Lawsuit blocks university’s ‘Wizard of Oz’ dress auction

The Wizard of Oz dress a found in 2021 and Fr Gilbert Hartke with the dress in an undated photo (CNS/Tyler_Orsburn and Catholic University of America)

A dress worn by Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz is now the main character in a surprising drama after the Catholic University of America announced plans to auction it. to fund its drama school. Source: CNA.

The plan to auction the dress to help fund the university’s drama school was delayed by a legal challenge from Wisconsin resident Barbara Ann Hartke, 81, a niece of Fr Gilbert Hartke OP, the founder and head of the university’s drama school. She says that the dress should be hers because she is the priest’s closest living relative.

Ms Hartke’s attorney, Anthony Scordo, said that there has been “absolutely no legal documentation of such a gift to the university” in any of its court filings. Her lawsuit also objects that the university did not contact her when the dress was rediscovered. Tony Lehman, a grand-nephew of Fr Hartke, also supports the lawsuit.

The university contends the objecting relatives have no case. The university’s attorneys argue the dress was given to the priest in his capacity as a drama professor at the university. The university further notes that Fr Hartke, as a vowed Dominican, was not allowed to keep personal possessions.

“We look forward to the opportunity to present the overwhelming evidence, including a statement from another family member, supporting Catholic University’s ownership of the dress to the court next week,” a university spokesperson said.

Mercedes McCambridge, an Oscar-winning actress and artist-in-residence at Catholic University in 1973, had given the dress to Fr Hartke, who died in 1986.

In the late 1980s, the dress went missing before it was found in a bag atop faculty mailboxes in 2021.


Not over the rainbow, yet: Lawsuit blocks Catholic University’s auction of ‘Wizard of Oz’ dress (By Kevin J Jones, CNA

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