Movies That Permanently Damaged Actors’ Bodies

In “The Wizard of Oz,” the 1939 film adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s fantasy novel, Jack Haley played the Tin Man, the friendly metal monster on his way to see the Wizard to acquire a heart. However, Haley wasn’t studio MGM’s first choice for the role or even the first actor cast. 

According to Vanity Fair, Buddy Ebsen (best known for his later leading gigs on “The Beverly Hillbillies” and “Barnaby Jones”) was hired first. When rehearsing in makeup and under studio lights, according to the Orlando Sun-Sentinel, the crew repeatedly dusted Ebsen’s face with aluminum dust to keep his white grease paint from running. One night during the rehearsal period, Ebsen awoke with painful cramps in his limbs, his face had turned blue, and he couldn’t breathe. The actor spent two weeks of hospitalization in an oxygen tent — his body had to divest itself of the large amount of toxic aluminum sitting in his lungs. With his recovery taking longer than they liked, MGM fired Ebsen and installed Haley.

Another cast member of “The Wizard of Oz” also experienced a severe medical reaction. Ray Bolger portrayed the brainless Scarecrow, and on the final day of shooting, he took off his rubber-and burlap-based prosthetic mask for the last time, the one that made his face look like it was made of burlap. He discovered that he had burlap-like scars all over his chin and mouth.

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