|Victor Fleming Directed by||previously directed The Great Waltz|
|Mervyn LeRoy Director (uncredited)||previously directed Fools for Scandal|
|Richard Thorpe Director (uncredited)||previously directed Tarzan Finds a Son!|
|King Vidor Director (uncredited)||previously directed The Citadel|
The story of Dorothy, who after a mighty twister throws her house into the land of OZ sets out to meet the wizard and find her way back home.
The "oil" that was used to lubricate the Tin Man was not really oil. It was discovered that oil would not photograph well, so they used chocolate syrup instead.13 More Trivia
Get up and teach him a lesson.
What’s wrong with you teaching him?
16 More Quotes
Well, I hardly know him.
|Edgar Allan Woolf||Screenplay|
|L. Frank Baum||Novel|
|William H. Cannon||uncredited|
|Jack Haley||additional dialogue|
|Judy Garland||Dorothy Gale|
|Frank Morgan||The Wizard of Oz|
|Ray Bolger||The Scarecrow|
|Bert Lahr||The Cowardly Lion|
|Jack Haley||The Tin Man|
|Margaret Hamilton||Wicked Witch of the West|
|Charley Grapewin||Uncle Henry|
|Clara Blandick||Aunt Em|
|See Full Credits|
Shortly after they’ve left the farm, Dorothy and Toto encounter Professor Marvel, a carnival huckster and fortune-teller. He guesses that Dorothy is running away and convinces her to return home. A tornado appears on the horizon but Dorothy arrives home too late to get into the storm cellar with the others. She goes to her room to ride out the storm and is knocked out when the windows blow open.
She awakens a short time later to discover that the house has been pulled off its foundation and she and Toto are in the tornado itself. The house eventually drops back
down to land and when Dorothy and Toto go outside, they’re in the Technicolor Land of Oz. Dorothy is approached by Glinda, the Good Witch of the North who informs Dorothy that she is in Munchkinland and that she is the Munchkin’s National Hero for killing the Wicked Witch of the East. The Munchkins welcome Dorothy and celebrate their new-found freedom. In the middle of the celebration, the Wicked Witch of the West arrives and tries to take possession of the East Witch’s ruby slippers, but they have magically appeared on Dorothy’s feet. The West Witch leaves after vowing to have her revenge on Dorothy. Glinda informs Dorothy that the only way to be safe from the West Witch is to leave Oz and to do that she must travel to the to see the Wizard of Oz.
Dorothy comes to a crossroads and while wondering which way to go, she meets the Scarecrow, hooked to a pole in a cornfield. He informs her that he doesn’t have a brain and, after helping him down, she tells him that she’s going to see the Wizard. The Scarecrow asks to accompany her, hoping that the Wizard can give him some brains and the two of them set off together. Eventually they come to a grove of apple trees and end up being pelted with fruit by the living trees who don’t appreciate being picked. While gathering the apples Dorothy finds the Tin Woodsman, rusted in place. She loosens his joints with the nearby oilcan as he laments the fact that he doesn’t have a heart. Dorothy and the Scarecrow suggest that the Tin Man go with them to the and they all dance off together. The three of them pass through a dark, overgrown part of the forest, filled with strange sounds. They’re chased by a lion that initially seems very menacing but shows that he’s actually a coward when Dorothy smacks him on the nose. They suggest that the lion come with them in hopes that the Wizard will give him some courage.
They arrive at the and, after a quick clean-up, are taken to see the Wizard. The Wizard agrees to give them what they want in exchange for the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West. They set out for her castle through the but are intercepted by the flying monkeys who carry off Dorothy and Toto. Dorothy is taken to the witch who threatens to drown Toto unless Dorothy gives her the shoes. Dorothy readily agrees, but the witch then realizes that she can’t take the shoes while Dorothy still lives. Toto escapes and finds the other three, who set off to rescue Dorothy and deal with the Witch.
MGM first began thinking about a Wizard of Oz adaptation as early 1933, but due to scheduling problems and an inability to find a lead actor willing to do the picture, the idea was shelved. The idea was revived by producers Mervyn LeRoy and Arthur Freed, who began talking to MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer about the picture in early 1938. A number of writers were brought on to work on the script, but most of their ideas weren’t used and most of them weren’t officially credited. Of all these early writers, Noel Langley was the one to have the most input but he was removed from the production in June, 1938 and replaced with Edgar Woolf and Florence Ryerson. They worked through July and created a draft but Freed felt the new script was too wordy and suggested that be brought back in. re-worked Woolf and Ryerson’s script into the final form used for shooting.
