Hollywood Graveyard in The Land of Oz
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Hollywood Graveyard in The Land of Oz

Eighty years ago, in 1939, one of
Hollywood’s most beloved classic films was produced, The Wizard of Oz. To mark
this anniversary were setting out along the yellow brick road to remember and
visit the final resting places of the talented artists who made that film the
enduring Emerald gem that it is today. Join us as we hitch a ride on a tornado
to the Land of Oz. There would be no Wizard of Oz film if
there hadn’t been a book first. At Forest Lawn in Glendale California we find the
final resting place of the man who started it all:
author L Frank Baum. He published The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, with
illustrations by WW Denslow. It became the best-selling children’s book in the
years to follow, and Baum would pen thirteen more novels about the Land of
Oz. In the final years of his life Baum worked to get the Wizard of Oz produced
for the stage and in early film. He produced several silent short films
based on the writings of Oz, but would not live long enough to see the most
iconic film made about his story, the one we’re featuring today:
1939’s The Wizard of Oz. The hero of Baum’s book is a young
Kansas girl named Dorothy Gale. “She isn’t coming yet, Toto.” And the hero of the 1939 film, the young actress
who played Dorothy, was one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, Judy Garland,
who rests here at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Garland, born Francis Ethel Gumm,
was performing not long after she’d learned to walk. At the age of 13 she was
signed to MGM and when it came time to cast Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz,
Shirley Temple and Deanna Durbin were considered, but the role went to Judy and
80 years later it’s hard to imagine anyone else in that role. “We must be over the rainbow!” She was 16 at
the time of filming, and the following year would earn an Academy Juvenile
Award for her performances in The Wizard of Oz and Babes in Arms. She would
continue to act and sing for us for decades, her passion for entertaining
never dwindling until a barbiturate overdose took her life at the age of 47.
After her death she was originally entombed at the Ferncliff mausoleum in
New York, but in 2017, nearly 50 years later, her remains were removed here to
Hollywood to be closer to her family. Her career was storied and diverse, but to
many she will always be Dorothy, a young Kansas girl singing over the
rainbow. [music] “Toto, I have a feeling we’re
not in Kansas anymore.” Dorothy’s constant and most faithful
companion throughout the film, both in Kansas and the land of Oz, is a little
dog named Toto. He was played by animal actor Terry, a female Cairn Terrier. And
you don’t have to travel far from where judy lies to find this monument to Toto,
also here at Hollywood Forever. Terry was reportedly paid $125 a week, more than
some of the human actors in the film. She can be seen on screen and close to two
dozen other productions of the era. After her death in 1945 she was buried
on her owner’s property, which years later would be paved over by the 101 freeway.
So in 2010 the campaign was successfully undertaken to have a monument to Toto
placed here at Hollywood Forever. Two of the first characters we meet in the film
besides Dorothy and Toto are Aunt Em and Uncle Henry, Kansas
farmers and Dorothy’s guardians. “Oh but Aunt Em she hit…” “Don’t bother us now, honey. This old incubator’s gone bad,
and we’re likely to lose a lot of our chicks.” Auntie Em was played by Clara Blandick.
To find her final resting place we head just up the hill from where L Frank
Baum is buried, to the Great Mausoleum in Glendale. Her niche is here in the
Columbarium of Security. Clara was a character actress known for playing
eccentric matriarchs, perfect for the role of Auntie Em, Dorothy’s
symbol of hope and home. “Dorothy! Where are you? It’s me, Auntie Em.
We’re trying to find you. Where are you?” “I’m here in Oz, Auntie Em!” Clara continued to act into the 1950s
when her health began to deteriorate. She suffered severely by her 80s, and in
1962 she decided to, in her own words, “Make the great adventure…” She took an overdose of
sleeping pills at the age of 85. Within the walls of this same
mausoleum not far from Clara, in the Columbarium of Inspiration, is the man
who played Uncle Henry, Charley Grapewin. He was a circus acrobat and stage
performer four years before entering silent film. He had retired in the 20s,
but after the 1929 crash lost everything, prompting a second career on screen. “Dorothy? Well what has Dorothy done?” “What’s she done? I’m all but lame
from the bite on my leg.” “You mean she bit ya?” ‘No. Her dog.” “Oh. She bit her dog, eh?” In the 1939 Wizard of Oz
adaptation, he was the only actor who appeared in Kansas
who didn’t appear in Oz, since Auntie Em appeared in the witch’s crystal ball.
Charley Grapewin can also be seen as grandpa in The Grapes of Wrath. He lived
to be 86. When Dorothy is swept up by a cyclone to the Land of Oz the first
resident of that magical place that she meets is a good witch. “I’m Glinda, the witch of the north.” “You are? I beg your pardon
but I’ve never heard of a beautiful witch before.” “Only bad witches are ugly.” She was played by Billie Burke, who rests here at Kensico in New York. Before
being cast in The Wizard of Oz, Billie was famous on Broadway and in early radio
and film. As the good witch Billie protects young Dorothy on her journey to
the Emerald City, and bestows upon her the ruby slippers.
