In The Wizard Of Oz, the kindly little people who lived at the start of the Yellow Brick Road, were loyal friends of young Dorothy, the role that made Garland famous.
However, a newly unearthed autobiography by Sid Luft, her third husband, reveals that the attentions of some of the 124 ‘midgets’ who were cast as Munchkins was not always so benign.
Luft, a Hollywood producer who was credited with keeping Garland working during their 13-year marriage, describes how she once told him she had been repeatedly molested by them during the eight gruelling months it took to make the spectacular 1939 film.
‘The men were naughty. They thought they could get away with anything because they were so small,’ Luft writes in Judy And I, a book he never finished before his death in 2005.
An assistant director was assigned to keep them in line and ensure that, if they ended up in jail, they were speedily bailed so they wouldn’t miss their calls on set.
Still wearing their make-up, Munchkins would retire after a long day’s work to the bars of Culver City, near Hollywood, and would get horribly drunk, Luft recalls. ‘They were disorderly as hell, yelling and screaming. The next day, on the set, hung-over, they would make Judy’s life miserable by putting their hands under her dress,’ he adds.
‘The Munchkins, of course, were close to her [Garland, who was 4’11”] in size and couldn’t resist teasing her, making her life a misery,’ he writes. ‘The men were 40 or more years old, and there was Judy with boyfriends, and feeling sophisticated at 16.’
Forget the Rat Pack and generations of bed-hopping, pill-popping matinee idol hellraisers. Were the Munchkins actually Hollywood’s baddest boys?
Laughable as that might sound to anyone who has seen their squeaky-voiced, childlike antics in the film, this astonishing theory has been advanced for years.
The tales are endless and lurid: holed up in a hotel with only each other for months on end, the Munchkins indulged in Bacchanalian orgies and heavy drinking bouts, swinging from rafters, gambling illegally, getting involved in prostitution and generally behaving so badly that police had to be stationed on every floor of their hotel.
Rumors of a sex tape involving Garland and the Munchkins are unsubstantiated.
I’ll bet the Time Bandits were perfect gentlemen.