the terrifying flying monkeys of oz -- 7/13/18

Today's selection -- from The Munchkins of Oz by Stephen Cox. The Winged Monkeys in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz served at the pleasure of the Wicked Witch of the West and terrorized Dorothy and her companions:

"For children, the goblinlike Flying Monkeys, squealing ser­vants of the Wicked Witch of the West, are the stuff of nightmares. For the most part, the monkeys were not played by the same small actors as the Munchkins. Only a few of the more athletic midgets were asked to don the monkey make-up and costumes fitted with battery-powered wings. The wings were motorized so they would flap while the monkeys were airborne.

"Veteran Hollywood midget stuntman Harry Monty was one of the actors who played a Munchkin and a Winged Monkey. 'Those who played the dozen brown flying chimps were too tall to portray Munchkins,' Monty says. 'They were short like jockeys.'

Pat Walsh as Nikko The Wizard of Oz

'They had a harness around us and strung us up on wires, and we'd swoop down,' he recalls. According to Munchkin Hazel Resmondo, it was midget Walter Miller (a Munchkin also) who was the monkey that dropped down in the murky forest, grabbed little Toto, mugged for the camera, and ascended.

"Ray Bolger told a story of how the stuntmen were to be paid twenty-five dollars every time they performed their 'swoop' at Dorothy and her companions in the forest. Director Victor Fleming assumed payment was twenty-five dollars for the day. 'He kept saying 'Take 'em up again!' for a retake, and they knew they wouldn't get paid each time,' Bolger said. 'So they struck the picture. Stopped it cold for a while.'

"There they were. More than a dozen Winged Monkeys sit­ting on chairs with their arms folded and legs crossed, argu­ing with Fleming over money. Finally, the financial arrangement was settled, and back in the air they went, buckled to harnesses that were attached to black cables.

Flying Monkeys attack

"The rest of the illusion was created by dangling little rubber, painted monkeys about eight inches in length. These molded figurines -- complete with foamlike wings and a pipe cleaner for a tail -- were suspended on wires, much as the actor/monkeys were, and flown along at the same time to create a whole arm) of evil beasts. (Interestingly, in 1996 one of the decaying, now rock-hard rubber monkey props used in the film was auctioned off, fetching $3,000 from a hardcore Oz collector in Los Angeles.)

"The only other Winged Monkeys noted in MGM docu­ments are Sid Dawson, in a wardrobe photograph dated December 13, 1938, and Pat Walshe, a Hollywood midget stunt double who played Nikko -- the hissing head monkey In the witch's castle. Harry Monty remembers the name of only one other little stuntman, Buster Brody, as playing a monkey.

"After more than fifty years, the slim steel tracks that were built and installed in the reinforced rafters of MGM Sound Stage 29 are still there, high above the floor as a haunting reminder of Oz's monkeyshines."



Stephen Cox


The Munchkins of Oz


Cumberland House


Copyright 1996 Stephen Cox


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