Why This ‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Actor Lost a Role in ‘The Wizard of Oz’

The Beverly Hillbillies is a classic TV show and The Wizard of Oz is one of the most popular classic movies but they wouldn’t appear to have much in common. However, they are connected, as one of the cast members of The Beverly Hillbillies almost appeared in The Wizard of Oz. Here’s why that cast member didn’t appear in the movie.

The Beverly Hillbillies in a car
The Beverly Hillbillies | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

This actor from ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ almost played the Scarecrow in ‘The Wizard of Oz’

The Wizard of Oz is so iconic, it’s amazing to think it was almost a very different film. The final version of the movie features Ray Bolger in the role of the Scarecrow. Snopes reports that role was originally going to be played by a future member of The Beverly Hillbillies’ cast.

Buddy Ebsen, today most known for playing Jedd Clampett, was going to play the Scarecrow. Then, Bolger convinced MGM he should play the Scarecrow and Ebsen should play the Tin Man. Ebsen’s makeup would prevent him from taking on the role.

To play the Tin Man, Ebsen had to wear aluminum dust in his makeup. The dust caused an allergic reaction. In his autobiography, Ebsen discussed how horrible he felt because of the dust.

A scene from The Wizard of Oz

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“One night in bed I woke up screaming,” Ebsen wrote. “My arms were cramping from my fingers upward and curling simultaneously so that I could not use one arm to uncurl the other. My wife tried to pull my arm straight with some success, just as my toes began to curl; then my feet and legs bent backward at the knees. I panicked. What was happening to me? Next came the worst. The cramps in my arms advanced into my chest to the muscles that controlled my breathing. If this continued, I wouldn’t even be able to take a breath. I was sure I was dying.”

Why Buddy Ebsen left MGM and where his career went from there

Ultimately, MGM replaced Ebsen with Jack Haley. However, Ebsen told the Sun-Sentinel one of the songs in the film includes his voice. “Later on the studio admitted that it’s my voice you hear in the song ‘We’re Off to See the Wizard’ as we dance up the Yellow Brick Road.” In addition, Ebsen told the Los Angles Times he can be glimpsed in a few shots of the movie. Afterward, Ebsen wouldn’t just cut ties with the film, he’d cut ties with MGM.

A trailer for The Wizard of Oz

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According to the Sun-Sentinel, MGM producer Louis B. Mayer told Ebsen he would pay him well for upcoming movies, However, there was a catch — Mayer said he had to “own” Ebsen. Ebsen wasn’t happy to hear that. “I told him you can’t own me,” Ebsen said. “If Mayer had used a word other than ‘own,’ I probably would have stayed with MGM.”

Ebsen wouldn’t have an iconic role until many years later in 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Later that decade, Ebsen became one of the main cast on The Beverly Hillbillies. Ebsen would become an icon — just not through The Wizard of Oz.