The fight threatens over the $ 1.5 million ‘Wizard of Oz’ dress found in the closet

There is no exaggeration about this Hollywood memorabilia auction.

A Wisconsin woman has sued to stop the sale of a long-lost piece of film history: the white and blue T-shirt dress Judy Garland wore in “The Wizard of Oz” – which is said to be worth up to $ 1.5 million. be.

The iconic outfit, one of five versions of the dress worn by Dorothy of Garland in the 1939 classic, is up for auction on May 24 by Bonhams in Los Angeles at the request of the Catholic University of Washington, DC, where it was discovered last year. in a shoebox in a storage closet.

“I was just amazed after all the time it was found here and that it’s quickly being brought to the auction house here,” Barbara Hartke, 81, told The Post.

She added: “I just want to know who this belongs to … I want to see the documents.”

Complemented by a creamy burgundy short-sleeved blouse with Garland’s name written on a label inside, the outfit was a gift from actress Mercedes McCambridge to Hartke’s uncle pastor Gilbert Hartke, famous in itself. The family, the pastor and the professor who founded the university’s drama department are fighting in a $ 3 million lawsuit in federal court in Manhattan. It is unclear how McCambridge got the dress.

Barbara Ann Hartke claims in a lawsuit that the dress belonged to her uncle, Pastor Gilbert van Hartke, who died in 1986.
Eli Branson / @elifromchi

“I’ve met Mercedes McCambridge several times, and I especially remember her love for Uncle Jeb,” Hartke recalls. “He helped her fight alcoholism. … it was the idea that it was a gift she really appreciated.”

Oscar winner McCambridge, a contemporary of Garland, perhaps most famous in modern times for casting out the demon that possesses Linda Blair’s character in The Exorcist, was a resident artist at the university from 1972 to 1973.

The Wizard of Oz dress, one of only two complete copies of the costume still in existence, brings an estimate before the auction of $ 800,000 to $ 1.2 million. I went for the rest of Dorothy’s dresses over $ 1.5 million in 2015.

The dress, complete with a burgundy short-sleeved blouse and Garland's name on a label inside, was a gift from actress Mercedes McCambridge to Hartke's uncle Pastor Gilbert Hartke.
The dress, complete with a burgundy short-sleeved blouse and Garland’s name on a label inside, was a gift from actress Mercedes McCambridge to Hartke’s uncle Pastor Gilbert Hartke.
Via Reuters, courtesy of Bonhams

‘There was no attempt to reach us or communicate with the family. It was, as it were, it was found in that box, and then we started driving right away, and that was it. Has anything else been found? ” asked Hartke, a retired teacher from Chicago Public School.

Father Hartke, the youngest of seven children who grew up on the north side of Chicago, died of heart disease in 1986 at the age of 79. It was a well-known figure in Washington, DC who advised presidents from Harry Truman to Jimmy Carter and directed future theater critic Walter Kerr and actors such as Jon Voight and Henry Gibson.

Those were some stormy days for the remaining Hartke family, who heard about the dress auction through news reports, his cousin Tony Lyman said.

“We’re just focusing on ‘What is property?'” Says Lyman, 60.

Attorney Anthony Scordo said the Catholic University “just ignored the family here.”

The college urged The Post that it “was the rightful owner of the dress. … Actress Mercedes McCambridge donated the dress to Dad. Hartke as a professor of drama at the Catholic University.”

she ment [was] To donate the dress in support of Catholic University drama students. … The decision to auction the dress was made to support the students. “

The university added that Father Hartke, as a pastor of the Dominican Order, “made a vow of poverty. He swore not to accept or receive gifts as his personal property, and at the time of his death he had no tangible items in his possession.” property.”

Barbara Hartke says there is no reason to rush a sale.

“It will not evaporate,” she said of the dress. “I think it makes sense that we decide, ‘What message do we want here? What’s a tribute to Uncle Jeb? Both for his kindness and for Mercedes Cambridge and the nice people who influenced him. I think that all these things must be considered. ”

Bonhams did not respond to a letter requesting comment.

Leave a Comment