The Wizard of Oz (1939)
The Ruby Slippers were worn by Dorothy Gale, a character played by Judy Garland (1922–1969) in the MGM film, “Wizard of Oz,” 1939. This fantasy tale about a journey to a magical land was based on the 1900 novel by L. Frank Baum (1856–1919); it had previously been a book, a cartoon, a stage musical, and several silent motion pictures before MGM created its hit film. In addition to its many other merits, the MGM movie ranks as a milestone in the history of Technicolor because of its extensive color sequences set in the Land of Oz.
The magical shoes, changed from the book’s silver slippers to those with an iridescent red hue, were created by Gilbert Adrian, MGM Studios’s chief costume designer, and played a central role in the film. Dorothy obtained them from Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, and kept them from the Wicked Witch of the West in order to get home.
Several pairs of slippers were made for the movie, a common practice with important costumes and props; this pair was worn by Garland in dance scenes. The felt on the soles muffled her dancing footsteps on the yellow brick road. The most pervasive and influential form of popular art in the 20th century, American movies reach millions of people around the world and provide passing images that help shape perceptions of and about Americans. Unlike most films, “The Wizard of Oz” has endured and even attained greater popularity as it was introduced to new generations of audiences through television. One explanation for the movie’s lasting appeal to Americans is its central message: In pursuing what you need, you find that you already have it—an affirmation of the virtue of self-sufficiency.
The day a 15-year-old told Louis B. Mayer to go to hell and still became one of his biggest stars, as told by Elizabeth Taylor
1948/9: It was advised that Judy needed a year off. Mayer’s response: ‘Out of the question. We’ve got fourteen million dollars tied up in this girl.’
Judy hid her problems well; on-screen, she radiated complete self-possession. And she was a huge box-office, one of the very few Hollywood stars of the late 1940’s who could carry a movie on her own. ‘If they could have put Judy in every single picture they made, they would have!’, said June Allyson. Hollywood’s best claimed to work with Judy Garland.
1950: Arthur Freed, Judy’s champion for over fifteen years, sent word that she would always have a place in his unit [at MGM]. His new production of Show Boat would be ready to start soon, and next year, maybe, they could tackle a screen version of South Pacific. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
For once, Judy said no. Vincente [her husband] was thinking about going to Europe soon to start work with Gene Kelly on An American in Paris. Perhaps she and Liza would go, too, for a vacation. The kind of musicals Freed was proposing were supercolossal productions, expensive extravaganzas designed to compete with television. They would bring with them too much pressure… too much work. There had been little else than work for so long.
In September, Judy sent her doctor to see Louis B. Mayer and ask that her studio contract be canceled. Legend would have it that MGM fired Garland — perhaps writers felt it made her more of a victim that way — but the truth is she wanted out. She needed a change.
[…] ‘I’m learning to take myself as show people know how to take others, the good with the bad. I’m people, too. If I can remember that, I’ll be all right.’
Originally Judy Garland had not wanted to make The Harvey Girls. She was married to MGM director Vincente Minnelli at the time of the making of the film. During this time Minnelli was making Yolanda and the Thief, which also was a production of the Freed Unit at MGM (the same unit that the Harvey Girls was being made under). Garland pleaded with Arthur Freed to let her star in Yolanda and the Thief instead of The Harvey Girls. Freed thought that The Harvey Girls would be a better vehicle and told Judy he would not allow her to switch. This turned out to be good for Garland because The Harvey Girls became a huge success, while Yolanda and the Thief bombed at the box office.
MGM had bought the rights to the Harvey Girls as a western vehicle for Lana Turner and Clark Gable. For years the story was sent along to numerous studio script writers in an attempt to get the film of the ground, but it never seemed to happen. Then the story was sent over to the Freed Unit after MGM was unsuccessful in getting screen rights to the western musical Oklahoma. Arthur Freed gave it the musical touch and the Harvey Girls finally came to fruition.
For the role of Georgia Garrett, Warner Bros. asked MGM to loan out Judy Garland to them for the filming. Judy Garland was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood and MGM would not lend her out. Not only that but at the time she was overworked and suffering from her own personal problems with health, and her marriage.
Return to Oz was made without the involvement of MGM, the studio that made the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. No approval was necessary, because by 1985, the Oz books on which the film was based were in the public domain, and the subsequent Oz books had been optioned to Disney many years earlier. A large fee was paid, however, to use the ruby slippers, which were still the intellectual property of MGM at the time (the ruby slippers did not appear in the original novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”; they were invented for the 1939 film to better take advantage of the newly developed Technicolor process. In the novel, Dorothy’s magical shoes are silver.)
For a while now I’ve been working hard to get a Judy documentary on her years at MGM on YouTube. Now it’s finally up! The documetary is about 50 minutes long and is posted on Youtube in four different parts (see below). It features interviews with such people as Lorna Luft, June Allyson, Ann Miller, Hugh Martin and many more! Please enjoy!
June Allyson and Judy Garland.
Warner Bros. has announced the release of Listen, Darling as part of the Warner Archives Collection. The film has been newly remastered and is available for pre-order right now for $19.95. The official release date for this Garland gem is March 20th of this year. In the film Judy belts out her standard, Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart and the cute Ten Pins in the Sky. Listen, Darling is the seventh Judy Garland film to be released through the Warner Archives Collection.
“How Judy and I got to know and love each other so much, I’ll never know. Because after [Girl Crazy], they immediately tried to pit us against each other for film roles. When I got to Metro, they would say to me, ‘Well, if you don’t behave yourself, you know we’ve got Judy. We’ll put her in the picture; she can do anything.’ And they’d say to Judy, ‘You know, if you don’t behave yourself, we’ve got this new kid on the block who can just step right into your shoes.’ Which was all silly, really. Arthur Freed knew if there was no Judy, there would be no picture. If they could have put Judy in every single picture they made, they would have! Because - I promise you - she had more talent in one little finger than all of us put together. When I think of a star, Judy immediately comes to my mind. Although she’s never left it. She could tell a story that would last an hour and you’d never get bored… you just loved to watch her face when she talked. And she would do these imitations of people that were just right on. And sometimes she wasn’t very kind - which was even funnier!” — June Allyson.