In 2005, the beloved film The Wizard of Oz made worldwide headlines… this time, for sordid reasons. An existing pair of Dorothy Gale’s ruby slippers—one of at least five that survived the production—were stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When the FBI located and returned the slippers in September of 2018, their recovery raised more questions than it answered. The agency has never revealed the identity of the thief or where the shoes were in those 13 years, only stating that the slippers were recovered as part of a sting operation.
Veteran podcast producers Seyward Darby and Ariel Ramchandani have produced No Place Like Home, a gripping miniseries about the shoes’ disappearance and return. While they’re unable to answer any of the questions surrounding their theft or recovery, they assemble a diverse cast—including costume historians, FBI agents, auctioneers who specialize in Hollywood memorabilia, and residents of Grand Rapids, Michigan—to explore the importance of The Wizard of Oz and why the theft of Dorothy Gale’s ruby slippers was such a significant crime. The eight-part miniseries ends on August 6, and episodes are available on your podcatcher of choice.
If No Place Like Home made you curious about the production and afterlife of what Darby and Ramchandani describe as “the most American of movies,” here are six books that will allow you to inhabit the merry old land of Oz for a little while longer.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
After a violent cyclone picks them up, Dorothy Gale and her dog Toto find themselves in the land of the Munchkins. She and her friends—a Scarecrow, a Tin Woodsman, and a Cowardly Lion—must follow the yellow brick road to get home.
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a blockbuster from its 1900 publication date, drawing admiration from readers of all ages—and, occasionally, controversy from conservative authority figures. As with any book that’s adapted into a movie, not everything from the book makes it to the screen. Fans of the movie will especially appreciate that Dorothy Gale’s slippers were originally silver, but the producers changed them to ruby slippers so the red color would pop in the Technicolor segments of the film.
Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland
Star of a beloved movie classic. Troubled chanteuse. Gay icon. Judy Garland took on many roles in her brief life. For many years, however, the only biographies available on Garland were either movie-star hagiography or dry tomes that never quite captured her effervescent charm onscreen and the tragedy of her real life.
Journalist Gerald Clarke took a 68-page manuscript of the autobiography Garland had begun writing as his starting point to write the definitive biography of the actress. By contextualizing Garland’s troubles in her place in the MGM studios star machinery, he shows the destructive effects of fame on children and other vulnerable individuals. Get Happy was the inspiration for the 2017 biopic Judy, as well as for Erin McKeown’s breakthrough album Grand.
Related: 10 Top-Notch Works of Journalism
Notes on a Cowardly Lion
The success of The Wizard of Oz was also a life-changing experience for comedian Bert Lahr, who had a decade-long career as a character actor in low-budget movies before being cast as the Cowardly Lion. Lahr’s above-the-title role in a legendary movie allowed him the freedom to take on more adventurous work; he created the role of Vladimir in the original American production of Waiting for Godot and appeared in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Aristophanes’ The Snakes onstage.
Lahr’s son John Lahr has made a name for himself on the other side of the footlights, as a critic for The New Yorker as well as a playwright and biographer. The younger Lahr traces his father’s career from his start as a baggy-pants comic in burlesque troupes to his final years as a cherished character actor of stage and screen.
My Judy Garland Life
Novelist Susie Boyt was born into a kind of European intellectual aristocracy—her great-grandfather was the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, her father an acclaimed painter—but the tragedies she experienced at a young age made her identify with Judy Garland.
In My Judy Garland Life, Boyt explores her love of the actress by drawing parallels between her life and that of her idol and by rubbing shoulders with Garland associates like Mickey Rooney and Liza Minnelli. While many stories about celebrity obsession can be creepy, Boyt’s self-awareness and sense of humor give her anecdotes a poignant and funny bent, as with her story about wanting to steal Minnelli’s cigarette butts and half-eaten sandwich. A must-read for those fascinated with the fan culture surrounding Judy Garland.
The Wizard of Oz: The Official 75th Anniversary Companion
When a movie like The Wizard of Oz is so innovative and so beloved by generations of filmgoers, you have to celebrate its diamond anniversary in style. Wizard of Oz historians Jay Scarfone and William Stillman—who have one of the largest collections of Oz memorabilia in the world—delve into the making of this groundbreaking movie.
You’ll learn about the behind-the-scenes drama, see how special effects like flying monkeys were made, and gain insight into the enduring popularity of The Wizard of Oz. Oz fanatics will definitely want to check this out.
MGM Style: Cedric Gibbons and the Art of the Golden Age of Hollywood
From the start of the talkies era, MGM was known as the most lavish of the Hollywood studios. Production designer Cedric Gibbons played a major role in its posh image with his eye-popping art deco production design.
MGM Style focuses on Gibbons’ creative process and his work ethic in bringing these gorgeous sets from the drawing board to the sound stage. Oz fans will enjoy learning about Gibbons’ concept for the look of the Emerald City.
Related: 8 Books Set in Old Hollywood
Featured still from The Wizard of Oz via Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer