When The Wizard of Oz came out in 1939, it performed mediocre at the box office. MGM didn’t see a profit until its re-release in later years, which probably made Margaret Hamilton, the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West, a little upset, given the toxic reason she couldn’t eat while on-set.
Margaret Hamilton’s transformation into the Wicked Witch of the West
Margaret Hamilton gave the world the perfect Wicked Witch of the West. She made the role memorable, but transforming into the character was surprisingly dangerous. As it turns out, the green face paint used on Hamilton was extremely toxic because it was copper-based.
Her makeup artist, Jack Young, once said, “Green is toxic because it’s made with copper. Every night when I was taking off the Witch’s makeup, I would make sure that her face was thoroughly clean. Spotlessly clean. Because you don’t take chances with green.”
Margaret Hamilton had to be specially fed
Once Margaret Hamilton was in her costume, face-painted green and ready to go, she wasn’t allowed to eat. The paint was so toxic that, if ingested, it could be extremely damaging to her system. However, days were long on set, and if (more like when) Hamilton got hungry, she was forced to stick to a strict liquid-based diet consumed through a straw.
They really weren’t taking any chances with the toxicity of that green face paint.
Green for days
Not only was she forced to drink her meals, but Margaret Hamilton’s face is also said to have been stained following shoots. While it was necessary to ensure all of the face paint was removed, the copper-based makeup left a green hue, even after it was removed. Poor Hamilton may have been walking around as the Wicked Witch of the West, even after filming was over.
Margaret Hamilton was proud of her portrayal of the character
Despite the dangers that came with the costume for the Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton was extremely proud of her portrayal of the character. Decades later, she appeared on Mister Rodgers’ Neighborhood and demonstrated how to put on her costume. Thankfully, she excluded the extremely toxic, skin-staining green face paint she’d worn back in 1939.