Facts Behind The Wizard of Oz

Facts Behind The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz is a timeless classic that has captured the hearts of generations of viewers. From the iconic ruby slippers to the unforgettable characters, this movie has become a cultural touchstone that continues to inspire and entertain. But beyond the surface-level story lies a wealth of fascinating facts and hidden details that many viewers may not be aware of. In this article, we’ll explore the facts behind The Wizard of Oz, from the history and symbolism to the behind-the-scenes secrets that helped bring this beloved classic to life.

Here are 30 different facts behind The Wizard of Oz:

  1. The snow that wakes Dorothy up from the poppy field was made of 100% asbestos1.
  2. Only two of the Munchkins are heard using their real voices in the film1.
  3. The original book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” written by L. Frank Baum, is actually very dark and disturbing.
  4. Tiger-bear hybrids were killed in a crevasse in the original book.
  5. The Wizard of Oz might have been cursed.
  6. Wearing the costumes was pure torture for the cast.
  7. The movie went through four different directors during production.
  8. Judy Garland, who played Dorothy, was mistreated during the making of the film.
  9. The official premiere of the film is dated August 12th, 1939, in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
  10. The film is based on L. Frank Baum’s children’s novel, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”.
  11. The film was released by Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) in August 1939.
  12. The film’s iconic ruby slippers were made possible by the power of Technicolor.
  13. The cyclone scene in the film was achieved using a 35-foot-long muslin stocking spun in a miniature tornado machine.
  14. The film took many liberties with Baum’s original story, which can be discombobulating for modern viewers6.
  15. The film’s catchphrases, such as “There’s no place like home” and “I’ll get you my pretty, and your little dog, too,” have become iconic.
  16. A 13-minute silent film version of The Wizard of Oz was produced in 19106.
  17. The film went through multiple directors, including Richard Thorpe and George Cukor, before Victor Fleming took over and completed it.
  18. The film’s production faced numerous challenges, including technical difficulties and casting changes.
  19. The film’s budget was around $2.8 million, making it one of the most expensive films of its time.
  20. The film was a box office success, earning over $3 million in its initial release.
  21. The film won two Academy Awards for Best Original Song and Best Original Score6.
  22. Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West, had a pink and blue dressing room on set.
  23. The Tin Man’s makeup was so toxic that the actor, Buddy Ebsen, had to be hospitalized1.
  24. The Cowardly Lion’s costume was made from real lion pelts1.
  25. The Scarecrow’s face makeup was made from aluminum dust1.
  26. The film’s director, Victor Fleming, was also directing another iconic film at the same time: Gone with the Wind6.
  27. The film’s production faced numerous delays and setbacks, including script rewrites and casting changes.
  28. The film’s success led to several sequels and spin-offs, including Return to Oz and The Wiz.
  29. The film’s song “Over the Rainbow” has become one of the most iconic and beloved songs in film history.
  30. The film’s enduring popularity has made it a cultural phenomenon, with references and homages appearing in various forms of media.

These facts provide a glimpse into the fascinating history and behind-the-scenes secrets of the Wizard of Oz, showcasing the enduring legacy of this beloved classic.

What other films were released around the same time as The Wizard of Oz?

Some other notable films released around the same time as The Wizard of Oz in 1939 include Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Gone with the Wind, Stagecoach, Goodbye Mr. Chips, Ninotchka, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Gunga Din, and Babes in Arms. 1939 is often considered one of the greatest years in cinematic history.

2. How did the use of asbestos in the snow affect the cast and crew?

The use of pure asbestos fibers as fake snow in The Wizard of Oz led to significant long-term health issues. Asbestos is a known carcinogen, and inhaling the microscopic fibers can lead to lung diseases and cancer.

Many of the cast and crew members who were exposed to the asbestos snow on set developed lung-related illnesses and cancer later in life. The health hazards of asbestos were not fully known at the time.

