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In Victor Fleming’s “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), Glinda, the Good Witch of the North (Billie Burke), gifts Dorothy (Judy Garland) a pair of ruby slippers to keep her safe from the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton) and help her return home to Kansas after a tornado transported Dorothy to the magical Land of Oz.
“Then close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, ‘There’s no place like home,” says Glinda.
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Designed by Gilbert Adrian, MGM Studios’ former chief costume designer, the red slippers are known as one of the most iconic shoes in cinema’s history. The footwear was reportedly covered in 2,300 red sequins — originally, the shoe was supposed to be covered in red jewels, but the prototype turned out to be too heavy — and featured a short block heel.
Originally silver in L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of OZ” book, which inspired the movie, the slippers were changed to ruby to take advantage of color photography. “The Wizard of Oz” was one of the first films to use Technicolor, a process using dye-transfer techniques to produce a color print.
Although it wasn’t confirmed how many pairs of ruby slippers were made for the movie, it’s believed that production worked with seven to ten different pairs throughout filming. However, only five of them survived.
From the 1930s to the 1960s, movie studios failed to recognize the value of film memorabilia, often turning props and costumes into trash or donations. This changed in 1970 when MGM organized its first auction, selling thousands of dollars. Only then were the ruby slippers brought back to the spotlight.
National Museum of American History
Costume designer Kent Warner, who was hired by MGM to help catalog and prepare for the studios’ auction in 1970, is known for finding and acquiring two pairs of ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz.”
One of the pairs was sold for $15,000 by an unidentified client during the auction. This pair is believed to be the one at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. The museum received the pair from an anonymous donation in 1979.
“These size-five shoes are well-worn, suggesting they were Garland’s primary pair for dance sequences,” says the museum.
In 2016, the Smithsonian Institution raised more than $300,000 to renovate the shoes with help from the Museum Conservation Institute, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
The Stolen Shoes
The other pair found by Kent Warner was sold to collector Michael Shaw, who loaned them to the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Mich. In 2005, the shoes were stolen by Terry Jon Martin.
The FBI recovered the shoes in 2018 after a 13-year search. In 2023, Martin was indicted by a federal grand jury for the theft. According to his lawyer, Martin has never seen “The Wizard of Oz” and “got rid of the slippers less than two days after he took them” once he realized the shoes weren’t made of real jewels.
The stolen shoes were sent to the Smithsonian Institution in 2018. The museum announced that the slippers donated in 1979, which were always slightly mismatched in size, actually created two matching pairs with the recovered shoes.
Martin, 76, is in hospice care due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. He is set to be sentenced on Jan. 29.
National Four Star Club
A Tennessee woman named Roberta Jeffries Bauman won a pair of the ruby slippers in 1940, after placing second in a National Four Star Club “Name the Best Movies of 1939” contest. According to an article from the Los Angeles Times in 1988, Bauman used to keep her shoes inside her closet. After the other pair was sold for $15,000 at the MGM auction in 1970, Bauman transferred them to a bank security box.
In 1988, Bauman signed a contract with Christie’s East auction house, which sold them for $165,000 to Anthony Landini.
Landini partnered with The Walt Disney Company to exhibit the shoes at Disney’s and MGM Studios’ Florida Theme Park in 1989. In 2000, Landini sold the shoes for $666,000 to David Elkouby, who owns Starworld, a film memorabilia store in Los Angeles.
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
In 1988, two weeks after Landini acquired a pair from Bauman, an unknown collector offered a pair to Philip Samuels, who was the under-bidder of Bauman shoes. Samuels bought the pair for $165,000 and used the shoes to fundraise for children’s charities.
In 2011, house Profiles in History announced Samuels’ ruby slippers, which are considered to be one of the best conserved of them all, as the centerpiece of its “Icons of Hollywood” auction. The shoes were estimated at $3 million dollars.
A syndicate organized by Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg and others bought the pair by an undisclosed amount and donated to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.
The first version of the iconic shoes designed by Gilbert Adrian featured a curled-toe silhouette. These “Arabian” shoes were given to Debbie Reynolds by Kent Warner.
In 2011, Reynolds, who was a known collector of Hollywood memorabilia, sold the ruby shoes for $510,000 at an auction. She also sold Judy Garland’s blue Dorothy dress for $690,000.
7 Iconic Movie Shoes
About the Author:
Renan Botelho is the senior Digital Editor for Footwear News, reporting on the latest fashion trends and celebrity style. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from the Methodist University of São Paulo. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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