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    • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    San Francisco

    1936

    Costume seen on Jeanette MacDonald as Mary Blake

    • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    The Wizard of Oz

    1939

    Costume seen on Billie Burke as Glinda

Additional Images

About the Costume

This costume is arguably one of the most famous in all of cinema history. It was worn in 1939 by Billie Burke as Glinda in The Wizard of Oz. The question is – was it used at any time before or after The Wizard of Oz?

The truth is, we don’t know for sure. There has been some suggestion that the gown was used on Jeanette MacDonald in the 1938film Sweethearts and on Miliza Korjus in The Great Waltz, also from 1938, as well as by Lana Turner in the 1941 Ziegfeld Girl. Unfortunately, I have yet to find any convincing photos or research to back this up. That being said, the odds that this gown went on to be pulled apart and used again are very high. If the gown ever appeared anywhere else, the most likely candidate would be by Jeanette MacDonald in the 1936 film San Francisco, though it cannot be said with any kind of certainty. 

Costume designer Adrian is credited with creating the “gowns” for the 1936 film San Fransisco. Three years later, when he designed all of the costumes for The Wizard of Oz, he may have taken his previous creation from San Franciso and altered it for use on Glinda, the good witch of the North. 

Glinda’s dress, having been first used on Jeanette MacDonald in San Francisco, has been a part of Wizard of Oz trivia for years and years. I actually recall reading about it in a book about the making of the film years and years ago when I was quite young. David J. Hogan, the author of The Wizard of Oz FAQ, also mentions the fact that the dress was reused and stated that Burke looked at her costume and joked that “I look like a refugee from a German opera!”

The actresses only had height differences of about one inch, which is not terribly significant. The dress would have been heavily made over, but Adrian pulling an already extant gown to use as a base for Glinda is absolutely not something unheard of.

Interestingly enough, the fact that Glinda’s gown is pink is actually significant. Before color films became a common reality, designers had to deal with the fact that the colors from their costumes often translated differently on film. The most well-known example of this is the fact that Bette Davis’ famous ‘red dress’ in Jezebel was, in fact, brown. Red did not photograph properly in black and white. The color white also did not always photograph properly either, and if a designer wanted to feature a white dress on screen, they very often made the dress a pale blue or pale pink (the same rule applied for linens as well!). Norma Shearer’s famous white gown from Marie Antoinette was actually a pale blue, and so the idea of Jeanette MacDonald’s “white” dress being pulled from MGM costume stock actually being pink is interesting to consider.

I’ve had several people tell me that the fact that the dresses are the same is much more obvious when they’ve viewed the film on television, or in one instance, someone wrote to me about having seen San Francisco on the big screen. You can see the scene in which the gown appears here, and though the video has been “colorized” from its original black and white.

Is the gown the same? The truth is, we don’t know. Maybe not. Maybe so. Several books tell us that it is, but the stars on the skirt are so different that one would lead towards these two gowns being different. That being said, the chances that the dress was used after Oz are high. Dresses were reused. It didn’t matter where they came from. 

Where is the gown now? 

The short answer is we don’t know.

The longer answer is that we can speculate about the fate of this dress.

One person commented that they had seen in a documentary that the dress had been destroyed in a fire. However, I have been unable to locate the documentary or any other documentation to prove this. We do know there was a fire at vault 7 at MGM in 1965 or 1967 (there is speculation as to the date), which destroyed a good many silent films. To learn more about the fire, check out this great article at Classic Film Haven. TCM also has a listing of studio fires, though they focus on the destruction of film rather than sets, props, or costumes. If the costume was destroyed in any of these fires, or if there is another fire that destroyed a part of the wardrobe department, I have been unable to find anything about it.

If the dress was not the victim of fire, it could just as easily have been the victim of age. It could have gone on to be reused for more MGM films after 1939 and eventually just worn out, as many costumes did. It could very easily have been tossed into the garbage. It’s sad to think about, but this was the fate of many costumes that were beyond repair. In most instances, the person throwing the costume away had no idea where it originated.

