The Movie - Cast
How many actors, overall, appeared in The Movie?
There's no exact number available, but this is a reasonable breakdown based on what's currently known:
- Principals (the ones actually listed in the credits): 10 (and the little dog, too!)
- Munchkins (124 little people and about 8 children in the background): 132
- Winged Monkeys (as best as can be made out, there are about a dozen): 12
- Winkie Guards (around 16 or 20): 18
- Emerald Citizens (between 300 and 350): 325
This makes for a grand total of 497, so it's probably safe to say "around 500."
Who played who in The Movie?
Here's the official cast list, as shown in The Movie's closing credits:
- Dorothy — Judy Garland
- Professor Marvel — Frank Morgan
- Hunk — Ray Bolger
- Zeke — Bert Lahr
- Hickory — Jack Haley
- Glinda — Billie Burke
- Miss Gulch — Margaret Hamilton
- Uncle Henry — Charley Grapewin
- Nikko — Pat Walshe (see the question Who is Nikko? below)
- Auntie Em — Clara Blandick
- Toto — Toto
- The Munchkins — The Singer Midgets
Not all of the Munchkins came from Leo Singer's vaudeville troupe, however. For some of them it was their first show biz job, for some it was their only show biz job, and a few came from Europe and didn't even speak English.
Other cast notes: Some of the Munchkin voices, and the voices of the two apple trees, were provided by Pinto Colvig, better known as the original voice of Goofy, as well as Sleepy and Grumpy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs; and the "Voice of Snow White," as it's called in the script, in "If I Only Had a Heart" ("Wherefore art thou, Romeo?") really was the voice of Snow White from the Disney movie, Adriana Caselotti. The Winged Monkeys were little people who did stuntwork, and some also played Munchkins. MGM contract player Mitchell Lewis played the captain of the Winkie Guards, probably best known for the line, "She — she's dead! You killed her!"
Which characters in Kansas became which characters in Oz?
To make the dream motif more believable, characters from Dorothy's real life in Kansas became fantasy characters in Oz, an idea possibly borrowed from the 1925 film version. For some reason, they were listed in the credits by their Kansas names, even though their Oz parts were much larger and more memorable. So, to help those who may be a bit confused:
- Hunk became the Scarecrow
- Hickory became the Tin Woodman
- Zeke became the Cowardly Lion
- Miss Gulch became the Wicked Witch of the West
- Professor Marvel became the Wizard (and a few others — see the question How many parts did Frank Morgan play?) in Oz
Aunt Em and Uncle Henry had no equivalent characters in Oz, and Glinda is the only major character in Oz without a Kansas counterpart.
Did any of the actors use stage names, and what are their real names?
As it turns out, most of the major actors in The Movie did not use the same names with which they were born. Judy Garland's original name was Frances Gumm, Frank Morgan was born Francis Wupperman, and Bert Lahr's was Irving Lahrheim. Jack Haley's real first name was John (Jack being a nickname, of course), and Clara Blandick's real name was Clara Dickey. Billie Burke used her real name — sort of. Her full name was Mary William Ethelbert Appleton Burke, and the Billie would have been a variant of Billy, the diminutive of her second name. She was also named for her father, Billy Burke, a well-known clown for Barnum and Bailey. Ray Bolger used his real name, but some sources incorrectly give his birth name as Raymond Wallace Bulcao. Toto's real name was Terry, but her name was changed to Toto after making The Movie. Several of the actors playing Munchkins also used professional names different than their birth names.
Who were the stand-ins and stunt doubles?
Judy Garland's on-camera double was Bobbie Koshay, but Caren Marsh-Doll also helped out with blocking and camera tests. Stafford Campbell doubled for Ray Bolger, Harry Masters for Jack Haley, Jim Fawcett and Pat Moran both stood in for Bert Lahr, Betty Danko was Margaret Hamilton's main stunt double (Eileen Goodwin finished the broom flying when an accident put Danko in the hospital), Paul Adams was Frank Morgan's double, and Freddie Retter stood in for Pat Walshe.
Are any cast members still alive?
Time has taken its toll on The Movie's cast, and none of the principal players are with us any more. Frank Morgan died in 1949, Bert Lahr in 1967, Judy Garland in 1969, Billie Burke in 1970, Jack Haley in 1979, Margaret Hamilton in 1985, and Ray Bolger in 1987. All of the Munchkins actors are gone now, too. Some of the young girls who played Munchkins in the background are still alive, however, as is Judy Garland double Caren Marsh-Doll (who did not actually appear onscreen), and a handful of extras.
Wasn't Shirley Temple originally cast to play Dorothy?
