When I was a kid, the Wizard Of Oz was on TV once each year. I remember seeing the ads for it, and getting excited, and when the big day would finally arrive, I would be front and center watching it on our 12 inch black and white TV. I enjoyed the farm scenes in the beginning of the film and loved the song, Somewhere Over The Rainbow. I thought Glinda the Good Witch one of the prettiest ladies I’d ever seen, and the flying monkeys one of the most terrifying. All too soon, it would be over, and I would have to wait another year to watch it again. At some point, someone gave me a Wizard Of Oz puzzle, and I remember making it so many times that the pieces became frayed at the edges.
Judy Garland was my favorite actress, and when someone told me that she had died when I was a baby, I was crushed. In my child’s mind, I thought as long as I could see her skipping down the yellow brick road, she must be alive somewhere.
Recently, Harland and I passed through Wamego Kansas, home of the OZ museum, chock full of all things Oz related.
Harland, a native Kansan, had been to the museum before, and although I’d heard about it, I’d never visited. For fans of the book, movie, or even just the actors, it’s a great place to visit. Here are a few highlights:
In 1900, L. Frank Baum wrote a children’s story entitled The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz. It was immensely popular, and remained on the bestseller list for 2 years.
Baum went on to write 13 more books about the characters and places of Oz.
In 1910, and again in 1925, silent movies were made, based on the book. Sadly, Baum, who died in 1919, would not live to see the most famous book interpretation, the movie released in 1939. Some interesting facts about the movie:
Shirley Temple was MGM’s first pick to play the role of Dorothy, but Temple could not get out of her contract with 20th Century Fox, and was unable to take the role. Deanna Durbin was also considered, but eventually the role was offered to Judy Garland.
WC Fields was chosen for the role of the wizard, but he turned it down.Frank Morgan went on to play the wizard.
Ray Bolger, who played the scarecrow, was originally cast as the tinman, but was later recast as the scarecrow at his request.
Buddy Epson was cast in the role as the tin man, but had to be hospitalized 10 days into filming due to inhalation of aluminum dust contained in his makeup. He was not able to continue filming, and was replaced by Jack Haley.
Bert Lahr, who played the cowardly lion, wore a suit that weighed 90 pounds which made movement difficult. It was also unbearably hot due to lighting that caused temperatures to hover around 100 degrees on the set.
Margaret Hamilton, who played the wicked witch, suffered burns on her hands and face during the filming of the scene where she disappears into a ball of flame and smoke.
The song, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”, was almost cut as it was considered undignified for Judy Garland to be seen singing in a barnyard.
And although the film won 3 Academy awards, and is considered today to be one of the best loved films of all time, it was initially a box office failure.
Some interesting artifacts in the museum include a scrap of fabric from the dress Garland wore during filming,
original lists of sets and scenes,
an original balance sheet,
and 1 of 4 remaining rubber monkeys used during filming. It only measures about 3 inches tall.
I enjoyed our visit to the museum, and learned some fascinating facts about one of my favorite all time films.
———> UP NEXT: The Historic Elgin Hotel B & B in Marion Kansas. Built in 1886, it offered luxurious rooms and was the site for many elegant banquets and balls. Today it has been fully restored and reopened as a B & B.
———> AND LATER: Homemade doughnuts from a 1921 recipe.