15 Things You Didn’t Know About ‘The Wizard of Oz’ Movie
Did you know Dorothy’s ruby slippers were originally silver? To commemorate The Wizard of Oz’s 80th anniversary, we rounded up the most interesting (and little-known) facts about the movie.
It’s been 80 years since we first followed the yellow brick road with Dorothy, Toto, and the rest of the gang. We grew up singing “Over the Rainbow” and clicking our own red sparkly heels together—and as someone who was raised in The Sunflower State, I can’t tell you how often I ran around saying, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore.”
Over the last eight decades, The Wizard of Oz, has become one of the most quotable and iconic family movies in the world. Earlier this year, it came back to theaters and families across the country got to experience the magic on the big screen again.
But for as popular as The Wizard of Oz is, there are likely several things you never knew about the film. To celebrate its 80th anniversary this August, we’ve rounded up a few of the most surprising facts about the making of this classic movie.
The Ruby Slippers Were Originally Silver
In Frank L. Baum’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s shoes were silver. The idea for the sparkly ruby slippers didn’t actually come from the book at all—rather, the color was changed by the film’s executives because technicolor was new and they thought red shoes would stand out more than silver.
More Than 100 Dogs Auditioned for Toto
More than 100 dogs auditioned for the now-iconic canine role, but it was eventually given to a black Cairn Terrier named Terry. The dog was referred to as Toto so often during filming, her owners decided to change her name after the movie wrapped to avoid confusing her. She even got to attend the world premiere of the film in 1939!
The Wicked Witch was a Kindergarten Teacher
“Over the Rainbow” Almost Didn’t Make the Film
The iconic song “Over the Rainbow” was almost cut from the film not once, but twice. Producers reportedly wanted to keep the film to just 100 minutes, and thought the song was too long.
The Ruby Slippers Are Worth $1 Million
Four pair of ruby slippers were used during filming, and they’re worth an awful lot today. One pair sold for $666,000 at an auction in 2000, but a second pair was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, MN (Garland's birthplace) in 2005, and a $1 million reward was promised to anyone who returned the shoes safely. That pair was recovered by the FBI in 2018, although authorities declined to say whether any amount of money was involved.
The Tin Man Cried Chocolate Syrup
When the producers figured out machine oil didn't look great on film, they swapped it out for chocolate syrup. In The Wizardry of Oz, by Jay Scarfone and William Stillman, Jack Haley is quoted saying, “They squirted chocolate in my face, because the oil wouldn’t photograph right, but chocolate will.”
Dorothy Was Almost Blonde
During the first two weeks of filming, Judy Garland wore a blonde wig. Ultimately, the studio executives decided they wanted a brunette Dorothy instead, so Judy Garland’s natural hair was dyed an auburn color for the film. The original blonde wig sold for $14,000 last July.
Toto Made $125 Per Week
Toto, also known as Terry the terrier, was paid $125 a week, while the Munchkins were each paid $50 a week. Since filming lasted 26 weeks, that adds up to $3,250 for the canine star—that would be more than $58,000 in today's money! Terry was so popular in this film, she went on to appear in 16 other movies.
The Horses Were Coated in Jell-O
In The Making of The Wizard of Oz, Aljean Harmetz explains how the “Horse of a Different Color” in the Emerald City actually got its colors. The set designers worked with the ASPCA to find a way to dye the horses’ hair without harming the animals. Ultimately, they decided to sponge Jell-O powder onto the horses to turn them bright colors—which worked well until the horses began to lick off the Jell-O between takes.
Shirley Temple Almost Played Dorothy
Shirley Temple had signed with 20th Century Fox and was expected to play Dorothy, but when the movie rights went to MGM, Judy Garland was cast instead. In later years, Shirley Temple Black said in an interview, “Sometimes the gods know best,” in reference to missing out on the part.
There Are Actually Two Wizard of Oz Movies
The classic Judy Garland film we all know and love is actually the second Oz movie to be made. In 1925, a silent film titled The Wizard of Oz was released, which starred Oliver Hardy (of the classic Laurel and Hardy films) as the Tin Man. In the later version, the Tin Man was played by Jack Haley.
Dorothy and the Tin Man Were Once Related
Long after filming wrapped, Judy Garland (Dorothy) and Jack Haley (Tin Man) became in-laws when Garland’s daughter Liza Minnelli married Jack Haley Jr. in 1974. Interestingly, Haley almost didn’t get the part of the Tin Man; Buddy Ebsen of The Beverly Hillbillies fame was originally cast, but he was allergic to the silver makeup.
The Movie Took 26 Weeks to Film
In The Road to Oz: The Evolution, Creation, and Legacy of a Motion Picture Masterpiece, by Jay Scarfone and William Stillman, it was revealed that Bert Lahr, who played the Cowardly Lion, didn’t think filming would last very long. He had his contract written so that it would give him a guaranteed five weeks of work; his thinking was that if the movie only took three or four weeks to make, he would be able to make a few extra dollars. It turns out, he didn’t need to worry because it took a full 26 weeks to film the movie—which worked out well, considering actors were paid by the week back then.
Judy Garland Was Only 16
There is no age listed for Dorothy in Baum’s original book, but she looks relatively young in all the illustrations. Garland was 16 during filming, and wore a corset to give her a more child-like figure.
The Film Cost Almost $3 Million
MGM spent an estimated $2.77 million to make the movie, which equals more than $50 million in today’s market! And as The New York Times reported, the film didn’t actually make any profit for almost 20 years.