“The Wizard of Oz” celebrates 75 years

Posted at 2:36 PM, Aug 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-08-25 14:36:51-04

(CNN) — “The Wizard of Oz,” one of the most beloved movies of all time, celebrates the 75th anniversary of its release this month. Here are some things you may not have known about the film:

1. That makeup was killer

Makeup in 1939, especially the elaborate and colorful cosmetics many members of the cast wore, wasn’t as safe as the stuff performers wear today. In fact, some of it was downright deadly.

Buddy Ebsen, who was originally cast as the Tin Man, had to leave the film when his lungs became infected by aluminum dust. The makeup was adjusted for Jack Haley, but he still remembered it as “awful.”

Margaret Hamilton’s copper-based makeup as the Wicked Witch was poisonous, so she lived on a liquid diet during the film, and the makeup was carefully cleaned off her each day. Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion costume was so heavy — “like carrying a mattress around,” said his makeup man — that he’d emerged drenched at the end of shooting. Even Ray Bolger’s Scarecrow face left permanent marks.

2. Poor Margaret Hamilton

The actress has frightened generations of “Oz” fans with her portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West, but the makeup she wore wasn’t the only indignity. She was burned in one scene.

Also, though she played an old crone, she was just 36 at the time.

3. A Frank coincidence

When the wardrobe department was fishing around for a jacket for Professor Marvel (Frank Morgan), some MGM staffers bought a bunch at a second-hand store. One of them fit Morgan perfectly. When he checked the label, it said “L. Frank Baum” — the author of the “Oz” books. Yeah, it’s classified as “legend” by, but it still makes for a great story.

4. You’re a rich dog, too

Toto, actually named Terry, was paid $125 a week for her services. (Yes, Toto was a female.) Judy Garland got $500 a week for a lot more work, and no doubt many of the extras got much less than the dog. (According to Jerry Maren, who played a Munchkin, the Munchkins got $50 a week.)

5. Changing colors

The lights required for Technicolor were so bright that Dorothy’s dress, which appears blue and white, was actually blue and pink. Also, the slippers — silver in Baum’s book — were made red to show off the process. Incidentally, the five known pairs from the film are each worth $1.5 million today.

6. Oscar! Oscar!

“The Wizard of Oz” was hugely successful in its initial run and nominated for six Oscars (though one of them, for color cinematography, is considered “unofficial” on the Academy’s database). It won two, one for its score, one for “Over the Rainbow” — which was almost cut from the film. Director Victor Fleming came out well, too. Though not nominated for “Oz,” he won for directing the year’s best picture winner, “Gone with the Wind.”

7. ‘Dark Side’ of the rainbow

At some point in the ’90s, word went around that Pink Floyd’s 1973 album “Dark Side of the Moon” synced up with the movie in eerie ways. Though members of Floyd swear it’s pure coincidence — and psychologists will tell you that we see links where we want to — some of the matchups are striking: “The Great Gig in the Sky” meshes well with the tornado; the old Side 1 of the album ends just as the sepia-colored portion of the movie does; and the heartbeat at the album’s close coincides with Dorothy listening to the Tin Man’s torso. Even if it’s bull, it still makes for entertaining watching.

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