There are too many iconic pairs of shoes to declare one top dog, but right up there at the top? The ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz, definitely. The glitzy heels are known globally and have inspired both theft and their own movie (more on that last point in a second). The new documentary, debuted at this year's SXSW festival, is aptly titled The Slippers and pulls back the curtain on the shoes and how they helped create the market for movie memorabilia. The sparklers helped start the Hollywood collecting craze, a cottage industry that sees big numbers—one of Scarlett O'Hara's gowns from Gone With the Wind sold at auction last year for $137,000 after initially being purchased for, oh, $20.
For a more thorough look at the ruby shoes, we asked The Slippers director Morgan White to share some of the fascinating facts he learned while putting the movie together.
No one actually knows how many pairs were created for the movie.
"There are four known pairs in existence today, five if you count the Arabian test shoes that never made their way to the screen," White revealed (the Arabian version have slightly upturned toes). "Nobody knows how many pairs of shoes were created for the film, as the studio records were destroyed many years ago."
They require special care at the Smithsonian.
The pair of shoes that lives at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History is a hot ticket. "They are second only to 'the Star Spangled Banner' in foot traffic and draw so many visitors each year that the carpet surrounding their display has to be changed regularly." The Smithsonian's set have felt-covered bottoms, modified to muffle the sound of Dorothy's dancing.
The shoes in the original story were silver.
The book the movie was adapted from had silver shoes, not red. The decision to make the change (using rich burgundy sequins no less) was likely due to a desire to ensure they popped on screen. "The film was shot on a special Technicolor process that was very expensive, and MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer ordered them changed to something more colorful."
They were lost prior to being auctioned off in 1970.
The pair that now lives in the Smithsonian—and started the craze for collecting—was sold for $15,000 in 1970. Before they could hit the auction block they had to be located though, a feat that proved difficult. "During the auction preparations nobody could find the shoes. It took costumer Kent Warner months to find them among the 450,000 costumes that were there," White told us. "Eventually he found them in a dusty old barn that used to exist on the MGM lot."
There's still a missing pair—and the reward is $1 million.
Stolen from Minnesota's Judy Garland Museum in 2005, the pair was never recovered (even with a hefty reward on the table). White recounted action that happened last summer: "The museum sent of team of divers to an old mine pit to search for the shoes, believed to have been discarded there, but in the end they found nothing."
Leonardo DiCaprio bought a pair.
Leo was named the prime benefactor for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences' move to buy a pair back in 2012. In good condition, the shoes are thought to have been used for close-ups and will eventually live at the Academy Museum.
Cleaning them is not easy.
A behind-the-scenes video reveals that the sequins are made of gelatin, a material that doesn't play nice with most cleaners. Instead, restoration techs have to clean each individual sequin with cotton dipped in ice water.
7 things you never knew about the ruby slippers from ' The Wizard of Oz'
Headshot of American actor and singer Judy Garland (1922-1969) wearing a bracelet, circa 1950s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Comic actor Jimmy Durante (1893 - 1980) with child star Judy Garland (1922 - 1969), the entertainer and leading lady. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
circa 1931: Judy Garland (1922 - 1969) formerly Frances Gumm was part of a show biz family that toured in vaudeville. She starred in 'The Wizard of Oz' and 'A Star is Born' . She married five times, and though a legendary performer, had a reputation for being difficult. Viewed at a tea party. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
At age 5, Judy Garland donned her first ruffles for a leading role in a kiddie revue, staged at a Los Angeles Theatre., in 1926. (AP Photo)
Singer-actor Bing Crosby, left, visits singer-actress Judy Garland on the set of "The Harvey Girls" in Hollywood, Ca., in 1945. (AP Photo)
American actors Bert Lahr (1895 - 1967) (far right), Ray Bolger (1904 - 1987) (back row, right), Judy Garland (1922 - 1969) (sitting, right), composer Harold Arlen (1905 - 1986) (sitting left), and various MGM and music publishing executives sing songs from the 1939 film musical 'The Wizard of Oz' around a microphone in the NBC radio studio, circa 1939. (Image by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
This is an undated photograph of child actress Judy Garland at an unknown location. (AP Photo)
1945: Film director Vincente Minnelli (1903 - 1986) kisses singer and actress Judy Garland (1922 - 1969) on the brow at their wedding. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney put their heads together over a television script for their first on stage reunion in 18 years on June 26, 1963. The occasion was the taping of the first of 32 variety shows which Judy will do for CBS next season. Their last appearance together was in âZiegfield Folliesâ in 1945. (AP Photo)
Judy Garland, as Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," is presented with the Witch's broom in a scene from the 1939 movie. Garland is accompanied by, from left to right, Bert Lahr as the Cowardly Lion, Jack Haley as the Tin Man, and Ray Bolger as the Scarecrow. (AP Photo)
Actress Judy Garland portrays Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz." (AP Photo)
Judy Garland, right, and Billie Burke pose in character for the 1939 movie, "The Wizard of Oz." Burke portrayed Glinda the Good Witch and Garland was Dorothy in the classic movie. (AP Photo/file)
Actress Judy Garland and musician Dave Rose pose at the airport in Hollywood, Calif., on July 29, 1941. Garland and Rose are returning from Las Vegas, Nev., where they were married by a Justice of the Peace in a suprise elopement on July 28. (AP Photo)
1944: American film actress Judy Garland (Frances Ethel Gumm, 1922 - 1969) at home answering fan mail. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
American actor and singer Judy Garland (1922-1969) holds her hands up near her face, circa 1950s.(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Actor Jackie Cooper and Judy Garland are shown together in Hollywood, Ca., on Aug. 15, 1936. (AP Photo)
Actress Judy Garland rehearses a scene with her real-life daughter Liza, who at two-and-a-half-years-old follows her mother's theatrical footsteps, on the set of Garland's recent motion picture "In the Good Old Summertime," in Hollywood, Calif., on December 3, 1948. (AP Photo)
17th October 1957: American film star and entertainer Judy Garland (1922 - 1969) performing on stage at the Dominion Theatre in London. (Photo by Terry Fincher/Keystone/Getty Images)
American actor and singer Judy Garland (1922-1969) stands arm in arm with actor Rosalind Russell (1907 - 1906), circa 1960s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
6th April 1951: Judy Garland, born Frances Gumm (1922-1969), US film actress and singer, at the Dorchester Hotel. (Photo by Express/Express/Getty Images)
Entertainer Judy Garland, right, looks a little starstruck as she meets Queen Elizabeth II in the foyer of the Palladium Theater in London, after a royal variety performance, Nov. 18, 1957. Garland was one of a group of stage stars who appeared before a glittering audience, among whom were the queen and other members of the royal family. (AP Photo)
Singer-actress Judy Garland hugs her 17-year-old daughter Liza Minnelli after watching Liza star in the Off-Broadway revival of the 1941 musical "Best Foot Forward" in New York City, April 3, 1963. (AP Photo/Marty Lederhandler)
8th April 1951: American actress and singer Judy Garland (1922 - 1969) holds her hat on as she takes a walk in London in strong winds. (Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
circa 1955: Singer and film star, Judy Garland (1922 - 1969) at an airport. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
17th October 1957: Hollywood entertainer Judy Garland, 'Miss Showbusiness' as she is known, performing at the opening of her new show at the Dominion theatre in London. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
American actress and singer Judy Garland (1922 - 1969), in her London hotel suite. She arrived with her three children Joey, Lorna and Liza, following a reported attempt by her husband, producer Sid Luft, to declare her 'an unfit mother'. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)