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Why The Tin Man From The Wizard Of Oz Was Originally So Disturbing

The Tin Man from the film version of “The Wizard of Oz” doesn’t go into graphic detail about how he lost his flesh and bones, but it isn’t smooth sailing for him, either. The character was riddled with issues when the film was made more than 85 years ago. Actor Buddy Ebsen was originally cast for the role, but the pure aluminum dust in his silver makeup landed him in the hospital — breathing with the assistance of an oxygen tent — for weeks. Even after the makeup artists changed their approach to applying silver makeup to reduce their odds of poisoning actors, Ebsen’s replacement Jack Haley still developed a serious eye infection from the makeup.

In addition, the oil used to loosen up the Tin Man’s stiff joints was actually chocolate. In the book “The Wizardry of Oz,” Haley explained, “The oil Ray Bolger squirted at me, to loosen up my joints, was not oil but chocolate syrup. They squirted chocolate in my face, because the oil wouldn’t photograph right, but chocolate will.”  

The heavy makeup caused one other casualty. While they were stars of a major Hollywood production, the actors who played Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Cowardly Lion were ultimately forbidden to eat meals inside MGM’s commissary with the rest of the cast. The “ban” came after other diners complained that the adhesives left on their faces after they removed what they could of their costumes looked like hanging globs of mucus. In a 1939 interview, Bolger admitted they were “too much of a sight” so the trio ate in a little room off the studio lot.

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