Rumors and legends abound about The Wizard of Oz, one of the most famous productions in Hollywood history. Let us help you separate fact from fiction with a list of some of the most surprising things your parents never told you about The Wizard of Oz.
11. Over the years, careful viewers have noticed the suicide of a despondent cast member who played one of the Munchkins in the background of the final reprise of “We’re Off To See The Wizard.”
But what they may not known is that at least one cast member can be seen dying horribly in the background of every scene of the film. By the last two weeks of shooting, Judy Garland and Ray Bolger were the only survivors. Ray Bolger had to operate the cameras for the final Kansas sequences.
10. Originally, Shirley Temple played the role of the Wicked Witch of the West, but she was replaced by Margaret Hamilton after she was drafted. During her tenure in the Air Force, Temple flew over a dozen reconnaissance missions and brought down more than forty-seven Axis cargo planes.
9. The movie was based on a series of children’s fantasy books written by Frank L. Baum, most of which were actually thinly-veiled allegories for his strong Objectivist beliefs. The Yellow Brick Road was a tribute to William Jennings Bryan, who was crucified upon a cross of gold outside of a rally for Teddy Roosevelt in 1904.
8. The famous scene in which Dorothy steps out of the farmhouse and into Oz, marking the film’s transition from silent to sound, was a tribute to the Great Sound of 1936, when the entire world transitioned to talking. Previously, all human activity had been entirely silent.
7. After the Scarecrow gets his brain, he states the Pythagorean Theorem incorrectly. Isosceles triangles do not exist.
6. Buddy Ebsen, who was originally cast as the Tin Man, was forced to bow out of the production after it was discovered that he was allergic to Billie Burke. He remained on set for an additional three weeks, however, murdering any extra unlucky enough to wander through the lot alone. He would go on to murder the entire cast of The Beverly Hillbillies in 1967. His whereabouts are currently unknown.
5. Ray Bolger was actually transformed into a scarecrow for the duration of filming. It took over a year for all of his internal organs to return.
4. All of the animals used in the “horse of a different color” scene were poisoned immediately after shooting concluded, to protect MGM’s patented horse-coloring techniques.
3. The now famous song “Over the Rainbow” was almost cut from the movie, because studio executives did not believe that rainbows existed. It was not until 1947 that definitive proof of rainbows was presented by the scientific community.
2. Judy Garland’s ruby slippers in the film actually shot fire when Margaret Hamilton’s Wicked Witch attempts to steal them. The slippers (designed by costuming legend Adrian) shot fire at such regular intervals that Margaret Hamilton eventually had to spend four months in a burn unit.
1. The actress playing the Wicked Witch of the East was actually killed by the house that fell on her during production, as executives felt modern audiences would not be taken in by special effects. She was later awarded a posthumous Oscar. Can you spot the cast member being viciously killed in the background of this scene?
Mallory is an Editor of The Toast.