The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has acquired the ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz – perhaps the most iconic pair of pumps to grace the silver screen – thanks largely in part to Leonardo DiCaprio.
In an announcement on Wednesday, the Academy named DiCaprio as the primary benefactor in its acquisition of the shoes, which will eventually be displayed at the planned Academy Museum in Los Angeles. According to a press release, DiCaprio led a group of “angel donors,” including Steven Spielberg and Terry Semel, whose gifts to the Academy Foundation enabled the purchase.
Four pairs of ruby slippers were used in the film, but this specific pair is believed to be the primary one used for close-up shots, and in the most pristine condition. Famously, it is believed to be the pair Judy Garland wore when Dorothy clicks her heels three times to return to Kansas.
“The ruby slippers occupy an extraordinary place in the hearts of movie audiences the world over,” said Bob Iger, president and CEO of the Walt Disney Co. and chair of the capital campaign for the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. “This is a transformative acquisition for our collection.”
“Leo’s passionate leadership has helped us bring home this legendary piece of movie history,” added Academy CEO Dawn Hudson. “It’s a wonderful gift to the Academy museum project, and a perfect representation of the work we do year-round to preserve and share our film heritage.”
After production of the film ended in 1939, the ruby slippers were stored on MGM’s Culver City lot for the next three decades. Several pairs of slippers were discovered in 1970 by costumer Kent Warner while he was preparing for that year’s historic auction of MGM costumes, props and other production-related items. One pair of slippers was sold at the auction and was donated anonymously to the Smithsonian in 1979.
Warner kept the finest pair in his private collection for more than a decade before auctioning them in 1981. They were sold again in 1988 to another private collector, and have been displayed publicly only a handful of times in the years since.
The Academy Museum is set to move into Los Angeles’s history May Company building, although an opening date has not yet been set.