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Things You Never Knew About The Wizard of Oz Movie

The yellow brick road almost wasn’t yellow!


Let’s be honest; there’s nothing we love more than having a lazy Sunday. Yep, we stay in our pajamas all day, we eat takeaway pizza, we stuff our faces with candy, and we barely leave the couch. It is bliss. But of course, no lazy Sunday would be complete without watching a classic movie. Luckily, there are some absolute bangers to choose from. But which one will you pick? Perhaps Dirty Dancing? What about Jaws? Maybe Grease? Well, in our eyes there’s only one answer to that question. It’s all about The Wizard of Oz.

Unbelievably, The Wizard of Oz was released in 1939 (danggggg, that’s old) but is still one of the most popular movies of all time. This movie is a musical adaptation of the popular children’s book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, that was released in 1900. This story follows the life of Dorothy Gale (and her wonderful shoes) who suddenly finds herself in a magical land, along with her dog Toto, a Scarecrow, a Tinman and a Lion – y’know, your average friendship group. However, it’s not all munchkins and flying houses, as Dorothy soon finds herself battling against the Wicked Witch of the West *hiss*.

Since its release, The Wizard of Oz has basically taken over the world (it’s true) and has won awards for its epic storyline, its Technicolor production, and its musical score. In fact, it was nominated for a whopping six Academy Awards! Of course, we all remember Judy Garland’s epic performance, we know all the words to the iconic ‘Over the Rainbow’ song (and sing it daily), and we know The Wizard of Oz story off by heart. However, what we don’t know is what happened behind the scenes. Luckily, we’ve done the hard work for you and created an epic list Wizard of Oz secrets that will make you realize It Really Was No Miracle…

Making its mark

Ray Bolger played our favorite brainless scarecrow, but playing a character that doesn’t have a brain was more difficult than you’d think (although we don’t think we’d have a problem with that). In fact, the prosthetics that Bolger wore left patterns and lines on his face that took a year to vanish. We’re all for making a mark on the world of Hollywood, but perhaps that was a bit much?

Funny Business

Judy Garland is noted as being the perfect actor in The Wizard of Oz, but filming didn’t run too smoothly. In the scene where Dorothy slaps the Cowardly Lion, she couldn’t stop herself from giggling. So the director, Victor Fleming, decided to pull Judy to one side. For some reason, he then slapped her, before she returned to set, and filmed the scene in one take. Hmm, we’re not sure on those methods…

Tasty tricks

We can’t really imagine what life would be like without a heart (mostly because we wouldn’t be alive) but we did feel sorry for the Tin Man – until we heard about this epic fact. It turns out that real oil didn’t photograph very well, so the production team could not use it as a prop to oil his hinges. Instead, they decided to use chocolate syrup. So, they filled his pot with chocolate and allowed him to drizzle it over himself. What’s the betting he took a cheeky taste now and then? We would.


Bagged it

We love it when a plan comes together, and when movie sets make use of everyday materials – but this one is a little odd. In fact, The Wizard of Oz producers made use of anything they possibly could during filming. The Cowardly Lion’s facial makeup was no exception. Apparently, his makeup included pieces of a brown paper bag to make it look even more authentic. Right.

Toto or Terry?

Look away if you are a diehard Wizard of Oz fan, because this may just ruin your lives. Apparently, Toto was not actually called Toto *gasp*. Instead, Toto was really called Terry and was a female Cairn Terrier. Terry was paid $125 a week during filming, which was more than the Munchkin actors were paid! We give you permission to cry for a little while, it’s okay.

Too toxic

This fact may shock you, but the Wicked Witch wasn’t really green. The actress Margaret Hamilton was given green makeup to use during filming. However, there was one problem – the makeup was toxic (you’ll see this becomes a running theme during the production of this movie). Hamilton had to live off of a liquid diet while wearing it to avoid ingestion, and her face stayed green for weeks after filming ended!

Special Effects

The special effects in The Wizard of Oz aren’t very, well… they aren’t very special at all. It is reported that the tornado was created by spinning a 35ft long muslin stocking around and around while wind, dirt, and dust blew around it. The farm and house were just a miniature version that the production team created. Kinda ruins the magic, don’t you think?