Another possibility is that it was auctioned in the 1970 MGM auction. I do not have access to the full auction catalog (the auction catalogs themselves often sell for $500 or more), so I cannot say for sure. We do know, however, that quite a few Wizard of Oz costumes were sold during this auction – so if it was sold, this would have been when it happened. The auction saw the selling off of the costume of the Cowardly Lion, and the Wicked Witch’s hat and dress (which were both used in another film), one copy of Dorothy’s famous costume, a pair of ruby slippers, and pair of unused “Arabian’ ruby slippers. Were any other Oz costumes found and cataloged? A man by the name of Kent Warner was in charge of sorting through and cataloging MGM’s costumes to put up for sale. We know that he found a couple of additional pairs of ruby slippers and Dorothy costumes which he kept for himself and sold privately later. He also found Glinda’s shoes, which he gifted to Glenn Brown. These shoes recently went up for auction. Did Kent happen to find Glinda’s costume? Did he sell it or give it away to someone? 

Recently someone by the name of Rachel contacted me and told me her great grandfather, Roy Victor Ahlstrom was a friend with the associate producers on Oz, and he was able to purchase the dress. Unfortunately, she says it was stored in a trunk and fell apart. 

Whatever the fate of the dress may be, we likely will not know about it unless someone comes forward or if it someday comes up for auction. You can read more about the Wizard of Oz costumes sold at auction over at Silver Screen Modes. You can also see some exciting footage of the auction here.

 

About the Costume

Have you seen this gown somewhere else? Do you need to be given credit for this sighting? Do you have corrections, additions or changes you would like to make?

Have you ever watched a film and noticed a character walk by in a gown that you just know you’ve seen before? Recycled Movie Costumes is dedicated to documenting the life of a costume through its various appearances on film and television.

Additional Images

About the Costume

This costume is arguably one of the most famous in all of cinema history. It was worn in 1939 by Billie Burke as Glinda in The Wizard of Oz. The question is – was it used at any time before or after The Wizard of Oz?

The truth is, we don’t know for sure. There has been some suggestion that the gown was used on Jeanette MacDonald in the 1938film Sweethearts and on Miliza Korjus in The Great Waltz, also from 1938, as well as by Lana Turner in the 1941 Ziegfeld Girl. Unfortunately, I have yet to find any convincing photos or research to back this up. That being said, the odds that this gown went on to be pulled apart and used again are very high. If the gown ever appeared anywhere else, the most likely candidate would be by Jeanette MacDonald in the 1936 film San Francisco, though it cannot be said with any kind of certainty. 

Costume designer Adrian is credited with creating the “gowns” for the 1936 film San Fransisco. Three years later, when he designed all of the costumes for The Wizard of Oz, he may have taken his previous creation from San Franciso and altered it for use on Glinda, the good witch of the North. 

Glinda’s dress, having been first used on Jeanette MacDonald in San Francisco, has been a part of Wizard of Oz trivia for years and years. I actually recall reading about it in a book about the making of the film years and years ago when I was quite young. David J. Hogan, the author of The Wizard of Oz FAQ, also mentions the fact that the dress was reused and stated that Burke looked at her costume and joked that “I look like a refugee from a German opera!”

The actresses only had height differences of about one inch, which is not terribly significant. The dress would have been heavily made over, but Adrian pulling an already extant gown to use as a base for Glinda is absolutely not something unheard of.

Interestingly enough, the fact that Glinda’s gown is pink is actually significant. Before color films became a common reality, designers had to deal with the fact that the colors from their costumes often translated differently on film. The most well-known example of this is the fact that Bette Davis’ famous ‘red dress’ in Jezebel was, in fact, brown. Red did not photograph properly in black and white. The color white also did not always photograph properly either, and if a designer wanted to feature a white dress on screen, they very often made the dress a pale blue or pale pink (the same rule applied for linens as well!). Norma Shearer’s famous white gown from Marie Antoinette was actually a pale blue, and so the idea of Jeanette MacDonald’s “white” dress being pulled from MGM costume stock actually being pink is interesting to consider.

I’ve had several people tell me that the fact that the dresses are the same is much more obvious when they’ve viewed the film on television, or in one instance, someone wrote to me about having seen San Francisco on the big screen. You can see the scene in which the gown appears here, and though the video has been “colorized” from its original black and white.

