[Above: The MGM “Lullaby League” in action, as they welcomed Dorothy Gale to Munchkinland. From left: Nita Krebs, Olga Nardone, and Yvonne Moray.]
The OZ Museum in Wamego, KS, is happily – and gratefully -- proud to announce that they have just placed on display a fully-restored and maintained stage costume from the entertainment archive of a Munchkin cast member who appeared in the 1939 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film, THE WIZARD OF OZ. News such as this is embraced by fans of all ages, and details of the refurbishment of the delicate, pink ballet dress and shoes are given below.
First, however . . . some Ozzy history:
Back in November, this monthly series of corresponding vlogs and blogs honored the tiniest of all the MGM “little people” of OZ. Her name and stature? Olga Nardone – less than three feet tall! She was featured in the film as a diminutive Munchkin townswoman and as one of the “sleepyheads,” popping out of an egg while dozens of other little people swarmed past her nest as they sang, “Ding-Dong! the Witch is Dead!”
However, Olga remains most immediately recognizable and identifiable as the center member of the balletic “Lullaby League,” personally greeting Judy Garland (as Dorothy) in song and dance. The petite seventeen-year-old was so delighted by her participation in THE WIZARD OF OZ that -- when filming was finished, and she returned to her family in Massachusetts -- she added a reprise of her OZ moment to her stage and vaudeville act. For that routine, she was costumed in an identical pink ballet dress and shoes, and she later wrote to the MGM Studios Chief of Police that the new number was very popular with her audiences.
The November blog [Emma, I suggest adding a link to it here] gives much additional detail about Olga’s life, family, career, and OZ experience. It also tells the happy story of the OZ Museum’s association in recent years with her niece, Karen Nardone Lemons, and how the Museum is now able to display much of Olga’s carefully-preserved theatrical memorabilia.
[Above: Already in costume, the teenage Olga dons her dancing shoes prior to a performance.]
It was through Karen’s generosity that many treasured items have come to Kansas. Clint Stueve, executive director of the OZ Museum and Columbian Theatre Foundation, Inc., established communication and a trusting association with her, and in 2015 -- once Karen realized the sincerity and credentials of Wamego’s venue -- she sent them Olga's travel suitcase, postcards, costumes, and other items that related to her time on stage.
Understandably, the piece that drew the most attention from Clint and museum curator Chris Glasgow was the pink ballet dress. Chris has since stated that, “Olga’s mother made all of her daughter’s performance costumes . . . [and] according to family history, [this] was the costume and shoes worn in the 1939 film. However, there is nothing I have found in writing to substantiate that this costume was [that] used by MGM. The inside of the costume neckline could have had a tag on it in the past, but it is not there now.” Whether the outfit was done by Adrian and MGM for the film -- or expertly copied a few months later by Olga’s extraordinary seamstress mother – remains unknown. There’s no question, however, that the dainty, awe-inspiring costume is some eighty years old and was worn by the originator of the role in 1939.
Clint Stueve continues, “We have no problem representing the dress as a replica made by Olga's mom for her stage show, since there is no definitive proof it IS the MGM dress. However, it’s important for us to also reference the age-old family story about the dress -- and leave it as a currently unsolved mystery.” He concludes, however, that “we can strongly and proudly tout the Nardone’s family's connection to -- and pride, faith, and trust in -- the OZ Museum!”
[Above: Olga Nardone’s ballet costume, now restored, conserved, and “viewable” at Wamego’s OZ Museum.]
Given its age and age-old use, however, the ballet costume and shoes were in critical need of conservation. Raising the necessary funds to implement such care is ever a challenge, but once the OZ Museum began that process, they turned again to Conserving Threads of Dallas, TX, where the company’s wondrous Melanie oversaw the necessary renewal, repair, and restoration of the “Lullaby League”-like wardrobe. In this instance, such work cost about $2,500.00, yet the responsibility for preservation falls directly into the stated intentions and charter of the OZ Museum in its ongoing accumulation of treasures related to L. Frank Baum’s characters and concepts. The venue welcomes contributions and grants for what are sure to be future demands in maintaining the remarkable trove of tens of thousands of items in its care.
Olga herself passed away on September 24, 2010; she was eighty-nine. Yet her timeless fame and legend continue in Wamego, and her costume is now on proud display in its newly-renovated condition. It serves as a testament to both her talent and to the ongoing magic of Oz.
Article by John Fricke
Article by John Fricke