This month, our resident Wizard of Oz experts, Jay Scarfone and William Stillman, authors of the book The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion (available here: http://amzn.to/1MmrJoi#sthash.46Jzs4JM.dpuf), dispel a few of the most common Wizard of Oz “myth” understandings.
Myth: A Munchkin hanged himself in the background of a scene in The Wizard of Oz.
This one refuses to go away but rest assured it is completely and utterly false. The scene in question occurs as Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman march down the Yellow Brick Road together for the first time. One of the large birds—a stork or a crane—rented from the Los Angeles Zoo for “atmosphere” wandered into the background for this take. As the actors dance by and out of the scene, the bird rises up and spreads its wings. The Wizard of Oz was never intended to be viewed on a screen as small as a television set and so, over the years, the bird’s movement in the background has been misinterpreted as something it’s not, including a wayward stagehand caught on camera. Further, the vast majority of actors portraying Munchkins hadn’t yet officially arrived to the studio when this scene was filmed. With about 50 people watching from out of camera range—technicians, make-up artists, etc.—there is no chance that anything untoward would have gone unnoticed!
Myth: Judy Garland was married and a mother when she played Dorothy.
When plans to film The Wizard of Oz began materializing in February 1938, Judy Garland was just 15 years old. A couple months later, in April, she made her first wig and make-up test for the part of Dorothy. By the time filming got underway in October 1938, Judy had turned 16. She would remain this age for the majority of the shoot and would film another scene or two in late June 1939, by which time she had turned 17. Judy Garland married David Rose, her first husband, in 1941 and gave birth to her first child, Liza Minnelli, in 1946.