|Plot element from The Wizard of Oz|
|First appearance||The Wizard of Oz (1939)|
|Created by||Gilbert Adrian (costume design)|
|Function||Able to send Dorothy Gale back home to Kansas after she clicks the heels three times|
The ruby slippers are the magic pair of shoes worn by Dorothy Gale as played by Judy Garland in the classic 1939 MGM musical movie The Wizard of Oz. Because of their iconic stature, the ruby slippers are now considered among the most treasured and valuable items of film memorabilia. As is customary for important props, a number of pairs were made for the film, though the exact number is unknown. Five pairs are known to have survived; one pair was stolen from a museum in Grand Rapids, MN in August 2005 and was finally recovered in September of 2018.
In L. Frank Baum's original novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), on which the film is based, Dorothy wears Silver Shoes. However, the color of the shoes was changed to red in order to take full advantage of the new Technicolor film process being used in big-budget Hollywood films of that era. Film screenwriter Noel Langley is credited with the idea.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
In the MGM film, an adolescent farm girl named Dorothy (played by Judy Garland), her dog Toto, and their farmhouse are swept away from Kansas by a tornado and taken to the magical Land of Oz. The house falls on and kills the Wicked Witch of the East, freeing the Munchkins from her tyranny. Glinda the Good Witch of the North arrives via magic bubble and shows Dorothy the dead woman's two feet visibly sticking out from under the house wearing the ruby slippers. When the Wicked Witch of the West comes to claim her dead sister's shoes, Glinda magically transfers them to Dorothy's feet. Glinda tells Dorothy to keep tight inside of them and never take them off, as the slippers must be very powerful or the Wicked Witch would not want them so badly. Throughout the rest of the film, the Wicked Witch schemes to obtain the shoes. When she captures Dorothy, she tries to take the slippers, but receives a painful shock. The Wicked Witch then realizes that the slippers will only come off if the wearer is dead, so she decides to kill Dorothy. Before she does, however, Dorothy accidentally splashes her with a bucket of water, causing her to melt away. At the end, it is revealed that Dorothy can return home by simply closing her eyes, clicking the heels of the slippers together three times and repeating the phrase, "There's no place like home."
The slippers were designed by Gilbert Adrian, MGM's chief costume designer. Initially, two pairs were made in different styles. The so-called "Arabian test pair" was "a wildly jeweled, Arabian motif, with curling toes and heels." This pair was used in costume tests, but was rejected as unsuitable for Dorothy's Kansas farmgirl image. The second design was approved, with one modification. The red bugle beads used to simulate rubies proved too heavy, so they were mostly replaced with sequins, about 2,300 for each shoe.
It is believed that at least six or seven pairs of the final design were made. According to producer Mervyn LeRoy, "We must have had five or ten pairs of those shoes". The wardrobe woman who worked on the film claimed "six identical pairs" had been made. Four pairs used in the movie have been accounted for. Rhys Thomas speculates that they were likely made by Joe Napoli of the Western Costume Company, and not all at once, but as the need arose. Garland requested one pair a half-size larger, as her feet would become slightly swollen in the afternoon from the rigors of morning rehearsals and filming. According to Rhys Thomas in his Los Angeles Times article, "all the ruby slippers are between Size 5 and 6, varying between B and D widths."
The four surviving pairs were made from white silk pumps from the Innes Shoe Company in Los Angeles. At the time, many movie studios used plain white silk shoes because they were inexpensive and easy to dye. It is likely that most of the shoes worn by female characters in The Wizard of Oz were plain Innes shoes with varying heel heights, dyed to match each costume. There is an embossed gold or silver stamp or an embroidered cloth label bearing the name of the company inside each right shoe.
