by Brett Leveridge
Few motion pictures are more universally beloved than The Wizard of Oz, which opened nationwide on August 25, 1939. Several generations of American children grew up watching the annual broadcast of this classic movie on television, and nowadays, it's available in a variety of video formats.
Still, as familiar as the film is to most of us, we're betting you'll find some fun facts in this photo gallery that will surprise you. Click through to test your Oz-Q!
The beloved 1939 film we all know and love was not the first cinematic adaptation of L. Frank Baum's Oz books. In 1908, Baum mounted a mixed-media touring production called The Fairylogue and Radio-Plays that included both live actors and film elements; it was acclaimed at the time, but budgetary concerns closed the show after two months.
In 1910, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, a silent version of the book, was released. In 1914, three films—The Patchwork Girl of Oz, His Majesty, the Scarecrow of Oz and The Magic Cloak of Oz—were produced, all written by Baum.
In 1925, Larry Semon, a popular film comedian of the day, directed a feature-length version called The Wizard of Oz; he also played the Scarecrow. Oliver Hardy, later of Laurel and Hardy fame, portrayed a farmhand and the Tin Woodman in the film.
Judy Garland was 16 years old when she played Dorothy and had to wear a corset to appear younger. During the first days of filming, she wore a blonde wig, but soon wiser heads prevailed.
Buddy Ebsen, best remembered as Jed Clampett on The Beverly Hillbillies, was originally cast as the Tin Man, but he suffered a severe allergic reaction to the body makeup, which contained aluminum dust. The studio was forced to turn to Jack Haley to play the role and to use makeup composed of aluminum paste.
Chocolate sauce was substituted in the Tin Man's oil can when it was learned that actual oil didn't read well on film.
In Baum's novel The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy's slippers were silver. They were changed to ruby red in the movie to take advantage of the movie's scenes that were filmed in Technicolor.
The Cowardly Lion's costume weighed almost 100 pounds and was made with real lion pelts.
At 36 years of age, Margaret Hamilton, the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West was 18 years younger than Billie Burke, who was 54 when she played Glinda, the Good Witch of the North.
The canine actor who played Toto was a female Cairn Terrior named Terry. She was paid $125 a week, more than many of the actors who portrayed the Munchkins.
A string of five directors helmed the filming; they were, in order, Norman Taurog, who oversaw only a few test shots before being reassigned; Richard Thorpe, who worked on the film for only about nine days of shooting; George Cukor, who nixed Garland's blond wig before moving on to work on Gone with the Wind, if only for a while; Victor Fleming (far left in the photo), who proved to be the film's primary director and who also replaced Cukor on Gone with the Wind; and King Vidor, who shot primarily the sepia-toned scenes set in Kansas. A total of 14 writers worked on the film's script.
After he receives his brain, the Scarecrow takes his newfound intelligence for a spin by reciting the Pythagorean Theorem (but he gets it wrong!).
Amazingly enough, more than 3,200 costumes were created for the movie.
In an almost miraculous turn of events, the coat that Frank Morgan, who played five parts in the movie, wore as Professor Marvel was purchased in a thrift shop by the studio's custom department. It was later discovered that the coat had once belonged to L. Frank Baum, the author of the Wizard of Oz books.
The beloved song Over the Rainbow, performed so memorably by Judy Garland, was nearly cut from the film when it was thought the running time was too long.
What's your Oz-Q?
10-13 — You're a Wizard of Oz Whiz
7-9 — You're a regular Professor Marvel
4-6 — A few more viewings of this classic film may be in order
0-3 — Don't worry! Having viewed this slideshow, you're now an expert
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