The Story of Dorothys Ruby Slippers


Few items of fictional clothing are more iconic
and easily recognisable as the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 classic,
The Wizard of Oz. Thanks to a combination of human error, poor record keeping and a
sticky fingered ne’er-do-well, these simple pieces of footwear are now considered one
of the most valuable film props in history. Figuring out exactly how much the slippers
are worth is no small feat because there are currently only four pairs known to exist and
they very rarely appear at auctions. To make things even more difficult, one of the pairs
was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Minnesota in 2005, meaning there are only
three pairs currently in existence that we know the whereabouts of. One of these pairs currently resides at a
permanent exhibit in the Smithsonian where they’re displayed amongst other treasures
from pop-culture history like one of Mr Rogers’ sweaters (made by his mother), one of Michael
Jackson’s hats, and one of Tony Hawks’ skateboards. This particular pair were given
to the museum by an anonymous donor who is believed to have bought them in an MGM auction
in 1970 for $15,000 (about $88,000 today). A second pair is currently in the possession
of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences who acquired them in 2012 when a
collection of Hollywood bigwigs including Leonardo DiCaprio and Steven Spielberg pooled
their pocket change together to buy them at auction. The price they paid has never been
revealed, but it’s rumored to be around the $3 million mark. The third known pair were purchased by a private
collector called David Elkouby in 2000 from an auction at Christie’s for $666,000 (Almost
$1,000,000 today). Elkouby has yet to display the slippers and seemingly has no desire or
need to sell them. The final, stolen pair has been missing since
2005. However, in the years since, an anonymous and apparently very wealthy fan of the movie
has put up a million dollar reward for information leading to their return. As for how many pairs of the slippers existed
in the first place, according to the film’s producer, Mervyn LeRoy, between 5 and 10 pairs
were made, each sporting slight variations to better accommodate the lighting and look
of different sets. For example, several pairs had a thin layer of orange felt along the
sole to muffle the sound of steps and dancing. The pair reserved for close-ups didn’t need
this felt and due to their minimal use, are in amazing condition, sporting only slight
scuffs from Garland clicking her heels. All of the shoes were created by legendary
costume designer Adrian Adolph Greenberg who crafted them from plain white pumps that were
dyed a deep shade of red before being coated in dark “reddish-orange” fabric, onto
which thousands of sequins and eventually a large bow were attached. Adrian coated the pumps in dark red sequins
instead of bright red ones because the Technicolor process would have made bright red shoes look
orange on screen. Likewise, the sparkling effect seen throughout the movie was added
in post-production using optical effects. For this reason, surviving examples of the
shoes are kind of underwhelming compared to how they look on screen. Speaking of Technicolor, in the original Wizard
of Oz novel, the shoes Dorothy wears are silver. However, the film’s screenwriter, Noel Langley,
decided to make them bright red to better take advantage of Technicolor; he felt that
silver shoes wouldn’t stand out against the bright yellow road Dorothy would be standing
on for nearly half of the movie. Although a great deal of care was put into
making the shoes, after filming wrapped, the known surviving pairs were shoved into a wardrobe
somewhere deep in MGM’s expansive costume department where they remained until the aforementioned
1970s bulk auction. Seemingly the only person aware of the value
of the shoes was a man called Kent Warner, an MGM costumer designer who quietly pilfered
hundreds of items from MGM over the years, including a pair of the ruby slippers which
he took while helping catalogue items for the 1970 auction. Warner kept the best pair of the ruby slippers
for himself, never displaying or sharing them with the public until he sold them in 1981
(this is the pair currently believed to be in the hands of the Academy of Motion Picture
Arts and Sciences). Interestingly, until the 1970 MGM auction,
it was believed that only one copy of the shoes existed and they belonged to a woman
called Roberta Bauman who won them by placing second in a movie trivia contest in 1949.
Bauman’s pair is considered to be the least valuable since they are believed to have belonged
to Judy Garland’s stunt double, Bobbie Koshay, who had slightly larger feet. This is the
pair purchased by Mr. Elkouby in 2000 for $666,000.

4 Comments

  • Now that you know all about Dorothy's ruby slippers check out this video and find out the answer to the question- Are Some People Really Born with Tails?:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dQMHd6IYQak

  • actually, Roberta Baumans pair of slippers appear on Judy's (Dorothy's) feet when she starts off on the Yellow Brick Road in Munchkinland.

  • ELO's 1974 album Eldorado features the famous image from the movie. Allegedly, Jeff Lynne had no idea it was from the movie.

  • There 5 Ruby slippers. The 5th pair is the Arabian Test Ruby Slippers that Judy did wear to test her costume on how it look for her and her surroundings. There's only one pair of them and were in the of the late and great Hollywood legend her self Debbie Reynolds. She later sold them in 2011. I don't know where they ended up after that but, you seemed to have missed the Arabian Ruby Slippers that were also found.

  • Dude I dont care how much they are worth nearly as much as why they are so important to the wicked witches

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