Wamego # 68 Trivia March 25, 2016
CAN YOU EVEN DYE MY EYES TO MATCH MY GOWN?
[Above left: Adrian – the costuming genius who both revolutionized women’s fashion in the 1930s via the screen sirens of MGM…AND designed the unforgettable, timeless, and long-since classic costumes for THE WIZARD OF OZ. Right: Judy Garland in Adrian’s dotted “Swiss Miss”/Dorothy test dress, ultimately rejected for use in both Kansas and throughout OZ.]
We have a couple of excellent trivia queries this month, posed by two correspondents who are curious about some behind-the-scenes aspects of the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer motion picture version of THE WIZARD OF OZ.
Cathie Pearce Lundy asks, “How many costumes designers were there [for the film], and who was the lead set artist?”
By official record, there was only one costume designer for OZ – and he gets and warrants all the credit. His professional moniker was Adrian; his full name was Gilbert Adrian, and he was born Adrian Arnold
Greenberg in 1903 in Naugatuck, Connecticut. Adrian studied both in New York (at what is now the Parsons School of Design) and in Paris before incomparable songwriter Irving Berlin hired him to create costumes for one of his Music Box [Theatre] Revues on Broadway. It was producer/director Cecil B. De Mille, however, who took Adrian to Hollywood, where the designer’s film career was definitely and definitively launched. During his tenure at MGM, he was credited with transfiguring female fashion via stunning garb for such top flight stars as Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, and Norma Shearer. After credits on well over two hundred movies, Adrian left the motion picture industry in 1941 and opened his own salon; he was working on costumes for the stage musical, Camelot, when he suddenly died of a heart attack in Hollywood in 1959.
Adrian was thirty-five when Metro assigned him to The Wizard of Oz, and – at least according to studio publicity – he immediately sent back to Connecticut for some of his schoolbooks. As a child, the designer purportedly drew Oz wardrobe pictures in the margins of those volumes, and he wanted to reflect on his early ideas. Over the next few months, he sketched – and then oversaw the physical creation of -- several hundred costumes for the movie, most of which had to be hand-made. They were constructed of everything from cotton to celluloid, organdy, flannel, bamboo, buckram, leather-painted-silver, lion skin, mattress padding, wool, heavy wool, velvet, tulle, silk, felt, felt, felt, felt, and felt.
There were enormous challenges throughout the entire process, one of which was determining what hues could best be captured by the comparatively new three-strip Technicolor film cameras. To aid in this progression, Adrian did watercolor sketches of his final, suggested designs, stapling fabric samples to them (as was the custom) to indicate to OZ producer Mervyn LeRoy the texture and actual “shades” of the envisioned material.
[Above left: Adrian’s sketch for wardrobe to be worn by the three Munchkin trumpeters who herald their Mayor during the production number that welcomes Dorothy to Oz. Note the attached felt samples, indicating the actual colors that would be used in assembling these costumes. Unfortunately, sometime after leaving MGM, Adrian destroyed virtually all of his thousands of his design drawings; he saved only five or six, showing Munchkin garb from OZ. Right: Assistant director Al Shenberg, “wonderful wizard” Frank Morgan, producer Mervyn LeRoy, and associate producer Arthur Freed (cigarette in hand) discuss an Adrian sketch, depicting the costume intended for Morgan to wear in his role as an Emerald City soldier/guard.]
These initial months of work were followed by weeks of testing the wardrobe (not to mention hair and wig styles and make-up) on the various cast members – nearly five hundred in all. Back in those days, Metro was a combination full-time factory and self-contained village. They ran three eight-hour work shifts: twenty-four hours a day, six days a week; Adrian had 178 wardrobe people on his staff alone: seamstresses, “colorists” for those clothes that had to be individually painted or dyed, dressers, and cleaners. Whatever OZ costumes couldn’t be dry-cleaned every few days were, instead, sponged by hand.
Meanwhile…! The art director of note for OZ was Metro’s ace Cedric Gibbons. But the actual set design work was conceived by his associate, William A. Horning, whose ideas then were realized by artist Jack Martin Smith. Once approved, Smith’s sketches of Horning’s conceptions evolved into blueprints and, from there, to construction. Another artist, George Gibson, worked with and oversaw the crew entrusted with the painting of the backdrops that provided Oz with so much of its fantasy atmosphere. Yet in a number of OZ sequences – including some of those involving The Emerald City, Munchkinland (as Dorothy says good-bye), the castle of The Wicked Witch, and Kansas – the backgrounds weren’t painted on huge canvas; they instead were crayoned on small boards, only a few feet in diameter. Such illustrations then were separately photographed, and that film would be matched to and printed with whatever live action footage had already been taken.
Finally, Pauline Anstead wants to know, “How many outfits did Dorothy [Judy Garland] go through in the movie?”
Again, it depends on what vintage publicity touting one might – or should! – believe. MGM declared Judy wore out ten copies of her gingham dress across the five months it took to film THE WIZARD OF OZ. This actually makes sense when one considers the aforementioned six-day-per-week schedule on which the movie was made – and the rough and tumble action (singing, dancing, skipping, running) called for by the role of Dorothy. At least one of these outfits supposedly would have been the brown-and-white checked outfit used for the Kansas scenes…and/or for Judy’s double and stand-in, Bobbie Koshay (back to the camera) to wear while opening the farmhouse door, so that the blue-and-white checked and bedecked Garland could make her rear-view entrance into Munchkinland and Technicolor. Koshay also doubled on-screen during Dorothy’s fall into (but not rescue from) the pigpen, and took flight with the Winged Monkeys who lifted her off the soundstage floor to cart the girl to the Wicked Witch’s lair. A Dorothy costume also would have been required for occasional stand-in Caren Marsh (Doll).
None of this, of course, takes into consideration the half-dozen or more dress, blouse, and apron combinations that Adrian initially “tried out” -- and which were summarily rejected -- as Dorothy apparel.
[Above left: A panoramic view of a good portion of Munchkinland, as built at MGM via ideas by William A. Horning and sketches created by Jack Martin Smith. Note the front-wall-only of the Kansas farmhouse at left; the utilitarian clean-up mops (ditto); and the fact that the edge of the backdrop and studio lights can be seen at top. Right: Stafford Campbell and Bobbie Koshay “stand-in” for lighting tests and camera angles on The Haunted Forest set. Koshay wears one of many duplicate “Dorothy Gale” costumes.]
I guess what I’m trying to convey is that, to really comprehend, understand, and explain what and who (!) it took to create THE WIZARD OF OZ at MGM -- beginning with preproduction, more than seventy-eight years ago -- you’d now have to be about a dozen different people, hanging out in a dozen different studio departments…and possess a photographic memory.
AND a time machine!
My thanks to Pauline and Cathie for some exemplary questions!
Article by John Fricke