Frank Morgan plays Professor Marvel, the Gatekeeper, the Cabbie, the Guard, the voice of the disembodied Oz head, and the Wizard himself. This was done so that Morgan's screen time would balance out with the rest of the cast.
Since most of the other major characters have Kansas counterparts, we can also count Ray Bolger as Hunk and the Scarecrow, Bert Lahr as Zeke and the Cowardly Lion, Jack Haley as Hickory and the Tin Man, and Margaret Hamilton as Miss Gulch and the Wicked Witch of the West.note And possibly also the Wicked Witch of the East; the witch Miss Gulch transforms into in the tornado sequence clearly has a different appearance than the Wicked Witch of the West.
A few of the little people in the Munchkinland sequence appeared twice: Fern Formica and Margaret Pellegrini played Munchkin Villagers and two of the "sleepyheads," and Karl "Karchy" Kosiczky (now Karl Slover) played a Munchkin Herald and a third sleepyhead.
Some of the voice actors did double duty as well: Billy Bletcher as the Mayor of Oz and the Lollipop Guild member, Lorraine Bridges as an Ozmite and a Lullabye League member, and Abe Dinovitch as an apple tree and one of the Munchkins.
TBS frequently airs it at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter, despite it having nothing to do with any of those holidays. This is more likely because it's a very family-friendly film that can be easily viewed at the gatherings that frequently take place.
From the 1970's to the late 1990's, CBS had annually aired the film on its network. Even having special bumpers right before the commercial breaks.
All-Star Cast: This aspect of the film is obviously lost on modern-day audiences, but much of the cast—Judy Garland, Bert Lahr, Frank Morgan, Jack Haley and Margaret Hamilton in particular—were some of the foremost actors of their day. This being the 30's, many of them were noted vaudeville and Broadway performers.
Aluminum Christmas Trees: The now-iconic outfit of the Witch would have been recognizable to older members of the audience as a black-colored parody of what a "church lady" or catechist would wear in particularly old fashioned and conservative churches, reinforcing the image of both The Wicked Witch and Almira Gulch as examples of people in positions of authority gone bad.
The Wicked Witch is often misquoted as shouting, "Fly, my pretties!" as she sends out her army of flying monkeys, though she never refers to them as "my pretties".
The line "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore!" is a misquote of Dorothy's line in The Wizard of Oz. The actual quote is "Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
Dorothy (nor anyone else) does not say "It's a twister, Auntie Em". One of the farm hands, Hunk (the "real life" counterpart of the Scarecrow) does say "It's a twister! It's a twister!"
Although in Airplane!, Stephen Stucker as Johnny says (while tangling himself in phone cords) "Auntie Em! Toto! It's a Twister! It's a Twister!"
Speaking of the Scarecrow, some people think it was the Tin Man who misstated the Pythagorean Theorem instead of him. Also, when most people quote said line, they leave out the part where the Scarecrow says "Oh joy! Rapture! I've got a brain! How can I ever thank you enough?".
Nowhere in the script are the Winged Monkeys ever called the Flying Monkeys. Although, the advertisements have used the term since at least 1949.
Glinda tells Dorothy to "tap" her heels together in the actual film, with "knock" being used in the actual book. The Wiz popularized it to be "click your heels..."
Box Office Bomb: Believe it or not, this classic film was a bust. Budget, $2.8 million (not counting marketing costs), $4.2 million (counting them). Box office, $2,048,000 (domestic), $3,017,000 (worldwide). It couldn't make up the budget domestically and got MGM hit with a $1,145,000 loss over the film. The fact that World War II started mere days after the film hit theaters likely didn't help (WWII is partially responsible for derailing Disney's Pinocchio a few months later). Thankfully, the studio and director Victor Fleming had the distribution rights to Gone with the Wind, which Fleming also directed, to fall back on. It has since recovered. The film was reissued in 1949 and started to make a profit from that point on, but the original box office performance may explain why MGM made no additional films based on the Oz books.
Cast the Runner-Up: Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as The Scarecrow, and Ray Bolger was to play the Tin Woodsman. However, Bolger convinced the studio that his style of dancing was completely wrong for that character (just try to picture the Woodsman dancing like the Scarecrow), so Ebsen agreed to switch roles with him. In an unforeseen complication, however, Ebsen had an extreme allergic reaction to the aluminum dust used in the Tin Man's makeup, and was forced to quit the film, spending six weeks in hospital afterwards. Ebsen also noted in an interview on the Jerry Springer Show many years later that he almost had his testicles cut off by the metal suit! Audio of his performance of "If I Only a Heart" has survived, and in the final film his singing voice is heard instead of Jack Haley's during some reprises of "We're Off to See the Wizard".