Is the gown the same? The truth is, we don’t know. Maybe not. Maybe so. Several books tell us that it is, but the stars on the skirt are so different that one would lead towards these two gowns being different. That being said, the chances that the dress was used after Oz are high. Dresses were reused. It didn’t matter where they came from. 

Where is the gown now? 

The short answer is we don’t know.

The longer answer is that we can speculate about the fate of this dress.

One person commented that they had seen in a documentary that the dress had been destroyed in a fire. However, I have been unable to locate the documentary or any other documentation to prove this. We do know there was a fire at vault 7 at MGM in 1965 or 1967 (there is speculation as to the date), which destroyed a good many silent films. To learn more about the fire, check out this great article at Classic Film Haven. TCM also has a listing of studio fires, though they focus on the destruction of film rather than sets, props, or costumes. If the costume was destroyed in any of these fires, or if there is another fire that destroyed a part of the wardrobe department, I have been unable to find anything about it.

If the dress was not the victim of fire, it could just as easily have been the victim of age. It could have gone on to be reused for more MGM films after 1939 and eventually just worn out, as many costumes did. It could very easily have been tossed into the garbage. It’s sad to think about, but this was the fate of many costumes that were beyond repair. In most instances, the person throwing the costume away had no idea where it originated.

Another possibility is that it was auctioned in the 1970 MGM auction. I do not have access to the full auction catalog (the auction catalogs themselves often sell for $500 or more), so I cannot say for sure. We do know, however, that quite a few Wizard of Oz costumes were sold during this auction – so if it was sold, this would have been when it happened. The auction saw the selling off of the costume of the Cowardly Lion, and the Wicked Witch’s hat and dress (which were both used in another film), one copy of Dorothy’s famous costume, a pair of ruby slippers, and pair of unused “Arabian’ ruby slippers. Were any other Oz costumes found and cataloged? A man by the name of Kent Warner was in charge of sorting through and cataloging MGM’s costumes to put up for sale. We know that he found a couple of additional pairs of ruby slippers and Dorothy costumes which he kept for himself and sold privately later. He also found Glinda’s shoes, which he gifted to Glenn Brown. These shoes recently went up for auction. Did Kent happen to find Glinda’s costume? Did he sell it or give it away to someone? 

Recently someone by the name of Rachel contacted me and told me her great grandfather, Roy Victor Ahlstrom was a friend with the associate producers on Oz, and he was able to purchase the dress. Unfortunately, she says it was stored in a trunk and fell apart. 

Whatever the fate of the dress may be, we likely will not know about it unless someone comes forward or if it someday comes up for auction. You can read more about the Wizard of Oz costumes sold at auction over at Silver Screen Modes. You can also see some exciting footage of the auction here.

 

This costume is arguably one of the most famous in all of cinema history. It was worn in 1939 by Billie Burke as Glinda in The Wizard of Oz. The question is – was it used at any time before or after The Wizard of Oz?

The truth is, we don’t know for sure. There has been some suggestion that the gown was used on Jeanette MacDonald in the 1938film Sweethearts and on Miliza Korjus in The Great Waltz, also from 1938, as well as by Lana Turner in the 1941 Ziegfeld Girl. Unfortunately, I have yet to find any convincing photos or research to back this up. That being said, the odds that this gown went on to be pulled apart and used again are very high. If the gown ever appeared anywhere else, the most likely candidate would be by Jeanette MacDonald in the 1936 film San Francisco, though it cannot be said with any kind of certainty. 

Costume designer Adrian is credited with creating the “gowns” for the 1936 film San Fransisco. Three years later, when he designed all of the costumes for The Wizard of Oz, he may have taken his previous creation from San Franciso and altered it for use on Glinda, the good witch of the North. 

Glinda’s dress, having been first used on Jeanette MacDonald in San Francisco, has been a part of Wizard of Oz trivia for years and years. I actually recall reading about it in a book about the making of the film years and years ago when I was quite young. David J. Hogan, the author of The Wizard of Oz FAQ, also mentions the fact that the dress was reused and stated that Burke looked at her costume and joked that “I look like a refugee from a German opera!”

