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As you know, the Academy Museum highlighted some delightful and unique items from the Academy’s special collections in its year-end fundraising appeal.
These dazzling pre-production artifacts are from MGM’s 1939 Oscar-winning classic, The Wizard of Oz, and are housed at the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library. Today the Academy’s Graphic Arts Librarian, Anne Coco, and Photograph Curator, Matt Severson, open up their vaults to share some of their favorite archival pieces from this iconic film.
Anne Coco: To create its fantastical cast of characters, MGM relied on the talents of its head of makeup, Jack Dawn. Dawn’s process began with illustrations such as the ones featured in our campaign, which were rendered by William Tuttle for several of the film’s major characters. Among Tuttle’s personal papers is one of my favorite pieces in the collection. This flip drawing depicts actor Buddy Ebsen in the role of the Scarecrow before he began his brief and ill-fated stint as the Tin Man.
And for me, you can’t talk about The Wizard of Oz without mentioning Adrian’s imaginative costumes, in particular those he created for the Munchkins. His interest in these characters can be tied to his childhood affection for the original book by L. Frank Baum. According to an article in the film’s press kit, he relied on his childhood doodles as the source material for these wonderfully whimsical characters.
Matt Severson: The photographs come from the John Truwe papers. Truwe was a makeup artist who worked at MGM and others studios from the mid-1940s through the late 1970s. His collection contains over 12,000 photographs, including many makeup tests and wardrobe reference shots.
These photos of wardrobe and makeup tests from The Wizard of Oz’s preproduction phase are particularly fascinating because you can see an early incarnation of Dorothy’s pinafore, a more glamorous conception of the Wicked Witch of the West (who was originally going to be played by Gale Sondergaard before Margaret Hamilton took over), and a study of Buddy Ebsen as the Tin Man. (Ebsen suffered an extreme allergic reaction to the aluminum powder in his makeup, necessitating that he be replaced by Jack Haley).
Probably my favorite of this series is the full-length shot of the winged monkey’s costume and makeup. I love all of the details, from the tufts of hair and the veins in the skin of the monkey’s wings, to the vest with the matching cap. Also of note: the electrical cord running along the floor, which is attached to a battery pack on the actor’s back to power the wings.
We hope you enjoyed this behind the scenes look. For more Oz, please check out our Academy Collection Highlights.