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The dark and secret history of making The Wizard of Oz

Shanee Edwards is a screenwriter who earned her master's degree at UCLA Film School. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer. Her TV pilot, Ada and the Machine, is cur...

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

6. Auntie Em actress sadly goes on her own "great adventure"

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

Dorothy's Auntie Em, played by actress Clara Blandick, was perfectly cast as the tough, hardworking, farmer's wife. As she aged, she developed arthritis, causing her to be in a lot of pain. In addition to the arthritis, she was also going blind. In 1962, Blandick overdosed on pills. She was found with a bag on her head and a suicide note that read, "I am now about to make the great adventure. I cannot endure this agonizing pain any longer. It is all over my body. Neither can I face the impending blindness. I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen." She was 81.

7. Judy Garland's untimely death

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

Just seven years after Blandick went on her "great adventure," the lovely Judy Garland overdosed on barbiturates. The coroner ruled the death accidental. Garland, whose birth name was Frances Ethel Gumm, was only 47 years old at the time of her death.

More: 5 Classic movies that are truly touching

8. L. Frank Baum's coat

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

In what could be an amazing coincidence or wild stroke of luck, the jacket purchased for Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan), was acquired at a secondhand store. The story goes that while Morgan was wearing the jacket on set, he noticed an inscription on the pocket. It read, "L. Frank Baum," who was the author of the Oz books. It may sound as fantastical as the movie, but apparently, the tailor who made the coat confirmed its authenticity. The jacket was given to Baum's widow, Maud Gage, after the movie was completed.

9. Munchkin hanged himself on film?

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

There's an urban legend that one of the Munchkins can be seen hanging from a tree in the forest just as Dorothy takes off on the Yellow Brick Road. Fortunately, it is just a legend. What appears to be a small figure hanging from a tree is actually a live bird that was on loan from the LA Zoo. The filmmakers thought having live birds flying around the set would make the forest appear real.

If you suspect someone might be considering suicide, or you have struggled with those thoughts yourself, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Originally published Aug. 2014. Updated July 2016.

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