One year prior to the Wizard of Oz Billie was nominated for an Oscar for her
performance in Merrily We Live. She died at the age of 85 and is buried here next
to her husband Broadway impresario Flo Ziegfeld. Among the most lovable and
memorable characters Dorothy meets in the Land of Oz are the munchkins. “What are munchkins?” “The little people who live in this land,
it’s Munchkinland.” Over a hundred little people and children were cast to play the villagers
of Munchkinland, including the Earles siblings, known as
The Doll Family. The Munchkins were even collectively credited in the opening
titles. MGM’s costume department had to create over a hundred unique costumes
for each Munchkin actor, with careful cataloging to make sure each looked the
same every day of production. At Calvary Cemetery in St. Louis Missouri we find
the crypt of one of the longest surviving munchkin actors, Mickey Carroll,
who actually went to school with Judy Garland. He played Munchkinland’s town crier, as well as a marching soldier and a fiddler.
He retired from acting shortly after filming The Wizard of Oz, returning to
Missouri to make cemetery monuments. In fact when the grave of L Frank Baum’s
niece Dorothy, the namesake of his young heroine, began to fall into disrepair,
Carroll created a replacement marker for her. After Dorothy dropped in on the
Wicked Witch of the East – quite literally – the residents of Oz had to be sure she
was positively, absolutely, undeniably, and reliably dead. So they called in the
coroner. “She’s really most sincerely dead.” The man who played Munchkinland’s corner
was Meinhardt Raabe. It was his only film role, but one he would be remembered
for his entire life, delighting fans by reciting his lines from the movie. Later
in life he was a pilot during the war, and a spokesman for Oscar Mayer, known as
Little Oscar, the world’s smallest chef. He lived to be 94, and we find his final
resting place at Imanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church Cemetery in Farmington
Wisconsin. As the munchkins celebrate the death of the Wicked Witch various guilds
welcome Dorothy to Munchkinland, including the lullaby League and the
lollipop guild. A munchkin clad in green hands a giant lollipop to Dorothy as a
thank you. “We wish to welcome you
to Munchkinland.” The actor who played that lollipop kid was Jerry Maren,
who we find resting here in the Courts of Remembrance at Forest Lawn Hollywood.
Maren was the last surviving munchkin and the longest living Wizard of Oz
actor with a song or spoken line. After the Wizard of Oz he continued to act
throughout his life appearing in shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, Bewitched,
and Seinfeld. He would make regular appearances at Wizard of Oz conventions
well into the next century, with other long-living Munchkins.
He lived to be 98. As they celebrate their reverie is
abruptly interrupted by the arrival of the film’s antagonist, The Wicked Witch
of the West, played by Margaret Hamilton. With her green skin, false nose, and
piercing cackle, Hamilton’s Wicked Witch has become one of cinema’s most iconic
villains. “I’ll get you my pretty,
and your little dog too!” She also played the loathsome Miss Gulch in the Kansas scenes. The role was
not altogether pleasant for her, though. While filming the scene where she
exits in a pillar of fire, Hamilton was severely burned with a pyrotechnic
effect went off too soon. She had to recuperate in hospital for six weeks
before returning to work. Margaret Hamilton is the only star of the
principal cast whose grave we are unable to visit, as she doesn’t have one. After her death at age 82 she was cremated,
her ashes scattered. With the Wicked Witch of
the West gone, Glinda and the Munchkins send Dorothy on her way down the yellow
brick road toward the Emerald City. Along the way she makes a few new friends. The
first of which is a scarecrow, stuffed with straw and short on brains who’s, not
particularly scary either. “I haven’t got a brain. Only straw.” “How can you talk
if you haven’t got a brain?” “I don’t know. But some people without brains to an
awful lot of talking, don’t they?” The role was played by vaudevillian Ray
Bolger. He was originally cast as the Tin Man and buddy Ebsen as the Scarecrow, but
he expressed a desire to play the Scarecrow, his rubbery dance style
fitting the character perfectly, so the roles were switched.
