The Wizard of Oz movie is having its 75th anniversary this August, and to commemorate this milestone, Warner Brothers is re-releasing this classic in IMAX 3-D on September 20, 2013. The movie will have a one-week theater engagement. For this occasion the movie has been digitally re-mastered, and for the IMAX 3-D release, each frame of the film print had to be depth-mapped and rotoscoped to maximize the viewer experience. In this post the Silver Screen Modiste looks back and the history of the movie through its costumes. This first post will cover the costumes for the Wizard of Oz designed by Adrian, and the fabrication and wearing of the costumes and the related make-up of the actors. The next post will look at the equally fascinating story of the subsequent history of many of those iconic costumes, including the ruby slippers. These relics from the movie have reached celestial values. Like me, you will probably kick yourself and wish you (or that a family member) had attended that historic MGM auction in 1970. But as Glinda says, "It's always best to start at the beginning."
The movie is based on the classic book published in 1900, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by L. Frank Baum and beloved by children long before it became a movie. In fact it had already been made into two previous movies, one in 1925 which starred Oliver Hardy as the Tin Woodsman. It had also been a Broadway musical. In all these versions, although the story lines might change, the costumes were based on the original W.W. Denslow illustrations for the book.
In 1935 Samuel Goldwyn bought the movie rights, but it was MGM that subsequently bought the rights from Goldwyn and began producing the classic in 1938. They would spare no expense in the production.
|Denslow's illustrations for Oz|
Mervyn LeRoy was assigned to produce the movie, with Richard Thorpe as the director and Adrian doing the costume designs. Although Shirley Temple was considered ideal for the role of Dorothy, it was MGM's own Judy Garland that got the job, and in the end it was a perfect choice. Some of the key characters began with different actors in the roles: The Tin Woodman started out with Buddy Ebsen playing the part, and indeed he was a unique dancer. The Wicked Witch was to be played by Gale Sondergaard. But early in the make-up tests for Buddy Ebsen, the aluminum powder on his face gave him a very serious allergic reaction. He was hospitalized and subsequently replaced by the Vaudevillian actor Jack Haley. Adrian dressed Gale Sondergaard in the iconic black gown and hat, although both pieces were adorned with sequins. Gale looked just too glamorous, and pretty, despite her make-up. A "hag" type look was deemed more suitable, and the strong-featured Elizabeth Hamilton was selected, her image exaggerated with facial prosthetics and green make-up. Although Ebsen was then considered to play the Scarecrow, it was Ray Bolger that got the part, a rubber-legged song and dance man ideal for the part.
As a starting point, the Art Department envisioned the world of the tiny Munchkins as being close to the ground. Adrian thereby incorporated the theme of flowers in their costumes by designing appliqued and embroidered flowers; flower-pot hats; leaf decorations, and the like. And all of their costumes would be made of felt for softness. He emphasized the Munchkins' smallness by designing over-sized collars and large vests and hats. In keeping with the story, various Munchkins had titles and defined jobs: the fiddlers, the heralds, the soldiers, the First Townsman, the Coroner, the Mayor, and others. For the Commander of the Army, Adrian used a rose for his spurs and a bird-cage hat.
Judy Garland as Dorothy wore only one dress for the entire movie. Still, it took several tries before the one dress was decided upon. One dress design was in a light blue color with no trim, another had gingham trim at the bodice and skirt, still another was a darker solid blue with tiny bows on the bodice. Judy's hair color and style also varied in the early tests, from red to blond to her final auburn color. After a couple of weeks of filming, the results didn't satisfy Le Roy, and so he replaced Richard Thorpe with George Cukor, who because of his prior commitment to directing Gone with the Wind, was only temporary. Victor Fleming would succeed him as director. As it turned out, Cukor would in turn be replaced by Victor Fleming as the director of GWTW. Thorpe's chosen look for Dorothy was also changed, in favor of the classic Adrian design of a blue and white checked pinafore with the off-white puffed-sleeve blouse. Judy's long curled wig was also eliminated. It had been an attempt to hide her breasts (Dorothy was a young girl in the book), which was accomplished by wearing a flattening bra, just one of the uncomfortable costumes worn by the cast.
The photo below shows Judy in the classic pinafore, with Toto. It was the first color scene in the movie, just as they enter Oz and she exclaims, "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."
Oz was one of the early Technicolor movies. The use of this filming method created several difficulties. Colors had to be approved by the Technicolor consultant, which drove Adrian mad due to the costume color modifications that had to be made. White did not work at all due to the strong reflection it gave. Thus Dorothy's white blouse had to be dyed to result in a sort of dirty white. Technicolor also required very bright lighting, so banks of overhead arc-lights were used, as many as 150 on the biggest sets. This created intense heat which exhausted the actors in their heavy costumes and make-up. Ironically, this same intensive lighting requirement for Technicolor has made it feasible to now render the movie into 3-D.
Glinda (the Good Witch) is played by the wonderful Billie Burke. Adrian designed his favored shoulder-emphasis element in her gown, with the pouffed shoulders actually resembling wings. In the book Glinda wore a white gown decorated with silver stars. Instead Adrian had to change the white to a dusty rose color in order to satisfy the demands of Technicolor..
