Catholic University insists it’s the owner of Judy Garland’s ‘Wizard of Oz’ dress, not the priest’s niece

A lobby card from the film ‘The Wizard of Oz’, shows a film still of a scene in which American actress Judy Garland (1922 – 1969) (as Dorothy) wipes tears from actor Bert Lahr’s eyes (1895 – 1967) (as the Cowardly Lion), while being watched by Jack Haley (1898 – 1979) (as the Tin Man) (left), and Ray Bolger (1904 – 1987) (as the Scarecrow ), 1939. The film was directed by Victor Fleming.

Hulton Archives | MoviePix | Getty Images

The Catholic University of America won’t give up Dorothy’s dress – without a legal battle.

The university has insisted in a new statement to CNBC that it – and not the estate of a late priest and theater professor – is the “rightful owner” of a once-lost dress worn by Judy Garland in the classic movie “The Wizard of Oz.”

The University of Washington, DC, also said a new lawsuit filed by the Reverend Gilbert Hartke’s niece, which seeks to block an upcoming auction of the blue and white gingham dress, “has no basis in law. or in fact”.

Gilbert Hartke received the dress as a gift in 1973.

The school’s statement came just as an attorney for Hartke’s 81-year-old niece asked a federal judge in New York in a new court filing to issue a temporary injunction that would at least postpone the May 24 dress auction on behalf of the university. . The dress is expected to fetch up to $1 million or more at an auction hosted by Bonham’s in Los Angeles.

Hartke, as a Roman Catholic priest and member of the Dominican Order, “had taken a vow of poverty,” the school noted in the statement.

“He swore not to receive or accept any gifts as his personal property and at the time of his death he had no tangible estate,” the Catholic University said.

“In fact, a 1987 inventory of Father Hartke’s estate did not list any valuables in personal property or any tangible property of any kind, despite other documented gifts to Father Hartke for the benefit of Catholic University over the years.

“The Catholic University is the rightful owner of the robe, and Father Hartke’s estate has no ownership interest in it,” the school said.

In a lawsuit filed Friday seeking a temporary injunction restraining the auction, an attorney for Hartke’s niece, Barbara Ann Hartke, said the Wisconsin woman would suffer “irreparable harm” if Bonham’s auction is allowed to continue before the resolution of his trial. claiming ownership of the dress through her uncle’s estate.

“Because the plaintiff’s asset is in the possession of the defendant and will be sold to the highest bidder, the plaintiff will effectively lose the ability to repossess his and, or the estate’s property once the auction will take place,” also said Barbara Hartke’s attorney, Anthony Scordo. argued in his case in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

Scordo also wrote, “There is a strong public interest for the court to enter an injunction here.”

“This property is … important to the American public for reasons set forth in the verified complaint. The fact that a significant portion of Americana will not be in the public domain and will be lost forever,” Scordo wrote.

The dress is one of only two known surviving dresses of many created for Garland to wear in 1939’s “The Wizard of Oz.” The other dress was auctioned off in 2015 by Bonham’s for more than 1 .5 million dollars.

Judge Paul Gardephe has not yet ruled on the motion for an interim injunction. Neither Bonham’s nor Scordo responded to requests for comment.

CNBC Politics

Learn more about CNBC’s political coverage:

CNBC revealed earlier this week that Barbara Hartke sued the university and Bonham after she said she only recently learned in the press that the dress given to her uncle was soon to be auctioned off after being lost for decades.

The dress was found last July in a trash bag at the university’s drama department.

The Catholic University wants to sell the dress to raise money for its drama school, founded by Gilbert Hartke.

The priest was given the dress in 1973 by his friend, actress Mercedes McCambridge, who credited it with helping her cope with her alcoholism.

Around the time McCambridge gave her the dress, she was playing the demon Pazuzu in the horror movie “The Exorcist,” which was filmed in Washington.

She previously won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1949 for her performance in ‘All the King’s Men’ and was nominated in the same category for her role in ‘Giant’, which starred Elizabeth Taylor, James Dean and Rock Hudson.

Gilbert Hartke himself was a prominent figure in the Washington theater who “was truly the man of the town”, at home in the White House and in the powerhouse restaurants of DC as he rubbed shoulders with the political elite and social capital, noted The Washington Post in its 1986 obituary when he died at the age of 79.

Hartke was also one of two Catholic priests whom President John Kennedy’s widow asked to stay with his body at the White House ahead of his funeral following his assassination in 1963.

But despite his notoriety, Hartke as a priest was bound by his vow of poverty, the Catholic University noted in its statement Friday saying the school is the legal owner of the robe.

“The Catholic University understands the solemnity of these vows, as did McCambridge and Father Hartke at the time of the donation to the Catholic University,” the statement read. “In keeping with those wishes, the dress was a gift to continue Father Hartke’s important legacy of building the drama school here at Catholic University.

“The University’s research of contemporary sources and evidence fully demonstrates McCambridge’s intent to donate the dress in support of Catholic University drama students. The complaint provides no evidence to the contrary.”

The university said that when the dress was discovered last summer, “Catholic University did not contact Father Hartke’s family because the dress was donated to Catholic University for the benefit of students at the University. ‘School of Rome’.

Barbara Hartke’s attorney, Scordo, in her motion to block the auction, argued that delaying the planned sale of the dress until her lawsuit is resolved will not harm Catholic University financially or at Bonham.

“The entry of an injunction here is warranted and will impose no undue burden on the defendants,” Scordo wrote.

“Defendants cannot claim that the delay in the auction of the property will cause
any prejudice whatsoever taking into account the time that has elapsed since the death of the deceased. There’s no
indication that the fair market value will experience an actual change if the auction is
postponed pending resolution of this dispute.”

But Scordo said Barbara Hartke “would be the aggrieved party here if this auction wasn’t banned.”

#Catholic #University #insists #owner #Judy #Garlands #Wizard #dress #priests #niece

Leave a Comment