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.