And then there were the Ruby Slippers. They serve a key role in the plot and are one of the most iconic costume pieces in cinema history. In Baum's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy's shoes are silver. Adrian thought that red shoes would have more pizazz in the Technicolor film, and would help to emphasize their importance to the story. Several types of red shoes were tested, including one pair with the curled-up toe that was called, the "Arabian slippers." Adrian believed that only red sequins would give the right sparkle. So now finding the right method of attaching sequins to shoes was experimented with. The shoes were not built from scratch. The pumps with their French heels were purchased from the Innes Shoe Company of Los Angeles, Hollywood, and Pasadena, in several pairs, and reportedly dyed red.Several pairs were necessaryin order to account for wear and tear and a pair for Judy's stand-in. In the MGM Wardrobe Department, embroiderers sewed red sequins (nearly 5000 sequins) onto shoe-formed red sllk georgette, which was then sewed onto the red faille pumps. Somewhat later Adrian added the red bugle beaded and rhinestone jeweled bow which was also sewn onto each shoe of the regular pairs. Scarlet- colored felt was also glued onto the soles of some of the ruby slippers, most notably those seen on the dead Wicked Witch of the East, and the soles of others were painted red. The blue silk socks were also a great addition, especially as compared to the dark knee socks previously tested.
The Tin Man was costumed in close proximity to the book's illustrations, as was the Scarecrow. Neither tin nor metal was actually used, but rather a starched and lined buckram, which was a common material used in making durable book covers. This in turn was painted silver. Jack Haley's make-up was made up of a layer of cold-cream, white foundation, and then aluminum paint. Ray Bolger's make-up for the Scarecrow was a partial rubber mask to simulate burlap. He went through dozens of these masks during the course of production. His costume was a green jacket and brown pants, stuffed at several places with raffia to resemble straw. Every couple of days these costumes had to be cleaned by hand-sponging them during the evening, if not replaced altogether.
The Cowardly Lion in the book was indeed a lion, so the costume was made of real lion skins and mane. Projecting ears were added, and Bert Lahr wore a prosthetic lip and jowls, and separate lion mittens. The costume also had interior padding, which made it weigh about 50 pounds. The tail was manipulated during the filming by a wire attached to a sort of fishing rod, handled by a crewman from above. All the heavily made up and costumed characters suffered because of the heat. Bert Lahr complained the most, saying he could only eat his lunch using a straw.
As a starting point, the Art Department envisioned the world of the tiny Munchkins as being close to the ground. Thus Adrian incorporated the theme of flowers for their costumes: appliqued and embroidered flowers; flower-pot hats; leaf decorations, and the like. And all the Munchkins' costumes would be made of felt for softness. He emphasized their smallness by designing over-sized collars and large vests and hats. As in the book, various Munchkins had titles and defined jobs: the fiddlers, the heralds, the soldiers, the First Townsman, the Coroner, the Mayor, and others. For the Commander of the Army, Adrian used a rose for his spurs and a birdcage hat. The characters were played by dwarfs, with some child actors used as well.
The costumes in the Emerald City of Oz were of course all green. Thus shoes, stockings, dresses, and coats were green. This gave much extra work for the Wardrobe Department since stockings, shoes, and coats were not available in green, and so these costume parts all had to be dyed. For the shoes, they were spray-painted, which meant the insides and the soles had to be taped off. One of the highlights of the movie was the Emerald City Beauty Shop, where Dorothy was beautified as well as the other lead characters. Here Adrian was finally able to add some fashion styling to the beauticians' wardrobe.
The basic exterior look of the Emerald City of Oz was the result of a brainstorm of Cedric Gibbons, the Head of the Art Department, when he was discussing the problem of designing a unique look for Oz with production designer William Horning. Gibbons was looking at a German studio photo of a group of glass beakers when he had the idea to use these elements for the look of Oz. The idea was to make the beakers green and turn them upside down in a grouping. This ended up giving a unique look to Oz as seen from far away.
Frank Morgan played key roles throughout the movie. His job was very laborious as he had to be fitted for each costume and tested in a variety of make-ups, wigs and mustaches. In different make-up and costumes he played the roles of Professor Marvel, the Doorkeeper of Oz, the Guard at the gates of the Wizard's palace, a horse-drawn wagon cabby, and of course the Wizard of Oz himself.
The heavily made-up face of Bert Lahr as the no-longer-cowardly Lion expresses the joy that this movie has given millions of people. It is estimated that more people have seen The Wizard of Oz than any other movie. The Wizard of Oz is a national treasure.
And The Wizard of Oz was also a musical, with music by Harold Arlen and lyrics by E.Y (Skip) Harburg. What would The Wizard of Oz be without Over the Rainbow? Yet this song was almost eliminated from the movie, when one MGM exec doubted that anyone would go for a girl singing in a barn yard.
A film's road to greatness is just as perilous as the road to Oz. In the next blog post I will discuss the just as perilous road taken by the iconic costumes and the various pairs of ruby slippers and that of their collectors, a road also filled with triumphs and pot-holed with tragedies. Until then, you'll only have one week to screen the IMAX 3-D version.
Several excellent research resources exist on the Wizard of Oz production, including:
*Aljean Harmetz, The Making of the Wizard of Oz
*John Fricke and Jay Scarfone, The Wizard of Oz: A Pictorial History
* Rhys Thomas, The Rubby Slippers of Oz
and the blog: http://therubyslippersproject.wordpress.com/