered for the role of Glinda the Good Witch in the film's pre-production stages.
Bea Wain, who began performing on the radio when she was only 6, was a vocalist of prominence, among the revered singers of the 1930's and '40s, when band leaders such as Larry Clinton, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman in the big band era captivated America with their easy-to-hum, jazz-infused performances and recordings. Bea Wain recorded songs such as "You Go to My Head," "Deep Purple," Heart and Soul," "God Bless the Child," and the war-era ballad "My Sister and I." She also made the first recording of Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg's "Over the Rainbow" in early1939, though Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Film Studio blocked its release until "The Wizard of Oz" premiered in Hollywood at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on August 15, 1939, followed by the New York premiere at Loew's Capital Theatre on August 17, 1939. In a 1939 Billboard Magazine college poll, Bea Wain was named the year's most popular female band vocalist, a trump considering the competition from super-star Ella Fitzgerald. The song "Over the Rainbow" won a 1939-1940 Oscar for Best Original Song for Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg. The "Wizard of Oz" won another Oscar for Herbert Stothart for Best Original Score for a motion picture.
When Miss Gulch attempts to take Toto away Dorothy calls her a 'wicked old witch'. This foreshadows the Witch of the West who is Miss Gulch's OZ counterpart.
The lion mentions "Hottentots" in his song "If I Were King of the Forest". ("What makes the Hottentots so hot?") Urban dictionary defines Hottentots as people of African descent.
Munchkin Mickey Carroll's agent was able to negotiate the actor's salary so that he was getting paid per week nearly the same amount as Judy Garland. The agent in question? None other than Zeppo Marx (younger brother of Groucho, Chico, and Harpo) who at the time ran one of the most successful theatrical agencies in Hollywood.
From the 75th anniversary DVD extras, Allen Daviau (director of photography for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)) says that at the time, the speed of the film they were using to shoot "Oz" had an ASA rating of eight (8.0).
Some of the lines from this movie were sampled in the Aerosmith song "The Farm", the eighth track on their 1997 album "Nine Lives".
The "Wizard of Oz" first was screened in a sneak preview on August 8, 1939, held in San Bernardino, California. Then the film was previewed in three test markets: on August 11, 1939, at Kenosha, Wisconsin and Cape Cod, Massachusetts; at the Strand Theatre in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin on August 12, 1939. The Hollywood premiere was on August 15, 1939 at Grauman's Chinese Theatre; followed by the New York City premiere held at Loew's Capitol Theatre on August 17, 1939. In New York City's premiere engagement, after the film had screened, a live performance with Judy Garland and her frequent film co-star Mickey Rooney was presented. The two celebrities continued to perform there after each screening for a week, extended in Rooney's case for a second week. In the third week screening performance schedule, Rooney was replaced with Judy's film co-stars Ray Bolger and Bert Lahr for the third and final week. The feature film musical opened nationwide on August 25, 1939.
In 2018, an archive of papers on the origin and development of "The Wizard of Oz" brought in $1.2 million at auction.