Who doesn’t love the classic film ‘The Wizard of Oz?’ A movie that turns 85 this year, it has long been an institution in American cinema and pop culture.
But it turns out, playing Dorothy was quite the ordeal for a young Judy Garland.
Garland Was Just 16
The Messenger reports, “Judy Garland was just 16 when she played Dorothy, a teen who is transported to the magical land of Oz after a tornado rips through her small town. Despite her young age, while filming the movie, Garland was reportedly fed a strict diet of chicken soup, black coffee, cigarettes, diet pills and amphetamines — all in an effort to restrict her weight. She was also forced to wear a corset and bandage her breasts so she would appear younger on-screen.”
Garland once told PBS, “[Studio head] Mr. [Louis B.] Mayer called me his little hunchback. Said I looked like a fat monster, so orders went down to commissary. ‘Whatever Garland ordered, give her chicken broth.”
The story continued:
According to Biography, the actress was given drugs known as “pep pills” to keep her working during the long, grueling hours and sleeping pills to knock her out at the end of the day. Despite her starring role in the film, she was paid $500 a week, a steep cut from the salaries of Ray Bolger (Scarecrow) and Jack Haley (Tin Man), who were each paid $3,000 weekly.
While filming the Technicolor musical, Garland was reportedly sexually assaulted by actors who played the film’s Munchkins. “They would make Judy’s life miserable on set by putting their hands under her dress,” Sid Luft, Garland’s ex-husband, claimed in his memoir Judy and I: My Life with Judy Garland. “The men were 40 or more years old.”
Garland was Slapped Around on Set
“The young actress was also allegedly on the receiving end of abuse from the film’s director, Victor Flemming. According to author Michael Sragow’s book Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master, the filmmaker slapped Garland,” The Messenger noted. “When [Judy] Garland couldn’t stop breaking into giggles at the pseudo-menacing advance of [Bert] Lahr’s Cowardly Lion, Fleming escorted her off the Yellow Brick Road, said, ‘Now darling, this is serious,’ slapped her on the cheek, then ordered, ‘Now go in there and work.”
It’s sad to learn that such a sweet and endearing movie was made by adults who were anything but.
Judy Garland would end up taking her own life in 1969 at the age of 47.