The Horrors Behind the Scenes from “The Wizard of Oz”

Renee Chaples, Editor and Chief

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Known as one of the best movies to date, the Wizard of Oz was revolutionary during its first premier in the 1930s due to the newly developed Technicolor technology. Alongside that, the movie was based on the  iconic children’s story written by L. Frank Baum in the earlier 1900s called “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” The movie also introduced a stunning soundtrack, including tunes such as “Over the Rainbow” sung by the movie’s leading actress, Judy Garland. Although the movie sports vivid colors, an adorable cast, and bubbly character, there were many issues behind the filming of this cult classic. There are so many fans of this movie who are unaware of the true horrors that occurred behind the screen. Before I go any further I want to let readers know that this article will tackle very disturbing topics such as suicide, sexual abuse, drugs, and alcohol abuse. If any of these topics are triggers I recommend NOT reading this article, Thank you.

During filming, which took place in during the early 1930s, Shirley Temple was America’s biggest sweetheart so it was no surprise that the at-the-time director wanted to have her star as Dorothy. Unfortunately, due to contracting issues, Temple could not play the role, thus leaving Judy Garland to play the part. Garland was the second choice to Shirley Temple not only for publicity but also because of her weight. Garland was 14-years-old when she was cast for the part and needed to appear to be the 12-year-old Dorothy. She was forced to go on a strict diet consisting of 80 cigarettes (4 packs a day), chicken soup, and black coffee. Alongside that, MGM (her talent agency) hired her a personal trainer. Since she was 14, she was far more developed than an average 12-year-old, to combat this, she was forced to wear two tight corsets under her costume. Since the filmmaker wanted Shirley Temple so bad, they also made her use prosthetics on her nose to make it appear smaller and dyed her hair red. In addition to her poor diet and changes in appearance, Garland was also expected to work up to 72 hours straight. The studio hospital would provide a drug called barbiturates in order to keep her awake and peppy during filming and gave her a sleeping pill in order to put her to bed. The drug barbiturates would also be the same drug that Garland would later overdose on and end her life in 1969 at age 47. Garland would be only paid $500 per week for the filming of this movie compare to the average pay for men actors which was $5,000.

Although Garland only made a fraction to what a male actor would make, her pay was ten times the amount the munchkins would make. However, the munchkins were very rowdy, disrespectful workers. During filming, the munchkins would stay in nearby hotels which reported that they would be loud, trash the hotel rooms, break things, and got drunk every night. The munchkins also forced the female munchkins to be sex workers within the hotel for side money. Munchkins would also sexually harass Garland. Many instances including them lifting her dress during filming to humiliate her, and grabbing her butt. One munchkin (40) even went as far as to ask Garland (16) on a date that she refused claiming her mother would not approve and the munchkin responded with, “Bring her too. Two broads for the price of one.”

These are only a fraction of the horrors that occurred during the creating of “The Wizard of Oz.” Many actors and actress landed in the hospital due to the lack of safety during filming, and some even died later after the health implications the movie gave them. However, despite all this, the movie will always be recognized as an all-time classic. It was the first movie in color and was nominated for six different awards. Also, keep in mind, MGM is not responsible for making the movie the masterpiece it is. The characters, and the plot was all from the mind of Baum. Also, all the cast and crew are at peace now.