Not really. From the beginning, The Movie was meant by LeRoy and Freed to be a vehicle for Judy Garland. Garland had been on contract at MGM for about four years, and the movie-going public was beginning to take notice. She'd already had success in some second-string MGM pictures, and The Movie seemed an ideal vehicle to show off her talent and really launch her into stardom. However, the New York-based executives of MGM's parent company, Loews, realizing the scope and expense The Movie would require, got nervous about a relative unknown carrying such a big picture, and wanted a proven big name star to ensure box office success. So 20th Century Fox was approached — after The Movie and Garland's casting had already been announced to the press — about loaning Temple to MGM for The Movie. (One story claims that MGM offered to loan Jean Harlow and Clark Gable to Fox for the filming of In Old Chicago as compensation, but this is probably not true, as Harlow died in 1937, before work ever began on The Movie.) Fox didn't want to loan the biggest box-office attraction in America out to anyone, however, and LeRoy and Freed were not impressed with her abilities. There are some stories that MGM also tried to borrow child stars Deanna Durbin from Universal and Bonita Granville from Warner Bros., but if true, the studios turned MGM down, and so the executives settled for Garland. But the earliest press releases, when the project was first announced, all list Garland in the cast, so there is no truth to the notion that she was the studio's second choice, winning the part by default. It also appears that some of the talk of Temple as Dorothy was wishful thinking on the part of some Hollywood columnists. Fox would later feature Temple in their own big-budget Technicolor fantasy, The Blue Bird, in answer to similar projects from the other studios, but it didn't do nearly as well as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or The Movie.
Is it true Buddy Ebsen was originally cast to play the Tin Woodman?
Not exactly. While Ebsen, later known for his television roles as Jed Clampett in The Beverly Hillbillies and the title role in Barnaby Jones, was originally cast in The Movie, it was as the Scarecrow. Ray Bolger was cast as the Tin Woodman, as the Scarecrow was the bigger part and Ebsen the bigger star. But Bolger protested, as he felt his fluid style of dancing was better suited to the Scarecrow. LeRoy agreed, and switched Ebsen and Bolger's roles. After two weeks filming, however, Ebsen found that he suddenly couldn't breathe one night, and was rushed to a hospital and put in an iron lung. He had developed a reaction to the aluminum dust used to tint his face silver. (At the time, aluminum dust was erroneously thought to be safe to breathe.) As all of the footage shot to that point was later abandoned anyway (see the question Who was the director? for further explanation), it meant the part of the Tin Woodman could be recast without affecting the film. Ebsen doesn't appear in the finished film, but his voice can still be heard in some of the ensemble songs. MGM borrowed Jack Haley from 20th Century Fox to play the Tin Woodman, and the make-up was reformulated into a paste. Haley didn't get away unscathed, however. He developed an eye infection from the make-up, and he was off the set for a few days while he recuperated.
What other actors were considered for parts in the film?
One other actor slated to be in The Movie was Gale Sondergaard as the Wicked Witch, when the character was first envisioned as sophisticated and glamorous, like the Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. When it was decided to remake the Witch in a more traditional mode, tests were done to make Sondergaard look ugly, but she was just too beautiful to pull it off, and didn't want to play "ugly" anyway. Also, Ed Wynn and W. C. Fields were both approached to play the Wizard. Fields wanted more money than MGM was willing to pay, and he was soon busy making My Little Chickadee anyway, so he didn't take the part. There was even some early talk about Leo, MGM's trademark lion who roared at the start of every picture, playing the Cowardly Lion, with his dialogue dubbed in.
How much did everyone earn on The Movie? Is it true Judy Garland received the lowest salary of all the cast members?
To answer that second part first, sort of. Back in the old days of the Hollywood studio system, lead actors were usually paid weekly during the production of a picture, rather than a set amount per film and/or a portion of the box office as happens today. Judy Garland's contract at the time stipulated that she would receive $500 per week, which was therefore her salary for The Movie. In comparison, Charley Grapewin and Clara Blandick were paid $750 per week, Billie Burke $766.67, Margaret Hamilton $1000, Buddy Ebsen (while he was working on The Movie) $1500, Bert Lahr and Frank Morgan $2500, and Ray Bolger and Jack Haley $3000. However, Terry and her trainer, Carl Spitz, were paid $125 per week, and the little people playing the Munchkins $100 each, half of which they had to give to their manager, Leo Singer. So while Garland's weekly salary was the lowest of the principal human cast, it wasn't the lowest of the entire film.
There are two factors to consider, however, when calculating the actors' salaries. One is that many of the cast did not work every week, and thus did not get paid for the entire time of production. For instance, because the Kansas scenes were filmed last, Uncle Henry and Aunt Em weren't even cast until well into the film's production; once cast, Grapewin and Blandick only worked one week. Garland, however, was there every week, as she was in nearly every scene. (Terry, too.) Also, as a result of her success in The Movie, Garland's original and standard MGM contract was thrown out, and a new contract with a much more lucrative salary structure was drawn up, so it had far-reaching benefits for her earning power.
