Did You Know? The (Super Dorky) Wizard of Oz Collection of Things You Didn’t Know You Needed to Know

          October 25th, 2011

          Contributed by
          Steven Greenfield, The Wizard of Oz Musical Director (and Oz enthusiast)

          Steven Greenfield, self-proclaimed Oz Dork.

          When I was in grade four, I saw MGM’s film The Wizard of Oz for the first time.  I was instantly hooked by L. Frank Baum’s magical world, and since then, have devoured everything Oz-related that I can get my hands on.  As we start preparing for our intimate chamber musical version of The Wizard of Oz, Carousel Theatre has asked me to compile a list of what I find to be the 30 most interesting “Did You Know?”s regarding the novel, film and musical.

          1. Since the role of the Wizard was perceived as being too small, additional roles were written for the actor in hopes of balancing the screen time for the actor playing the Wizard with that of the rest of the cast. Thus Frank Morgan plays the roles of the Wizard, ‘Professor Marvel’, the Gatekeeper, the cab driver with the “horse of a different color” who leads “The Merry Old Land of Oz”, and the Wizard’s Guard. It is also possible that Morgan was made up for the spooky projected image of the Wizard’s face transposed on the billowing steam in his Throne Room.

          Frank Morgan & Judy Garland in the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of Oz

          2. Ray Bolger was originally cast as the Tin Woodsman. However, he insisted that he would rather play the Scarecrow – his childhood idol, Fred Stone had originated that role on stage in 1902. Buddy Ebsen (‘Jed Clampett’ from The Beverly Hillbillies) had been cast as the Scarecrow, and now switched roles with Bolger. Unbeknownst to him, however, the make-up for the Tin Man contained aluminum dust, which he had an allergic reaction to that forced him to pull out of the film.  Although he was replaced by Jack Haley, Ebsen’s vocals remain whenever the song “We’re off to see the Wizard” is played.

          3. The famed “Jitterbug” number (included in the stage musical) was in actuality a leftover of an abandoned subplot that was discarded in early rewrites of the script. In the original Oz movie there was to be a large subplot involving characters named ‘Princess Betty’ and the Grand Duke of Oz, to be played by MGM contract players Betty Jaynes and Kenny Baker. Jaynes, known for her refined operatic style of singing, was supposed to offset Judy Garland’s jazz type of singing and a number was devised highlighting the differences. The Jitterbug number was devised by Harold Arlen and E.Y Harburg to showcase Garland’s talents. Both Jaynes’ and Baker’s characters were deemed unnecessary in early script rewrites and were removed from the picture, as well as their subplot. However, the Jitterbug number survived in the script and was filmed for the movie, although it too was cut from the picture in early previews. A reference to the Jitterbug number survives in the Wicked Witch’s orders to ‘Nikko’, when she tells him to “send the insects on ahead to take the fight out of them” before the Flying Monkeys take off.

          4. Film producer Mervyn LeRoy had originally intended to use MGM’s Leo the Lion (the mascot featured in the studio’s production logo) in the role of the Cowardly Lion and dub an actor’s voice in for the dialogue. However, that idea was dropped when Bert Lahr came up for consideration for the part.

          The MGM Lion

          5. The film received a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records as the film to which a live-action sequel was produced after the longest period of time (Disney’s Return to Oz was released 46 years after The Wizard of Oz).

          Here are the classic characters as they appear in the 1985 film Return to Oz. Not pictured: the dreaded 'Wheelers' who sparked nightmares for many small children…this writer included.

          6. In order to create the ever-changing Horse of a Different Color in the Emerald City for the film, several horses were colored with Jell-O crystals. The relevant scenes had to be shot quickly, before the horses started to lick off the crystals.

          The Horse of Different Color from the 1939 MGM film.

          7. A reference to something in the book not included in the screenplay can be seen in the movie. It is the kiss ‘Glinda’ gives ‘Dorothy’ on the forehead that protects her from the Wicked Witch, as none dare harm someone who bears the kiss of the Good Witch.

          8. The Wicked Witch that ‘Miss Gulch’ transforms into while ‘Dorothy’ looks out her bedroom window during the tornado has shimmering shoes as if she is wearing the Ruby Slippers. This suggests that she is actually the Wicked Witch of the East.

          9. In Baum’s novel, ‘Dorothy’ receives silver slippers after the Wicked Witch of the East’s death.  MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer had the idea of changing them to ruby slippers as that colour would look more impressive with the relatively new Technicolor® film colourisation process.  The same reason prompted the makeup designers to make the Wicked Witch of the West green-skinned.

          The 1939 MGM filmed showed off the brilliant green skin of the Wicked Witch and Dorothy's famous ruby slippers in dazzling Technicolor®. (Also see Item #11 of this list Re: apple juice!)

          10. Bert Lahr’s ‘Cowardly Lion’ costume weighed 80 pounds.

          11. The fire that engulfs the Witch’s hands as she’s trying to remove the ruby slippers is actually apple juice spewing out of the shoes – the film was then sped up to make it look more like fire.

