Movie Maniac

Classic ‘The Wizard of Oz’ turns 80. Here are 10 fun facts about the film.

The magic of “The Wizard of Oz” lives on

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” lives on in movies, a museum and now a new adaptation by the KC Ballet.
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“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” lives on in movies, a museum and now a new adaptation by the KC Ballet.

Next week, somewhere over the rainbow, the Orpheum Theatre will present a screening of the iconic musical “The Wizard of Oz” to celebrate the film’s 80th anniversary.

The screening will be at 7 p.m. Thursday, March 14, at the theater, 200 N. Broadway. Tickets are $7, $6 for students, seniors and military with ID.

The film stars Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale, who gets swept away from a farm in Kansas via tornado to the magical land of Oz. There, she meets the magical land’s inhabitants, cute little people known as the Munchkins, and the beautiful good witch Glinda, who instructs Dorothy to follow the yellow brick road and go in search of the Wizard, who can help her return to Kansas. Along the way, she meets new friends in the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr), the Tin Man (Jack Haley) and the Scarecrow (Ray Bolger), who all join her journey. That is, until the dastardly Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) tries to get her grubby paws on Dorothy’s ruby slippers, a gift from Glinda.

Did you know that the film’s Oscar-winning song “Over the Rainbow” was nearly cut from the film? According to IMDb, the honchos at MGM felt that it made the Kansas sequence too long. (As if.)

To celebrate it’s 80th birthday, here are 10 other fun facts about “The Wizard of Oz,” courtesy of the brainy folks at IMDb and Goodhousekeeping.com:

1. Dorothy never said “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.” Instead, the actual line is “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

2. The ruby slippers weren’t always, well, ruby. The famous shoes were originally silver, as they are in the “Oz” books by L. Frank Baum. Apparently, MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer wanted make better use of a newfangled thing called Technicolor, so they made the slippers red (because the movie wasn’t flashy enough).

3. Buddy Ebsen (from the classic 1960s TV sitcom “The Beverly Hillbillies”) was originally cast as the Tin Man (there are even some screen tests on YouTube). But he had an adverse, life-threatening reaction to the aluminum powder used in the makeup. He woke up one night and could not breathe, according to a publicist The aluminum had coated his lungs. He spent weeks in an oxygen tent and was fortunate to live. Needless to say, he was replaced in the film with Haley.

4. The vibrant horses in the Emerald City palace were colored with Jell-O crystals. Apparently the scenes had to be shot quickly because the horses started to lick them off. Hey, who doesn’t love Jell-O?

5. The name for Oz was thought up when Baum looked at his filing cabinet and saw A-N and O-Z, and Oz was born. It’s better than The Wizard of An.

6. The much quoted Wicked Witch of the West line “Fly my pretties, fly” doesn’t actually appear in the movie. She actually says, “Fly, Fly, Fly.”

7. The Tin Man’s tears were actually chocolate syrup.

8. The famous “Surrender Dorothy” sky-writing scene was done using a tank of water and a tiny model witch attached to the end of a long hypodermic needle. The syringe was filled with milk, the tip of the needle was put into the tank and the words were written in reverse while being filmed from below. Who needs CGI, right?

9. According to lead Munchkin Jerry Maren, the “little people” in the film were paid $50 per week for a six-day work week, while Toto got paid $125 per week. Talk about diva!

10. The film also won an Oscar for best original score. It was nominated for best picture, best cinematography (color), best art direction and best special effects. Because that tornado looks SO real!

Rod Pocowatchit is an award-winning independent filmmaker and SAG/AFTRA-eligible actor who has written and directed four feature-length films, all made in Kansas. He has been a journalist for 29 years and is also an internationally award-winning page designer.
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