5 Dorothy the Suffragette
L. Frank Baum, who wrote the novels that the film was based on, may have been inspired to create the Dorothy character by his great respect for his mother-in-law—an activist for women’s rights—according to Baum’s great-grandson. A uniquely feminist character for the time in which she was written, Dorothy is a heroic protagonist who assembles a motley crew and leads them to victory against all odds. That’s the kind of female character even modern films could use a little more of.
4 Special Effects Made From Food
The beautiful, green horses that greet Dorothy and her friends when she finally arrives at the Emerald City were painted with green Jell-O to get the color to stick. Throughout the shoot, the horses tried every way they could to eat the goop off their coats. Special effects were more of a challenge in those days, when films couldn’t be upgraded during post-production with computer-generated images. For the sparkling fire on Dorothy’s feet when the Wicked Witch tries to steal her slippers, the filmmakers sprayed apple juice.
3 Water Could Really Kill the Witch
The paint used to keep Margaret Hamilton green for her role as the Wicked Witch of the West was toxic. If she ate any of it, it would be extremely harmful for her. As a result, she was on a liquid diet during the shoot, using a straw to deliver nourishment. She couldn’t risk eating anything that touched her face, or sipping from a water bottle that might pass water over her painted lips and wash the toxic materials into her mouth.
2 Silver Slippers
In the book, Dorothy’s slippers were originally silver, not ruby red. When the color of the shoes was changed, there was initially a derisive reaction from the audience. MGM was accused of using the fashionable footwear as propaganda for communism. However, the only reason for the change is that it was discovered red looked better against the yellow brick road than silver when shot in technicolor. Similarly, Dorothy’s white dress under the blue plaid pinafore is actually slightly pink, which made it easier to film.
1 Munchkin Orgies
Rumors abound about wild parties that some dwarves who played the munchkins indulged in during the shooting of the film. Over 100 munchkin actors were lodged in the Culver Hotel in Culver City, California, and the hotel itself admits to there being some truth to the stories. An underground pathway from the hotel to the set at Culver Studios was maybe used for discreetly escorting prostitutes and illegal libations during prohibition times. When Judy Garland went on a date with one of the munchkin actors who had a wild reputation, her mother made sure to come along as a chaperone, just in case. The 1981 Chevy Chase film “Under the Rainbow” references these four scintillating weeks of film history.
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