In honor of the State Theatre’s big-screen showing of “The Wizard of Oz” on Friday, I present to you some trivia associated with the classic 1939 film. Feel free to use these tidbits in conversation with your friends so they’ll think you’re an Oz fanatic — or just plain weird. (Me, I never had a problem making people believe the latter.)

At least two other live-action film adaptations of L. Frank Baum’s 1900 story predate the 1939 version. “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” based on the stage version of the book, was released in 1910 and was only 15 minutes long. A full-length version was released in 1925, and starred Oliver Hardy (later of Laurel and Hardy) as the Tin Man. Both films can be found on special-edition DVD releases of the 1939 film; the 1910 version can also be found on YouTube.

  Judy Garland was 17 at the time of shooting, so great pains were taken to make her look younger, including binding her breasts with tape and dressing her in a corset. Obviously, neither worked very well.

  Buddy Ebsen (Jed Clampett on “The Beverly Hillbillies) was originally cast as the Tin Man, but had to give up the role because aluminum dust from the silver makeup infected his lungs and almost killed him. However, his voice was left on the soundtrack, and can be heard on “We’re Off to See the Wizard.” You can view video of Ebsen in his Tin Man getup here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdpB8wkZOIw

There are lots of urban legends surrounding the Munchkins, some of them fueled by Garland, including tales of drunken behavior and bed-hopping on the set. The most notorious, however, is a rumor that a despondent Munchkin hung himself and his body can be seen swinging in the background of a scene. This has been widely debunked, but you can view the scene for yourself here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=r89z_-1by6U

What isn’t an urban legend is that the Munchkins were paid less than Toto the dog for their work on the film.

Margaret Hamilton reprised her role as the Wicked Witch of the West on a 1976 Paul Lynde Halloween TV special. The special was released on DVD in 2007.

It may seem hard to believe today, but “The Wizard of Oz” wasn’t a great box-office success upon its initial release. It wasn’t until the 1950s, when CBS began airing the film on an annual basis, that it became a pop-culture phenomenon.

Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or at:

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