‘The Wizard of Oz’ Fans Won’t Believe the Age Difference Between the Movie’s Two Witches

More than 80 years after its release, The Wizard of Oz remains as beloved as ever. The film’s production is mired is an assortment of dark behind-the-scenes stories. And yet, the magic and wonder it inspires in fans is just about universal. However, even longtime fans of the 1939 classic movie might have never realized the age difference between stars Margaret Hamilton and Billie Burke. If that’s the case, they’re in for a real shock.

Judy Garland cowers as Margaret Hamilton holds up a hand threateningly in ‘The Wizard of Oz’
Judy Garland and Margaret Hamilton | FilmPublicityArchive/United Archives via Getty Images

‘The Wizard of Oz’ cast all perfectly captured their characters

From Judy Garland as wide-eyed Dorothy Gale to Terry — the dog who plays Toto — every performer in The Wizard of Oz is at the top of his or her game. Certainly, the top-notch production design, music, and imaginative world-building have kept audiences coming back again and again. But the cast truly elevates it all with charming and/or terrifying performances, depending on their role in the story.

For her part, Hamilton created one of the most iconic movie villains of all time as the Wicked Witch of the West. It’s too bad then that she and so many other members of the principal cast were treated so poorly and paid so little for their effort. If it’s any consolation, Hamilton’s work — and that of her co-stars — has stood the test of time.

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The actors playing the 2 witches have a surprising age difference

In The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West represents the stereotypical depiction of a witch as disfigured, unsightly, and a bit of a hag. However, Glinda is depicted as beautiful, youthful, and kind. Ironically, these performances deceive viewers, as the age difference between Hamilton and Burke actually goes the other way instead.

According to Good Housekeeping, Burke was 54 years old at the time The Wizard of Oz filmed. Despite her appearance even early on in the movie, Hamilton was only 36 years old as the Wicked Witch of the West. Her make-up reportedly left the actor with some serious burns after filming wrapped. So ironically, she might have wound up looking significantly older afterwards.

RELATED: ‘The Wizard of Oz’: Was Judy Garland Really Paid Less Than Toto for Acting in the Movie?

All ‘The Wizard of Oz’ characters are pop cultural icons now

Like Garland’s Dorothy, Hamilton’s Wicked Witch of the West and Burke’s Glinda have become such definitive versions of their characters. Although other productions have attempted to adapt L. Frank Baum’s novels for the screen, none have managed to make the same impact. The closest honestly is the hit Broadway musical Wicked.

That stage production — based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 novel — became a Tony-winning smash. Taking a far different perspective than The Wizard of Oz, Wicked hones in on the relationship between the “Wicked Witch” aka Elphaba and Glinda. But can any movie version top Hamilton and Burke? Fans will find out at some point, as a Wicked movie is currently in the works with In the Heights director Jon M. Chu.