The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is banking on ruby-red slipper magic to rally support for its proposed Academy Museum of Motion Pictures — 70 years after the iconic shoes’ debut in The Wizard Of Oz. Dorothy’s vibrant Technicolor footwear was acquired Wednesday by a group of angel investors led by Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg and Terry Semel and is one of only four pair known to exist. They are primed to be both a centerpiece and rallying cry for the planned museum, located adjacent to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “(Academy CEO) Dawn Hudson spearheaded the effort to get the shoes, and DiCaprio, Spielberg and Semel stepped in to help,” an Academy spokesperson tells Deadline. “The slippers were a passion for Dawn because she knows the significance they have with the moviegoing public.”
If a price tag can be attributed to sentimental value, then the slippers — known as “The Witch’s Shoes,” considered the finest of the known surviving samples — have cemented their place over the decades. The pair, given their name because they’re the ones the Wicked Witch of the East wore when Dorothy’s house fell on her, sold at auction in 1981 for $12,000, and another surviving pair fetched a cool $666,000 in 2000. In December, Moviepropcollectors.com said the shoes were set to go under the gavel with an estimated value between $2 million-$3 million. Asked about what DiCaprio, Spielberg and the others ponied up, the Academy spokesperson only would say the shoes were “very, very valuable.” The shoes that will one day go on display in the museum space now known as LACMA West are the ones Dorothy, played by Judy Garland, clicked three times at the end of the movie, repeating, “There’s no place like home,” magically sending her back to Kansas.
Whether the slippers will serve as a fundraising catalyst for the 300,000-square-foot space located at Wilshire and Fairfax remains to be seen. But AMPAS is clearly using the high-profile acquisition as a yellow brick road for raising both the museum’s profile and potential donor dollars. “These shoes are a holy grail and a great way to kick off letting the public know the types of [memorabilia] that will be available when we do open,” the spokesperson says. “They were tucked away for a long time and to have them back here in Los Angeles is a relief to everyone.”
Will “angel donors” continue to pick up valuable movie artifacts for the museum? “This would be a dream come true,” the spokesperson says. “We’re going to click our heels three times that this good fortune continues.”