The Wizard of Oz

Treasures of American History

The Wizard of Oz

For generations, this 1939 MGM fantasy musical has held a cherished place in American popular culture. Based on the classic children’s book by L. Frank Baum, it tells the story of Dorothy Gale, a Kansas farm girl transported to the magical Land of Oz.

With its dazzling special effects, costumes, and sets rendered in vibrant Technicolor, The Wizard of Oz represents one of the greatest achievements in movie magic.

Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers, 1938

Sixteen-year-old Judy Garland wore these sequined shoes as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

In the original book by L. Frank Baum, Dorothy’s magic slippers are silver; for the Technicolor movie, they were changed to ruby red to show up more vividly against the yellow-brick road. One of several pairs used during filming, these size-five shoes are well-worn, suggesting they were Garland’s primary pair for dancing scenes.

Script for The Wizard of Oz, 1938

The challenge of adapting L. Frank Baum’s book to film began with the screenplay. From March 1938 to March 1939, more than a dozen people, most uncredited, worked on writing and revising the script.

This page, from an early version of the script by lead screenwriter Noel Langley, notes the change from black and white to color. In this famous scene, Dorothy steps out of her farmhouse into Oz and says to her dog Toto, “I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Scarecrow Costume, 1938

Ray Bolger wore this patchwork outfit as the Scarecrow, one of the trio of friends who accompany Dorothy to the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz.

Designed by Adrian, MGM’s premier costume artist, the straw-stuffed clothing fit loosely enough so that Bolger could perform his comedic dance number, “If I Only Had a Brain.” A sponge-rubber mask, resembling burlap, completed the Scarecrow’s costume. Under the hot lights on the set, the mask was stifling, and it frequently had to be replaced.

Technicolor Camera, around 1938

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s journey from Kansas to Oz is symbolized by a shift from black and white to Technicolor. This camera was one of several used to film the Oz scenes.

Invented in 1932, the Technicolor camera recorded on three separate negatives—red, blue, and green—which were then combined to develop a full-color positive print. The box encasing the camera, a “blimp,” muffled the machine’s sound during filming.

The Wizard of Oz poster (reprint of 1939 original)