          12. In Baum’s novel, the Emerald City is not actually made of emeralds.  The Wizard has decreed that everyone in the city (residents and guests) must wear green-tinted glasses, which tricks them all into believing the city is made of emeralds.

          13. In the novel, Oz is a really place, and not a dream as portrayed in the film.  In the novel’s sequels, Dorothy (and eventually her family) continue to visit Oz.

          14. Legend has it that when Baum was struggling to find a name for his magical land, his gaze was caught by the gilt letters on the three drawers of his office’s filing cabinet. The first was A-G; the next drawer was labeled H-N; and on the last were the letters O-Z.

          15. The film’s tornado was a 35-foot-long muslin stocking, spun around among miniatures of a Kansas farm and fields in a dusty atmosphere.

          16. The only Kansas-dwelling characters featured in the book are ‘Dorothy’, ‘Aunt Em’ and ‘Uncle Henry’.

          17. In the novel, the reason that the Munchkins take an immediate liking to ‘Dorothy’ and suspect that she is a witch is due to her blue and white gingham dress.  Blue is the official colour of Munchkinland (this is referenced in the musical), and white is the colour of witches.

          18.  In the film and musical, ‘Glinda’ saves the four friends from the effects of the poppy field by making it snow.  In the novel, they are pulled out by mice.

          19. In the film and musical, the four friends enter Oz’s Throne Room together, and he appears to them as a gigantic floating head.  In the novel, they each have a separate audience with Oz, and he appears to them each as something different.  He appears as ‘Dorothy’ as an enormous head, to the Scrarecrow as a terrible beast, to the Tin Woodsman as a lovely lady, and to the Cowardly Lion as a ball of fire.

          20. Everyone from Michael Jackson to the Muppets to (of course) Judy Garland have appeared in film adaptations of The Wizard of Oz.

          The Muppets' Wizard of Oz – the 2005 TV movie.

          21. Gregory Maguire’s Wicked:  The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West tells an Oz story from the perspective of the Wicked Witch of the West (here named ‘Elphaba’).  It was adapted as a musical by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell) and Winnie Holzman that is currently the 14th longest-running Broadway show in history.

          The original 2003 Broadway cast of Wicked, including Kristen Chenoweth as Glinda and Idina Menzel as Elphaba.

          22. In the novel, the Wicked Witch of the West carries an umbrella instead of a broom.

          23. Upon other visits to Oz, Dorothy’s animal companions have included Eureka (a kitten), Imogene (a cow), and Bilina (a chicken).

          24. In the novel, ‘Glinda’ is the Good Witch of the South, and appears only near the end in order to send ‘Dorothy’ back to Kansas.  In the film and musical, she also performs the functions of the Good Witch of the North (meeting ‘Dorothy’ in Munchkinland), and the Queen of the Field Mice (orchestrating the four friends’ rescue from the poppy field).

          25. In the film, ‘Glinda’ is the only primary Oz character to not have a Kansas counterpart.  However, in the musical, ‘Glinda’ and ‘Aunt Em’ are played by the same actor.  As well, ‘Uncle Henry’ is given an Oz counterpart in the Emerald City Guard.

          26. The song “Over the Rainbow” was ranked #1 by the American Film Institute in 2004 on the 100 Greatest Songs in American Films list.

          27. In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked The Wizard of Oz as the #10 Greatest Movie of All Time.

          28. When the film’s wardrobe department was looking for a coat for Frank Morgan (‘Professor Marvel’ / The Wizard), they decided they wanted one that looked like it had once been elegant but had since “gone to seed”. They visited a second-hand store and purchased an entire rack of coats, from which Morgan, the head of the wardrobe department, and director Victor Fleming chose one they felt gave off the perfect appearance of “shabby gentility”. One day, while he was on set in the coat, Morgan idly turned out one of the pockets and discovered a label indicating that the coat had been made for L. Frank Baum, the author of the novel. Mary Mayer, a unit publicist for the film, contacted the tailor and Baum’s widow, who both verified that the coat had at one time been owned by the author.. After the filming was completed, the coat was presented to Mrs. Baum.

          29. The repeated seven-note motif that is heard whenever ‘Miss Gultch’ or the Witch appears is actually a “crippled” variation (inverted and compressed in range) of the musical figure for “We’re Off to See the Wizard”.

          30. The 2011 West End revival uses all of the Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg songs from the film and includes new songs and additional music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and additional lyrics by Tim Rice. These include a song for ‘Professor Marvel’ (“The Wonders of the World”) and the Wicked Witch of the West (“Red Shoes Blues”), two songs for the Wizard (“Bring Me the Broomstick” and “Farewell to Oz”) and another song for ‘Dorothy’ (“Nobody Understands Me”).

          If you have any questions about any of these facts/myths/legends, please send us an email to info ‘at’ carouseltheatre.ca.

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