Subscribe to our newsletter

(Credit: Alamy)

Film

Catholic University blocks auction of 'Wizard of Oz' dress

@SamWKemp

A federal judge has revealed that The Catholic University of America is forbidden from auctioning a dress from The Wizard of Oz until a court has established the identity of its rightful owner.

The university was hoping to auction the dress worn by Judy Garland to raise over $1 million for its drama department. I know what you’re thinking: that is indeed a lot of black leggings.

The legal challenges come from Wisconsin resident Barbara Ann Hartke, the 81-year-old niece of a Dominican priest and drama professor at the university. She has argued that the dress should be hers because she is officially the priest’s next of kin.

Earlier in May, Judge Paul Gardephe ruled that Hartke’s lawsuit should be allowed to proceed. He subsequently blocked the planning of the auction until the challenge about the dress’s official owner has been settled in Manhattan federal court. According to The Washington Post, the sale of the dress could be postponed for months or even years.

Oscar-winning actress and former artist-in-residence at Catholic University Mercedes McCambridge gave the dress to Father Gilbert Hartke, O.P, founder and head of the university’s drama apartment in the early 1970s. However, in the 1980s, the dress went missing, and its whereabouts remained unknown for many years,

In 2021, Matt Ripa, lecturer and operations coordinator for the drama department stumbled upon an old bag in a stack of faculty mailboxes. On opening it, he found a shoebox with the dress inside. Nevertheless, it seems the dress’s journey isn’t quite over yet.