Musical mistakes

The song ‘Over the Rainbow’ will forever be synonymous with Judy Garland and The Wizard of Oz – and you can almost guarantee that AT LEAST five people will sing it each year for their TV music contest audition (true story). It’s iconic. However, there was a point where we could have been rainbow-less. Apparently, executives wanted to remove the song from the movie because it made the whole thing too long. Good thing they didn’t…

Costume coincidences

In the movie, we see Professor Marvel/The Wizard wearing a rather shabby looking coat. Costume designers found the coat in a thrift store and decided to use it for filming. It was later discovered that the coat actually belonged to the author of the Wizard of Oz book, L. Frank Baum. What are the chances?!

No to Snow

If you’ve ever heard of asbestos, you probably know it to be incredibly dangerous and carcinogenic. So not great. But back in the ’30s, these facts weren’t that well known. So, asbestos was used to create the snow effect in the ‘poppy field’ scene. Ooops.

Changing actors

Wizard of Oz Secrets - The Tin Man Makeup was toxic

Originally, Buddy Ebsen was set to play the Tin Man. He’d signed the contract, he’s learnt his lines, and he had even shot a few scenes. However, Buddy didn’t realize that he was allergic to aluminium dust – which was added to his makeup to enhance the metal feel of his costume. In fact, he was severely allergic, and nearly died in the process. He was later replaced by Jack Haley, who experienced the same thing. You would have thought they had learnt the first time…

Wicked Witch

“I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too!” The Wicked Witch of the West scares everyone, every time you watch the movie. But she was originally even worse. A lot of the Witch’s scenes had to be either edited or cut out of the movie completely because they were too frightening. We think they probably made the right decision, she’s frightening enough as it is!

Pink or white

Technicolor was a relatively new thing back in the day, and certain colors didn’t react well to the cameras. Dorothy’s white dress is actually pink and blue because the white color was deemed too overwhelming because of the Technicolor process. The yellow brick road also had to be painted with industrial strength yellow paint because the ordinary yellow paint looked green! Follow the green brick road… doesn’t work!

Alternative scenes

Let’s be honest, we kinda lose interest in movies that are longer than two hours – so The Wizard of Oz is perfect for us. This movie runs for 102 minutes but was originally meant to run for 120. After realizing a two-hour movie would not be entirely profitable, the producers decided to edit numerous scenes out of the final cut. One of these deleted scenes involved the Tin Man turning into a Beehive. Why? Well, we’re not sure.

Death dates

It’s fair to say that we could debate whether the movie is better than the book/the book is better than the movie for about ten hours – and still not come to a solid conclusion. Nevertheless, we do love it when a movie has a quirky link to its book, even if it is a little odd. In The Wizard of Oz, The Wicked Witch of the West’s death certificate is dated the same date as the 20th anniversary of the author’s death – May 6th, 1938. Ooh.

Apple juice effects

There are so many special effects in The Wizard of Oz, it’s amazing to think it was made in the 1930s. However, the filmmakers in those days didn’t have CGI or special effects. Instead, they had to work with what they had. In this movie, a fire erupts when the Wicked Witch tries to pull off Dorothy’s famous ruby slippers. But it’s not really fire… it’s apple juice. The explosion of apple juice is sped up to look like fire. Inventive. We like it.

Having a whale of a time

Wizard of Oz Secrets - The Munchkins Were Party Animals

Of course, we all know that the Munchkins of Munchkinland liked to have a little fun, and have a good ol’ sing song. But what you probably don’t know is that the actors who played the Munchkins had a little TOO MUCH fun (if you know what we mean). The producers of the show had to step in to break up their parties, their drinking, and even had to alert the police when some of them started fighting and brandishing knives after filming. Woah.

