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NOW IT CAN BE TOLD – all the hush-hush secrets THEY didn’t want you to know about THAT so-called “fairy tale”!
Child star Shirley Temple was the first choice to play Dorothy and sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" in the classic film “The Wizard of Oz”!
That’s just one of the shocking secrets about the beloved 1939 movie revealed by authors Jay Scarfone and William Stillman in their blockbuster new book, “The Wizard of Oz, The Official 75th Anniversary Companion”.
In addition, legendary kid-hater W.C. Fields was the original choice to play the Wizard, the Wicked Witch of the West would have been super-sexy – and Toto would have been a man in a dog costume!
As it turned out, dangerous costumes could’ve killed off a good number of the cast, including future TV superstar Buddy Ebsen, who suffered a near fatal poisoning.
After deciding to turn L. Frank Baum’s 1900 best-selling book into a movie, MGM was desperate to cast Temple, but she was under contract to 20th Century Fox, which had other plans for her.
So the studio settled for Judy Garland, who, at first, didn’t want the role either! At age 17, she was chasing more sophisticated parts. She didn’t want to play a child. But she changed her mind after learning the Technicolor film had an all-star cast of vaudevillian actors and songs written to showcase her singing talents. “I knew my entire future rested on my ability to play Dorothy convincingly,” she stated.
It was physical torture for Garland, who says the Temple-smitten MGM bosses “tried to make me look as much like Shirley as possible. I was fat, had crooked teeth, straight black hair and the wrong kind of nose. They made me wear a corset and a wig, capped my teeth and put horrible things in my nose to turn it up like Shirley’s. Making that picture was almost the end of me.”
Garland was also ordered to lose 12 pounds and the studio assigned her a personal trainer and body double, 1928 Olympic swimming star Bobbie Koshay.
In Baum’s book, Dorothy’s slippers were silver and tinkled. The studio decided the shoes should be ruby and sparkle to contrast the Yellow Brick Road and take advantage of the new Technicolor process. For close-ups, Garland’s feet were not used. She had a stand-in.
As a juvenile, Garland was allowed to work only four hours a day and Koshay appeared in all shots when Garland’s face wasn’t visible.
Actor/dancer Ray Bolger, too, suffered in his Scarecrow costume.
“My face gets so hot it seems like it’s going to explode,” revealed Bolger. “I had no ears. There were bunches of straw in their place…I couldn’t hear a single thing, and my own voice sounded like somebody talking in a huge, empty hall.”
The Tin Man had it worst of all. Jack Haley took over the role when Ebsen, the producers’ first choice, nearly died from inhaling the poisonous aluminum powder used as makeup to silver his face. The lethal stuff was also put on Haley, who had makeup men wipe away any perspiration to keep the aluminum from running into his eyes. The Tin Man’s outfit was so cumbersome he couldn’t sit down in it – and in all close-ups, Haley removed his torturous pants!
Bert Lahr had few physical problems playing the oft-hysterical Cowardly Lion, but the role ruined his career.
“After The Wizard of Oz, I was typecast as a lion, and there aren’t all that many parts for lions,” he explained. At first, the Wicked Witch was slinky and glamorous, as played by Shakespearean actress Gale Sondergaard. But she didn’t like the image it projected and dropped out. Margaret Hamilton was hired in her place – and the witch turned downright scary!
With a ferocious delivery that sent children screaming, Hamilton’ was OK with her jutting chin and sharply hooked nose.
“My face has given me lots of work,” said Hamilton, who revealed her father once wanted to have her nose fiixed, but she refused because “it was mine and I wanted to keep it.”
The witch’s tiny 28 slaves, the Winkies, wore costumes made from such heavy felt, they all nearly expired from heat stroke, working under the heavy arc lights. The Winged Monkeys, who came after Dorothy and Toto in the Haunted Forest, were more small men wearing suits made of hair, facial appliances to look like monkeys, and motorized wings to make them airborne. They were nearly roasted alive, too.
Meanwhile, the 124 little people who played the Munchkins faced big problems of their own. Chairs, dressing tables and bathroom fixtures were all too tall for them and had to be reconfigured. And one crewman, dubbed “the Midget elevator,” was hired for the sole purpose of picking up the Munchkins and putting them down on a designated spot. Sadly, few of the Munchkin players found work after the film.
The real scene-stealer was Toto, a 5-year-old, 17-pound female brindle Cairn Terrier named Terry. The anniversary book reveals, incredibly, Toto was originally to be played by a man in a dog costume!
Legendary comic W.C. Fields was cast as the Wizard, but bowed out with a scheduling or salary conflict and Frank Morgan was tapped for the role. The vaudeville, Broadway and silent picture veteran was a natural, adding his own doublespeak and witty ad-libs. Morgan also had a portable cabinet filled with booze and “nipped a bit,” Garland confided.
But then, the film’s producer, Mervyn LeRoy, noted, “To make a picture like The Wizard of Oz, everybody had to be a little drunk with imagination.”