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urban legends

Judy_Garland_in_The_Wizard_of_Oz_trailer_2“Come out, come out, wherever you are and meet the young lady who fell from a star …”

When I found out that The Wizard of Oz would be coming out in 3-D to celebrate its 75th anniversary and that it would be shown in IMAX  theaters for only 1 week, I went ballistic.  I mean, I was frantic to get tickets.  It was Friday already, which meant it was opening day and probably the only day that I would be able to attend.

But would I be able to score tickets? I was certain it would be sold out if I waited and just showed up without tickets.  Surely there would be throngs  of other Oz afficionados waiting in line. Why, they would probably even be dressed up as Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, or the Wicked Witch.  They might even bring their own Munchkins along with them, explaining how when  growing up they had to watch this  yearly tradition on a little black and white television.

“She fell from the sky, she fell very far …and Kansas, she says, is the name of the star …”

Alas, my companion and I were able to get in without a hitch:  there were only two other people in attendance! And this was at 4:30 on opening day. I was so disappointed. If there were any wild fans out and about, they were only there to see Vin Diesel in Riddick.

But the classic movie itself did not disappoint.  As soon as Leo the MGM Lion announced himself, I knew I was back and that this year the trip to Oz  would be spectacular.

Having  recently read the book Judy, by Gerold Frank, I was able to revisit some of the things I had heard and read over the years about the child actress Judy Garland and the making of the film that would make her a star.

Some interesting tidbits:  according to Judy, her ever-present companion in the film, Toto the terrier,  had horrible breath. All I could think about when I saw the film in IMAX 3-D was what a wonderful little actor Toto was and how he never seemed to miss any of his marks! I’d like to see a cat manage those stunts—don’t get me wrong, I’m a cat lover with three of my own—but there’s just no way.

Many  people have heard about the fact that Shirley Temple was the first pick  for the role of Dorothy. According to Hollywood’s First Choices by Jeff  Burkhart & Bruce Stuart,  not only was Judy Garland not the first choice for Dorothy, the Tin Man was originally played by Buddy Ebsen.  Unfortunately, though,  he had an extreme allergic reaction to the makeup and landed in the hospital. Jack Haley ended up with the role. W.C. Fields was first pick  for the Wizard, but he turned it down and it eventually went to the delightful Frank Morgan.

Now, about the urban legend that a munchkin can be seen hanging in the background of a scene:  I never heard about this until the age of the VCR and people’s ability to stop, rewind, play and slow-mo through movies. True, when I checked it out and researched it online, the scene did appear to have a silhouette of a person hanging in the far background. I can see where the rumor started!

But, according to snopes.com, the legend is not true—no desperate munchkin took their own life on the set of  the film!  The shadow was actually that of one of the many birds loaned to the film by the L.A. Zoo, most probably a crane spreading its wings.  But I do believe the rumor is a testament to how scared  some of us tots were with parts of this film!  The Wicked Witch had me and the Tin Man and plenty of children all over the world just shivering and clattering.

“Kansas, she said, was the name of  the star …”


Nov 12 2007

Let the Reader Beware

by Nolan R

About once a week, my mother-in-law will forward an email to me warning about various things–the hidden dangers of household products, avoiding potential crimes, looking out for poisonous spiders, or preventing computer viruses.  As a rule, these emails are generally hoaxes or urban legends.  I, in turn, look them up online, and email her back to let her know whether or not it was true.

Part of being a librarian involves directing patrons (as well as friends and family!) toward accurate and reliable sources of information, in both print and non-print formats.  Print and audiovisual materials in the Library are reviewed and evaluated before being added to the collection, as are our Databases and Web Links.  Sometimes, however, Library patrons have trouble evaluating other information found online, such as from websites or in their email.

When evaluating a website, some things you might want to consider include:

  • What are the author’s qualifications?
  • Is the site current or is the information out of date?
  • Who is the intended audience and are there any biases present in the information?
  • Who is presenting the information (publishing body)?
  • Is there a bibliography or related resources section?
  • What is your purpose for using the information (just for fun, academic, health related)?

When verifying information received in an email, such as a sales offer or request, you might want to consider:

  • Who is the email from?  Do you know the sender?
  • Was the offer solicited?  Are you on an email subscription list, or did the email come “out of nowhere”?
  • Is the offer “too good to be true”? 

More information on evaluating websites can be found at UC Berkeley Library, Cornell University Library, as well as Johns Hopkins University’s The Sheridan LibrariesWhen trying to decide if an email offer you have received is just too good to be true, try looking here for more information:

Scambusters: Internet scams, urban legends, and identity theft.

FBI Internet FraudGeneral information and common scams.

U.S. Dept. of JusticeGeneral information and current scams, as well as how to report spam emails.

SnopesUrban legends and forwarded email hoaxes.


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