‘The Wizard of Oz’: How Surprising Amount of Money the Cast Made

The Wizard of Oz is an iconic — perhaps the most iconic — Hollywood film but the cast didn’t make big bucks for their roles. Continue reading to learn just how much money Judy Garland and the rest of the cast made in The Wizard of Oz

Premiering on Aug. 25, 1939, The Wizard of Oz hit theaters across America but didn’t initially wow movie-goers. It took time for the film to become a success. What made the film a household name came when it began airing on TV giving more people access to Garland singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Costing $3 million to make  — $2,777,000 to be exact — The Wizard of Oz demonstrated the new technology of the time, technicolor, which took the film industry from black and white to color. 

Judy Garland’s salary for playing Dorothy in ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Garland, a teen when The Wizard of Oz premiered, earned $500 a week for her iconic role as Dorothy, according to the Los Angeles Times. For the 1930s, Garland made good money for playing the film’s main character but her salary didn’t foreshadow how successful the film would become. Plus, she made much less than her male counterparts in the cast. 

Although The Wizard of Oz made Garland famous, filming the movie wasn’t always a pleasant experience for her. Director Viktor Fleming slapped Garland when she couldn’t stop giggling filming the slap scene with the Cowardly Lion (Bert Lahr). Allegedly, some of the actors who played munchkins put their hands up Garland’s blue and white gingham dress. 

And it’s unfortunately where Garland developed what would become a life-long battle with drugs. She began taking amphetamines to maintain her weight (she was a teen playing a little girl and needed to look like she hadn’t hit puberty) and also took barbiturates as a sleep aid to get her to bed after 16-hour days on set. 

Ray Bolger’s salary for playing the Scarecrow in ‘The Wizard of Oz’

During her journey through Oz, Dorothy (Garland) made friends, one of them being the lovable Scarecrow played by actor Ray Bolger. He made six times Garland’s salary at $3,000 a week, demonstrating the disparity between men and women in Hollywood at the time. 

'The Wizard of Oz' cast
Scene from The Wizard of Oz. | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Bolger’s scarecrow costume stuck with the actor long after filming on The Wizard of Oz ended. He had marks on his face for a year as a result of his makeup in the film.

Jack Haley’s salary for playing the Tin Man in ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Jack Haley played the Tin Man and, like Bolger, made six times Garland’s salary. He made $3,000 a week. 

Haley almost didn’t become the famous silver and shiny character. The role first went to Buddy Ebsen who wore a metal suit then suffered a reaction to his makeup for the film, which landed him in the hospital. 

'The Wizard of Oz' cast
‘The Wizard of Oz’ cast. | Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Bert Lahr’s salary for playing the Cowardly Lion in ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Actor Bert Lahr played the Cowardly Lion and wore a real lion’s hide while filming which made him sweat constantly. He made $2,500 a week, five times Garland’s salary.

Art imitated life when the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion became friends. Haley, the Tin Man, and Lahr, the Cowardly Lion, were so close Haley became godfather to Lahr’s son.