Oz in the News 9.14.16

such-mad-fun-the-wizard-of-oz-02Scholarly Munchkins, an Encounter with Clark Gable, and More Surprises from the Set of The Wizard of Oz  Jane had heard how tough it was to get on the set of The Wizard of Oz: “Even Mr. LeRoy [producer Mervyn LeRoy] had to write himself a pass, they said. No executives, no nothing. But being the goaded-by-adversity type, after lunch one day I wandered down.” Jane wandered past electricians, makeup men, and a few old rubber hoses right into Munchkinland. At first she thought the Munchkins were “dressed up children.” But in fact they were “the largest collection of midgets in the world—especially gathered for The Wizard. And what a collection! . . . The younger Munchkins have transparent ears and long green feet, which curl in corkscrews almost to their knees. They are uncommonly attractive as to faces—with sly wrinkled smiles and luminous dark eyes.” She was surprised to learn that most of the little people (“midget” is now considered a pejorative term) came from “very ordinary walks of life.” The mayor of Munchkinland, Charles Becker [born Karl Becker in Germany], had graduated from an engineering school. “He looked rather weary, discussing it. ‘But nobody takes an engineer seriously, these days,’ he said sadly. ‘I mean, if he is also a midget.’ ” “The sad little human interest story” of a man who had been desperate for years to get a break in Hollywood made a big impression on Jane. Ecstatic upon hearing he could report to work for The Wizard, “he was sure his chance had come.” The job? To stand inside a hollow apple tree and call out one line: “You’ve got a nerve, picking my apples!” And that was it. She was happy to learn, though, that the S.P.C.A. insisted the makeup department use lemon and raspberry gelatin and no toxic dyes on the animals that played the Horse of a Different Color. Actually, two white horses, Jake and William, “were colored with the same vegetable-dye pigments found in Jell-O” but not with the product itself.

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