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The Controversy with the Wizard of Oz

Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz is a classic film millions have enjoyed since its release in 1939. Based on the children's novel by L. Frank Baum, the movie recounts an adventure between Dorothy, her dog, Toto, a Scarecrow, a Tin Man, and a Cowardly Lion on their way to get help from a wizard. You can read the classic novel for FREE on Fable here!You can also start a book club on Fable to discuss the book and film with your friends!

What is the Controversy with the Wizard of Oz?

While this story was initially intended for children, the film has several sequences that have been frightening for such a young audience. And behind the scenes during the film production, things were even more horrifying. Many people wonder whether the Wizard of Oz was toxic and why. Some even wonder if the set of the Wizard of Oz was cursed. Here is a list of horrifying things on the set of the magical, beloved film.

1. The Snow Was Made From Asbestos

The Wizard of Oz was made in a time before computer-generated special effects, so filmmakers had to get creative. So the beautiful yet chilling scene of the gang falling asleep while it snows amongst the poppies? The "snow" was actually just chrysotile asbestos, otherwise known as carcinogens (or cancer-causing substances). Substances surrounded the cast that, if inhaled, could increase the risk of several serious diseases, including lung cancer.

2. Multiple People Caught on Fire While Filming

Margaret Hamilton, the Wicked Witch of the West, had to film a scene where the witch disappears in a flash of smoke. The effects crew used real fire for this scene, and Hamilton was instructed to exit the stage via a trapdoor, but the trapdoor's drop got delayed, and the fire started before she had time to exit safely. Hamilton suffered severe burns on her face and hand, her eyelashes and eyebrows on her right eye having been completely burned off, and her skin completely burned off of her hand. The movie studio did not send her home, and her friend had to pick her up. The studio called Hamilton the next day, wondering when she would return for work. But it took Hamilton six weeks to recover, and even after returning to set, she had to wear green gloves instead of green makeup because the nerves in her hands were still exposed due to the burns. Hamilton's stunt double, Betty Danko, later caught on fire while filming a scene on the witch's broomstick. The pipe generating smoke from the broomstick exploded while Danko was on it, and she suffered severe burns and permanent scarring from the incident.

3. The Original Tin Man was Poisoned by His Makeup

To achieve the silver, metallic look, Buddy Ebsen, the original Tin Man, was painted with pure aluminum. Frequent lung ingestion of the aluminum sent Buddy Ebsen to the hospital after waking up one night with severe cramping in his hands, arms, and legs and difficulty breathing. He had only been filming the Wizard of Oz for nine days when he was hospitalized and had to spend two weeks in an oxygen tent due to the aluminum dust in his makeup. Instead of being sympathetic, the studio demanded he return to work. When he couldn't, the studio replaced him with Jack Haley. They did use a different makeup, not made with pure aluminum, though Haley still suffered from a severe eye infection due to the products they used to paint him.

4. Potential Trigger for Judy Garland's Drug Abuse

The executives behind the film kept Judy Garland, then only 16 years old at the time, on a strict diet and forced her to take 'pep pills' to control her appetite. She was meant to stay slim and producers pressured her to stay in shape for the duration of the film.

5. The Director Slapped Judy Garland

At just 16 years old, Judy Garland was slapped by the director of the film, Victor Fleming. Allegedly, it was because of her inability to complete a scene without giggling.As if that was not enough mistreatment of the show's main character, Judy Garland seemed never to catch a break. Despite being the star of the film, she reportedly made the second lowest salary of the cast, earning only higher than her dog cast member who played Toto.

Was the set of the Wizard of Oz Cursed?

Due to the many serious accidents and misfortunes while filming, countless people believe the film and set was cursed. As illustrated above, the film set had no shortage of awful happenings it was afflicted with. So to say the set of the Wizard of Oz was cursed is not an entirely false statement, but considering there were no supernatural powers involved in the accidents, it's safe to say one of those types of curses did not affect the set of this classic film.

Was the Wizard of Oz Toxic?

From executives behind the film demanding their sick and injured actors return to set despite still needing to heal, to the director of the film slapping a 16-year-old and encouraging her to take pills to regulate her appetite and stay slim, the set and filming process of the Wizard of Oz was toxic. Not to mention the paint used for the Tin Man and the Wicked Witch of the West and the fake snow which literally contained toxins.

Is anyone from the Wizard of Oz still alive?

As the movie was filmed 83 years ago, sadly, no one from the main cast is still alive today. The last living munchkin, played by Jerry Maren, died at age 99 in 2018.

What is the Wizard of Oz a Metaphor For?

There are many theories about the real meaning of The Wizard of Oz. One popular theory is that the Wonderful Wizard of Oz, the Frank Baum book on which the movie is based on, was a political allegory for politics in the United States. Dorothy represents the nobility of Midwestern America, the Tin Man represents the industry, and the Scarecrow represents agriculture. The gold color of the yellow brick road and the green colors in the Emerald City represent the currency arguments the US experienced. While the Wizard of Oz is not known for being a political film, the story certain contains political, economic, and social undertones of events that took place in the 1890s.Another theory claims that the Wizard of Oz is a metaphor for life's journey and coming of age. The themes point to having patience and following a set road to reach your true destination and achieve your goals.

Why is the Wizard of Oz Banned?

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz book caused controversy in 1957, in Detroit, Michigan and was banned from libraries on the basis that it had "no value" for children and supported "negativism". In 1986, one of the most publicized bannings of the book was by seven Fundamentalist Christian families in Tennessee, who wanted the book banned in public schools. They went as far as filing a lawsuit against schools with the book because they did not like how the novel depicted nice witches. In 1928, all public libraries banned the book, claiming it was "ungodly" for "depicting women in leadership roles". Throughout the years, the book has continued to be the subject of controversy for its positive portrayal of femininity and many groups have opposed the idea of women in heroic roles, and in positions of power that reach similar levels as their male counterparts.

Read the Wonderful Wizard of Oz on Fable!

You can read the classic novel for FREE on Fable here!

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