In 1939, Margaret Hamilton was cast in the role of the Wicked Witch of the West, opposite Judy Garland’s Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, creating not only her most famous role, but one of Hollywood’s most memorable villains. Hamilton won the role after Gale Sondergaard, who was originally considered (as a more glamorous witch and with a musical number) declined after it was decided that the witch would be “ugly”.
MGM studio executives even cut some of Hamilton’s more frightening scenes, worrying that she would frighten children……….. too much.
Later on in life, she would comment on the role of the witch in a light-hearted fashion. For an interview, she joked:
“I was in a need of money at the time, and I had already done about six pictures for MGM already when my agent called. He said ‘Maggie, they want you to play a part on the Wizard.’ I said to myself, ‘Oh Boy, The Wizard of Oz! That has been my favorite book since I was four.’ And I asked him what part,
and he said ‘The Witch’
and I said ‘The Witch?!’
and he said ‘What else?'”
Hamilton suffered a second-degree burn on her face and a third-degree burn on her hand during a second take of her fiery exit from Munchkinland, in which the trap door’s drop was delayed to eliminate the brief glimpse of it seen in the final edit. Hamilton had to recuperate in a hospital and at home for six weeks after the accident before returning to the set to complete her work on the now-classic film, and she refused to have anything to do with fire for the rest of the filming. After she recuperated, she said, “I won’t sue, because I know how this business works, and I would never work again. I will return to work on one condition — no more fireworks!”
Aren’t we all glad that she did return,