The actresses only had height differences of about one inch, which is not terribly significant. The dress would have been heavily made over, but Adrian pulling an already extant gown to use as a base for Glinda is absolutely not something unheard of.

Interestingly enough, the fact that Glinda’s gown is pink is actually significant. Before color films became a common reality, designers had to deal with the fact that the colors from their costumes often translated differently on film. The most well-known example of this is the fact that Bette Davis’ famous ‘red dress’ in Jezebel was, in fact, brown. Red did not photograph properly in black and white. The color white also did not always photograph properly either, and if a designer wanted to feature a white dress on screen, they very often made the dress a pale blue or pale pink (the same rule applied for linens as well!). Norma Shearer’s famous white gown from Marie Antoinette was actually a pale blue, and so the idea of Jeanette MacDonald’s “white” dress being pulled from MGM costume stock actually being pink is interesting to consider.

I’ve had several people tell me that the fact that the dresses are the same is much more obvious when they’ve viewed the film on television, or in one instance, someone wrote to me about having seen San Francisco on the big screen. You can see the scene in which the gown appears here, and though the video has been “colorized” from its original black and white.

Is the gown the same? The truth is, we don’t know. Maybe not. Maybe so. Several books tell us that it is, but the stars on the skirt are so different that one would lead towards these two gowns being different. That being said, the chances that the dress was used after Oz are high. Dresses were reused. It didn’t matter where they came from. 

Where is the gown now? 

The short answer is we don’t know.

The longer answer is that we can speculate about the fate of this dress.

One person commented that they had seen in a documentary that the dress had been destroyed in a fire. However, I have been unable to locate the documentary or any other documentation to prove this. We do know there was a fire at vault 7 at MGM in 1965 or 1967 (there is speculation as to the date), which destroyed a good many silent films. To learn more about the fire, check out this great article at Classic Film Haven. TCM also has a listing of studio fires, though they focus on the destruction of film rather than sets, props, or costumes. If the costume was destroyed in any of these fires, or if there is another fire that destroyed a part of the wardrobe department, I have been unable to find anything about it.

If the dress was not the victim of fire, it could just as easily have been the victim of age. It could have gone on to be reused for more MGM films after 1939 and eventually just worn out, as many costumes did. It could very easily have been tossed into the garbage. It’s sad to think about, but this was the fate of many costumes that were beyond repair. In most instances, the person throwing the costume away had no idea where it originated.

Another possibility is that it was auctioned in the 1970 MGM auction. I do not have access to the full auction catalog (the auction catalogs themselves often sell for $500 or more), so I cannot say for sure. We do know, however, that quite a few Wizard of Oz costumes were sold during this auction – so if it was sold, this would have been when it happened. The auction saw the selling off of the costume of the Cowardly Lion, and the Wicked Witch’s hat and dress (which were both used in another film), one copy of Dorothy’s famous costume, a pair of ruby slippers, and pair of unused “Arabian’ ruby slippers. Were any other Oz costumes found and cataloged? A man by the name of Kent Warner was in charge of sorting through and cataloging MGM’s costumes to put up for sale. We know that he found a couple of additional pairs of ruby slippers and Dorothy costumes which he kept for himself and sold privately later. He also found Glinda’s shoes, which he gifted to Glenn Brown. These shoes recently went up for auction. Did Kent happen to find Glinda’s costume? Did he sell it or give it away to someone? 

Recently someone by the name of Rachel contacted me and told me her great grandfather, Roy Victor Ahlstrom was a friend with the associate producers on Oz, and he was able to purchase the dress. Unfortunately, she says it was stored in a trunk and fell apart. 

Whatever the fate of the dress may be, we likely will not know about it unless someone comes forward or if it someday comes up for auction. You can read more about the Wizard of Oz costumes sold at auction over at Silver Screen Modes. You can also see some exciting footage of the auction here.

 

Credits

Sighting Credit:
  • Kevin
Photos provided by:
  • Kevin
  • Karim
Costume Designer:
  • Adrian

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