Strange Tales and Forgotten Stories About The Wizard of Oz
Strange Tales and Forgotten Stories About The Wizard of Oz

Strange Tales and Forgotten Stories About The Wizard of Oz

Larry Holzwarth - October 14, 2019

Strange Tales and Forgotten Stories About The Wizard of Oz
Frank Morgan played more roles than any other actor appearing in the 1939 film. Wikimedia

22. Frank Morgan, who replaced W.C. Fields, eventually played five separate roles

The parts of Professor Marvel, the doorman at Emerald City, the cab driver in, the guard at the Wizard’s door and the Wizard, were played by Frank Morgan. In part because of Field’s financial demands. Another factor considered was his well-deserved reputation for keeping himself lubricated with alcohol on the set. It was quickly learned by all involved that Morgan shared the latter attribute with the famed comedian.

When Morgan reported for his first day of shooting he brought with him a suitcase, which he resorted to frequently throughout the day when his presence wasn’t required before the cameras. the suitcase contained champagne. According to Ray Bolger, it never had a detrimental effect on either his performance or his demeanor, other than when access to his drink was denied he became morose and uncooperative. According to Bolger, on at least one occasion, director Victor Fleming stopped shooting and told a disgruntled Morgan to go get himself a drink.

Strange Tales and Forgotten Stories About The Wizard of Oz
Legends of misbehaving Munchkins during the production are based on comments from many who participated in the film, including producer LeRoy. Pinterest

23. The legends of Munchkin misbehavior began while still filming in 1939

Urban legends and myths about the actors portraying the Munchkins began before the film wrapped in 1939. Most of the actors were booked into a hotel in Culver City. According to Mervyn LeRoy, the police were in the hotel on an almost nightly basis. Judy Garland told Jack Paar in a 1967 interview “They were drunks”. Bert Lahr also added to the tales of miscreant Munchkins, complaining they weren’t professional performers but made their living, “panhandling, pimping, and whoring”.

As the end of the 20th century loomed and more and more of the participants in the filming of The Wizard of Oz passed away, surviving actors who portrayed Munchkins in the film took steps to alter their salacious reputation. The sheer number of stories from contemporaries indicates the revisionism of this view, and all indications are that the legends of the Munchkin’s misbehavior have some basis at least in truth.

Strange Tales and Forgotten Stories About The Wizard of Oz
Despite its reputation today, contemporary critics were not always kind to the film or its performers. Wikimedia

24. The Wizard of Oz was roundly panned by some critics

When it was released some critics loved the film and gave it positive reviews, others panned it. The New Republic wrote that though the film presented characters sure to be attractive to its audience, including a Wizard who was by his own admission, not a very good one, “… the picture doesn’t know what to do with them, except to be painfully literal and elaborate about everything”. The review stated the film, “weighs like a pound of fruitcake, soaking wet”.

The review referred to the Winged Monkeys as “Things with Wings”, praised Judy Garland but panned nearly all of the rest of the cast (except Morgan) and was generally dismissive of the entire project. The New York Times review said that, “…any reviewer who would look down his nose at the fun-making should be spanked and sent off, supperless, to bed”. The review in the New Republic was proven wrong over time as the film became an American icon.

Strange Tales and Forgotten Stories About The Wizard of Oz
Nikko, King of the Winged Monkeys, earned a credit for Pat Walshe, the only bit player in the film to be credited. Pinterest

25. The Flying Monkeys is a name which Baum’s Winged Monkeys acquired over time

In the Oz books, starting with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, the Winged Monkeys are free creatures until eventually enslaved by the Wicked Witch of the West, who used them to conquer the Winkies, through the use of a talisman called the Golden Cap. In the film the winged monkeys are led by Nikko, the only one addressed by name (by the Witch when she orders him to take his army to the Haunted Forest and capture Dorothy and Toto).

Baum only mentioned the Winged Monkeys in one of the subsequent Oz books, The Marvelous Land of Oz. In neither the books nor the 1939 film are they referred to as Flying Monkeys, though that is the name by which they are most commonly referred to today. Patrick Walshe, an American circus performer and animal impersonator portrayed Nikko in the movie. Viewers of the film who saw the credit to Patrick Walsh as Nikko often believed it referred to the Winkie who cried, “Hail to Dorothy” once the Wicked Witch of the West was dead.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

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“How did ‘Wizard of Oz’ fare on its 1939 release?” Susan King, Los Angeles Times. March 11, 2013

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“Buddy Ebsen, 95, Actor-Dancer was Jed Clampett of ‘Beverly Hillbillies'”. Dennis McLellan, Los Angeles Times. July 8, 2003

“Ray Bolger, Scarecrow in ‘Oz” Dies”. Glenn Fowler, The New York Times. January 16, 1987

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“Hollywood Dogs”. Ann Lloyd. 2004

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“The Crazy Tricks Early Filmmakers Used to Fake Snow”. Kat Eschner, December 21, 2016

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“‘Over the Rainbow’s” Enduring Appeal”. BBC News Magazine. March 15, 2006

“Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland”. Gerald Clarke. 2001

“The Wicked Witch Got Hers”. Nora Ephron, The New York Times. November 13, 1977

“Judy Garland interview with Jack Paar, May 15th, 1967. YouTube video. Online

“The Wizard of OZ FAQ: All That’s Left To Know About Life, According to Oz”. David J. Hogan. 2014