‘The Wizard of Oz’: Judy Garland’s Dorothy Almost Didn’t Have Ruby Slippers

The Wizard of Oz is among the most beloved movies of all time. The tale of Dorothy Gale’s (Judy Garland) accidental trek to the magical land of Oz has been a perennial favorite for generations. Still, the movie’s legendary production has long been mired in dark secrets and tragedy. But even more than all of that, some fans might not realize one of the film’s most iconic elements almost never appeared on screen at all.

A close-up of a pair of ruby slippers
Ruby slippers | Andy Kropa/Getty Images

Judy Garland is best known as Dorothy from ‘The Wizard of Oz’

Garland, of course, was an accomplished singer and actor. But throughout her career, she remained best known for her performance in The Wizard of Oz. Unfortunately, her experience making the movie followed her in more ways than one. Garland’s struggles with addiction essentially began during its production, after all.

At the time, however, little of this was known to the public. All they saw was a gorgeously designed musical fantasy based on the works of L. Frank Baum. And Garland’s endearing performance as Dorothy was a key part of why the movie worked so well. Of course, she had a particularly eye-catching accessory on her side.

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The classic movie almost didn’t include those iconic ruby slippers

Early in The Wizard of Oz, Glinda (Billie Burke) gives Dorothy the ruby slippers formerly owned by the now-deceased Wicked Witch of the East. Their magic protects Dorothy from the wrath of the Wicked Witch of the West (Margarety Hamilton). And after the film’s release, the glittery red shoes became a key piece of movie memorabilia. But in early versions of the movie, they weren’t included at all and for a very good reason.

According to Good Housekeeping, the filmmakers initially planned for Dorothy to wear silver slippers. This would more accurately affect Baum’s books. However, Louis B. Mayer — head of MGM, the studio behind The Wizard of Oz — requested that the color be changed. Legend has it he was eager to show off Technicolor, the new color process making its way through Hollywood at the time. And the results speak for themselves.

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‘The Wizard of Oz’ characters endure more than 80 years later

At the time, The Wizard of Oz broke new ground for filmmaking. But even now, the movie maintains a certain amount of freshness for fans. Once upon a time, the movie aired on television every year, an annual event that predates home video in even its earliest forms. And it ultimately became embraced by generations of fans.

Baum’s books have been adapted several times over, both before and after The Wizard of Oz. But none of those versions have connected with the culture like the 1939 classic. Garland — and her ruby slippers — created a cinematic icon that has yet to be topped in any subsequent versions. At this point, it likely never will.