To create the ruby slippers, the shoes were dyed red, then burgundy sequined organza overlays were attached to each shoe's upper and heel. The film's early three-strip Technicolor process required the sequins to be darker than most red sequins found today; bright red sequins would have appeared orange on screen. Two weeks before the start of shooting, Adrian added butterfly-shaped red strap leather bows. Each of the Art Deco-inspired bows had three large, rectangular, red-glass jewels with dark red bugle beads, outlined in red glass rhinestones in silver settings. The stones and beads were sewn to the bows, then to the organza-covered shoe. Three pairs of the surviving slippers had orange felt glued to their soles to deaden the sound of Garland dancing on the Yellow Brick Road.
It is theorized that Garland wore one primary pair during shooting.
One pair, known as "the People's Shoes", is on public display at the Smithsonian Institution. According to Smithsonian magazine, however, the shoes do not belong together; their actual mates are the mismatched pair (left sized 5C, right 5BC) that was stolen in 2005 and recovered in 2018.
Another pair, the close-up or insert shoes, is in best shape of all, appears to be better made, has no orange felt on the soles and has "#7 Judy Garland" written in the lining. According to the Library of Congress, "it is widely believed that they were used primarily for close-ups and possibly the climactic scene where Dorothy taps her heels together." Circular scuff marks on the soles support the theory that they were the ones Garland had on when she clicked her heels together. The lack of felt indicates these were likely also the shoes taken from the feet of the dead Wicked Witch of the East (since the soles are visible in the film), hence their nickname: the "Witch's Shoes".
The last known pair was, some believe, made for Bobbie Koshay, Garland's stunt double. This is most likely the size 6B pair (owned first by Roberta Bauman, then Anthony Landini, and currently by David Elkouby) whose lining says "Double" instead of "Judy Garland". However, some believe this pair may have been the second pair created, therefore explaining the "Double" in the lining, but still worn by Garland and Koshay. Several pairs of Garland's own shoes are size 61⁄2. Also, Garland can be seen wearing this pair in photos taken after the film's primary shooting was finished in 1939.
In one film sequence, Garland is not wearing the ruby slippers. As trees pelt the Scarecrow with apples, Garland can be briefly glimpsed wearing a black shoe on her right foot.
For many years, movie studios were careless with old props, costumes, scripts, and other materials, unaware of their increasing value as memorabilia. Often, workers would just keep props as souvenirs without permission, aware that their employers did not particularly care. One of the more notorious of these was costumer Kent Warner, who amassed a large private collection and supplemented his income with sales. It was he who found the slippers in February or March 1970 while helping to set up a mammoth auction of MGM props and wardrobe. They had been stored and forgotten in the basement of MGM's wardrobe department. One pair became the centerpiece of the auction. Warner kept the best pair for himself, size 5B, and apparently sold the rest.
The slippers in the MGM auction (size 5C) were bought for $15,000 by a lawyer acting for an unidentified client. This is believed to be the pair on permanent exhibition in the Popular Culture wing of the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., though the donor insisted on anonymity. Dr. Brent Glass, the director of the museum, appeared on the January 23, 2008 The Oprah Winfrey Show with the slippers and informed Oprah Winfrey that "they were worn by Judy Garland during her dance routines on the Yellow Brick Road because there's felt on the bottom of these slippers". However, according to Rhys Thomas, all but one pair had orange felt on the soles. The Smithsonian pair is undergoing a rapid deterioration from aging and the museum is raising money to fund research on preservation.
Another pair was originally owned by a Tennessee woman named Roberta Bauman who got them by placing second in a National Four Star Club "Name the Best Movies of 1939" contest. In 1988, auction house Christie's sold them for $150,000 plus $15,000 buyer's premium to Anthony Landini. Landini worked with the Disney Company to start showing them at the Disney/MGM Studios' Florida Theme Park in the queue for the Great Movie Ride, whose facade and queue area are themed after Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles. They were visible at the ride's debut in 1989. Landini auctioned his pair of slippers, again at Christie's East, on May 24, 2000, for $666,000 (including the buyer's premium). They were sold to David Elkouby and his partners, who own memorabilia shops in Hollywood. Elkouby and Co. has yet to display the shoes.
