"The Wizard of Oz" celebrates the anniversary of its national release on Tuesday. It has now been 76 years since Judy Garland taught American filmgoers that "there's no place like home."
It may have been simpler times back in 1939 -- when tin men didn't feel inadequate to billionaire superheroes, scarecrows didn't have to worry about farming drones and lions could walk on a yellow brick road without the fear of running into a dentist -- but despite the passing decades, fans continue to return to Kansas, then return to Oz and then return to Kansas again. Diamonds on the soles of your shoes may cure walking blues, but ruby slippers are forever.
Below are five things you somehow still haven't learned about this national treasure of a film:
1. On multiple occasions, the studio almost cut Judy Garland's iconic rendition of "Over the Rainbow" from the film entirely.
The "man behind the curtain" came far too close to throwing away this eventual winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Song. Originally, MGM gave feedback to composer Harold Arlen, saying his song was too "symphonic" and that it would have to be sung like an opera. Arlen then simplified the melody with smaller chords, and thanks to new approvals, the scene was filmed. After this, director Victor Fleming thought the song footage should be left on the cutting floor "because it's too long and it's too difficult."
From here, the songwriters, Arlen and lyricist Yip Harburg, convinced MGM that it should be inserted back into the film. Another director -- one of the five who worked on the film -- cut it back out and the rainbow row continued. MGM also seems to have thought it was problematic to have their star singing in a farmyard.
In the end, Arlen and Harburg once again convinced MGM to put the song back into the final release. As you may expect, this decision got much criticism at the time. Before it became an iconic American song, many critics deemed "Over the Rainbow" long and unnecessary, similar to Fleming's critique. Among many other journalists, Robbin Coons of the Associated Press said, "The picture could have been speeded more at its beginnings, especially by the elimination of Judy's first song."
2. Aluminum dust makeup caused the hospitalization of the original actor chosen to play Tin Man. The part had to be recast.
Before Jack Haley put on the tin suit, a different actor, Buddy Ebsen, was supposed to play the memorable character.
With MGM having little clue how to dress up the Tin Man, the costuming department covered Ebsen in aluminum dust, which ended up collapsing the actor's lungs. Ebsen had to spend two weeks in the hospital, and MGM brushed that aluminum dust off their shoulders and gave the role to Haley. Ebsen may have lost his chance at this iconic role, but he would later go on to play Jed Clampett on "The Beverly Hillbillies."
Other actors also suffered physical ailments due to the shooting of "The Wizard of Oz." While filming her exit from "Munchkinland," Margaret Hamilton -- the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West -- received severe burns on both her face and hands. The fire that was supposed to billow up after she made her escape accidentally rose up in a fiery cloud before she had descended. Hamilton's stunt double was also burned while filming a different scene after a pipe exploded.
Ray Bolger -- the actor who played the Scarecrow -- ended up having "permanent" lines on his face due to the glued-on rubber mask he wore every day for filming.
Also, the temperatures on set were beyond hot due to the Technicolor process requiring ultra bright shots. Cinematographer Harold Rosson claimed "people were always fainting and being carried off the set."
3. The Tin Man's "oil" was actually chocolate sauce.
Jack Haley explained the fake oil in The Wizardry of Oz: "The oil Ray Bolger squirted at me, to loosen up my joints, was not oil but chocolate syrup. They squirted chocolate in my face, because the oil wouldn't photograph right, but chocolate will."
Another somewhat delicious costuming choice was also used on set. The horse that kept changing colors in the film was played by four horses. Designers covered each of these horses in lemon, cherry or grape powdered gelatin. These horses apparently kept trying to lick the gelatin off, which given gelatin comes from horse hooves and bones -- along with an amalgamation of other animal parts -- perhaps makes this sound a bit less delicious.
4. Director Victor Fleming slapped Judy Garland when she wouldn't stop giggling. Then, she kissed him.
In Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master, Michael Sragow wrote about the incident:
"When [Judy] Garland couldn't stop breaking into giggles at the pseudo-menacing advance of [Bert] Lahr's Cowardly Lion, Fleming escorted her off the Yellow Brick Road, said, 'Now darling, this is serious,' slapped her on the cheek, then ordered, 'Now go in there and work.'"
Apparently, Fleming felt terrible about slapping Garland after the incident and started saying that somebody on the crew should punch him. Garland overheard this and said, "I won't do that, but I'll kiss your nose." And then she did. Hmmm.
You can still see Garland stifling back laughter in the final film.
5. The memorable flying house was actually falling down into a fake sky. The footage was then reversed.
For this shot, the crew dropped a recreation of Dorothy's house onto a floor that they'd painted to look like the Kansas sky. They filmed this falling house in slow motion and then put the footage in reverse for the final movie.
Bonus: "The Wizard of Oz" is the most watched film of all time.
According to the Library of Congress.
Much of the writing in this article originally appeared in a piece tied to the film's 75th anniversary last year.
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