The costume for one of the most beloved characters in “The Wizard of Oz,” the Cowardly Lion, sold for over $3 million dollars, according to a Nov. 25 Associated press report. The costume was originally worn by Bert Lahr in the legendary 1939 film, which was eventually broadcast on TV and starred Judy Garland in her one of her most renowned roles as Dorothy.
The costume was sold at Bonhams in New York on Nov.24, along with other pieces of Hollywood memorabilia, including the piano featured in “Casablanca,” which also netted more than $3 million. The owner, James Comisar, has an extensive collection of TV memorabilia as well from shows like “I Love Lucy” and “Lost” and plans to use costume proceeds to exhibit the rest of his collection.
“The Wizard of Oz” is one of the most cherished films of all time. It received six Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture, but “Gone with the Wind” took home the statue that year. The film’s iconic song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” won the Oscar for Best Original Song.
It’s interesting that “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was almost not used in the film, and then went on to garner all kinds of critical acclaim. It also became a signature song of young Judy Garland’s career. It also topped the American Film Institute (AFI) list of AFI’s 100 Years … 100 Songs.
It’s incredible to consider that the film pulled in a worldwide Box Office gross of just over $3 million dollars in its initial release, which was a lot for a film in its day. Box Office Mojo reports a Lifetime Worldwide Gross in excess of $23 million. With a $3 million dollar sale, the Cowardly Lion costume alone sold for more than the film’s production budget that exceeded $2 million.
Film artifacts are important to avid collectors around the globe and are also an important part of American history. In fact, a pair of Dorothy’s original ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” remains on permanent display in the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.
The original “Wizard of Oz” movie is based on L. Frank Baum’s 1900 novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and was broadcast on television by CBS in 1956 and saw several theatrical re-releases, including a newly restored and remastered version of the film in 1998. “The Wizard of Oz” has also spawned several creative adaptations, including the 1975 African American Broadway interpretation, “The Wiz.” Diana Ross later starred as Dorothy in the 1978 big screen adaptation of “The Wiz,” which was not successful.
Jim Henson produced “The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz” television special in 2005 and a second film in the L. Frank Baum “Oz” series, “Oz the Great and Powerful” was released in 2013. The film stars James Franco as the Wizard and was filmed in Michigan.
No one can generate the kind of on-screen chemistry Bert Lahr shared with Judy Garland and the rest of the cast in his indelible role of the Cowardly Lion. Who can ever forget his lovable, bashful face and the fact that he was afraid of his own tail? The lucky new owner of the $3 million “Wizard of Oz” costume will most likely cherish a newfound piece of Hollywood history.