Creator Backlash: Jack Haley (the Tin Woodman) did not view making the film as a fond experience, describing it as "awful" and "not fun at all" throughout the rest of his career, primarily due to the hard work involved. (His comments, however, were directed at the making of the film, not the film itself.)
Creator Killer: Director Victor Fleming suffered no ill effects when the film bombed domestically, but co-writers Florence Ryerson and Edgar Allan Woolf were not so lucky, and they never had another major cinematic credit after The Wizard of Oz (Woolf's case was also due to his death 4 years after the film's theatrical release).
If I Only Had a Brain (Full Version/The Scarecrow Dance)
If I Were A King in the Forest (Full Version)
The Reprise of The Witch is dead
Even the original recording of If I Only Had a Heart by Buddy Ebsen
Dawson Casting: Here it's a sixteen year old Judy Garland playing a vaguely age but still younger Dorothy Gale. This is largely unnoticed unless the viewer has read the book. Shirley Temple was originally considered for the role, but the plan fell through.note Temple would have been aged 10 during principal photography. She would star in her own Technicolor picture based on a popular children's book in 1939, The Little Princess. This was to be her last big hit. Nowhere in either the book or the movie is Dorothy's exact age mentioned, though the book describes her as a "little girl." Some sources suggest Dorothy was meant to be twelve in the film while others assume (from the casting of Fairuza Balk in Return to Oz) that in the book she is around eight.
There was one in Kansas with Hickory showing off his wind machine to Dorothy, telling her that it was a machine with a "real heart," providing a bit of extra foreshadowing for his role as the Tin Man. The script survives, but no footage does.
The only one that actually survives is an extended dance number with the Scarecrow following "If I Only Had a Brain." It was choreographed by the legendary Busby Berkeley. However it was thought to slow the film down, and the cornfield sequence was partially reshot to smooth over the changes. The footage for this original sequence was discovered in 1989.
The "Jitterbug" dance number. Cut for pacing, and out of fear that the song and dance would quickly date the film (The "Jitterbug" being a popular dance craze in the late 1930s/early 1940s). The song survives, but the actual footage does not, outside of 16mm home movie recordings of some dance rehearsals.
There was a somber reprise of "Over the Rainbow" with Dorothy singing while locked up in the Witch's castle. The audio survives, but the footage doesn't, other than some still photographs.
The triumphant reprise of "Ding Dong, The Witch is Dead" in the Emerald City that follows Dorothy and the gang back to Oz after melting the Wicked Witch. The song survives, and a few seconds of the original footage exists in the sneak preview, but is lost outside of that.
Many, many scenes of the Wicked Witch were cut after they made children cry in test screenings, reducing her role to 12 minutes of screen time. All of this footage is completely lost.
A keen-eyed viewer may notice that the door being cut by the Tin Man's axe is not the door the four friends exit in the next scene. Originally, Dorothy's friends were to cut their way into a room, following the sound of familiar singing — only to have been duped by the Wicked Witch. Planning to kill Dorothy, she roots the three to the spot, then constructs an illusory rainbow bridge between that spot and Dorothy's prison, going so far as to test it with one of her Winkie guards. The bridge starts out solid, but the center fades out, and, well, Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress. She then magically forces Dorothy's friends to call out to her, luring Dorothy onto the bridge — only to have the ruby slippers flare to life and carry Dorothy safely across! Sadly, as good as this scene sounds, the optical methods of the day weren't up to the rainbow bridge, so everything between cutting open the door and running away was, er, axed.
Judy Garland's feet hurt so much in the ruby slippers that she could only wear them for shots when they would be visible on camera (this also cut down on the wear-and-tear the slippers had to endure). When her feet weren't shown, Garland wore booties or black shoes, which can be glimpsed briefly when she and the Scarecrow are backing away from the apple trees. In addition, Garland's breasts were tightly bound and corseted to make her look younger.
Jack Haley's Tin Man costume was so bulky that he couldn't sit down at any time, he could only lean. He also suffered a severe eye infection from his makeup - though that was mild compared to what Buddy Ebsen had gone through before he replaced him.
Bert Lahr's Cowardly Lion costume was so thick and heavy that he had to have two of them, due to constantly sweating in the costume under the hot studio lights. While one costume would be getting drenched in Lahr's perspiration, the other costume would he under an air dryer drying out.
Ray Bolger's Scarecrow makeup practically forced him onto a liquid diet out of fear that any solid food would ruin the makeup.
