Judy Garland’s dreams of teen stardom came true after she rose to fame in the 1939 classic movie The Wizard of Oz. But the making of the film may have been a bit of a nightmare. According to People, a recently published posthumous memoir by Judy Garland’s ex-husband alleges that 16-year-old Garland was sexually harassed and groped by her co-stars, the Munchkins, while making the iconic movie on the MGM lot in 1938.
In his memoir, titled Judy and I: My Life With Judy Garland, Garland’s second husband, Sid Luft, said his wife’s co-stars made her life miserable on the set of the famous fantasy flick.
“They thought they could get away with anything because they were so small,” Judy Garland’s ex-husband wrote. “They would make Judy’s life miserable on set by putting their hands under her dress … The men were 40 or more years old.”
Rumors of raucous behavior by the Munchkins have plagued the iconic movie, with endless stories about hookers, heavy drinking, gambling, and hotel trashing at the Culver Hotel, where the cast stayed during filming. Judy Garland even addressed the group’s bad behavior in a 1967 interview with Jack Paar.
“They were little drunks,” Judy told the radio and TV host of her co-stars. “They got smashed every night, and they picked them up in butterfly nets.”
Garland presumably had a firsthand account of the group’s bad behavior. According to the Daily Mail, Judy actually went on a chaperoned date with one of her Munchkin castmates. Garland’s mother insisted on tagging along because the Wizard of Oz star was only a teenager at the time, but the teen star reportedly saw enough of the Munchkins’ antics to label them bad news.
But many of the Munchkins have long denied the claims, instead complaining that they were paid too little to even afford alcohol. In an interview with North Hollywood Patch, the only surviving Munchkin, Jerry Maren, talked in detail about his time on the classic movie set. Maren, who is now 97-years-old, was more than a Munchkin: He was the middle member of the Lollipop Guild and interacted directly with Judy Garland when he presented her with a giant lollipop after welcoming her to Munchkinland.
In the interview, Maren denied any Munchkin revelry, saying, “No. There were no wild parties every night. Maybe just one or two, but that was expected because some of the Munchkins were Irish. That’s what they do, it’s in their blood.”
Maren told producers of the movie Under The Rainbow that the stories of the cast’s wild parties may have been fueled by Judy herself.
“The directors asked me if it was true, but I told them it was a lot of B.S.,” he said. “I guess Judy Garland mentioned the parties on the Jack Paar show. But it wasn’t true at all.”
Maren also detailed the 14-hour work days the group endured, saying even if they wanted to go out and party, they didn’t have the time. But while he disagreed with her assessment of the Munchkins’ behavior, Maren had nothing but good things to say about the movie’s star, Judy Garland.
“She was a lovely gal,” he told Patch. “She always waved at us and said, ‘Hi kids, hi gang!’ She was a typical teenager. She loved us as much as we loved her. We fell in love with her.”
Take a look at the video below to see one of Judy Garland’s most famous scenes with her controversial co-stars in the Wizard of Oz.
Sid Luft was married to Judy Garland for 13 years, from 1952 to 1965. Garland died in 1969 and Luft died in 2005, but more than a decade later his just-published book gives an inside look at her tragic life.
Judy and I: My Life With Judy Garland is available in bookstores now.
[Featured Image Hulton Archive/Getty Images]