Wrinkles ruin it

If you look closely at the Tin Man’s movements – especially at his legs – you’ll see there are wrinkles in his silver pants. That certainly wouldn’t happen if his suit was made all from tin, like it’s supposed to be. We get that he wouldn’t be able to move very well if he really was made out of tin, but it does kind of ruin the illusion…


The Munchkins were one of the best parts of The Wizard of Oz. Over 140 actors were used to play the Munchkins, but only two of them had actual speaking parts. The rest of them were dubbed over by professional voice actors and singers.

Big bucks

MGM wanted the film rights to F. Frank Baum’s book of The Wizard of Oz so much that they were willing to pay him the big bucks. They eventually settled on a price of $75,000 which was a heck load of money in the ‘30s.

Another Dorothy

Wizard of Oz - Shirley Temple was first in line to play Dorothy

Nowadays, it’s had to imagine Dorothy as anyone other than Judy Garland – because Judy Garland IS Dorothy. However, it seems she wasn’t the first in line for the role. Instead, the producers were hoping to bag Shirley Temple as their leading lady. Shirley was only 11-years-old at the time, so they decided to go with Judy, who was two years older.

Role reversal

When Dorothy’s house falls from the sky, it looks pretty impressive, right? Well, the scene was shot by dropping a miniature prop of the house onto a painting of the sky. They then reversed the footage to create the falling effect.

All in the studio

All of the scenes within The Wizard of Oz were shot in a studio setting. The only scene that was shot on location was the short shot of clouds that appear during the opening credits of the movie.

A long working day

Wizard of Oz Secrets - Judy Garland worked 16 hour days

Back in the day, there were no restrictions in terms of working hours or to protect those actors and actresses who were under 18-years-old. Because of this, Judy Garland was forced to work long 16-hour days, and pressured to stay skinny. So, a doctor close to the production team prescribed the young actress with amphetamines to reduce her appetite, and then prescribed barbiturates to counteract them and allow her to sleep. It’s believed that this early use of narcotics led to her later addiction.

Scary business

Where do you normally eat your lunch? Somewhere in plain view of everyone, happily chatting away to a co-worker, probably. Well, the actors who played the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Man all had to eat their meals in their dressing rooms because their costumes frightened both cast and crew in the MGM cafeteria.

The Winged Monkeys

Wizard of Oz Secrets - Winged Monkeys were just men in suits

As much as we love The Wizard of Oz, we have to admit that there are some aspects of the movie that kinda freak us out. Yep, we’re talking about the Winged Monkeys. Although on camera they look pretty creepy, those on set noted that they were less scary in real life – as they were simply men in tight costume suits, with masses of hair and prosthetics glued to them. Fancy.

Disney vs. MGM

Disney originally wanted to film the Baum adaptation of The Wizard of Oz before MGM owned the rights. The MGM producer decided to create the movie in spite of this and wanted to beat the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves that had been released a year beforehand. Oooh, rivalry…

Yummy horses

Wizard of Oz Secrets - the horses were covered in jelly powder

If we ever took a trip to The Emerald City, there’s no way we could leave without checking out the wonderfully colored horses. These guys were pink, purple, green and red – and they looked so cool! However, filming these scenes weren’t easy. The horses were smothered in colored jelly powder to temporarily change their color, but the cameramen had to shoot these scenes in record time, as the horses would start to lick the powder off themselves. Yum.

Not the first

Wizard of Oz secrets - it wasn't the first adaptation

Of course, the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie is extremely famous – but it wasn’t the first movie of its kind. In fact, numerous filmmakers and directors had previously attempted to transform the popular book into a cinematic wonder. The book was first adapted into a musical in 1902 before the Selig Polyscope Company created a silent movie of The Wizard of Oz in 1910. Fifteen years later, a filmmaker attempted to create a new version of the film that focused primarily on the scarecrow, rather than Dorothy. It’s fair to say they didn’t go down well.

Family Ties

At this point in your life, you should know that Liza Minnelli was the daughter of Judy Garland (Dorothy) – if you don’t, you really need to brush up your pop culture, man. So of course, you should know that Liza ended up marrying Jack Haley Jr. His father, Jack Haley Sr, played the Tin Man. So Dorothy’s daughter married the Tin Man’s son! Whoaaaaaa, this is making our brains hurt.