There’s no put like probate court docket! What was set to be a regime auction system for a exclusive piece of Hollywood memorabilia has taken a cinematic plot twist, as authorized inquiries have been elevated about the ownership of the rare and lately rediscovered “Dorothy Costume” — a single of a mere handful of remaining authentic costumes worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.
The gown, expected to fetch up to $1.2 million, arrived to Bonhams Los Angeles past thirty day period by way of the Catholic College of The us (CU) in Washington, DC. It experienced been gifted to the clearly beloved former head of the school’s drama section, Reverend Gilbert Hartke, by Mercedes McCambridge, a Hollywood actor and artist-in-residence at the University in 1973 and shut good friend of Garland’s. Shed in the school’s archives given that the 1980s, the rediscovered gown was supposed for sale to fund a school chair endowment and set up a new movie acting software at the college.
Now individuals programs, and the auction, are on indefinite maintain, as a lawsuit submitted by Barbara Ann Hartke, the 81-yr-previous niece of Reverend Hartke, has raised the dilemma of who precisely was the receiver of McCambridge’s reward — and who as a result retains possession of the dress nowadays.
“She [McCambridge] was definitely a near confidant of Judy Garland and the gift of the costume to Gilbert V. Hartke was to thank Hartke for his counseling and assistance,” the lawsuit states, according to WTOP Information. It is contended that McCambridge experienced a lengthy-time period personalized connection with Reverend Hartke and offered him the gown in appreciation for his aid in the actress’s struggle with alcohol and compound abuse — a wrestle which also notoriously afflicted Garland and took her existence just a pair months just after her 47th birthday.
At the time of the donation, McCambridge advised CU’s student newspaper Tower that Garland experienced generally said “it all could have been different” if she’d attended school. McCambridge donated the costume in hopes that it would provide as “a supply of hope, strength and braveness to the pupils.”
Even though Barbara Ann Hartke’s declare on the gown is contentious, it has merited adequate legitimacy to halt the sale of the legendary gingham pinafore and puff-sleeved shirt even though the court docket investigates — a system that could choose months or yrs to solve.
“I was just amazed soon after all this time, right here it experienced been uncovered, and below it is currently being rushed off to the auction residence,” Hartke stated in an interview. “I just want to know who has possession over this … I’d like to see the documentation.”
Attorneys for the university argue that Gilbert Hartke took a vow of poverty, indicating he didn’t get or accept any items as his own own house, and that McCambridge donated the dress to Hartke in his capacity as the university’s drama teacher to gain the students of the drama method. CU’s lawful group is providing evidence that includes signed affidavits from a grandniece and grandnephew of Hartke that affirm that the priest would have wanted the costume to belong to and profit the faculty, as well as a 1979 newspaper write-up that states items been given by Hartke turned the “monastery’s, the community’s or the drama school’s home (which involves Judy Garland’s gown in The Wizard of Oz and substantially of Claire Booth Luce’s library).”
“The Court’s determination to maintain the position quo was preliminary and did not get to the merits of Barbara Hartke’s claim to the gown,” Shawn Brenhouse, an attorney for Catholic College, advised Hyperallergic. “We glimpse ahead to presenting our situation, and the overpowering proof contradicting Ms. Hartke’s declare, to the Courtroom in the program of this litigation.”
There’s no pot of gold over this rainbow: Pleasure about acquiring a beloved piece of Wizard of Oz historical past has now dissolved into a scenario that is heading to take a ton of brains, heart, braveness — and most of all, legal professionals — to solve.