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Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D.

The Tin Man's Toxic Metal Make-Up

By October 23, 2013

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Buddy Ebsen as the Tin Man (MGM)Ray Bolger originally was cast to play the Tin Man in the 1939 movie "The Wizard of Oz." He traded roles with Buddy Ebsen, who was cast to play the Scarecrow. Ebsen recorded all of his songs, finished four weeks of rehearsal, and completed costuming prior to the filming of the movie. MGM tested several types of costumes and makeup to make the Tin Man appear silvery. They tried covering Ebsen with tin, silvery paper, and silver cloth-covered cardboard. Finally they decided to go with white face paint coated with aluminum dust.

Nine days into filming, Ebsen started to experience shortness of breath and cramping that sent him to the hospital. At one point his lungs failed. He remained hospitalized for two weeks, during which time the film's producer hired actor Jake Haley to play the Tin Man. Haley's makeup was reformulated into a paste that was painted on. He missed four days of filming when the makeup caused an eye infection, but he did not suffer any permanent damage and did not lose his job.

Ebsen's recording of "We're Off to See the Wizard" with Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion, was used in the film's soundtrack.

Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics | Make White Makeup or Grease Paint


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