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Written by Timothy Sexton
Born Frances Gumm, the talented young singer and actress that plays the protagonist of the film would be known to millions of fans as Judy Garland. Garland only got the role because 20th Century Fox refused to loan another young female actress who was one of the biggest box office draws of the 1930’s: Shirley Temple. Garland took advantage of the kind of big break that often happens in movies rather than in the movie business to go on to career that would eventually outshine Temple who was never able to successfully transition into a star as adult.
Miss Gulch/Wicked Witch of the West
The darkly beautiful Gale Sondergaard was originally cast in the iconic role of the Wicked Witch and the wardrobe and makeup test shots indicate that the character would have been quite different had she decided to stay on. Instead, she chose to leave, thus allowing Margaret Hamilton to step into the character that would define the rest of her career.
Bolger was originally cast as the Tin Man, but switched parts with Buddy Ebsen (more on that later). The casting of Bolger as the Tin Man seems highly misguided considering how that character’s movements are so limited and Bolger at times almost literally seems to have limbs made of straw when walking and dancing as the Scarecrow.
The Tin Man
Jack Haley would wind up being the third actor cast in the role of the Tin Man. First there was Bolger and then he swapped roles with Buddy Ebsen. While Ebsen would later go on to enormous fame as Jed Clampett on the TV series “The Beverly Hillbillies” the man who finally did play the Tin Man would never find another role to eclipse the fame brought him by dancing down the Yellow Brick Road.
The Cowardly Lion
As is obvious, The Wizard of Oz went through some growing pains before it finally blossomed into one of the most perfectly cast films of all time. But the casting process that led to Bert Lahr playing the Cowardly Lion was perhaps the most unbelievable. Keep in mind that the mascot for MGM is one of the most famous in history: that roaring lion which greets audiences at the beginning of every one of the studio’s movies. Imagine not the lion-faced faced Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, but an actual real-live lion. It almost happened.
Then again, perhaps a real live lion playing the part of the Cowardly Lion would not have been the weirdest casting change if original ideas had prevailed. Imagine Barbara Streisand as Glinda. Now, since Barbara Streisand was not even born when the film was made, imagine instead the actress whom she won an Oscar for playing in the film Funny Girl instead. Fanny Brice was a broad Jewish comedienne whose regular screen persona is about as far from the soft-spoken Glinda of Billie Burke as it possible to get, yet she was seriously considered for the role.
Shirley Temple, Gale Sondergaard, Buddy Ebsen, an actual lion, Fanny Brice and W.C. Fields. What a great cast! And almost the cast for the 1939 version of The Wizard of Oz. Yep, it’s true: Frank Morgan’s rather cowardly and inhibited interpretation of the Wizard could have become an over-the-top portrait of an entirely unrepressed psyche in the hands of W.C. Fields who desperately wanted the part was ultimately rejected.
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Dorothy and the Scarecrow left the cottage in Chapter Five. Dorothy wanted to find water to drink and to wash with, so they walked through the woods until they found a spring. After washing up and drinking her fill, the group decided to make its...