3. What was the original ending of the book, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”?

In L. Frank Baum’s original book, Dorothy’s return home was quite different than in the iconic film adaptation. After the Wizard flies away in his hot air balloon, Dorothy is told by Glinda that she had the power to return home all along through the magic Silver Shoes. Dorothy says her goodbyes and then clicks her heels together three times to return to Kansas.

4. What other dark themes are present in the original book?

While the film portrays a brighter vision of Oz, Baum’s original novel contained darker themes and violence. The Wicked Witch attempts to kill Dorothy by locking her in a room for days, tries to hurt the Cowardly Lion’s tail, and enslaves the Winkies using the Golden Cap. The book also has undertones questioning authority, as the Wizard and other leaders are revealed as frauds.

5. How did the tiger-bear hybrids fit into the original story?

There were no tiger-bear hybrid creatures present in L. Frank Baum’s original Wizard of Oz story in any form. The book only contains elements such as the Cowardly Lion, Tin Woodman, Scarecrow, Munchkins, Wicked Witch, flying monkeys, and ordinary bears. Tiger-bear hybrids were not part of Baum’s vision for the Land of Oz.

6. What other films has the director of The Wizard of Oz, Victor Fleming, worked on?

In addition to directing The Wizard of Oz, Victor Fleming also directed a number of other notable films. Some of his other major credits include Captains Courageous, Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Joan of Arc, Red Dust, and Gone with the Wind, for which he received an Academy Award. Fleming was an acclaimed and in-demand director during Hollywood’s Golden Age.

7. What other challenges did the production of The Wizard of Oz face?

The Wizard of Oz production faced many obstacles beyond the asbestos snow. Margaret Hamilton who played the Wicked Witch was badly burned during a scene. The makeup used copper-based ingredients that were poisonous.

Several of the little people playing Munchkins reportedly got drunk and engaged in debauchery. The costumes, sets, and special effects required groundbreaking techniques. Syncing up the music and visuals was also challenging with early technology.

8. How did the success of The Wizard of Oz impact the careers of the cast and crew?

The Wizard of Oz launched Judy Garland into superstardom and she went on to have a long, acclaimed career. Meanwhile, it was one of director Victor Fleming’s final films. Art directors Cedric Gibbons and William Horning were honored for their innovative set designs and special effects.

For many of the supporting actors like Bert Lahr (Cowardly Lion), it was a career highlight that brought greater fame. The Munchkin actors found lasting fame from their roles.

9. What other adaptations of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” have been made?

There have been many adaptations of L. Frank Baum’s story over the years across various mediums, including Broadway musicals, video games, TV shows, sequels, and animated films.

Some of the most notable Wizard of Oz adaptations include the Broadway show Wicked, the novel and musical The Wiz, the anime film Journey Back to Oz, and Tom and Jerry and the Wizard of Oz.

10. How did the use of real lion pelts for the Cowardly Lion’s costume impact animal rights?

The use of real lion pelts and tails for the Cowardly Lion costume highlighted issues around using animal products in films. In 1939, there were fewer regulations around using wild animal elements.

Today, due to greater animal rights activism, using real fur or taxidermy of endangered species like lions would be unacceptable and likely illegal. The production’s animal welfare standards seem outdated now.

11. What other films has Judy Garland starred in?

Beyond her iconic role as Dorothy Gale, Judy Garland was the star of many other classic films during Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Some of her most famous musical and acting roles were in Meet Me in St. Louis, Easter Parade, A Star Is Born, Babes in Arms, Summer Stock, Girl Crazy, and the Andy Hardy film series. She was one of the most popular musical/acting talents of her era.

12. How did the use of aluminum dust in the Scarecrow’s makeup affect the actor who played him?

Ray Bolger played the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. The silver-colored makeup he wore contained fine aluminum dust, which accidentally got lodged in Bolger’s face pores night after night.

This led to severe skin infections and permanent scarring on Bolger’s face. The use of unsafe cosmetic ingredients like aluminum dust was common at the time before modern makeup safety testing.

