One of the most beloved movies of all time, The Wizard of Oz was released in 1939. It is based on the children’s book by L. Frank Baum.
Sony Pictures Studios
Even today, watching The Wizard of Oz can boggle the mind with the special effects and how good they looked. While some sets were clearly filmed on a soundstage, other scenes, like the farm, look like they were filmed on location. Despite this, the entirety of the movie was filmed on the MGM soundstages.
The studio, located in Culver City, was owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer for many years. It then passed to Columbia Pictures before being bought by Sony. It is now known as Sony Pictures Studios. Numerous soundstages on the lot were used to film The Wizard of Oz. According to The Studio Tour, stages 14, 15, 25, and 26 held various sets for the movie, and stage 27 housed Munchkinland.
There is a giant rainbow arch on the studio, honouring the history of the film. Sony Studios is open for tours to the public. You can read about my experience on the tour here.
The Ruby Slippers
Undoubtedly the most famous relic from the film is Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers. A major plot point in the story, Judy Garland wore these slippers throughout her time in Oz.
While many sites have detailed history of the slippers, I will try to summarize a bit here. It is said that there were 6 pairs used in filming, and only 4 pairs are known to exist right now. Those 4 pairs are:
The Smithsonian Pair
This pair was anonymously donated to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. They are currently one of the most visited attractions at the National Museum of American History. It is thought that this pair was used for the dance scenes in the movie. This pair does have orange felt on the bottoms to muffle the sound during filming.
The Double Pair
This pair has the word double written inside, leading some to believe they were worn by Judy Garland’s film double, Bobbie Koshay. There are photos of Judy Garland wearing this pair during photo shoots. However there is some debate as to whether or not she wore them during filming. They also have orange felt on the bottoms. This pair is privately owned by David Elkouby, and are not on display.
The Close-Up Pair
This pair of shoes is thought to be the shoes used when Dorothy clicks her heels together and proclaims “There’s no place like home”. This is due to the scuffs on the soles of the shoes. As these shoes have no felt on the bottom, the theory is that they were used primarily for close-up shots. It is also believed that they were worn by the Wicked Witch of the East. Her legs are seen under Dorothy’s house after landing on her in Munchkinland. This is the only time the bottom of the shoes are seen, and no felt is seen. These shoes were purchased by Leonardo DiCaprio and Stephen Speilberg and will be on display at the Academy of Motion Pictures Museum in Los Angeles.
The Stolen Pair
This last pair of shoes was owned by collector Michael Shaw, who displayed them at various attractions over the years. They were displayed for a period of time in the Old Central School Building in Grand Rapids, Minnesota. This Museum housed a number of displays dedicated to Judy Garland and the Wizard of Oz, as Grand Rapids was her home town. I remember visiting the museum as a child, and I vividly remember seeing these Ruby Slippers on display. While I’m sure we took a photo, I haven’t been able to locate it. I did, however, find a photo of my sister and I outside the museum.
Grand Rapids now has a Judy Garland Museum, located on the grounds of her childhood home. This museum is the location of the infamous theft of the Ruby Slippers. Shaw had loaned his shoes to the museum for display. In 2005 there was a break-in and the shoes were stolen. Nothing else was taken, and there was a theory about it being an inside job. As time passed, the legend of the theft took on new life. A variety of leads were followed, but nothing came of them.
As the years passed, the chances of recovery grew slim, at least, until the FBI held a press conference in 2018. The press conference announced that the shoes had been recovered in a sting operation. The shoes were transported to the Smithsonian to be verified. No announcement has yet been made regarding what will happen to the shoes.
One other item from the movie that has been on display periodically is Dorothy’s dress. This blue dress is the one that Judy Garland wore in the movie. I was fortunate enough to see the dress when it was on display at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Blvd. Unfortunately my photos didn’t turn out well, but they will give you an idea of how the dress looks.
Many more costume pieces have been tracked over the years. Check out this Silver Screen Modes article about some of the items that have come up for auction over the years.