Judge Blocks Auction of Judy Garland’s Wizard of Oz Dress Over Ownership Claims

Posted 2022/05/26 4 0

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The recently discovered dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz is now being claimed by the niece of the professor who was gifted the item.

It was announced last year that a dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz would be going up for auction and was expected to fetch in excess of $1 million. Having been discovered in a trash bag in 2021 after being thought lost for many years, the dress was initially given to drama professor Father Gilbert Hartke at Catholic University and was found earlier this year in a box in a storage room at the school. Father Hartke passed away in 1986, and this is one of the factors that seems to have left the dress undiscovered for so long. Now it seems a claim of ownership by Hartke’s niece has caused the auction to be postponed, under the ruling of a Manhattan Judge.

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Judy Garland appeared in The Wizard of Oz in 1939 as Kansas farm girl Dorothy Gale, who finds herself transported to the colorful world of Oz on the back of a tornado. While appearing in the movie, several dresses were made for the 16-year-old star to wear, and while only a small number of these are known to still exist, this dress, in particular, has gained a lot of interest due to the story behind its discovery.

However, Catholic University’s planned auction of the unique item has been hit by a legal obstacle as 81-year-old Barbara Ann Hartke, the niece of Father Hartke, has claimed as the closest living relative of Hartke, she is the rightful owner of the dress. After the claim was made, along with a lawsuit, a judge in Manhattan ruled that the auction cannot go ahead until ownership of the dress can be fully verified.


The Ownership of Dorothy’s Dress Must Now Be Decided Before the Auction Can Take Place

The biggest issue around the ownership of the recently discovered dress is what intention Father Hartke would have had for the dress in relation to what happened to it after his death. The dress was given to him as a “personal gift” from actress Mercedes McCambridge, but it has been claimed by the university that Father Hartke made it clear during his time there that he did not want to personally benefit from any donations made to him directly. What also makes the case trickier is the fact that Hartke appears to have left the dress in a box at the university once he was no longer a professor at the university, seeming to suggest that he was not planning on having any further involvement in the future of the dress.


As long as the embargo on the auction remains in place, the dress will stay in storage until a time its future can be decided one way or the other, but with there being so much unknown about Father Hartke’s intentions for the dress or how it came to be in storage in the university storeroom for so long before being discovered, it could be months before there is any decision made about who actually holds ownership of the item.


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