Thursday, November 17

The coat off his back

Speaking of The Wizard of Oz, did you know that actor Frank Morgan played five different characters in The Wizard of Oz, including Professor Marvel and the Wizard? 

On Nov. 17, 1938 Morgan tested his Professor Marvel makeup on The Wizard of Oz set, using the same costume he had worn for his Wizard test shots the day before.

Six days later, Morgan again posed for test shots of the Professor Marvel character, this time with a different hairstyle, jacket, and tie.

The story behind the second jacket is one of the most curious in all Oz . The story was told by Aljean Harmetz in her 1977 book,
The Making of The Wizard of Oz.

"For Professor Marvel's coat," says Mary Mayer, who served briefly as the unit publicist on the picture, "they wanted grandeur gone to seed. A nice-looking coat but very tattered. So the wardrobe department went down to an old second-hand store on Main Street and bought a whole rack of coats."

Actor Frank Morgan and the wardrobe man and director Victor Fleming got together and chose one. It was kind of a Prince Albert coat. It was black broadcloth and it had a velvet collar, but the nap was all worn off the velvet. Helene Bowman recalls the coat as "ratty with age, a Prince Albert jacket with a green look."

The coat fitted Morgan and had the right look of shabby gentility, and one hot afternoon Frank Morgan turned out the pocket. Inside was the name "L. Frank Baum."

"We wired the tailor in Chicago," says Mary Mayer, "and sent pictures. And the tailor sent back a notarized letter saying that the coat had been made for Frank Baum. Baum's widow identified the coat, too, and after the picture was finished we presented it to her. But I could never get anyone to believe the story."

L. Frank Baum died on May 6, 1919, nearly 20 years before the making of the movie!

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