Imagine spending 2.8 million dollars to generate a film that
during the first performances was considered a flop but in years to come, became
one of the most beloved films to ever be shown. One reason for the initial box
office failure was due to the fact that the Wizard of Oz was released at the
height of the depression when attending the movie was considered a luxury that
most people could not afford. It premiered in 1939 but after the film was
released on television in 1956, it became a successful household name.
There are countless stories about the filming of the Oz and about
the characters that starred in and worked on the set; so many that I decided to
write a second column in order to do justice to the plethora of fascinating
There were numerous scenes filmed with the wicked witch of the
West and those frightening flying monkeys that were scrapped because it
was deemed too scary for the children in the audience. Margaret Hamilton, the
Wicked Witch was thirty six years old during the filming and Billie Burke,
Glinda the Good Witch of the North, was fifty four years old. Margaret suffered
severe burns during the filming of the witch going up in smoke trying to make
her exit from Munchkinland when her hat, dress and broom caught on fire. After
a long recuperation, she refused to do any more scenes involving fire; the green
makeup she was wearing while in costume was later deemed extremely flammable.
Needing some tattered coats to be worn by the Wizard, played by
Frank Morgan, several were purchased from a local thrift shop to use during the
filming. One day Frank was inspecting one of the shabby jackets and found a
professional tag stating that it was originally designed for L. Frank Baum, the
author of the Wizard of Oz. Because it sounded unbelievable, it was finally
confirmed to be true by Baumís widow and the tailor of the apparel.
The tornado was actually a thirty-five foot piece of muslin
stocking and the tears of the Tin Man were chocolate syrup. The cowardly lionís
outfit was made from real animal pelts and weighed 90 pounds.
Auntie Em was played by Clara Blandick, a successful actress for
years after Oz, but in 1962 while in declining health with severe arthritis and
a condition that was causing her to go blind, she committed suicide. Sadly,
several years later, the famous star of the film, Judy Garland died from an
accidental drug overdose. It was a long circulated story that Judy became
addicted to drugs while filming Oz because she was required to work an excessive
amount of hours.
One of the last surviving actors, a featured munchkin, was Karl
Slover who spent his last year residing at an assisted living facility in nearby
Dublin, Georgia. He passed away on November 15, 2011 at age 93; Slover was a
lifelong bachelor and he was laid to rest in Laurens County.