The pair Warner kept, the "Witch's Shoes", was in the best condition. Warner sold the shoes in 1981 to an unknown buyer through Christie's East for $12,000. Two weeks after Landini bought his slippers, this pair resurfaced and was offered privately through Christie's to the under-bidder of the Bauman shoes, Philip Samuels of St. Louis, Missouri. Samuels bought them for the same price that Landini had paid, $165,000. He has used his shoes for fund raising for children's charities, as well as lending them to the Smithsonian when their slippers are cleaned, repaired or (previously) on tour. Auction house Profiles in History announced that this pair would be the highlight of its December 15–17, 2011 Icons of Hollywood auction. In an interview, Joe Maddalena, head of Profiles in History, estimated that they would go for two to three million dollars. They were offered with a starting reserve price of two million dollars on December 16, 2011, but did not sell. Actor Leonardo DiCaprio and other benefactors, including director Steven Spielberg, made it possible for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to acquire the pair for an undisclosed price in February 2012 for their forthcoming museum.
Kent Warner sold one pair, size 51⁄2B, to Michael Shaw in 1970. These were stolen from an exhibit at the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota on the night of August 27–28, 2005. In 2015, the Associated Press reported that an anonymous donor has offered a $1 million reward for information about the stolen slippers. On September 4, 2018, the FBI announced the stolen pair had been recovered after a 13-year search.
The very elaborate curled-toe "Arabian" pair was owned by actress and memorabilia preservationist Debbie Reynolds. Reynolds acknowledged she got them from Kent Warner. Reynolds' slippers were sold for $510,000 (not including the buyer's premium) as part of the June 2011 auction of part of the actress's collection.
Return to Oz
The ruby slippers play an integral role in the 1985 Walt Disney Pictures film Return to Oz, for which Disney had to obtain rights from MGM to use reproductions in the film. Unlike the originals, the hand-made British French-heeled shoes for Return to Oz were covered in hundreds of dark red crystals. The stones were soaked in sulfuric acid to remove the silver backing, and two types of glue were used to affix them to the shoes (a spray glue and an optical glue). No matter what was done, the stones kept falling off during filming. Stagehands were specifically hired to sweep up loose "rubies" that would fall off the slippers after a scene was shot. Being little girls, actresses Fairuza Balk who played Dorothy and Emma Ridley who played Princess Ozma, simply could not keep from playing, skipping and tapping their heels, so eventually they were required to take off the slippers between takes. Effects were later added in post production to give the slippers their magical glow. Simple, red grosgrain ribbon with additional stones were used for the bows. Seven pairs were made for the filming: two pairs, size three for Ridley, three pair (size unknown) for Balk and two men's size 11 for the Nome King played by actor Nicol Williamson.
In 1985, Walt Disney Productions gave away a pair of slippers to promote the film. They were won by a British family, who sold them to prominent Oz collector Willard Carroll in a 2001 eBay auction.
Western Costume Company
The Western Costume Company in Hollywood claims to have made Garland's original slippers. While it is likely that Western would have been contracted to make some of The Wizard of Oz's many costumes, no records of the original slippers exist to either validate or disprove their claim. In 1989, to commemorate the movie's 50th anniversary, Western produced the only authorized reproductions. Hand-lasted on Judy Garland's original foot mold and completely sequined and jeweled, the reproduction slippers were nearly identical to the originals. Western planned a limited edition of 500 pairs at $5000 each, but halted the project after selling only 16 pairs. One of these pairs fetched $35,000 (including buyer's premium) at a November 25, 2013, auction.
Other film reproductions
Super Mario Bros. is a 1993 science-fiction/adventure homage to The Wizard of Oz featuring red-accented 'Thwomp "Air" Stompers' that allow the wearer to fly upon clicking the heels together. An imitation pair of ruby slippers appeared in the 2002 movie The Master of Disguise. Another pair appeared in an Oz sequence in the cult comedy Kentucky Fried Movie. Reproductions were also featured in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. In this film, Kahmunrah tosses them away after discovering that the rubies are fake.
