9 Things You Didn't Know About Dorothy's Ruby Slippers

Dorothy's ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz remain among the most iconic parcels of Hollywood history, and even when they're not being clicked together three times, they still bring audiences a sense of home. The shoes, which were essential elements of Judy Garland's costume in the 1939 technicolor classic, have a storied history of creation, use, and subsequent life that might surprise even the most ardent fans of Oz. Here's what you may not know about those iconic slippers.

They were originally supposed to be silver

Those familiar with L. Frank Baum's source material might remember Dorothy Gale's shoes weren't originally described as having such a brilliant red hue. Instead, they were written as silver, and the original May 9, 1938 script for The Wizard of Oz described them as such as well.

However, given the ground-breakingly colorful nature of the film and the fact that the shoes would spend so much time against the yellow brick road backdrop, the filmmakers decided to tinker with the color formula on the mid-west transplant's kicks and the change was reflected in the May 14, 1938 script revision. The idea for the color change has been credited to screenwriter Noel Langley, who probably had no idea the lasting impact his decision would have on film history.

No one's quite sure how many pairs were made

Experts are split on just how many pairs of Dorothy's shoes were made for production. Some sources estimate that there were five pairs of the shoes made, while some support the theory that there were as many as 10 pairs of Dorothy's ravishing heels constructed for the pic. So far, four pairs of the shoes have been unearthed and accounted for, but there are those who believe the world may yet locate another pair or two of the glittery foot gear before it's all said and done.

There were a few different versions

Long before Garland would slip on the workable pair(s) of her bow-embellished ruby slippers, designer Gilbert Adrian came up with a curl-toed spec version that was riddled with real jewels and given an "Arabian" look that was considered a good match for the Wicked Witch of the East, from whose dead body Dorothy springs them — but might not work well for Dorothy, even if she wasn't in Kansas anymore.

Those shoes would later be re-designed to include red sequins (over 2,300 of them at that) and felt-bottomed heels (except for the Wicked Witch's version, where the soles were shown on-screen, of course) for more practical on-set use.

One pair was found in a dusty old basement

Who could've guessed an old MGM storage facility might prove to be such a gold mine for Tinseltown trinkets like these? In 1970, a costume affiliate named Kent Warner reportedly found several pairs of the ruby slippers in the studio's basement and helped himself to the memorabilia. He then kept a pair, sold one pair to actress Debbie Reynolds, and then gave a third pair to auction, where they were sold for $15,000 to an anonymous buyer who reportedly donated the pair to the Smithsonian in 1979.

Another pair was won in a small town contest

According to the Los Angeles Times, one of the shoes' proudest owners was a woman from Tennessee who'd won them in a Memphis photography contest in 1940 and kept them in a bank vault for decades before finally putting them up for auction in 1988.

Of her decision to finally sell them, she said, "I have had them all these many years and I find it is time to pass them on to others to enjoy. . . . I have shown them to many school children, including my own. They have served my purpose." The woman only came forth with her ownership of the shoes after reading about the MGM auction, which spurred national knowledge that there were, in fact, more than just the one pair of Dorothy's slippers.

Lady Gaga owns a pair

Given her recent (successful) foray into the acting business, it's probably not too surprising that pop singer-turned-thespian Lady Gaga has an affinity for the more precious things from Tinseltown. In 2011, for her 25th birthday, the starlet was gifted a pair of Dorothy's iconic red slippers.

She reportedly cherished the present more than most, and not just because of their value to the industry. She revealed that she'd been bullied in high school by a girl who won the role of Dorothy in the school play above her. "Little did they know that I have a real background with these shoes ... On behalf of myself and all of those bullied around the world, now these f**king ruby slippers are mine," she said of the acquisition before using it as a teachable moment for her Little Monsters, by saying: "When you don't feel like Dorothy today, maybe you feel like someone on the chorus or the Scarecrow or maybe you feel like the Tin Man or the Wicked Witch, just know you will have opportunities in your real life to change things and maybe someone, somebody will hand you a pair of ruby slippers."

One pair was stolen

In 2005, a thief made off with one of the pairs of Wizard of Oz slippers that were housed in a Minnesota museum, on loan from a collector named Michael Shaw. Some speculated that the thief may have thrown the shoes into a local river after the theft out of fear of the consequences of being caught because, after 10 years, they were still never recovered.

Shaw said of the theft, "It's the worst nightmare for me. The theft is not only a crime against me, but against children. Those shoes have been used to raise money for AIDS, for helping get kids off the street, reading programs, and for children with Down's syndrome and autism." An anonymous reward of $1 million has been put up for their safe return.

The Smithsonian may not hold the "real" pair

Given the breadth of ruby slipper existence in the Merry Old Land of Oz, there is a chance the pair of ruby slippers that are currently the source of such public interest and patronage at their Smithsonian display might not be the real deal slippers worn by Garland on the set of the movie. The Smithsonian famously raised over $349,000 through a crowd-sourcing campaign to preserve their pair of ruby slippers after wear and tear began to take a toll on their survivability, and they've since opined that since they appear to have been "well-worn," they may have indeed been the footwear Garland used to dance her way to Emerald City.

As detailed by The New York Times, the Smithsonian's pair have two inscriptions which read "#1 Judy Garland" and "#6 Judy Garland" in them, indicating that they were mismatched widths to fit her size five feet.

Debbie Reynolds and Leonardo DiCaprio have bought other pairs

It's probably not too surprising that some of the most rabid collectors of Hollywood's royal memorabilia like this are actors themselves. Not only did Reynolds purchased the Arabian-style pair, among other MGM classics gear, but in 2012, Leonardo DiCaprio teamed with director Steven Spielberg and other members of Hollywood's elite to purchase another pair (which were also originally in Warner's possession) for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' collection.

The latter pair are believed by many to have been the ones originally worn by Garland in the movie, as historian Rhys Thomas wrote, "Of the four pairs of authentic ruby slippers known to exist, this pair offered by Profiles in History, marked '#7 Judy Garland' and known as the 'Witch's Shoes,' are the most important and most valuable." The museum displaying this pair is expected to open in 2018.