Most would agree that the world’s most famous witch is the Wicked Witch of the West played by Margaret Hamilton in the movie. But Hamilton didn’t launch her acting career as the Wicked Witch of the West. Seven years before she was offered the role that would forever define her powerful public image, Hamilton worked as a character actor in a long list of movies. Her steady work in films was due in large part to her plain looks and persona as a no-nonsense spinster who doesn’t stand for foolishness of any type.
In 1939, the role of a lifetime came along. Not only was the Wicked Witch of the West her most famous role, but the character was also one of the silver screen’s most memorable villains. As is the way in show business, Hamilton wasn’t the first choice to play the Wicked Witch of the West. The role originally went to the prettier actress, Gale Sondergaard. However, when Sondergaard was asked to wear makeup designed to make her appear ugly, she refused, paving the way for Hamilton to get the nod and the life-long fame and recognition that came along with playing Dorothy’s evil adversary.
Working in films isn’t always as easy as people might think. Case in point; Hamilton suffered a second-degree burn on her face and a third-degree burn on her hand during the second take of her fiery exit from Munchkinland. Her injuries were severe enough to require Hamilton to recuperate in a hospital and at home for six weeks after the accident. Once healed, she returned to the set to finish her great work in the now-classic film.