He also played farmhand, Hunk, in the Kansas scenes. Ray would be identified as
the Scarecrow for the rest of his life. He also had a memorable role in Disney’s
Babes in Toyland. After his death at age 83 he was entombed here in the mausoleum
at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City California. As the two new friends continue down the
yellow brick road they come across what looks like a metal statue. It was the
poor Tin Man, frozen in place from rust, pining for a heart. A few dabs of oil and
he was good as new. “Beautiful! What an echo!” “It’s empty. The tinsmith forgot to give me a
heart.” At Holy Cross Cemetery not far from the mausoleum where Ray Bolger rests,
is the man who played the Tin Man, Jack Haley. The role originally went to Buddy
Ebsen, but he suffered a near-fatal allergic reaction after inhaling the
aluminum dust from the silver face makeup. Jack Haley was then cast, the
makeup modified into a paste rather than a powder. His Kansas counterpart was a
farmhand named Hickory. Jack Haley lived to be 81, dying, somewhat ironically,
of a heart attack. And so the duet became a trio, and three new
friends continued together down the yellow brick road, which passed through a
dark and ominous forest, which they feared was full of lions and tigers and
bears… “Oh my!” They weren’t wrong. Moments later they came across a lion, one who just so
happens to be quite the coward. “Why you’re nothing but a great big coward.” “You’re right, I am a coward. I haven’t any courage at all. I even scare myself.” In New York’s Union Field Cemetery we find the
man who played the lily-livered king of the forest, Bert Lahr. The beloved
vaudevillian and comedian was known for his quick wit, ad-libbing some of the
lion’s performances and lines. His costume was fashioned from an actual
lion hide, and recently sold at auction for over three million dollars. Like the
scarecrow and tinman, Lahr would forever be associated with the Cowardly Lion. His
Kansas counterpart was named Zeke. Lahr died in 1967, and when Judy Garland heard
of his passing she dedicated her performance of Over the Rainbow that
night to her beloved Cowardly Lion. The Fellowship of Oz was now fully formed,
and on they continued to find the Wizard, each with their own unique request. But
their path would not be unencumbered, facing new foes along the way, including
the wicked witch’s flying monkeys. “Now fly!” At Valhalla Cemetery in North Hollywood
we find one of the actors who played a flying monkey,
a man named Buster Brodie. He can be seen in a number of other roles through the
40s, mainly smaller uncredited roles. He died in 1948 at the age of 62. Before he
would grant their requests The Wizard of Oz demanded the troupe retrieve the
Wicked Witch’s broom. This perilous journey would take them right into the
heart of the witch’s lair, patrolled by the Winkie Guard, who were surprisingly
grateful after Dorothy melted the Wicked Witch. “She’s… she’s dead.
You killed her.” “I didn’t mean to kill her.” “Hail to Dorothy, the Wicked Witch is dead!” The captain of the Winkie Guard, who voiced
this gratitude was actor Mitchell Lewis, who rests here at Forest Lawn Glendale.
Lewis performed in over 200 productions in his career, including a role in the
1925 version of Ben Hur. He died in 1956 at the age of 76. Having retrieved the
witch’s broom the gang was finally able to return to the Wizard of Oz to have
their wishes granted. But the wizard was not forthcoming. Dorothy and her friends
weren’t having it, though, giving him the business when the intrepid Toto pulled
back the curtain on the wizard. “Pay no attention to that man
behind the curtain.” “Who are you?” “I’m the great and powerful
Wizard of Oz.” The man behind the man behind the curtain was
character actor Frank Morgan, who rests here at Green-Wood Cemetery in New York.
Not only did he play the wizard, but if you keep your eyes peeled you’ll see him
in four additional roles: as Professor Marvel, the gatekeeper, the carriage,
driver, and the guard, more roles than any other actor in the film. Morgan died of a
heart attack in 1949, several years before the first televised
broadcast of the film, in 1956, neither he nor Charley Grapewin living
long enough to see the renewed popularity of the film in
the years to follow. Dorothy’s time in Oz has finally come to
an end, her return to Kansas not facilitated by the wizard, but in fact, by
the power inside of her, and on her feet. And so as Technicolor gives way to sepia
tone, Dorothy reminds us of one simple truth: “There’s no place like home.” But wait! Before we roll credits
there’s another simple truth to remember: It takes more than great actors to make
a movie, and some of the most iconic aspects of 1939’s Wizard of Oz came from
talented men and women behind the camera. Take, for example, the music… tunes that 80
years later many of us can still sing by heart. At Ferncliff Cemetery in New York,
where Judy Garland was originally laid to rest, we find the songwriter who
penned the music for those memorable tunes that keep us humming long after
we’ve left the theater. Harold Arlen wrote the songs for The Wizard of Oz,
like “We’re off to See the Wizard,” [music] the songs the Scarecrow, Tin Man,
and Lion sing, [music] and of course, “Over the Rainbow,” which not
only won the songwriters an Oscar but is considered the number one greatest film
song in Hollywood history. [music] Ironically the song was originally cut
from the film after a test screening, only to be later put back in. Arlen
wrote the music for the songs and worked with a lyricist named Yip Harburg.
