It’s been 10 years since a pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” were stolen from The Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota — a $1 million reward offered by an anonymous fan hasn’t helped bring them home. No need to worry, however. Follow any road — yellow brick or not — to D.C., L.A., even Chicago, to see the famous pair of pumps.
The best place is the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, in Washington, D.C., which displays the shoes, designed for the 1939 film by MGM’s chief costume designer Gilbert Adrian.
Originally described as silver in L. Frank Baum’s books, on which the film was based, the slippers were changed to ruby by screenwriter Noel Langley as a way to make them stand out as Dorothy makes her way down the yellow brick road with her new friends the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion.
The film’s wardrobe department has said six identical pairs of the slippers were produced for the film’s production — the design for an Arabian-themed pair with curled toes was ultimately rejected.
Each shoe (all are between sizes 5 and 6, and vary between B and D widths) features 2,300 sequins to give the slippers their ruby sheen. The base is a white silk pump from the Innes Shoe Company, in Los Angeles, then dyed red and covered in burgundy sequin organza. The sequins needed to be darker in order not to appear orange on camera. A large Art-deco butterfly bow with glass jewels and beads, was added shortly before production began.
The Smithsonian wound up with the slippers in its wardrobe in 1979 after a collector, who purchased the shoes at an auction from MGM for $15,000 in 1970, donated them to the museum. The pricetag is much higher now — some have put it between $1 million and $3 million — especially given that the Smithsonian calls the pumps “the most famous shoes in the world.”
For the production of “The Wizard of Oz,” orange felt was added to the soles of the shoes on display in order to muffle Garland’s fancy footwork while dancing down the yellow brick road. In fact, felt is said to have been added to all but one of the pairs of shoes made, since only one was used for close ups.
The pair was first displayed at the National Museum of American History in an exhibition called “1939″ (the year “Wizard of Oz” was released). That exhibit ran through 2012, and the shoes are now part of the museum’s permanent “American Stories” collection.
A second pair is set to be put on display in late 2017, when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences — the organization behind the Oscars — opens its first museum in Los Angeles.
The ruby slippers to be put on display are said to be the shoes that received the coveted close ups in the film — including the now famous heel clicks that send Dorothy back to Kansas — thus making them the holy grail of all Hollywood memorabilia, and most valuable of the four pairs that were worn by Garland, according to film historians. Upping their value is that they’re nicknamed the “Witch’s Shoes,” since they were the pair taken from the feet of the Wicked Witch of the East in the film.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg and Walt Disney Co.-chairman Bob Iger helped the Academy acquire the slippers in 2012 in an auction after they had been stored in MGM’s costume vault, and then owned by private collectors, including costume designer Kent Warner. “The ruby slippers occupy an extraordinary place in the hearts of movie audiences the world over,” Iger said.
Currently under construction in the former Wilshire May Company building on Wilshire Boulevard’s Museum Row, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will also house a collection of over 10 million photographs, 165,000 films and videos, 80,000 screenplays, 50,000 posters, and 20,000 production and costume design drawings, as well as files, letters, contracts, manuscripts and storyboards from Hollywood legends like Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston.
The Renzo Piano-designed building will include six floors of exhibition, education and special event spaces, a movie theater and eateries. One of the signature elements will be a 1,000-seat theater and rooftop terrace housed inside a large sphere that will be attached to the museum with glass bridges.
If traveling to either coast isn’t your thing, head to the Midwest, where Oz Park offers up life-sized statues of “Wizard of Oz’s” characters, including Dorothy, herself. On her feet: a pair of red slippers, of course.
Situated inside Chicago’s Lincoln Park, the 13-acre Oz Park got its name in 1976, in honor of Baum, the former journalist-turned-children’s-book-author who lived just several miles from the plot of land in 1891. The Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce commissioned artist John Kearney to design bronze sculptures of Baum’s iconic characters, with the Tin Man becoming the first to be installed in 1995. Dorothy and her little dog Toto was the last to be installed in 2007.
“The Wonderful World of Oz” was first published in 1899, with the red slippers playing a key role in helping Dorothy get back to her home in Kansas after she’s whisked away to a magical land in a tornado.