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The dark and secret history of making The Wizard of Oz

Shanee is a screenwriter and educator living in Los Angeles. She created the web series She Blinded Me w Science to encourage young girls to explore science and technology. You can also read her blog where she chronicles her filmmaking ...

Nazis, burned limbs, an iron lung and suicide: The secrets of Oz

The Wizard of Oz may be more than 75 years old, but almost all of us watched the movie growing up. While dancing characters and a whimsical plotline make for a fun childhood flick, the stuff that went on behind the scenes was much more "adult."

Ever since it came out way back in 1939, the making of this classic movie has been awash with rumors. We've gotten to the bottom of the some of the juiciest tidbits -- including working with a Nazi sympathizer and a possible munchkin suicide -- to tell you what really went down on the The Wizard of Oz set:

1. Tin Man in an iron lung

Nazis, burned limbs, an iron lung and suicide: The secrets of Oz
Image: Wenn.com

It was the actor Buddy Ebsen (The Beverly Hillbillies) who was The Wizard of Oz producers' original choice to play the slightly melancholy Tin Man. The silver makeup used to make his character appear metallic was made out of aluminum powder. After 10 days of shooting and breathing the aluminum into his lungs, Ebsen became horribly ill. He was rushed to the hospital where he had to recover in an iron lung that helped him breathe. Jack Haley replaced Ebsen, but the filmmakers wised up and ditched the powder for an aluminum paste that was applied over greasepaint.

2. Victor Fleming accused of being pro-Nazi

Nazis, burned limbs, an iron lung and suicide: The secrets of Oz
Image: Wenn.com

Oz's director Victor Fleming, also known for directing Gone With the Wind, was rumored to be a Nazi sympathizer. Actress Anne Revere, who worked with Fleming in The Yearling, was quoted as saying Fleming was "violently pro-Nazi" and that he also loathed the British.

More: 5 Classic movies that will make you feel emotional

3. Wicked Witch was burned, for real

Nazis, burned limbs, an iron lung and suicide: The secrets of Oz
Image: Wenn.com

From the giant mole on her chin to her creepy green skin, Margaret Hamilton made a frightening Wicked Witch of the West. While shooting a scene where the Witch disappeared in a puff of smoke, the special effects went haywire, and the oil-based green makeup caught fire, burning her hands and arms. She recuperated but refused to work with fire again.

4. Toto's broken paw

Nazis, burned limbs, an iron lung and suicide: The secrets of Oz
Image: Wenn.com

Turns out, it wasn't only humans getting injured. Toto, the Cairn Terrier, Dorothy's basket-size dog, suffered a broken paw when one of the witch's guards accidentally stepped on its foot. The dog, a female named Terry in real life, went on to make a total of 15 films.

More: 50 best movie quotes through the years

5. The little person elevator

Nazis, burned limbs, an iron lung and suicide: The secrets of Oz
Image: Wenn.com

MGM needed to accommodate more than 100 little people to play Munchkins. This required hiring a man whose entire duty was to pick up the actors and place them on their marks. Presumably, this was necessary because things like chairs and set pieces were designed for people of average height. Though not considered politically correct today, the man was called the "midget elevator" on set.

Next Up: Auntie Em actress sadly goes on her own "great adventure"

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