Five Facts About The Wizard Of Oz
The Wizard of Oz (1939) appeared seventy years ago, today. It is a beloved movie that has inspired movie-goers for generations. The movie was based upon the 1900 novel by Frank L. Baum of the same name and starred Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, and a whole lot of little people. Here are five interesting facts about this famous children’s fantasy.
You may have heard the rumor that a munchkin committed suicide by hanging himself on the set and it was left in the movie. This rumor was spurred on by Judy Garland’s account of misbehaving munchkins throughout the filming, but it is not true. The problem was, it was difficult to decipher what was actually seen at the end of the Tin Man scene when Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man are heading off to the Emerald City. Some said it was a piece of equipment, but it was actually a large bird that was stretching its wings. MGM had imported the birds to make the forest scene look more realistic.
The Wizard of Oz book is very different than the movie version. The ruby slippers were actually silver in the book and there were four witches. Also, it is speculated that the story was a political diatribe arguing the big issue of the day – the standard of our monetary system. The Yellow Brick Road represented gold, while the silver slippers explained the use of that precious metal. They were moving towards the Emerald City (i.e. Washington) who was pushing for a paper money system (note our green bills). Even the name of the Wizard is the abbreviation for ounces (Oz). Apparently, Frank L. Baum didn’t care for the President, who was McKinley at the time, because the leader of the Emerald City was a charlatan.
The Horse of a Different Color that takes our heroes into the Emerald City appeared in six different hues: Green, Blue, Orange, Red, Yellow, and Violet. Today, this would have been done with CGI (computer generated graphics) yet in 1939, they actually colored a white horse! The horse was actually dyed with flavored gelatin and if you watch closely, you can see the cart driver tugging on the reins to stop the horse from licking the gelatin off of itself.
It is said that Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album was made as an alternative soundtrack to the Wizard of Oz. The band has never claimed this to be true, but it does seem to work. If you start the CD after the MGM lion’s third roar at the beginning of the DVD or VHS tape, you will find that lines in the music coincide with what is going on in the movie. Give it a try. Put the CD in to run on a loop (i.e. to play over and over) and watch the Wizard of Oz on mute and you will see some pretty interesting things reveal themselves in the songs.
Actor, Buddy Ebsen (of Jed Clampett fame from the Beverly Hillbillies), was originally cast as the Scarecrow, while Ray Bolger (who did play the Scarecrow) was supposed to play the Tin Man. However, Bolger, who was an excellent vaudeville dancer, was disgruntled by his casting and convinced the director to recast him in his now-famous role. This left Ebsen as the Tin Man. The makeup they used to tint his skin silver was a powder that coated Ebsen’s lungs and put him in the hospital in critical condition. Jack Haley was then cast in the part (and the makeup was changed to a paste) and the rest is history.