It’s the same with all classic films. After seeing them a time or two, it becomes hard to imagine any other actors portraying your favorite characters. This is certainly true of The Wizard of Oz. Can anyone really picture anyone else playing Dorothy, The Wizard, Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion, or Scarecrow? After all these years, the faces, voices, and performances of Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Jack Haley Bert Lahr, and Ray Bolger are indelibly burned in our minds; these great actors will forever be the characters we’ve come to love. Yet, as funny as it may seem now, other actors were seriously considered for all of these roles.
Probably the most well-known of these stories is how Buddy Ebsen, famous for playing Uncle Jed on The Beverly Hillbillies, was actually hired to play the Tin Man but had to withdraw after he suffered an allergic reaction to the silver makeup required for the character. Not so well-known, probably, is that that the film was originally considered as a vehicle for comedy legends Laurel and Hardy. Did you also know that producers thought Shirley Temple would make a great Dorothy (she was very popular at the time), or that Mary Pickford, America’s Sweetheart of silent films, was also a frontrunner for the role? How would you have liked W.C. Fields as The Great and Powerful Oz? He was heavily considered for the role (“Poor little chickadee…I hope she makes it home alright”).
There were other interesting choices considered by the studio, but, of course, no other actors could ever have played our beloved Oz characters. Wouldn’t you agree?