MythBustters: Common Myths About the Wizard of Oz

This month we are going to 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 at 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 of 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.

Myth: The Wizard of Oz was filmed in black and white but colorized for TV.

From its inception, The Wizard of Oz was planned as a Technicolor production. In fact, a previously announced 1933 version of The Wizard of Oz (which was never made) by producer Samuel Goldwyn was also to be done in Technicolor. For the 1939 version, the Kansas sequences would be black and white film, processed with special sepia tinting, to create greater contrast between Dorothy’s farm and the lavish fantasy world that is the Land of Oz. The confusion about The Wizard of Oz being “colorized” may come from the fact that the movie first began airing on television in 1956. The movie was broadcast in color but at the time, the vast majority of households with television had a black-and-white set, even though color sets were newly available. Because of this, The Wizard of Oz wasn’t telecast in color in 1962 but was shown only in black and white. As more families eventually acquired color TVs, it became readily apparent that The Wizard of Oz was a color film if anyone had doubts. Indeed, making the movie mostly in Technicolor was a major marketing point – and contributed greatly to its inordinate expense – in 1938-39.

Myth: Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon album was created to sync up with The Wizard of Oz as an alternative soundtrack.

This is another popular myth that is completely unfounded. Even the Pink Floyd band members have denied the connection. Still, the rumors persist. About 1995, someone, somewhere, discovered that when The Dark Side of the Moon is played at or about the second roar of Leo the Lion as The Wizard of Oz is beginning, the songs and music appear to match up with the action in the movie. The problem is, the album was released in 1973, long before a home video version of The Wizard of Oz was available. This would’ve been necessary to create such a precise alignment between the movie scenes and Pink Floyd’s music. Still in all, it is merely a happy coincidence, one that has become known as The Dark Side of the Rainbow to followers of Pink Floyd and The Wizard of Oz.