13. What other iconic songs have been featured in films?

Some other enormously popular songs featured in classic films include “Singin’ in the Rain” from Singin’ in the Rain, “Moon River” from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, “Mrs. Robinson” from The Graduate, “Stayin’ Alive” from Saturday Night Fever, “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky III, “My Heart Will Go On” from Titanic, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” from Wayne’s World. These songs defined the films they were in and also became hits on their own.

14. How did the success of The Wizard of Oz impact the film industry as a whole?

The Wizard of Oz proved there was a huge audience for fantasy and adventure films with epic production values, special effects, and big musical numbers.

It paved the way for other magical family films and expansive musicals that became classics like Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. The movie musical genre thrived for decades thanks in part to The Wizard of Oz.

15. What other films have been cursed during production?

Other notorious “cursed” film productions filled with misfortune include Poltergeist, where several cast members died prematurely including Heather O’Rourke. The 1976 reboot of The Omen saw many productions accidents and deaths.

The Conqueror was filmed near a nuclear testing site and many crew later got cancer. Many have claimed curses or dark energy plagued films like Rosemary’s Baby, The Exorcist, and Atuk, which was never finished.

16. How did the use of Technicolor impact the film industry?

The Wizard of Oz was one of the early Technicolor films, and its success proved a color format could drastically enhance a movie’s appeal. After The Wizard of Oz, use of Technicolor expanded rapidly. The vivid visuals made films feel fantastical, vibrant, and larger than life.

Technicolor helped fuel the musical genre in films and created a more immersive, colorful cinematic experience that audiences loved.

17. What other films have been adapted from books?

Many classic and popular films have been adapted from acclaimed books and novels. Some notable examples include Gone with the Wind from the Margaret Mitchell novel, The Godfather and The Shawshank Redemption from Stephen King novellas, 2001: A Space Odyssey from an Arthur C. Clarke short story, Jaws from the Peter Benchley novel, Doctor Zhivago from Boris Pasternak’s novel, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory from the Roald Dahl book.

18. How did the success of The Wizard of Oz impact the popularity of musicals?

The Wizard of Oz demonstrated the huge commercial potential of big-budget Hollywood musicals. Its profits showed musical fantasies could become massive hits. In the years after, studios invested heavily in musicals starring Judy Garland among others.

Examples like Meet Me in St. Louis, Easter Parade, Singin’ in the Rain, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and An American in Paris thrived partly due to The Wizard of Oz.

19. What other films have been criticized for their treatment of actors?

Besides The Wizard of Oz, other classic films now face criticism for alleged mistreatment of actors and unethical practices. During Hollywood’s early years, studios and directors often cared little for performers’ safety and well-being.

Other examples include Alfred Hitchcock’s treatment of Tippi Hedren, the dangers silent film stars like Harold Lloyd faced, and the control studios held over stars’ lives and careers in the old studio system.

20. How did the use of real snow in films change over time?

In early Hollywood films like The Wizard of Oz, using real snow on sets was common. Today, real snow is rarely seen in films due to high cost and the availability of fake snow alternatives.

Modern fake movie snow is usually made from non-toxic, biodegradable materials like paper, wax, potatoes or plant fibers rather than asbestos. Changing values and technology allowed the film industry to move away from relying on real snow.

21. What other films have been criticized for their use of dangerous materials?

Along with The Wizard of Oz, other classic films made liberal use of hazardous materials now known to pose health dangers. The Greatest Show on Earth and The Color of Paradise used deadly asbestos powder as fake snow.

Ben-Hur and Gone with the Wind relied on lead-based makeup. Films like The Wizard of Oz from Hollywood’s early era often prioritized spectacle over safety.

22. How did the use of special effects in The Wizard of Oz impact the film industry?

The Wizard of Oz was groundbreaking in its use of technologically advanced special effects for the era, especially in the transition from sepia-toned Kansas to vivid Technicolor Oz.

It inspired Hollywood to invest in new techniques like matte paintings, optical printing, and combining live-action with animation. The amazing visuals showed what was possible and paved the way for future FX milestones like Star Wars and Jurassic Park.

