‘The Wizard of Oz’: Inside Judy Garland’s Disturbing Treatment While Filming: ‘[Drugs Were] A Way of Life’

Judy Garland was best known for playing Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz.” The movie has become one of the most iconic films of all time, and Garland is largely responding for her portrayal of a young, innocent girl who gets caught up in a bizarre dream. But Garland’s experience on set was far different from what Dorothy Gale experienced on camera.

Judy Garland in 'The Wizard of Oz'
Judy Garland in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ | Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Judy Garland was forced to take ‘pep pills’ while filming and had a poor diet

Though “The Wizard of Oz” has become a movie that’s been watched generation after generation, what went on behind the scenes isn’t necessarily something that should be rewarded. Judy Garland once opened up about her poor treatment (along with other cast members) on set, and the harsh working rules by which they were forced to abide.

According to Biography, Garland revealed that she was often given “pep pills” to keep her energy levels up after getting hardly any sleep. “They’d give us pills to keep us on our feet long after we were exhausted,” Garland once told biographer Paul Donnelley. Garland also was on a strict diet of hardly any food to keep herself looking thin — and it wasn’t the first time her weight had been a subject. Garland revealed that she was once called a “fat little pig with pigtails” while working on a different set.

The Tin Man, Dorothy, and the Scarecrow
The Tin Man, Dorothy, and the Scarecrow | FPG/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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Garland and her co-stars often worked 72 hours straight

Garland’s use of drugs weren’t just to keep weight off — they were also used so that she and her co-stars could film for hours on end without needing a break, in conjunction with sleeping pills so that the cast could essentially fall asleep on command. “They’d take us to the studio hospital and knock us out with sleeping pills,” Garland said, adding that she and her co-stars would sprawl out on hospital beds for only a few hours.

“After four hours they’d wake us up and give us the pep pills again so we could work 72 hours in a row. Half of the time we were hanging from the ceiling, but it was a way of life for us.” Biographer also reported that Garland was in a dangerous “upper/downer drug cycle” before filming on the movie had even started.

Dorothy and the Wicked Witch in 'The Wizard of Oz'
Dorothy and the Wicked Witch in ‘The Wizard of Oz’ | Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The crew resorted to strapping Garland’s breasts and utilizing corsets to keep her looking childlike

The producers wanted Garland to look young, but the truth is that she was 17 and starting to show more of a womanly figure than the filmmakers wanted. In addition to a strict diet and pills to keep her as thin as possible, Garland’s breasts were also covered up in such a way as to make her look younger.

Biographer reported that Garland was also forced to wear corsets to try and evoke as slim and immature of a figure as possible. Between the pills, the lack of sleep, the diet, and trying to alter her figure, Garland faced some dangerously harsh treatment throughout filming. “Even though pills come on doctor’s prescriptions, as mine did, they can be a tremendous strain on the nervous systems,” Garland said years later.