There's an amusing story about the salaries and guarantees of work on the film. Initially, MGM offered Bert Lahr a five week contract, but Lahr held out for six weeks. MGM countered with five, Lahr said six. This went back and forth for some time. Finally, MGM caved in and gave him six weeks. (An internal MGM memo still exists that gives credence to this story — "five" is crossed out and "six" typed in next to it.) Lahr ended up working on the film for nearly six months.
How old was Judy Garland when she made The Movie?
Judy was sixteen during the production of The Movie, although some preproduction (costume fittings and make-up tests, for example) happened while she was still fifteen. By the time it premiered, however, she had turned seventeen.
How many parts did Frank Morgan play?
In addition to Professor Marvel and the Wizard, Morgan also played the Guardian of the Gate ("Who rang that bell?"), the cabbie driving the Horse of a Different Color, and the palace guard ("I had an Aunt Em myself once!"). He was also the voice of the Wizard's fiery head, and is likely the heavily made-up actor who provides the head's onscreen appearance. (The filmed head took the place of a puppet that was originally tried out, but for whatever reason it just didn't work out.) Thankfully, one idea for Morgan was dropped: a bootblack in the Wash and Brush Up Company scene—in blackface.
Who was Ray Bolger's childhood hero?
As a boy, Bolger caught a performance of Fred Stone in the play Jack O' Lantern in Boston, and from that time on he wanted to become an eccentric dancer like Stone — and he did. Perhaps Stone's most famous role — which Bolger never got to see — was the Scarecrow in the original 1902 stage version of The Wizard of Oz. The Good News radio show episode about The Movie, broadcast in June 1939, included Stone as a guest and a scripted meeting between Bolger and Stone.
How old was Billie Burke when she made The Movie?
Older than you might think! The widow of show-biz impresario Flo Ziegfeld, she was fifty-five during production (she'd just turned fifty-six only days earlier when The Movie premiered.)
Did Billie Burke do her own singing in The Movie?
There is an old story that has been around for some time that another singer dubbed Billie Burke's singing in The Movie. While it is true that another singer came in and sang "Come Out, Come Out", the producers ultimately decided not to use it. What you hear in The Movie is Billie Burke's actual singing voice.
Who is Nikko?
For some reason, the character of Nikko is listed in the end credits, even though his character is never named in The Movie. Nikko is the chief of the Witch's winged monkeys, who is always hanging around while the Witch is checking things out in her crystal ball. He was played by Pat Walshe.
Is it true that Aunt Em committed suicide?
Sadly, yes. Actress Clara Blandick killed herself in 1962 by a combination of a sleeping pill overdose and putting a plastic bag over her head. She was 80 at the time, going blind and suffering a great deal of pain from arthiritis.
Whatever became of Toto?
There are two conflicting reports. The more likely one, in my opinion, is that when Terry, a show business veteran who appeared in a number of films, died, she was buried in the backyard of her trainer, Carl Spitz. Later, Spitz's property was sold to the city of Los Angeles, and the Ventura Freeway was built over it, so Terry is now under either the roadway or an apartment complex. I have also been alerted, however, to a report in The Guinness Book of World Records that Toto's stuffed remains were auctioned off in 1996 for $3,680. I've further heard that Toto's stuffed remains were once on display at the Smithsonian Institute. I have not been able to confirm either version of this story. I've even heard that her cremated remains were buried under Radio City Music Hall in New York City, and that this story is told by guides during tours of the theater, but I have major doubts about this, since Radio City Music Hall was built in 1932, seven years before The Movie premiered.
Was Toto originally going to be played by a dachshund named Otto?
In 2019, this picture started going around on Facebook, claiming that the original Toto was a dachshund named Otto, but the pre-war jitters from Europe (World War II would break out in Europe on September 1, 1939, about two weeks after the The Movie's premiere) cause the filmmaker's to rethink the idea of a German dog being cast, and changed him to another breed. The only problem is, not a word of it is true. First of all, Toto was not a dachshund in the original novel, and the filmmakers were trying to match that. From the beginning, they looked at scotties and other terriers so as to match the look created by W. W. Denslow forty years earlier. The search that eventually led to Terry getting the part is too well documented. But most importantly, The Wizard of Oz was not shot in order, and the Kansas scenes were actually filmed last. If this were an actual photo taken from the set, recasting Toto at that stage would have meant reshooting just about the entire movie, as Toto actually has more screen time than Judy Garland! And finally, Terry was not a Norwich terrier, but a Cairn. No, this is someone altering a still from the movie and coming up with a clever, but poorly researched, backstory for it.