23. What other films have been delayed or faced setbacks during production?

Many major films besides The Wizard of Oz have faced delays, accidents, or major setbacks during production, including Cleopatra, Titanic, Star Wars, Jaws, Apocalypse Now, The Revenant, World War Z, Suicide Squad, The Empire Strikes Back, Alien, and Waterworld.

Despite facing enormous obstacles, most of these films overcame the issues and found box office success, showing how disasters during filming can sometimes fuel greater creativity.

24. How did the success of The Wizard of Oz impact the popularity of fantasy films?

The enormous popularity of The Wizard of Oz helped prove fantasy films could appeal to mainstream audiences, not just children.

Its ability to captivate people of all ages opened the doors for more fantastical films to succeed. Later fantasy hits like Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Willy Wonka and even superhero films owe a debt to The Wizard of Oz for showing the commercial potential of fantasy on film.

25. What other films have been adapted from children’s books?

Many beloved children’s books have been adapted into successful Hollywood films. Some notable examples beyond The Wizard of Oz include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The BFG, Matilda, Where the Wild Things Are, Horton Hears a Who!,

The Polar Express, Charlotte’s Web, Mrs. Doubtfire, Stuart Little, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat in the Hat, Coraline, and dozens more. Children’s literature has proven to be a treasure trove of magical stories for film.

26. How did the use of real animal pelts in films change over time?

Using real fur pelts from wild animals was once commonplace in Hollywood films but is now widely condemned. Early on, there was little regard for ethics or conservation.

But due to the anti-fur movement, fight against poaching, and CGI technology, real animal pelts are rarely seen in modern films. Synthetic fur and digital effects are accepted replacements. Changing attitudes and values ended the era of exploiting wild animals for movies.

27. What other films have been criticized for their use of animal products?

Alongside The Wizard of Oz, many classic films featured contentious uses of animal products that seem unethical by today’s standards. Other examples include the chariot race massacre in Ben-Hur, horse deaths and trip-wires during stunts on early Westerns, Cannibal Holocaust’s real animal killings, Heaven’s Gate’s extensive animal abuse, and the notorious animal cruelty of Italian Mondo films that still impacts censorship debates today.

28. How did the success of The Wizard of Oz impact the careers of the Munchkins?

Starring in The Wizard of Oz gave a major career boost to the group of little people actors who played the Munchkins. Few films before had so prominently featured little people, let alone made them instantly famous.

While most did not go on to have sustained acting careers, they became a beloved part of Hollywood lore and found recognition late in life as Oz legends. Their memorable roles were pioneering for little people in film.

29. What other films have been adapted from stage plays?

Many hit films originated as successful stage plays. Some notable examples include 12 Angry Men, A Streetcar Named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, A Raisin in the Sun, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Pygmalion/My Fair Lady, Amadeus, Tootsie, The Odd Couple, Glengarry Glen Ross, Fences, and Doubt. Adapting already proven and acclaimed plays can give filmmakers a head start in having an acclaimed story, characters and dialogue.

30. How did the success of The Wizard of Oz impact the careers of the film’s writers and producers?

The Wizard of Oz’s triumph greatly elevated the careers of writer Noel Langley and producer Mervyn LeRoy. Langley became one of Hollywood’s highest paid screenwriters, while LeRoy joined the ranks of elite producers.

He went on to work on films like Quo Vadis, Mister Roberts and Random Harvest. Their involvement in a legendary and profitable film made them highly sought after and able to command top pay for future projects.


The Wizard of Oz is a beloved classic that has stood the test of time. But beyond its surface-level story lies a wealth of fascinating facts and hidden details that make it even more interesting.

Facts Behind The Wizard of Oz

From the history and symbolism to the behind-the-scenes secrets, there’s always something new to discover about this iconic movie. So the next time you watch The Wizard of Oz, keep these facts in mind and see if you can spot any new details that you may have missed before. Consider reading other articles like >>>> Facts About Between Shades Of Gray to learn more.