Friday, September 24, 2010


Ruby slippers

An original pair of ruby slippers used in The Wizard of Oz; now part of the Philip Samuels Collection.

A plot element from The Wizard of Oz

Publisher Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

First appearance The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Created by Gilbert Adrian (costume design)

Genre Fantasy

In story information

Type of plot element Magical ruby encrusted slippers

Function Used to send Dorothy Gale back to Kansas

The ruby slippers are the shoes worn by Dorothy (played by Judy Garland) in the 1939 MGM movie The Wizard of Oz. Because of their iconic stature,[1] they are now among the most treasured and valuable of film memorabilia.[2] As was customary for important props, a number of pairs were made for the film, though no one knows exactly how many. Five pairs are known to have survived; one of these was stolen in 2005 and never recovered.[3]

In L. Frank Baum's original novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wore Silver Shoes. The movie's creators changed them to ruby to take advantage of the new Technicolor film process.[1]


1 The slippers

1.1 The Wizard of Oz

1.2 Subsequent history

2 Reproductions

2.1 Return to Oz

2.2 Western Costume Company

2.3 Other film reproductions

3 Tribute versions

4 Television

5 Books

6 Pop culture

7 References

7.1 Bibliography

 The slippers

 The Wizard of Oz

In the film, Dorothy's house falls on the Wicked Witch of the East, killing her and freeing the Munchkins from her tyranny. Glinda, the Good Witch of the North magically puts the dead woman's ruby slippers on Dorothy's feet to protect her from the Witch's vengeful sister, the Wicked Witch of the West. Dorothy knows the slippers are magical, but she is unaware of their specific powers. At the end of the film, Glinda reveals one of the slippers' abilities: Dorothy can return home to Kansas by simply clicking her heels three times and repeating, "There's no place like home."

The slippers were designed by Gilbert Adrian, MGM's chief costume designer.[4][5] 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."[5] This pair was used in costume tests,[1] but was rejected as unsuitable for Dorothy's Kansas farmgirl image.[5] 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 2300 for each shoe.[5] Two weeks before the start of shooting of the film, Adrian added butterfly-shaped red leather bows.[1]

It is speculated that at least six or seven pairs of the final design were made; four pairs used in the movie have been accounted for. According to Rhys Thomas in his Los Angeles Times article, they were likely made by Joe Napoli of the Western Costume Company,[5] and not all at once, but as the need arose. This would help explain why they are different sizes; according to Thomas, "all the ruby slippers are between Size 5 and 6, varying between B and D widths."[5]

These four surviving pairs were made from white silk pumps from the Innes Shoe Company in Los Angeles. There is an embossed gold or silver stamp or an embroidered cloth label bearing the name of the company inside each right shoe.[5] At the time, many movie studios used plain white silk shoes because they were inexpensive and easily dyed. 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.

The shoes were dyed red, then burgundy sequined organza overlays were attached to each shoe's upper and heel. The film's early 3-strip Technicolor process required the sequins to be darker than most red sequins found today; bright red sequins would have appeared orange on screen.[5] The Art Deco-inspired bows comprised three large rectangular red glass jewels with dark-red bugle beads, outlined in orange-red glass rhinestones in silver settings. The stones and beads were sewn to a piece of red strap leather, then to the organza-covered shoe. Three pairs of the surviving slippers have orange felt glued to their soles to deaden noise.

It is theorized that Garland wore one primary pair during shooting. This pair is known as "the People's Shoes" and is available for public viewing at the Smithsonian Institution. The "sister set" to this pair was owned by Michael Shaw. This pair can clearly be seen in the film when Dorothy shows the ruby slippers to the Emerald City doorman. Another pair, the close-up, or insert shoes at the film's climax, when Dorothy taps her heels to return to Kansas. These shoes are in better shape today than all of the other pairs, appear to be better made, and bare no orange felt on the soles, with "#7 Judy Garland" written in the lining. One pair, some believe, was made for Bobbie Koshay, Garland's stunt double. This is most likely the size 6B pair (owned 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 justifying the use of "Double" in the lining, yet still used by Garland and Koshay. Several pairs of Garland's own shoes are size 6 1/2. Also, Garland may have worn this pair for photos and publicity appearances after the film's primary shooting was finished in 1939.

 Subsequent history

For many years, movie studios were careless with old props, costumes, scripts, and other materials, unaware of their increasing value as memorabilia.[6] Often, workers would just take souvenirs without permission, aware that their employers did not particularly care.[6] 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 props and wardrobe.[5] They had been stored away 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,[7] and apparently sold the rest.

An original pair on display at the Smithsonian Institution.The slippers in the MGM auction sold for $15,000. 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.,[4] though the donor insisted on anonymity.[5] 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".[8] However, according to Rhys Thomas, all but one pair had orange felt on the soles.[5] Further, the shoes, though both size 5C, may not match (the left bow is higher than the right; see photograph), fueling speculation that more of the slippers may exist.

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.[5] In 1988, auction house Christie's sold them for $150,000 plus $15,000 buyer's premium to Anthony Landini. Landini immediately started showing them at the Disney/MGM Studios' The Great Movie Ride in Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

The slippers Warner kept are the ones with no felt, leading to speculation that they were worn by the dead Witch of the East, as the soles were visible on film, hence their nickname: the "Witch's slippers".[7] Warner sold his pair in 1981 to an unknown buyer through Christie's East for $12,000. Two weeks after Landini bought his slippers, this pair resurfaced and were 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. 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."[9]

Landini auctioned his pair of slippers, again at Christie's East, on May 24, 2000, for $666,000, which included 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.

Kent Warner sold one pair, size 5 1/2B,[2] to Michael Shaw in 1970.[7] These were stolen from an exhibit at the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota on the night of August 27–28, 2005.[2]

The very elaborate curled-toe "Arabian" pair is owned by actress and memorabilia preservationist Debbie Reynolds. Reynolds acknowledged she got them from Kent Warner.[7] The fate of the bugle-beaded version is unknown.


 Return to Oz

The ruby slippers play an integral role in the 1985 Disney film Return to Oz, for which Disney had to obtain rights from MGM to use reproductions in the film.[10] Unlike the originals, the hand-made British spool-heeled shoes for Return to Oz were covered in hundreds of red crystals.[10] The stones were soaked in sulfuric acid to remove the silver backing,[10] 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.[10] Stagehands were specifically hired to sweep up loose "rubies" that would fall off the slippers after a scene was shot. Being little girls, Fairuza and Emma 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 one, for Ozma (Emma Ridley), three size twos for Dorothy (Fairuza Balk), and two men's size 11 for the Nome King (Nicol Williamson).[10]

In 1985, the Walt Disney Company 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 Ruby Slipper 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.

 Other film reproductions

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.

 Tribute versions

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".[11] 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 F├╝rstenberg, and Moschino.[12][13][14] The "Arabian" design was displayed with the designer entries.


In the 1990-1991 animated production of The Wizard of Oz, 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.


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 Wicked Witch of the East, by her father. At the time the shoes appeared silver. 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 Nessarose to stand without support. The energy of Glinda's spell gives the shoes their famed ruby glow. Maguire's invention thus bridges Baum's silver shoes and the ruby slippers of the film. 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.

 Pop culture

In World of Warcraft, the Ruby Slippers are a pair of epic-level 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."

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