A little detective work dug up the origin of this story. A website from the early 2000s about a dachshund named Andouille included a series of pages about famous dachshunds in art, philosophy, history, and so on. One page is about Dachshunds in Hollywood, which is where the story of Otto first turns up (further adding that his owner was Margaret Hamilton). But this page also has a disclaimer at the bottom claiming that most of it was not entirely accurate. You can view the final archived version of the page, from 2010, at https://web.archive.org/web/20101215090658/http://home.pacbell.net/jcreitz/Andouille_Dachshund_Page4.html. More recently, in 2017, the creator of the Otto story, and the one who altered the picture, commented on a page about dachshund myths and urban legends noting that all the pages on his site were fictitious, and carried the disclaimer. You can read all about it at http://dachshundlove.blogspot.com/2007/05/famous-dachsund-myths-and-urban-legends.html.
How many "Munchkins" were there?
In the book, Dorothy was greeted by only three Munchkins, but MGM decided to put in a few more than that! In total, 124 little people were hired to portray the Munchkins, although a small number of them didn't make it all the way through shooting, for many reasons. Since there was a much higher ratio of men to women in that group, about eight young girls were also hired to fill out the ranks of the Munchkins townswomen. They mostly stayed in the background. And a few of the actors, especially the women, played more than one part.
Who played the Munchkin mayor and coroner?
For some reason, these are the only two Munchkin parts that people ask about. The Mayor was played by Charley Becker, and the Coroner by Meinhardt Raabe.
Did Billy Barty, Patty Maloney, or Zelda Rubinstein play a Munchkin in The Movie?
No, none of these now well-known actors appeared in The Movie, as they were all too young. Barty came close, but was turned down when it was discovered that he was only thirteen. Maloney and Rubinstein didn't even begin their acting careers until much later. All three appear in Under the Rainbow, however, a 1981 Chevy Chase comedy that was, in part, a highly fictionalized account of the Munchkins' arrival at MGM and the making of The Movie. Barty, in fact, had one of the lead roles, and it was Rubinstein's first film.
I've heard of someone who claimed to have been one of the Munchkins. How can I check if they're telling the truth?
There have been a few people in the last few years who claimed to have played Munchkins in The Movie, but didn't. Fortunately, it's not difficult to check. The list of actors who did play Munchkins is well known, and has been published in several books. Probably the best source is The Munchkins of Oz by Stephen Cox, published by Cumberland House in 1996 and updated in 2002. This book is about nothing but the Munchkin actors, both during production and afterwards, and includes profiles and biographies on most of them. Your local bookstore or library should be able to find this for you. The list is also available in The Wizardry of Oz by Jay Scarfone and William Stillman, published in 1999 by Gramercy, with a revised edition published in 2004 from Applause. Since all of the Munchkin actors have now passed away, it's unlikely anyone can now make this claim believably.
Did Elizabeth Taylor play one of the members of the Lullabye League?
I have no idea where this one came from, but someone seems to have tried searching my site for the answer to this question once. No, the great Elizabeth Taylor would have been six when the Munchkin scenes were made, and none of the children hired to play background Munchkins were quite that young, nor were they used in such high profile roles in the foreground. The Lullabye League dancers were, from left to right, Nita Krebs, Olga Nardone, and Yvonne Moray. Elizabeth Taylor's first film credit would be in 1942, three years after the premier of The Wizard of Oz.
Is it true that the Munchkins were all drunkards?
No, of course not. True, Judy Garland joked about this with Jack Paar once on television, but that was Judy's sense of humor. There were 124 little people who played the Munchkins, and while many of them were show business veterans, others had never acted before. Many were still teenagers, away from home for the first time. They were so busy making The Movie that they really didn't have much time or energy for partying, although apparently a few of the older men did try at one point or another. One even hit on Judy Garland. The movie Under the Rainbow is based on this legend, but it is not a docudrama, and certainly not a documentary!
Was a community built for the Munchkins in La Jolla, California?
From what I hear, there is a housing complex of some sort built for little people in La Jolla, a seaside community outside of San Diego, near Soledad Road and Mt. Soledad. But while some of the actors who played the Munchkins may have lived there at one time or another, I would be very surprised if the houses were built specifically for them. La Jolla is too far away from Los Angeles to be handy during filming, and the majority of the actors stayed in hotels in Culver City, near the MGM studios. After the Munchkin scenes were finished, there would have been no need for such a complex, as the actors all had homes elsewhere to return to. Also, from what I gather, these homes were built in the 1940s or '50s, long after production ended on The Movie. For more information (but not always clarification), see this 2012 report from a San Diego television station.
What other films have the actors in The Movie been in?
This is a little outside the scope of this FAQ, and the answer would probably double its length. So I won't answer that here, but I will point out that the Internet Movie Data Base (http://www.imdb.com/) can tell you nearly everything an actor or crew member has worked on. You can start at the IMDB's page for The Movie at http://us.imdb.com/Title?0032138, or The Movie's complete list of credits at http://us.imdb.com/Credits?0032138. Click on any name, and it will give you a filmography.