Thursday marks 80 years since the Aug. 15, 1939, Hollywood premiere of the film classic The Wizard of Oz, the story of a tornado that hits Kansas and transports a young girl named Dorothy, played by Judy Garland, to a magical place called Oz, where she embarks on a journey to track down the wizard who can help her go home.
The Hollywood studio MGM had pulled out all of the stops for the movie, spending $3 million (about $55 million today), desperate to match the commercial success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. And it worked: The film won two Academy Awards for its music — “Over the Rainbow” won best original song and made Judy Garland famous— in addition to earning nominations for best picture, best cinematography, art direction and special effects. Commercially speaking it made decent money when it was released, but made even more money after CBS aired it for the first time on Nov. 3, 1956.
By 1967, TIME could declare that it had become “the most popular single film property in the history of U.S. television.” The movie had made Garland a “national legend,” the magazine continued.
But despite its commercial success, The Wizard of Oz is seen by some as cursed. There were so many serious accidents on set that those Oscar-nominated special effects almost cost cast members their lives, from the two actors playing winged monkeys crashing to the ground when the wires that hoisted them up in the air broke, to the Wicked Witch of the West’s stunt double Betty Danko injuring her left leg when the broomstick exploded.
“Some of these special effects had never been done before,” says Aljean Harmetz, a former New York Times Hollywood correspondent who wrote The Making of The Wizard of Oz, which revealed the disastrous filmmaking process. “There were no unions, at that time. Stars and lesser players were indentured servants [for] studios.”
But not everything you may have heard about problems on the set is true. “I think it had a basis in truth and it was magnified,” says Anne Edwards, author of Judy Garland: A Biography.
Here’s what’s real and what’s myth in some of the most popular theories:
True: the makeup made actors sick
Buddy Ebsen was originally cast in the role of the Tin Woodman, a.k.a. the Tin Man, but he was essentially poisoned by the makeup, which was made of pure aluminum dust. Nine days after filming started he was hospitalized, sitting under an oxygen tent. When he was not getting better fast enough, the filmmakers hired Jack Haley to be the Tin Man instead. This time, instead of applying the aluminum powder, the makeup artists mixed it into a paste and painted it on him. He did develop an infection in his right eye that needed medical attention, but it ended up being treatable.
Margaret Hamilton — who played the Wicked Witch of the West and was the one tipped who Harmetz off to the …read more
Source:: Time – Entertainment