He may have been all cute and cuddly when he co-starred in one of the most beloved movies of all time, but was Toto truly the dog that people think he was?
First of all, Toto was played by a female Cairn Terrier named Terry, who was born five years prior to the production of the film in 1933. Owned and trained by famed Hollywood dog trainer Carl Spitz, Terry worked previously with Shirley Temple (who was originally considered for the role of Dorothy, made famous by Judy Garland) in the 1934 film Bright Eyes. When she landed the role of Toto in The Wizard Of Oz, Terry received a weekly compensation of $125, which was more than any human actor on the film. Already that canine was headed for divadom.
Stories about Terry have been passed down through the years. At a recent press junket in New York for the Wizard Of Oz 70th anniversary, Jennifer LeRoy, owner of the celebrated Tavern On The Green restaurant and the granddaughter of the film’s producer Mervyn LeRoy, recalled, “My father wanted to take Toto home after the making [of the film], and he did. She actually turned on to be kind of an evil dog, but apparently she went on to do other movies. I just heard that she was a very prima donna dog.”
Lorna Luft, singer, actress and daughter of Oz star Judy Garland, had her own Toto tale recounted by her late mother. “She did tell me at one point that the dog did have the worst breath in the world,” said Luft. “It all made us laugh because the dog was constantly put in her face [with its] silly panting, and she did everything but wince because poor little Toto needed an Altoid.”
Ultimately it does not matter what people know about Terry/Toto’s backstage and offstage shenanigans. Her beloved image has become immortalized through the film and through various portraits and merchandising. Still, those dog tales reaffirm why some of us are cat people. Unless you stop to think about Cat People.