The Wizard of Oz was a groundbreaking film. The 1939 classic had a massive budget, ahead-of-its-time special effects, and a long cast list. It was also one of the first mainstream movies to hit theaters in color. The end result wowed audiences, and it will forever remain one of the most memorable movies in cinematic history.
However, there was nothing magical about production. It took six grueling months to film the movie, and at the time, there were no actors’ unions. So, the cast and crew were typically on set six days a week, working long hours. There was also a lot of trial and error with costumes and effects, and some of those errors were life-threatening.
It was so bad that today, people claim the movie was cursed, and several horrific rumors plague its name. Some are fake. For example, a munchkin actor did not really commit suicide on set. But some of the tales are true.
‘The Wizard of Oz’ Wicked Witch Was Set on Fire
Many fans have heard the horror story about Wicked Witch star Margaret Hamilton being set ablaze. That did happen, and it was worse than most people know.
According to the book The Making of The Wizard of Oz by Aljean Harmetz, the special effects crew was responsible for the accident. While filming a scene, they lit a fire without giving her time to exit. She suffered second-degree burns on her face and third-degree burns on her hand.
“The flames caught on her broom and hat, ‘scalding her chin, the bridge of her nose, her right cheek, and the right side of her forehead,” Harmetz wrote. “The eyelashes and eyebrow on her right eye had been burned off; her upper lip and eyelid were badly burned.’”
The skin on one of her hands burned off completely. It was six weeks before she could return to work. Hamilton resumed filming before her hand actually healed, however, and her nerves were exposed. So she wore a green glove to hide the wounds.
To add insult to her actual injury, Hamilton also said that her makeup seeped into her skin and stained her face slightly green. It was months before the coloring went away.
But her makeup was nowhere near as disastrous as the original Tin Man’s Buddy Ebsen’s. Jack Haley is who we know as the character. But The Beverly Hillbillies star was originally cast in the role, and his makeup nearly killed him.
This ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Star Nearly Died While Playing the Tin Man
To get the metallic look of tin, the costume department used aluminum dust.
“They covered his face in white clown makeup,” Ebsen’s daughter, Kiki, told Fox News. “And they dusted his face and hands with aluminum powder… real aluminum dust.”
Ebsen inhaled the dust and fell seriously ill. He woke up one morning unable to breathe, and his fingers and toes were painfully curling. He relied on an oxygen tank for two weeks and then spent another six weeks recuperating. While he was gone, his bosses simply gave his part away.
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