Did you know how dangerous this scene is?
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The Wizard of Oz is often seen as a cinematic masterpiece utilising lots of different effects to translate L Frank Baum’s whimsical tale to the movie screen and years later fans new and old are still enjoying Dorothy’s adventures in Oz. But did you know how dangerous one particular film was to capture?
In the film while the quartet of characters are making their way to the emerald city to to see the Wizard of Oz they have to walk through a field of poppies which the evil witch of the west has cursed. The beautiful flowers put Dorothy and Toto to sleep and momentarily stop our characters in their tracks before Glinda the good fairy creates a gentle snow storm that wakes them from their slumber.
You can watch the scene below:
However did you know that the snow isn’t quite as beautiful as you first thought. Sure it looks lovely on screen but it was actually made from a deadly substance.
The snow was in fact made from asbestos!
White asbestos, or chrysotile, was frequently employed as artificial snow for holiday decorations, but it was also utilised in roofs, brake pads, internal fire doors, stage curtains, popcorn ceilings, and other things. The mineral fibres found in asbestos dust may get imprisoned in the body permanently if it is breathed or consumed.
Asbestos fibres that have been entrapped within the body can harm DNA as well as induce lung inflammation and scarring. Along with other forms of cancer and lung illness, asbestos exposure is virtually always connected to the uncommon malignancy mesothelioma. However, no one from the Wizard of Oz set has been officially acknowledged to have perished as a result of the asbestos use in the poppy field scene.
Asbestos was apparently utilised on Ray Bolger’s Scarecrow costume in addition to the artificial snow in The Wizard of Oz. It is said that his suit was treated with an asbestos-based flame-resistant substance because the character in the film has multiple close calls with fire.
The blazing broom used by Margaret Hamilton, who played the green Wicked Witch of the West, was also constructed of asbestos to prevent it from actually burning on the set!
Luckily thanks to emerging technology, film teams can use alternative techniques to cope with real-life make-believe snow on the set like CGI, plastic composites and recyclable paper.
However despite the health concerns it goes without saying that the scene in the Wizard of Oz is very beautiful and was developed in a time before we knew exactly how bad asbestos was…but it does make you wonder what other secret methods were used in this film!