Even Margaret Hamilton was affected. While filming the Wicked Witch's fiery exit from Munchkinland she suffered second and third degree burns, forcing her to take six weeks off to recover, and the green makeup she wore tinted her skin for weeks after filming concluded.
Fandom Life Cycle: A Solid 5. Even if you haven't seen the film, there's a good chance you're still familiar with it due to how iconic it is.
Fatal Method Acting: Almost. Buddy Ebsen suffered a near fatal reaction to the Tin Man's aluminum make-up, and Margaret Hamilton was almost burnt alive after catching on fire. To be exact, the original Tin Man makeup used aluminum powder, which was much shinier than Jack Haley's aluminum paste makeup. Unfortunately, the metal particles lined Buddy Ebsen's lungs until, as he put it, he took a breath and nothing happened. Margaret Hamilton, on the other hand, was badly burnt in the retake of her exit from Munchkinland — a "tighter" timing of the fireball came entirely too close to her makeup. While she didn't catch on fire directly, this was bad enough, as the green facepaint was copper-based, trapping the heat of the pyrotechnics. Hamilton remembered ever after the black flecks of burning makeup that were her first clue as to why the makeup man was stripping the stuff away so quickly.
Follow the Leader: The film was greenlit after the enormous success of Walt Disney's fairy-tale musical masterpiece Snow White (Walt was planning his own adaptation for what would become the Disney Animated Canon before MGM's production convinced him to drop the idea).
The trailers from 1949, 1955, and 1970 briefly show a Cut Song celebrating Dorothy's defeat of the Wicked Witch of the West.
Never Work with Children or Animals: A large bird walked on to the set during the filming of one of the scenes. At one point, it's clearly visible extending its wing... however, it was a silhouette, and it was hard to tell it was a bird... and not the corpse of a Munchkin. This gave birth to the famous, yet totally bogus, "Munchkin Suicide" urban legend.
Orphaned Reference: There's a scene where the Wicked Witch is giving instructions for her flying monkeys to intercept Dorothy's party, and she says, "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." This was in reference to a deleted scene where a bug called the Jitterbug stings the main characters, and they break into a dance number.
In a cut Kansas scene, Hickory was working on a wind machine. A reference to it survives in the film....
Aunt Em: "I saw you tinkering with that contraption, Hickory! Now, you and Hunk get back to that wagon!"
Jack Haley became the Tin Man after the original actor (none other than future Jed Clampett, Buddy Ebsen) was hospitalized. The Tin Man's makeup originally consisted of aluminum powder, which coated the actor's lungs and nearly suffocated him. To avoid the same near-fatal mistake, the makeup was changed to aluminum paste. It goes further than that, originally Buddy Ebsen was supposed to play Scarecrow and Ray Bolger was supposed to play Tin Man. Bolger, however, longed to play the Scarecrow, as his childhood idol, Fred Stone, who had inspired him to do vaudeville in the first place, had performed the role on stage in 1902. Because of this, he was unhappy with his role as the Tin Man, reportedly claiming "I'm not a tin performer; I'm fluid", and convinced producer Mervyn LeRoy to recast him in the part he so desired. Ebsen agreed to switch roles with Bolger.
In addition, the Wicked Witch of the West was originally supposed to have been played by Gale Sondergaard and the character was originally supposed to be a glamorous witch inspired by the wicked Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. However, when producer Mervyn LeRoy decided that having an attractive Wicked Witch created a plot hole, as it played against the notion that (as "Glinda, the Witch of the North" would eventually point out to Dorothy) only bad witches were ugly, the character was made into the familiar "ugly hag" and Sondergaard, looking hideous in the make-up, left the production and was replaced by Margaret Hamilton.
There is one scene, just after meeting the Tin Man, where you can see an odd bit of movement in the far background; rumors say this is either a stagehand or one of the Munchkin actors hanging himself because he was rejected by the woman he loved. Apparently it's actually a large bird.
And of course, the Pink FloydThe Dark Side of the Moon soundtrack synching legend. Vigorously denied by the band, who have pointed out that the audio technology necessary to make the film soundtrack and rock album synch this precisely with each other didn't exist in 1973. The soundtrack synching legend was later referenced as an Easter Egg/Shout-Out parody by The Angry Video Game Nerd in his review of the videogame adaptation; but unlike Pink Floyd, who have said the synching with the film was unintentional, the creators of the episode at Cinemassacre did the synching of the album and the episode as intentional and placed in a few bits and clues, like a plane, to make the synching work, as described in their blog.
