Aug 16, 2014

There's No Place Like Home: 75th Anniversary of the 'Wizard of Oz'

It was 75 years ago that on August 15th 1939, 10,000 fans lined up to see the Hollywood premiere of Wizard of Oz, two days before public opening.
It has become the most watched film in Hollywood's history, and while remakes have been made, the original still stands out in popularity.

The Cast: Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, Frank Morgan as Professor Marvel/The Wizard/Cabbie/Guard, Ray Bolger as Hunk/Scarecrow, Jack Haley as Hickory/Tin Man, Bert Lahr as Zeke/Cowardly Lion, Billie Burke as Glinda the Good Witch of the North, Margaret Hamilton as Miss Almira Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West, Clara Blandick as Aunt Em, Charley Grapewin as Uncle Henry, Terry as Toto, Singer Midgets as Munchkins, and Mitchell Lewis as the Winkie Guard. Munchkins are listed at the Wikipedia entry.
Ironically, MGM lost money on the film production because although it was popular, it was overshadowed by the film Gone With The Wind. Profit was not realized until 1948 when it was re-released.
It was originally filmed in black and white, but the new technicolor was decided for the time spent in the Land of Oz.
Toto (Terry) the dog was paid ($125/week) more than the Munchkins were paid ($50/week).
The song, Over the Rainbow was introduced by composer Harold Arlen and director Victor Fleming thought the song was too long and wanted it cut. Songwriters, Arlen and Yip Harburg convinced MGM to keep the song segment. Over the Rainbow won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

During the film, Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West received severe burns on her face and hands in her scene when she exits Munchkin land.
Ray Bolger, the Scarecrow, had permanent lines on his face from the rubber mask glued to his face every morning before filming.

The Wicked Witch's green makeup was made with copper, toxic if ingested. Her face became stained for some time after the film was finished.

The film was based on the novel of L. Frank Baum. Adaptations to the novel had been produced since the silent film era, but the most remembered the MGM production.
Buddy Ebsen, (Captain January-1936) originally was cast to be the Scarecrow, Ray Bolger who was to be the Tin Man wanted the Scarecrow part. Ebsen agreed to switch roles and went through the rehearsals and songs as the Tin Man. Ten days into shooting, Ebsen suffered a reaction to the aluminum powder he wore and was hospitalized. The film shut down with Ebsen in the hospital and a search being made for a replacement.
Shirley Temple was the original choice as Dorothy, but MGM decided a different style was needed. Another consideration was Deanna Durbin; but part of the film's success was due to their final decision to cast Judy Garland – not as experienced at the time, but certainly ended up the right choice.
The following is a story behind the scenes of casting Dorothy for the Wizard of Oz.

Indeed, there's no place like home …

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