In honor of the fiftieth anniversary of The Wizard of Oz, the Harry Winston jewellery company created a size-four pair of slippers using "about 25 carats of diamonds and 1,500 carats of rubies". Valued at $3 million, they are reportedly the most expensive pair of shoes in the world.
During the fall 2008 Fashion Week in New York City, the Swarovski company held a charity contest to commemorate the seventieth anniversary of the film, with nineteen designers redesigning the ruby slippers, including Gwen Stefani, Diane von Fürstenberg, and Moschino. The "Arabian" design was displayed with the designer entries.
In the 1990–1991 animated TV series The Wizard of Oz (produced by DiC Animation City), the ruby slippers' powers are significantly enhanced. Not only do they retain their movie-inspired ability to repel the Wicked Witch of the West's touch, as well as the capability to teleport their user (and an unspecified number of companions) to any location desired, but they also demonstrate numerous other attributes and capabilities as well. Among them are the ability to:
- cloud/block the view of the Witch's crystal ball, but only as long as they remain glowing
- negate, dispel, or reverse hexes or magical energy, used against their wearer, by the Witch
- levitate an object and control its trajectory through the air
- immediately adjust their size/shape to fit their wearer
In this series, Dorothy remains inexperienced and unfamiliar with the shoes' magic, and as such, calls upon their power only as a last resort; often resulting in a deus ex machina scenario. The Cowardly Lion and Truckle, the Wicked Witch of the West's chief Flying Monkey, also get to wear them briefly.
The slippers briefly appear in the season 4 episode "Fractured" of Warehouse 13 in the Dark Vault, seemingly having a life of their own, accompanied by a witch's cackle and a few notes of "Over the Rainbow". Supposedly an "Artifact" – a potentially dangerous and malicious object that grants the wearer dangerous powers – since many artifacts are based on works of fact and fiction.
The season 9 episode "Slumber Party" of the series Supernatural features Dorothy and the Wicked Witch. Dorothy, here portrayed as a hard-as-nails fighter, realizes the shoes are the only thing that can kill the seemingly invincible witch. At one point, she admits she never really wore the iconic shoes, having considered it "tacky" to wear the shoes of a dead witch. Near the end of the episode, Charlie Bradbury uses the shoes to kill the Wicked Witch and foil her plot to bring her armies to Earth and take over the world.
According to the revisionist version of the Oz history chronicled in Gregory Maguire's novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the slippers were given to Nessarose, the future Wicked Witch of the East, by her father. They were constructed with handmade glass beads and reflected many different colors in the lighting, giving them an almost chameleon effect. After being enchanted by Elphaba's old best friend and roommate Glinda (the Good Witch of the North), they become items of power that allow the armless and handicapped Nessarose to magically stand and walk independently and without any additional support. In the musical adaptation, Wicked, it is Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, who enchants the shoes, giving crippled Nessarose the ability to walk without a wheelchair.
The Ruby Slippers of Oz (Tale Weaver Publishing, 1989) by Rhys Thomas is a history of the famous shoes and Kent Warner's part in it.
At The Auction of the Ruby Slippers - a short story in Salman Rushdie's 1994 anthology East, West. Various members of a destitute world attend an auction to bid for the ruby slippers of Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, in the hope their transformative powers will help them achieve personal and political ends.
The progressive band Electric Light Orchestra used a frame from the 1939 film on the cover of their fourth studio album Eldorado, released in 1974. The cover was laid out by Sharon Osbourne (then known as Sharon Arden) and the picture was printed in reverse: the shoes point left in the film.
In World of Warcraft, the Ruby Slippers are a pair of level 70 epic cloth shoes dropped by the Wizard of Oz-themed "opera event" in the Karazhan raid instance. The shoes function similarly to the hearthstone that all characters start out with, allowing them to teleport from their current location to the inn where the hearthstone is set. The caption under the statistic lines, much like in the movie, is "There's no place like home."
The slippers are part of the twelve "Foundation Elements" in the toys-to-life video game Lego Dimensions.
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- Media related to Ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz (film) at Wikimedia Commons