Harburg was cremated after his death, so we are unable to visit him. The incidental music you hear between the songs is called score. The man who wrote
the score for The Wizard of Oz was one of the preeminent film composers in the
30s and 40s, Herbert Stothart, laid to rest here at Forest Lawn Glendale. He won
an Oscar for his score for the Wizard of Oz, and is also known for films like
Mutiny on the Bounty, and Pride and Prejudice. Another musician who worked on
the Wizard of Oz is found here at Forest Lawn in the Hollywood Hills, at the
Lincoln Terrace. This is Ken Darby, who did some of the vocal and orchestral
arrangements of the music. Not only that but he was the voice of the mayor of
Munchkinland. “As mayor in the Munchkin city,
in the county of the Land of Oz…” The Munchkin voices were all overdubbed by voice performers like Darby, and even Pinto Colvig,
the voice of Goofy. Toto was one of the big stars of
the film, but there was a human being behind the animal actor, a man named Carl
Spitz. Here in the Great Mausoleum we find the niche of Carl Spitz, the owner
and trainer of Terry, who played Toto. In 1927 he opened a dog training center in
Studio City, developing a method of using silent hand signals to direct the animal
actors. He was a pioneer in dog training in early Hollywood, working with a number
of animal stars that would appear on screen in that era. But none were ever so
famous as little Toto. “Oh Toto darling!
Oh, I got you back!” For audiences in the 1930s The
Wizard of Oz was quite the visual spectacle, with special effects that hold
up to this day. The tornado scene in particular was quite impressive, made
from a 35 foot long round piece of muslin cloth spinning around a miniature
Kansas farm. The man who realized all of the special
effects for The Wizard of Oz was the head of MGM’s special effects department,
Buddy Gillespie, who is laid to rest here in the Columbarium of Heavenly Peace at
Forest Lawn Glendale. He was nominated for an Oscar for his work on The Wizard
of Oz, and in his career would win three Oscars, for Ben Hur, Green Dolphin Street,
and Thirty Seconds over Tokyo. If there is one costume piece in Hollywood
history that is considered the most iconic, one might safely say the ruby
slippers from The Wizard of Oz. Adrian, buried here at Hollywood Forever
Cemetery, was the costume designer to the stars in the 20s and 30s, working with
every major leading lady of the era. Adrian designed the elaborate and
colorful costumes for The Wizard of Oz, including, and perhaps most notably, the
ruby slippers, a pair of which is on display at the Smithsonian. And you’ll be
curious to know that in the book the slippers are silver, but the filmmakers
wanted to take advantage of the relatively new Technicolor and showcase
a more dazzling color, so they opted for ruby red. Another aspect of the film that
makes it so visually striking is the production design – the sets. The entire
film was shot in a soundstage, including the farm scenes, so everything had to be
created. That’s where art director Cedric Gibbons
comes in. He was known for imbuing MGM films with larger-than-life splendor, and
The Wizard of Oz was no exception, he and his team turning an empty
soundstage into fully realized and believable worlds. Gibbons was nominated
for an Oscar for The Wizard of Oz, and over his career would take home 11 of
the iconic gold statuettes which, incidentally, he designed. After his death
he was laid to rest here at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles. Actors, costumes, and decorated sets are no good to us unless they are captured
on film for us to see. At Hollywood Forever we find the man behind the
camera and lights, Harold Rosson, the cinematographer for The
Wizard of Oz. He too was nominated for an Oscar for the film. He’s also known for
films like The Asphalt Jungle, and Singing in the Rain. He lived to be 93. Many filmmakers would tell you that a
movie is actually made in the editing room, everything else is just gathering
the raw materials. We’re at Inglewood Park Cemetery now, in the Mausoleum of
the Golden West. In the Alcove of Spring we find the niche of the woman who cut
the film together into the movie that we know and love: Blanche Sewell.
She wanted to be an actress but became a negative cutter and
then an editor, one of the early female editors in Hollywood. She was only 50
when she died in 1949, not living long enough to see the film’s renewed
popularity on television. If we head back to Forest Lawn Glendale
in the Garden of Honor we find the man who oversaw the entire production of the film, the
producer, Mervyn LeRoy. He was responsible for the decision to make The Wizard of
Oz at MGM, a film that would not only become one of the most culturally iconic,
but according to the Library of Congress, the most seen film in movie history.
Quite the legacy, one he acknowledges right here on his marker. Finally we find
the man who was the creative vision of the film, the director, Victor Fleming,
here in the Abbey of the Psalms at Hollywood Forever. The film actually went
through a number of directors during an early troubled production, but Fleming
took over and directed the bulk of the film. It was quite a year for Fleming who
also directed Gone with the Wind, two of Hollywood’s greatest films back to back.
When Fleming left to direct Gone with the Wind, King Vidor filled in to finish
the film, mainly the Kansas scenes. Victor Fleming died suddenly of a heart
attack at the age of 59. And that concludes our tour. Now let’s tap our
heels together three times, think to ourselves, “There’s no place like home,” and
to bid farewell to the Land of Oz. you


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