On a goofier note, urban-legend accounts of zany hijinks engaged in by the little people who'd been recruited from all over the country to play the Munchkins provided inspiration for the 1981 Chevy Chase comedy Under The Rainbow.
There are legends of two different alternate endings that show that Oz was real after all. One ending shows the Ruby Slippers still on Dorothy's feet as she lies in bed while the other has Dorothy saying "There's no place like home", with the camera panning down to show the Ruby Slippers under her bed. These endings are often mentioned to have only been shown once or twice on television reruns in the mid-to-late 20th century. Neither ending has been confirmed to exist.
Buddy Ebson, the first actor cast as the Tin Man, was hospitalised after inhaling the aluminum powder that was used for his make-up, forcing the rule to be recast (with safer metallic greasepaint).
Both Margaret Hamilton as the Wicked Witch of the West, and her stunt double Betty Danko, were seriously injured in separate accidents involving the pyrotechnics used for the Witch's appearances and disappearances.
Four months after the movie was released Frank Morgan, who played the Wizard, was involved in a serious car accident. His chauffeur/house servant was killed in the December 1939 smash in New Mexico and Franks wife Alma was injured. Frank and his son George escaped unharmed.
Judy Garland's post-child star life was plagued with depression, mental illness, and other calamities, eventually leading to her premature death from a drug overdose. Some have said the Curse even encompassed her daughter, Liza Minnelli.
Promoted Fanboy: Margaret Hamilton said that the original novel "has been my favorite book since I was four", so the role coming when she also needed to work was easy to accept. Roy Bolger also changed roles with the eventually replaced Buddy Ebsen because his childhood hero, Fred Stone, played the Scarecrow in a 1902 stage adaptation of the story.
The trouble began with the script. Three writers were ultimately credited (Florence Ryderson, Edgar Allen Woolf, and Noel Langley); however, these were merely the three who did the most work on it, as the laundry list below the three credited writers will show.. And Langley, the studio's favored writer, took a massive step away from the story, introducing slews of new characters (including Prince Florizel, a handsome prince given a Baleful Polymorph into the Cowardly Lion), pushing Dorothy completely to the periphery of the plot, and turning Auntie Em into a cruel, heartless caretaker that was, in the first drafts, the one trying to get rid of Toto. Woolf and Ryderson mostly applied damage control, cutting away the more bizarre elements of Langley's scripts while keeping the majority of his dialogue.
Casting was another problem. 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. Buddy Ebsen was originally cast as the Scarecrow, while Ray Bolger was the Tin Man; Bolger, whose childhood hero was Fred Stone (who had played the Scarecrow in a 1902 stage adaptation of the story), worked out a deal with Ebsen and switched roles with him. During filming, Ebsen suffered a severe allergic reaction to his Tin Man makeup and was forced to quit, being replaced by Jack Haley (after the makeup was redesigned to be safer).
The film went through no fewer than five directors:
The first, Norman Taurog, oversaw initial casting and set construction, but left before shooting began.
Actual filming began under Richard Thorpe, who lasted a little over a week before being fired, after producer Mervyn LeRoy decided that the footage he shot looked like absolute crap; Dorothy in particular was made to wear ridiculous-looking "baby doll" make-up.
George Cukor then came on-board for a few days to help re-tool the film's look, including thankfully getting rid of Judy Garland's "baby doll" make-up and just telling her to just be herself, before being sent off to work on Gone with the Wind before shooting any scenes.
He was replaced by Victor Fleming, who decided to keep Cukor's changes in place (because LeRoy had already expressed his approval of them), and oversaw the vast majority of filming, but was ironically sent away to replace Cukor on Gone with the Wind.
This left King Vidor to handle filming of the Kansas scenes, the only other director whose work was seen in the finished film. In the end, Fleming was the only one of the five directors to be credited; Vidor did not publicly reveal his involvement until after Fleming's death in 1949. Fleming himself did return for post-production after principal photography on Gone with the Wind had wrapped. Having a second director do the Kansas scenes worked out well as the sepia-tone scenes were supposed to have a different feel to the color Oz sequences anyway.
The elaborate nature of the makeup caused a great deal of agony for all actors involved. The issues with Buddy Ebsen that resulted in his departure from the film and subsequent hospitalization have been mentioned, but there were also issues with Bert Lahr (the Cowardly Lion) and Hamilton. Lahr could only eat through a straw (if he decided to eat anything more elaborate, he had to spend an extra hour in makeup to repair his face appliances), and due to the massive amounts of hot stage lighting needed for Technicolor, had to remove his entire costume and stand in front of a fan between shots to avoid heat stroke. Hamilton, meanwhile, couldn't eat at all due to the copper in her makeup! Ray Bolger was at least able to eat with his Scarecrow makeup on, but the rubber mask cut off air and moisture to his face; his skin would regularly crack and bleed when he removed the mask. When filming finished, the mask had left a pattern of lines on his face that took over a year to fade.
