Who could have predicted that two of the four remaining pairs of iconic ruby slippers from the 1939 film, “The Wizard of Oz,” would be making headlines in the same week 73 years later. One pair will be heading west to the future site of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, and the other has been removed from its long-running display at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, for a well-deserved five-week makeover before returning in early April.
Fans of Hollywood trivia may remember that one pair of ruby slippers – said to be the most valuable of the four because the pair was used for close-up shots – went on the auction block in December but remained unsold because the starting bid of $2 million was not achieved.
Now we’ve learned that actor Leonardo DiCaprio has led a group of “angel donors” to purchase the very same pair for the future Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. Last November, DeCaprio co-chaired an inaugural fundraiser for the future movie museum, raising about $3 million from attendees such as Clint Eastwood, Kate Hudson, Ron Howard, Olivia Wilde, Jane Fonda and Harvey Weinstein.
It was not revealed how much they paid for what has been called “The Holy Grail” of Hollywood memorabilia.
On the East Coast, another pair of official ruby slippers that had been a favorite attraction at the Smithsonian since 1979 were removed last week from their display to be conserved. They will be returned to public view on April 5 in a new exhibit called “American Stories” at the National Museum of American History.
Dorothy’s ruby slippers are said to be one of the most asked-about artifacts in the whole Smithsonian. The Smithsonian received its pair of slippers, worn by Garland in dance scenes, from an anonymous donor in 1979.
While the shoes are gone, the yellow brick road of “Oz” exhibit will be represented by the hat and boots from the Scarecrow costume worn by Ray Bolger.
In the classic film, Dorothy earned the shoes when her house landed on the Wicked Witch of the East. (They’re believed to be the same pair seen on the witch’s feet sticking out from under Dorothy’s house.)
In L. Frank Baum’s novel, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dorothy wore silver shoes. In the movie version, the filmmakers changed them to ruby because the film was to be shot in Technicolor.
The shoes proved to be a big challenge for costume designers because the red bugle beads used to simulate rubies were heavy. They decided to replace the beads with sequins – 2,300 for each shoe. The Art Deco-inspired bows on the front of each shoe were comprised of large rectangular red glass jewels and dark-red bugle beads, outlined in red glass rhinestones in silver settings.
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