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Many of us have warm memories of curling up in front of the TV with the family for the annual viewing of The Wizard of Oz. There’s just something about the music, the magic, the Munchkins and the message that make it a familiar favorite we can watch again and again – and that touch of wickedness just adds to the fun. The film adaption of L. Frank Baum’s beloved book was released in 1939, and although it wasn’t initially a huge box office hit, it has become an icon of American culture. The film was nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Picture, which it lost to Gone With the Wind. Take a peak behind the curtain and learn some not-so-wonderful facts about the filming of this tale of a girl and her dog on the Yellow Brick Road. Toxic sets, stolen slippers, suicides, oh my!

1. The Original Tin Man Ended Up in an Iron Lung

The actor Buddy Ebsen (later of Beverly Hillbillies fame) was first cast as the Tin Man, but he had a horrible reaction to the silver makeup they used since it was made from aluminum powder. After a few days he had breathed in so much aluminum dust that he had to be hospitalized and recovered in an iron lung. It affected him for years. When they replaced him with Jack Haley, they switched over to a safer aluminum paste instead.

tin man

2. The Poppy Field Was Really Carcinogenic

To create the poppy field scene they actually used chrysotile asbestos fibers. Asbestos is highly carcinogenic. In the film, the poppy field was meant to be dangerous as well. The Scarecrow says to the Cowardly Lion: “Run fast, and get out of this deadly flower bed as soon as you can. We will bring the little girl with us, but if you should fall asleep you are too big to be carried.”

wizard of oz

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