Hamilton suffered a serious burn during the filming of her exit from Munchkinland, which was aggravated by her makeup making treatment difficult. Once she recovered, she refused to film the "SURRENDER DOROTHY" scene on hearing they'd made her a fireproof costume, despite the studio's insistence that the scene involved no pyrotechnics; her stand-in did the scene... and was seriously burned herself!
Filming in general was a struggle uphill, with the cast's call time being four AM and their departure being at seven or eight at the earliest.
The only element that went relatively peacefully was the music... and even then several songs were conceived and dropped, and one, the famous "Jitterbug" sequence, was cut entirely after early test screenings found the audience unreceptive.
Unintentional Period Piece: The film averted this trope by cutting a musical number in which the Wicked Witch of the West sends "jitterbugs" to torment Dorothy and her friends, specifically to avoid dating the movie.note However, they forgot to remove the line where the Witch mentions having sent "an insect" to tire the fight out of the heroes.
The script originally included an end scene that was never filmed, in which Hunk (the real-world counterpart to the Scarecrow) was going away to agricultural college and Dorothy promised to write to him. The implications were heavy that this would result in a romance between them, which would account for Dorothy's particular affection for the Scarecrow during her time in Oz, including one line left in the script in which she singles the Scarecrow out as the one companion she'd "miss most of all."
Also, in addition to the Dawson Casting example, W.C. Fields was originally asked to play the Wizard, but he demanded a salary which MGM considered to be too exorbitant.
"The Jitterbug" scene and dance number, even though the finished film still has a line leading into it from the Wicked Witch ("I've sent a little insect ahead to take the fight out of them!"), and most stage productions of The Wizard of Oz include it.
"Over The Rainbow"note This title specifically. The "Somewhere" part wasn't originally a part of the title. was very nearly cut from the film because the producers thought it was disrespectful to have Judy Garland sing in a barnyard (and because it was thought that it would slow the movie down). Cutting that song would have changed her entire career.
Also there was originally meant to be a Dark Reprise of the song 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. Here's the audio. Unlike in the above scene, however, the song was cut at this point.
Early on 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 cancelled his own version of the film in favor of other projects so as not to compete with MGM's version.
Shirley Temple was wanted for the role of Dorothy and there were negotiations to loan her out from Fox. Deanna Durbin was also considered before Judy Garland was cast.
Deanna Durbin was also considered for one of the other possible scripts, and would have appeared as an opera-singing princess of Oz, counterpart to the jazz-singing Dorothy. Accounts vary as to the Shirley Temple story, however, as her singing talents, while impressive for her age, weren't quite up to a musical of this caliber.
MGM considered using Leo the Lion as The Cowardly Lion. An actor would have dubbed the character's lines in.
The insurance company refused to sign off on it, of course.
Noel Langley, a South African playwright, wrote a version of the script in which the Winged Monkeys are on Dorothy's side. He also invented new characters - Lizzie Smithers the soda jerk, a prince, princess and a dragon.
A later script has the Wicked Witch out to get the Wizard of Oz with 200 winged monkeys, 4,000 wolves and 10,000 men, because she wants the Emerald City throne for her dim-witted son Bulbo.
Mervyn Le Roy and William Cannon wanted to do a dark, "realistic" retelling of the Oz tale. In their version, the Oz Scarecrow was a flesh-and-bone human who was so stupid that he could only get a job standing in a field and chasing off birds, while the Tin Man was a "heartless" man sentenced to be locked in a tin suit of armor for all eternity. Dorothy was only supposed to meet him many years into his sentence, after he had softened and become kind.
Dorothy was originally going to be blonde and wear an even frumpier dress.
You Look Familiar: Frank Morgan plays four different roles in Oz—the doorman at the gate, the coachman who drives the Horse of a Different Color, the guard outside the Wizard's chamber, and the Wizard himself. This was done to balance out Morgan's screen time with the rest of the cast. It also unintentionally gives the viewer a clue that all is not as it seems in the vast, graceful Emerald City.
The 1982 anime film
Keep Circulating the Tapes: The VHS tapes for the 1982 film have since been out of print. Currently, there are no plans for a DVD release.