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When the Wicked Witch of the West Met the Sons of the Desert

 
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mrocker
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 3:24 pm    Post subject: When the Wicked Witch of the West Met the Sons of the Desert Reply with quote

For a number of years the Night Owls Tent of the Connecticut Valley (USA) held special meetings to which they invited
various celebrities. These usually included a number of individuals
who acted in Hal Roach productions with the Boys or
in the Our Gang comedies.

In May of 1982 the tent hosted a sold out reception for
one of cinema's most famous personalities.
Margaret Hamilton was renowned for her portrayals
of cantankerous characters.
She is best remembered for her memorable role
as the Wicked Witch of the West in MGM's 1939 Oz movie.





When I arrived at the restaurant with members of my tent
I was asked if I'd like to speak with Miss Hamilton
before the dinner and presentation
as we were both teachers. She had taught young children
in the 1920's before going into acting.


Margaret Hamilton when she taught kindergarten in 1923


When I sat with her we talked about education
in general and her movies as well.
She was very pleasant, gentle and accomodating,
not at all like most of the characters
she had played.
I had brought an article about her in the
Movie Buff's Book and she offered to autograph it
for me (using WWW as part of the autograph years
before those letters would have a whole different meaning).

While she was signing it, I was telling her about
the article - and then she stopped and put her
hand on mine and said in that familiar voice:
"Michael - Can you wait a second, dear?"
And then she laughed.
"This is like with the kids in school. If you
talk to me while I'm writing, I'll end up
writing down what you're saying to me!"
And we had a good laugh over that.

She signed autographs all evening, even after
movie clips from her career were shown
(all on 16mm film).
During her talk to the crowd, she reminisced on
her years in Hollywood.
She told us about how she was badly burned
on the Oz set during one take of her
disappearance scene in Munchinland.
This occurred two days before Christmas (1938)
and she was out of work for six weeks.


A rare backstage photo on the Oz set in Februrary, 1939,
at a party for director Victor Fleming who was leaving
to direct "Gone With the Wind".
Miss Hamilton at left enjoying her cake. Judy Garland
standing behind the cake, and to her left: Bert Lahr,
Victor Fleming, actress Myrna Loy. Frank Morgan, who
played 5 roles including the Wizard, is at far right.


Miss Hamilton did relate one hilarious story. She emphasized
how she always told audiences that she loved children and
animals since youngsters would often ask why she was so
mean to Dorothy.
But one boy at a reception where she was speaking
had a different concern on his mind.
She had just explained how she had "melted" in the Oz
movie. The compressed air needed to push the dry ice
around her actually caused her hat and dress to
fly up.
To remedy this, her dress was pinned down to the floor
as a small elevator lowered her to a space under
the stage floor.
It was then that the curious boy raised his hand
and asked: "Um, when you went down the
elevator and your dress was pinned down,
um, were you wearing anything underneath?"
And she quickly added that she told him yes, she
had leotards on.
The boy hesitated for a moment and then
said: "Oh, okay!", as if to give his approval.


When asked what she though of the Boys' movies,
she immediately responded that she loved
their sense of timing, noting that comedy
is often more difficult to perform
than drama.

It was an enjoyable evening and we remarked
how ironic it was that the one individual who
probably scared us the most as children was
in fact a warm, compassionate and talented lady.

Mike


Margaret Hamilton with Hal Stanton (left), Grand Sheik of
the Night Owls Tent, and Dwain Smith (right) of
the Founding Tent, May 19, 1982


click here for large version
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Ross
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

what an excellent story and great pics Mike. You guys in the States are very lucky to get those sort of opportunities. Margaret looks so different out of character and sounds like a very nice person. One thing I've found about the actresses from this era is they often have a great sense of humour and fun even in later years.

I like contributions like this, so if anyone else has similar stories with images please feel free to share them with us.
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Last edited by Ross on Fri Dec 02, 2005 4:10 am; edited 1 time in total
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BlackRaven
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2005 9:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My wife was watching the original version of 13 Ghosts only the other day and pointed out that she was in it.

Good story Mike.
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Lord Rocberg
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2005 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The picture of the WIZARD OF OZ crew standing around the table with the cake is interesting as you state Margaret is eating cake but if you look closely at the cake it hasn't been cut yet!
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Ross
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2005 2:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

lol well spotted
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mrocker
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2005 11:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow - I hadn't noticed that. But I think I know what
she's eating: ice cream.
There's a canister on the right side of the photo
which appears to be the type they used for ice cream.
And . . . it makes sense: Margaret is eating hers
quickly before IT melts! Laughing
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Ross
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2005 11:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

mrocker wrote:
There's a canister on the right side of the photo
which appears to be the type they used for ice cream.
And . . . it makes sense: Margaret is eating hers
quickly before IT melts! Laughing


haha nice one Mikey
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 3:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great story Mikey, very interesting indeed.

Stan
Very Happy
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Ross
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2005 4:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

BlackRaven wrote:
My wife was watching the original version of 13 Ghosts only the other day and pointed out that she was in it.


Sounds a little screwy to me... your wife must be a fair age if she was in that Stevo... Razz
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 28, 2005 4:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

LOL Laughing
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 07, 2005 8:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great Story and great pictures I am SO envious
Wink
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loris
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 08, 2005 9:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I really enjoyed reading it, Mike! thank you!
it's very interesting and I'm sure I'll watch the movie again with a different point of view.
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mrocker
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 09, 2005 1:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks everyone for the nice compliments.
I had more to add to my story but didn't want it
to be too long, but since there's an interest,
I'll post it here.


Margaret Hamilton preparing for the famous melting scene


Miss Hamilton said that Judy Garland came to see
her on the set in between takes since she knew
Margaret had been a teacher and had a little boy.
They talked about some of the experiences
that Judy felt she was missing not being a "normal"
teenager.
She told Margaret she was afraid she would miss her
high school graduation next year since MGM had planned
to send her out on tour. She even brought her white
dress she planned to wear for graduation and proudly
showed it to Margaret. (As it turned out, she did make
her graduation in June, 1040).

Miss Hamilton also emphasized how much
she really loved animals and how she didn't really like
performing the Miss Gulch character.
She loved the dog that played Toto and after expressing
concern for the dog's nervousness during the Kansas
scenes with the wind from the huge fans, the dog's owner
actually gave it tranquilizers until it recovered.
In light of this, there's a humorous anecdote about dogs from
Miss Hamilton's son on the commentary soundtrack
of the new collector's edition dvd of "The Wizard of Oz".


Margaret Hamilton as the witch atop the Tin Man's cottage;
The Technicolor cameras actually used 3 strips of black and white
film run through 3 color gels, a process explained in one
of the extras on the collector's edition dvd.



Oliver Hardy as the Tin Woodman in the 1925 "Oz" version
which is included in the new dvd



When we met Margaret Hamilton and heard her speak,
what struck us was the dedication so many actors had back
then. They endured long hours and even suffered through
mishaps and accidents to get the job done.
We remarked how ironic it was that not far from the
1930's MGM studio was another location where dedication
and pride in one's work produced many memorable movies - the
Hal Roach studios.


Margaret Hamilton with 3 fellow Oz actors in 1983: Ray Bolger,
Jerry Maren (the Lollipop Kid in Munchkinland) and Billy Curtis;
Interestingly, in the same year that "Oz" was released, Maren
starred with Gordon "Porky" Lee in a one reel Our Gang short
(see below)



From "Tiny Troubles" (1939)
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Ross
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 02, 2005 4:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent thread Mikey. One learns something new every day Very Happy
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