19 May 2022

Drama about a Dress

One of the blue gingham dresses worn by Judy Garland in the MGM Wizard of Oz is up for auction. Or maybe not.

WTOP reports that a court has ordered the auction house not to proceed until it works out whether the seller, Catholic University in Washington, DC, really owns the garment.

At issue:

The family of Gilbert Hartke, who was Catholic University’s longtime drama director, said the dress was given to him by actress Mercedes McCambridge as a personal gift after he helped her battle substance abuse.

The university said that the dress was presented to Hartke in his official capacity as a professor of drama at the university.
Catholic University provided evidence that Hartke wanted the dress to be displayed at the campus theater, named after him.

The garment went missing for decades and was found on campus last year. Some smart lawyers might argue that treatment negates Hartke’s gift to the school.

But of course Catholic University’s position is that the dress never belonged to Hartke individually anyway. He had, in fact, taken a vow of poverty.

All this matters because the collector’s price for the dress might be $1 million.