Yesterday, Google decided to celebrate the 71st anniversary of the original release of The Wizard of Oz…for some reason. In honor of this odd anniversary, we decided to celebrate it in our own way by listing the ten craziest but absolutely true facts about the movie.
1. The Nazi Connection – In 1938, when filming began on The Wizard of Oz, the Nazi regime in Germany was in full swing. The Nazis had a policy of exterminating “undesirables,” which included those born with a physical impairment. Some of the diminutive actors who played the Munchkins were part of a German troupe, and seized the chance to escape the Nazis and immigrate to the US.
2. No Suicides in Oz – A popular urban legend is that you can see someone hanging themselves in the background at the end of the scene introducing the Tin Woodsman. The story goes that one of the actors portraying the Munchkins committed suicide because of a failed love affair, and the moment was captured in film.
In reality, it’s just a large bird stretching its wings. The production let a lot of wild birds wander around the set to make it look more like a forest.
3. It’s a Dog’s Life – If you need any more proof of how poorly little people are treated in Hollywood, consider this fact. The actors that portrayed the Munchkins were each paid $50 a week. Terry, the dog who played Toto, earned $125 a week.
4. Oz Was a Flop – Though well reviewed, The Wizard of Oz was a failure in its original theatrical release. The movie cost $3 million ($46,990,384.62 adjusting for inflation) to produce, and only grossed $2.8 million ($43,857,692.31) in its initial release. It also didn’t have much of an impact on pop culture at the time. The movie only became financially successful and a part of American culture when it began airing annually on network television.
5. The Nation Was Color Blind – The movie famously changes to technicolor when Dorothy leaves Kansas and arrives in Oz. However, when the movie first aired on television, color televisions were so rare that most viewers saw it entirely in black and white, anyway. That was one of the things that made the early television airings so popular; there were so few color shows at the time that could take advantage of the relatively new color TVs.
6. Oz is Not in Black and White – The opening and ending to The Wizard of Oz were not originally filmed in black and white. They were filmed on Sepia Tone film, which gave it more of a brownish tint. However, from 1949, all the prints shown of Oz were in black and white. The movie wasn’t restored to the original sepia tones until a 50th Anniversary special-edition videocassette was released in 1989.
7. The Creator’s Coat – When it came time to dress up Professor Marvel for the opening scene in Kansas, the costumers wanted a coat that looked old yet distinguished. So they went to a thrift store and got a rack of old coats. They finally decided on one, and when Frank Morgan put it on, he discovered a label that read “L. Frank Baum.” That’s the name of the author of the original novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Baum’s widow confirmed that (by a staggering coincidence) they did indeed have one of Baum’s genuine coats. They gave it to Baum’s widow after production was complete.
8. Why Frank Morgan Keeps Showing Up -Frank Morgan plays five roles in the movie; the cab driver, Professor Marvel, the Emerald City gatekeeper, the Wizard’s guard, and the Wizard himself. The reason he plays multiple roles is that they were trying to entice W.C. Fields to play the role of the Wizard, and were trying to give him more screen time. Fields ultimately passed on the role, but the gimmick of the multiple roles moved to Morgan.
9. Dorothy Wore Silver Slippers – In the original novel, Dorothy’s slippers were silver, not ruby. However, the producers changed them to the color ruby so they’d look more interesting in Technicolor.
10. The Wicked Witch Was Too Wicked – The original version of the movie had more scenes with the Wicked Witch of the West, but children in the test audiences found her makeup so terrifying that they had to cut or reshoot the scenes to give her less screen time.
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