Toto the Dog in ‘Wizard of Oz’ Earned More Money Than Some Actors on Set

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Gender and wage disparities have long been discussed in the context of equality and fair pay. But what about other animal species? It turns out that Toto, the dog from The Wizard of Oz, earned more money than many of the actors on set.

How Much Were Actors Paid for The Wizard of Oz?

That’s right. In a deep dive into an old urban legend about whether or not Toto actually made more than Dorothy (Judy Garland), we concluded that this was actually not true. The myth asserts that Garland was paid $35 per week while Terry, the brindle Cairn Terrier that played Toto, was paid $125. However, the dog that played Toto actually made more than twice as much as each of the actors who played the Munchkins.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Judy Garland’s salary was $500 a week. While much more than the mythological $35, that was still far less than her male supporting actors. Ray Bolger (The Scarecrow) and Jack Haley (The Tinman) were both paid a whopping $3,000 per week while Bert Lahr (The Cowardly Lion) was paid $2,500 per week. That means that the supporting actors surrounding the leading lady, Dorothy, were paid 5 to 6 times more per week than she was.

On the other side of the spectrum, all the little people who played the Munchkins totally got shafted! They were paid $50 per week. According to Brian Cronin, who does a lot of investigating into myths and legends in Hollywood, the little people were technically paid $100 per week, but they had to give 50% of their pay to their manager, Lew Singer.

Toto the Dog Was Paid 250% More Than the Little People Actors

And then we have Terry, aka Toto the dog. Terry was paid $125 per week. Technically speaking, because dogs don’t usually own bank accounts, Terry likely got a worse cut than the Munchkins. She had to give up 100% of her salary to her owner and trainer, Carl Spitz. Of course, in return, she surely must have gotten lots of food, water, shelter, and belly rubs.

If you punch in these salary numbers and compare them to 2022 wages, they are quite different than meets the eye. A $50 weekly salary is about $1,070, which is what the Munchkins each got. Because there were 124 little people, Lew Singer made about the equivalent of $132,936 every week just for managing them.

Bolger and Haley each made the equivalent of about $64,300 every week and Lahr made the equivalent of just under $53,600.

As for Judy Garland, her $500 weekly salary equates to about $10,719. On one hand, that’s a tidy sum of money to make for an acting role. On the other hand, she sure was getting shafted. The man-woman-dog connection shows that Garland made 16% of what her top-paid supporting actors were given. But Terry the dog made 25% of what the leading role made, just because the leading role was a female.

Toto Made 25% Of What Garland Made, but Garland Was Treated Like a Dog

But that’s not all. While Judy Garland’s Wizard of Oz salary may or may not bother you. After all, this was in the earliest stages of Hollywood unionization and Garland was only 17 years old. Truly, her treatment on and off the set might rub you the wrong way.

According to The Making of the Wizard of Oz: Movie Magic and Studio Power in the Prime of MGM, by Aljean Hermetz, screenwriter John Lee Mahin alleged that director Victor Fleming would strike Dorothy at times while filming.

The story goes as follows:

One day on the set of The Wizard of Oz (1939), Judy Garland found herself playing a simple scene in which her character (Dorothy) slaps the supposed ferocious lion (Bert Lahr) and he promptly begins to cry. When she slapped Lahr, however, his reaction was so comical that Garland burst into fits of laughter. Director Victor Fleming ordered another take, but again Lahr’s expressions reduced his costar to tears. At last she retreated behind a tree and made a vow: “I will not laugh. I will not laugh.”

Sure enough, in the next take she was once again convulsed with laughter and eventually grew so hysterical that she simply could not stop. Fleming finally went over and slapped her firmly in the face. “All right now,” he said, “go back to your dressing room.” Garland did as she was told and returned a few minutes later. “OK,” she said, and performed the scene without a hitch.

Aljean Hermetz, The Making of the Wizard of Oz

Cronin looked through biographies of Fleming and concluded that it’s very likely that this particular legend is actually true.

It gets worse.

Judy Garland was regularly called a “fat little pig with pigtails” by the heads of MGM studios. Because she was a teenager, her body changed quite a bit when they were filming The Wizard of Oz. But she was playing a young girl. So, her breasts were bound, and she wore corsets. Worse, she was told to diet constantly, eating only chicken soup, black coffee, and cigarettes!

Garland’s Drug Addictions Were Cemented by MGM Studios While Filming The Wizard of Oz]

Garland was not only huffing down cigarettes while showcasing her tremendous voice but also given speed pills. Starting around the age of 10, her mother, a former vaudeville performer, would give Garland speed pills for energy and barbiturates to go to sleep. That practice was continued on into Garland’s career.

In The Life and Times of Mickey Rooney by Lertzman and Birnes, the authors discuss how MGM studios were giving out this brutal cocktail to Rooney as well as Garland. They shared a quote from writer E.J. Fleming

“Judy, like Mickey, became a slave to MGM,” Fleming wrote. “They had them on a brutal work schedule. Babes [on Broadway] was completed in thirty-one days, along with publicity and personal appearance schedules that they undertook to maximize their value to the studio. Mayer, to keep Judy going and to keep her weight down, was given the drug Benzedrine, commonly known as speed, and to give her energy.”

It was this same combination of uppers and downers that eventually led to Garland’s untimely death. She passed away at the age of 47 after overdosing on barbiturates.

When you take it all in, Garland wasn’t paid nearly enough for her role in The Wizard of Oz. But she was, at the very least, paid more than her little dog, Toto.

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