On August 12, 1939, the musical fantasy The Wizard of Oz, opened for its world premiere at Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. While most of us know the story of Dorothy, Toto, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and The Cowardly Lion, here are 5 interesting facts about what was happening behind the scenes for the film…
The Ruby Slippers Didn’t Start Out Red
In “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” the book by Frank L. Baum, Dorothy was wearing silver shoes. It was the screenwriter who changed the slippers to ruby because they would contrast better in technicolor against the yellow brick road. When Diana Ross and Michael Jackson performed in The Wiz in 1978, the original silver slippers were brought back.
Toto Earned More Than The Munchkin Actors Move over Lassie. Though the actors who played The Munchkins earned a very decent wage for actors in the 1930's (by one account, they earned $25 per week — about $450 per week today), Toto was really the top dog on set. Toto earned a whopping $125 ($2,250 today) per week to star in the film. Not bad for a small pooch. Toto went on to star in a total of 16 films before passing away at the age of 11 in 1945.
Producers Wanted to Cut Out “Over the Rainbow” The Wizard of Oz runs for 1 hour 52 minutes, but producers wanted to keep it down to 100 minutes and talked about cutting out “Over the Rainbow” several times. Louis B. Mayer, the studio head, thought no one would want to listen to a slow ballad sung by a girl on a farm. Arthur Freed, the associate producer, threatened to walk out if the song was cut, so it was left in and became an iconic part of the film.
Dorothy Started Out as a Blonde During the early filming of the movie, Judy Garland was wearing a blonde wig, much fancier makeup, and a baby doll dress. However, producers changed their minds and reshot the film with Dorothy more like a dark-haired farm girl. A hairdresser for MGM saved the wig and gave it as a gift to Garland’s daughter Liza Minelli many years later. When it came up for sale, a bidding war between collectors, which brought the price up to $17,920.
Garland’s Daughter Married the Tin Man’s Son Judy Garland, who played Dorothy, and Jack Haley, who played the Tin Man, could have been in-laws after their two children, Liza Minnelli and Jack Haley Jr., were married in 1974. Minnelli’s mother never knew it though because she died in 1969 at age 47. Jack Haley Sr might not have gotten the role since Buddy Ebsen was originally slated to play the part but had to bow out after discovering he was allergic to the makeup.