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Thread: The Wizard of Oz: Five Appalling On-Set Stories

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    The Wizard of Oz: Five Appalling On-Set Stories

    The Wizard of Oz: Five Appalling On-Set Stories

    In honor of the film’s 80th anniversary, a look back at a few anecdotes that have not aged as well as the 1939 classic.
    By Julie Miller


    August 23, 2019



    From the Everett Collection.

    Today, Hollywood has the special effects to launch Brad Pitt into space, the sophisticated safety standards to minimize harm on set, and (finally) the motivation to push for more equality in front of and behind the camera. But in 1939, when The Wizard of Oz was being filmed at MGM, the industry was a much more primitive place. According to Aljean Harmetz’s fascinating 1977 book, The Making of The Wizard of Oz, Frank Morgan—the actor playing the title character—came to set with a minibar in his briefcase. Of the film’s 10 main cast members, 16-year-old star Judy Garland got the second-lowest salary—making more than only her canine companion, Terry, who played Toto. And myriad injuries and miseries were suffered on set that sound, frankly, horrifying in light of modern technology and H.R. policies.
    In honor of the film’s 80th anniversary, here’s a look back at a few shocking behind-the-scenes anecdotes that have not aged nearly as well as the film itself.

    The Cowardly Lion Costume Was Constructed From Actual Lion Hair
    Before the days of synthetic fur, there was only one option for making an authentic-looking lion costume: using the hair of a real lion. Because of continuity concerns, and the fact it was impossible to find duplicate lion hides with identical colorations and patterns, Cowardly Lion actor Bert Lahr wore one costume primarily through filming. Given the costume’s weight—and the fact that Lahr was filming under intensely hot Technicolor lights that had even the lesser-costumed actors “fainting and being carried off the set,” according to cinematographer Harold Rosson—the actor thoroughly sweated through his costume each day...so much that the costume had to be put into an industrial drying bin each night to dry the perspiration.

    Even so, the costume sold at auction in 2014 for $3 million.
    The Original Tin Man Was Hospitalized After a Makeup Disaster

    From the Everett Collection.

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    One night during the rehearsal period, Buddy Ebsen woke up in bed, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, “screaming from violent cramping in his hands, arms, and legs. When he had difficulty breathing, his wife called an ambulance and rushed him to the hospital. He remained in an oxygen tent for two weeks, recovering from the pure aluminum he had ingested into his lungs” from his days in makeup as the Tin Man.
    Rather than being sympathetic to this severe reaction, the studio was furious. “They told me to get the hell back to work,” Ebsen said. When the studio was told that Ebsen—whose skin had turned blue during his reaction—could not immediately return, production replaced him with Jack Haley. Though the aluminum makeup was changed, it still caused Haley a serious eye infection.
    In lesser makeup horror stories, actor Ray Bolger—who played the Scarecrow—removed the rubber prosthetics mask from his face the last day of filming to discover he had burlap scars around his mouth and chin. (At least he was finally free from the mask, which “wasn’t porous, so you couldn’t sweat. You couldn’t breathe through your skin.... We felt like we were suffocating.”) Meanwhile, Margaret Hamilton’s friend alerted her, about a month and a half before filming ended, that she looked “so odd.” When she looked in the mirror, the actor realized the friend was right: Her Wicked Witch of the West makeup had “sunk into my skin. It must have been months before my face was really normal again.”
    Sadly for the actors playing the Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion, they were also banned from eating lunch inside the MGM cafeteria because the sight of them eating in their makeup was deemed too disgusting.
    The Snow Was Made From Asbestos

    In the days before computer-generated effects, film crews had to rely on practical tricks to simulate snow. In the scene in which Dorothy is awakened in a poppy field by a blanket of snow engineered by Glinda the Good Witch, production reportedly used chrysotile asbestos. (Or, as Atlas Obscura elegantly put it, the film “literally dous[es] its main characters in carcinogens.”) It wasn’t just The Wizard of Oz that relied on asbestos-laced snow—that substance was also used in the ’30s in holiday decorations.
    The Wicked Witch of the West Caught on Fire
    Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
    Robert Southwell, S.J.

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    I knew about the Buddy Epson story. They used some really nasty stuff as makeup back then.
    Leftists have unquestionably demonstrated their hatred for due process, and Democrats have undeniably obstructed justice for, and thoroughly victim-shamed and smeared, Karen Monahan.

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    I'm not sure all that is exactly shocking. Studios used (for that time) state-of-the-art effects and makeup. It's just that cinematography wasn't all that old then so they were necessarily crude compared to later techniques. It's not like the studio wanted their principal actors to get sick or injured. That costs a lot of time and money.

    I did not know that Garland was so poorly paid but I'm not surprised. She was under contract and it was early days for her as far movies went. The studio probably never anticipated that the movie would become iconic through television broadcasts decades later.
    "Alexa, slaughter the fatted calf."

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    Then there was all the drunken midget sex.

    Sent from my BBB100-1 using Tapatalk
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    Quote Originally Posted by bandersnatch45 View Post
    Then there was all the drunken midget sex.

    Sent from my BBB100-1 using Tapatalk
    Thats not limited to the movie.
    Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
    Robert Southwell, S.J.

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    Quote Originally Posted by phillygirl View Post
    Thats not limited to the movie.
    Do I want to ask?
    No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. This offer VALID in 35 34 33 32 31 26 20 17 15 14 13 ALL 50 states.

    The new 13 original states to stand up for freedom: CA, CT, IA, MA, DE, MN, NH, NY, RI, VT, ME, MD, NJ (plus DC).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Celeste Chalfonte View Post
    Do I want to ask?
    No, I was just being snarky.

    I channeled you today. I used the word rapprochement in a heated conversation (well, heated by the other side, I of course was annoyingly calm as usual). It really threw the other side off. She snapped about "whatever that French word was that you said!". Later she used "tete a tete"...I congratulated her for using French as well. I enjoyed my discussion...she, not so much. But I kept thinking "this must be what it's like to be Celeste...throwing out French words at random to annoy narcissistic assholes!"
    Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
    Robert Southwell, S.J.

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    Quote Originally Posted by phillygirl View Post
    No, I was just being snarky.

    I channeled you today. I used the word rapprochement in a heated conversation (well, heated by the other side, I of course was annoyingly calm as usual). It really threw the other side off. She snapped about "whatever that French word was that you said!". Later she used "tete a tete"...I congratulated her for using French as well. I enjoyed my discussion...she, not so much. But I kept thinking "this must be what it's like to be Celeste...throwing out French words at random to annoy narcissistic assholes!"
    No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. This offer VALID in 35 34 33 32 31 26 20 17 15 14 13 ALL 50 states.

    The new 13 original states to stand up for freedom: CA, CT, IA, MA, DE, MN, NH, NY, RI, VT, ME, MD, NJ (plus DC).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Celeste Chalfonte View Post
    Sometimes it's too easy. Today was one of those days.
    Not where I breathe, but where I love, I live...
    Robert Southwell, S.J.

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