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5 Things We Never Knew About The Wizard Of Oz

Is there anyone who hasn’t, at one time or another, seen the movie The Wizard Of Oz? It’s one of Hollywood’s most iconic films, featuring the legendary Judy Garland and a stellar cast that included film faves Jack Haley, Bert Lahr, and Ray Bolger. And what might be considered even more entrancing than the cast itself: The movie was one of the first films that movie studio MGM shot in color.

The movie is well beloved and well known, but there are some behind-the-scenes, little-known facts that have managed to stay fairly well hidden since the movie first hit theaters in 1939.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Worth Noting: The Classic Song “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” Was Almost Cut

“Over the Rainbow” is largely considered one of the most iconic, and poignant, songs of all time. Surprisingly, it almost didn’t make it into the movie. Because the final cut of The Wizard of Oz was two hours long, producers looked for ways to cut about 20 minutes from the movie and were intent on relegating the song to the cutting room floor. Although they were concerned that children and younger viewers might not understand the song’s message, they ultimately decided to keep the scene where Dorothy is singing the song at her Kansas home.

Dorothy’s Appearance Undergoes A Transformation

George Cukor, who directed The Wizard Of Oz, is credited with coming up with Dorothy’s wholesome farm girl look. Originally boasting a Rapunzel-like blond wig and heavier makeup, Dorothy was reimagined with a more natural appearance that he believed would stand in stark contrast to the magical and imaginary nature of Oz. Cukor later directed movie hits such as My Fair Lady (1964) and the original version of A Star is Born (1954).

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, And Tin Man: Always Dining Alone

Back in the day, there was no CGI, no graphics that could easily replace the real deal in terms of actors, action sequences, or plot contrivances. This means that the characters of the Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, and Tin Man were always in costume and, apparently, frightening to others on the set and during day-to-day filming. In fact, their appearance and full costumes were considered so terrifying that they weren’t allowed to eat at the MGM studio lunchroom: They were required to eat alone so that fellow MGM workers wouldn’t become frightened. But if you’re working on a studio lot, and you’re in a costume, isn’t it safe to assume you’re an actor, and not some kind of living, breathing monster? Just saying…

The Yellow Brick Road? Not So Much

Would anyone have followed the yellow brick road if it displayed a rather off-putting green tinge? Doubtful. Unfortunately, MGM discovered that the Technicolor format rendered the road less than yellow when it was shot in full color. No yellow brick road – no “Follow The Yellow Brick Road” song, no way to get to the Emerald City, no brilliant path to the movie’s fabled end. After trying several different solutions to alter the road’s appearance, several coats of industrial-grade yellow paint were applied to the “road,” which allowed the moviemakers to remain true to the walkway as it was described in the original 1900 book.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Surrender Dorothy: The Writing Is On The Wall (Or In This Case, The Sky)

The “Surrender Dorothy” scene in The Wizard Of Oz was considered as sinister as it was spellbinding. In one of the movie’s most memorable moments, the Wicked Witch flies on her broomstick through the sky, writing an ominous method to Dorothy as she does so. Forget CGI, which wasn’t yet available: The movie’s producers had to dig deep and get creative in order to achieve any semblance of realism. The scene was eventually filmed using a tank of water, a model of the witch, and a hypodermic needle. In order to make it appear as though the character had taken to writing in the sky, the witch model was attached to a hypodermic needle, and the syringe was filled with milk. The needle was then put into a tank where the words ‘Surrender Dorothy’ was eventually spelled out, with the water providing a background that resembled the sky.