The Wizard of Oz may be almost 80 years old, but many of us know it to be one of the key films we watched growing up. The music is iconic, the Technicolor world of Oz was enchanting to behold and, of course, it was incredibly quotable. I mean, how many times have you told someone some form of, "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore"?
Whether it was singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" or following our own Yellow Brick Road, the movie is still referenced with great affection to this day. It's hard to imagine that filming this seminal film was anything but happy and magical, and yet, sadly, it seems there was more than one dark moment during this film's production back in the late 1930s.
Ever since it premiered back in 1939, rumors have circulated about the making of the film. We've looked into the juiciest tidbits — including the fate of the first Tin Man and a possible suicide — to tell you what really went down on the set of The Wizard of Oz.
1. Tin Man in an iron lung
It was the actor Buddy Ebsen (The Beverly Hillbillies) who started off as The Wizard of Oz producers' 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
Oz's director Victor Fleming, also known for directing Gone With the Wind, was rumored to be a Nazi sympathizer. Actor 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.
3. Wicked Witch was burned, for real
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
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.
5. L. Frank Baum's coat
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 fantastical, and it could be — the only record of the incident is from a studio publicist years later. The jacket was given to Baum's widow, Maud Gage, after the movie was completed.
6. Auntie Em actor goes on her own "great adventure"
Dorothy's Auntie Em, played by actor 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
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.
8. The myth of the hanged munchkin
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. Thankfully, it is just an urban legend that was later proven false. 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.
9. Did the actors playing the Munchkins molest Judy Garland?
An explosive allegation was made by Garland's ex-husband, Sid Luft, in the 2017 memoir Judy and I: My Life with Judy Garland wherein he claimed that some of the adult actors who played Munchkins in the film may have molested Garland, who was only a teenager at the time.
"They would make Judy’s life miserable on set by putting their hands under her dress […] The men were 40 or more years old," Luft wrote. "They thought they could get away with anything because they were so small." Because Luft is now deceased along with Garland, it's hard to revisit or verify the claims. However, that hardly makes it any less shocking to think about.
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).
A version of this article was originally published in August 2014.