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'Wizard of Oz' Anniversary: Down the Yellow Book Road

February 05, 1989|John M. Wilson

The observance of the 50th anniversary of the premiere of "The Wizard of Oz" is nearly seven months away--it's Aug. 9. But publishers already have several illustrated books set to cash in on nostalgia, like . . .

The search for the genuine ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in "Oz," subject of a Calendar series last March, will be the focus of a trade paperback due out in June. "The Ruby Slippers of Oz: The Power, Passion and Pursuit of the World's Most Famous Shoes," by Rhys Thomas, will be published by Tale Weaver Publishing, Los Angeles.

In his Calendar articles, Thomas uncovered several existing pairs, one of which sold for $165,000 in an August auction. The late Kent Warner, a studio costumer who saved many of the shoes, will be a central figure in the book, among other zealous collectors.

The slippers are the focus of the book, but "it's really about the weird underworld of Hollywood memorabilia," Thomas said.

In July, Delta will reissue Aljean Harmetz's "The Making of the 'Wizard of Oz,' " originally published in 1977, a history of the picture's production and the MGM era. New York Times reporter Harmetz said new information in the Delta trade paperback was partly inspired by Thomas' discoveries about the ruby slippers. She also publishes--for the first time--the names of 122 of the 124 actors who portrayed the Munchkins.

Helping Harmetz put together the Munchkin cast list was Stephen Cox, whose "The Munchkins Remember 'The Wizard of Oz' and Beyond"--interviews with 28 surviving little people from the movie--will be published by E.P. Dutton in June.

Despite their importance in the film, the individual Munchkin actors were never given screen credit, Cox said--just the collective "Munchkins played by Singer's Midgets."

"Now," said Cox, "they finally get some of the recognition they deserve, and the opportunity to tell their stories."

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