Just as with the writers, several different composers were brought in to write the music. Composer Harold Arlen and songwriter E. Y. Harburg were ultimately chosen to score the film. The Wizard of Oz was unusual for the time in that the score was pre-recorded rather than being played live in studio. The score was also unusual for the time in that the musical numbers were used to comment on the action and to drive the story along.
Judy Garland was initially picked for the lead role, but some of the studio executives wanted to use Shirley Temple instead. was brought in to do some screen and singing tests, but since she was only ten years old at the time MGM singing coach Roger Edens felt that her voice was too immature to handle the role. In any event, Temple’s contract was with Twentieth Century Fox and a deal to get her on loan for the picture fell through.
Richard Thorpe was initially chosen to direct the film and production began on October 13, 1938. 13 days later, production was suspended and Thorpe was ultimately replaced by Victor Fleming, reportedly due to illness but more likely because LeRoy was unhappy with the way that Thorpe was running the picture. Fleming continued as director until February of 1939 when he was taken off the picture to take over production of Gone With the Wind. Fleming was replaced by King Vidor, who finished up the picture by filming the black and white sequences.
Ebsen and Bolger were not the only ones to suffer injuries while on set. Margaret Hamilton suffered severe burns to her face and hands while filming her exit during the Munchkinland scene. A small elevator was used to drop her under the set while her exit was covered by a smoke and fire effect. The makeup used to make her skin green was copper-based, and copper is extremely flammable. In the third or fourth take, she was a little late hitting her mark and the pyrotechnics set her makeup on fire. She was off the set for a month while recovering and was so affected by the incident that she refused to do any more effects scenes, insisting that her stand-in Betty Danko do them instead. Danko herself was injured when doing a scene in which she was flying on the broomstick; the fire effect exploded, sending pieces of metal into Danko’s legs.
Reviews for the movie were generally positive but in spite of this it did not end up being a commercial success on its initial release; only after the re-release in 1948 did the film turn a profit. Herbert Stothart won an Academy Award for Best Original Score, Arlen and Harburg won Best Song for “Over the Rainbow” and Judy Garland received a special miniature award for her outstanding performance as a juvenile actor. In addition, the film was nominated for Best Picture, Art Direction, Cinematography, and Special Effects.
Since the initial release, the movie has been ranked highly on the AFI’s greatest films and greatest musicals lists. The movie was also designated as a culturally significant film in 1989 and was selected by the US Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry. The film was selected for inclusion in UNESCO’s Memory of the World project in 2007.
Any movie as culturally significant as The Wizard of Oz was bound to spawn some urban legends regarding the movie or the production.
The munchkins were a bunch of lecherous, out-of-control drunks – Almost any time you get more than 120 people together and keep them together in a fairly enclosed environment for six weeks, some bad things are bound to happen. After the production wrapped, and for years afterward, rumors circulated that the little people hired for the film spent most of their time on the film drunk, getting into fights and engaging in lots of lewd behavior. Judy Garland is often attributed with spreading these stories and they were later chronicled in the film Under the Rainbow. There was an incident in which one actor tried to kill his wife and another actor tried to injure his assistant. There were a few actors that did get drunk but only off the set and they didn’t cause any trouble. The majority of the actors, however, all behaved very professionally and in general the stories regarding the munchkin’s bad behavior are greatly exaggerated.
An actor hung himself on set and you can see his body hanging from the scenery – At the end of the scene where Dorothy and the Scarecrow have met the Tin
Woodsman, at approximately 47:30 of the running time, the three of them start singing “We’re off to see the wizard” and dance past a small house and down the yellow brick road.
As the camera pans back, there are some shadows and movement in the background, which some people claim to be a man, either in the act of falling out of the rigging, committing suicide by hanging from the rigging, or being hanged by another shadowy figure in the background. The story goes on that the producers were well aware of the body’s presence but because of budget and scheduling pressure couldn’t re-shoot and so decided to leave it in and pray that no one noticed. The body has been variously identified as a munchkin whose romantic advances toward another munchkin had been spurned, the head of the makeup department who was distraught over having inadvertently put Buddy Ebsen into the hospital, an aspiring actor who was upset over not getting a part in the film, or a klutzy unnamed technician.
The fact is that there is no dead body in the scene. Several birds had been brought onto the set that day to give the wilderness set some life and make it look less ‘stagy’ and some of the birds were quite large. In the middle of the frame, one of these birds can be seen in the background, most likely an African crested crane. As the actors come toward it, the bird turns and puts its head up, blending into one of the trees and as the actors pass, it flutters its wings. Just to the left of that bird, some shadows can be seen on some of the scenery just to the right of the house. These shadows are most likely caused by another bird fluttering its wings as the actors pass. Even if someone had hanged themselves while the scene was being shot, the idea that the studio would have just left it in is ludicrous.
Pink Floyd designed “Dark Side of the Moon” as an alternate soundtrack to the movie – If you start playing “Dark Side of the Moon” at the moment when the MGM lion finishes the third roar, the movie and the music sync up and appear to support each other. For example, in the song “Breathe” Dorothy balances on a fence while the line “balanced on the biggest wave” is sung. When the rumor started to gain mainstream press coverage in 1997, sales of the album doubled and EMI, Pink Floyd’s record label, did nothing to debunk the rumors. The various members of Pink Floyd willing to discuss it have said that the whole thing is a myth. Alan Parsons, the engineer on the album, has even said that it would have been impossible for them to have done so since commercial videotape recorders weren’t available in 1972 when the album was recorded and they had no other way to screen the picture in the studio with enough precision to do the syncing properly.
This synching effect is not unique to The Wizard of Oz; others have found synching between 2001: A Space Odyssey and Pink Floyd’s Meddle, Blade Runner and Wish You Were Here, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Animals, and Yellow Submarine and Relics, among others. The members of Pink Floyd are apparently bigger cinephiles than anyone ever knew.
An extra song and dance number was filmed but then removed – The song in question is called “The Jitterbug”; as Dorothy and friends are on their way to the witch’s castle they’re attacked by small, furry pink and blue bugs that give victims ‘the jitters’. The scene was filmed at a cost of $80,000 (approximately $1.2M in 2010 dollars) and 5 weeks of schedule but was cut when screening audiences thought the film was too long. In addition, Cab Calloway’s song “Call of the Jitter Bug”, with its associated dance, was becoming popular and the producers were concerned that movie viewers would be confused. The scene is still referred to when the witch says to the flying monkeys, “They’ll give you no trouble. I promise you that. I’ve sent a little insect on ahead to take the fight out of them.” The footage has since been lost with only home movies taken during rehearsals surviving.
MGM ran out of money during production and was forced to film the opening and closing scenes in black and white – While The Wizard of Oz was a very expensive production for the time, the switch between black and white and color film stock was not done because of money troubles. William Denslow, the illustrator for the original book, had used different colors to illustrate different scenes and the producers of the movie wanted to emulate that look. The switch from black and white to color is also used to contrast the drabness of Dorothy’s life in Kansas to the vitality of Oz.
The coat that Frank Morgan wears when playing Professor Marvel actually belonged to L. Frank Baum – The coat in question was supposedly found by the costumer in a thrift shop. Morgan was rummaging through the pockets one day and found Baum’s name stitched into the lining, a common practice for expensive tailored garments at the time. The tailor that made the coat as well as Baum's widow both confirmed that the coat had originally belonged to Baum and the coat was ceremoniously presented to Mrs. Baum at the end of production. Some people think this is all a little too coincidental and the whole thing was actually an elaborate publicity stunt by the studio. Whichever version you prefer, the fact remains that the coat did originally belong to L. Frank Baum.
Margaret Hamilton swears early in the movie – In the movie, Toto bites Miss Gulch who then demands that the dog be put down. She is speaking very quickly and it sounds like she says, “If you don’t hand over that dog, I’ll bring a damn suit that’ll take your whole farm!” She actually says, “If you don’t hand over that dog, I’ll bring a damage suit that’ll take your whole farm!” In 1939, especially for a children’s movie, swearing of any kind was unthinkable.
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