The gold mine of the auctions of dresses and other objects of mythical films

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A few weeks ago, an American judge prevented the Catholic University of America from auctioning the famous dress in which Judy Garland starred. The Wizard of Oz in 1939. The actress also wore famous red shoes in that film that are now in the National History Museum.

The auctions of famous objects, especially if they are Hollywood stars, are so profitable that they have become a gold mine for specialized companies. In recent years, however, interest in clothing and accessories for actors and actresses has increased.

They can be dresses from a movie or celebrities brought on another occasion. For example, the dress with which Marilyn Monroe, in 1962, sang to her Happy Birthday Mr President to JFK nearly fetched five million dollars when it was auctioned off.

Marilyn is the goose that lays the golden eggs because of the huge number of collectors who buy everything that comes up for auction, for their museums and private collections: the famous white dress she wore in Temptation lives above (1955) and was carried by the air that came out of the Metro grate, became the most expensive ever auctioned, exceeding five and a half million dollars.

But, as auction experts explain, Marilyn is today an icon of pop culture (immortalized by Andy Warhol for eternity), which strictly fulfilled the maxim “Live fast, die young and leave a beautiful corpse” and, although it seems macabre, the objects of someone who has died tragically young increase in value.

The phrase, mistakenly attributed to James Dean, is actually a line of dialogue delivered by Humphrey Bogart in knock on any door (1949). the actor of Giant (1955) died at the age of 20, in a car accident. Marilyn was 36 when she died in her bed, apparently from a drug overdose, although a recent documentary contradicts that official version.

Judy Garland also died of a barbiturate overdose, at the age of 47. Considered by the American Film Institute As the eighth best female star in the history of cinema, her very long career began as a child prodigy at the age of ten, so when she died she had been working for almost four decades in which she won the Oscar, the Golden Globe and many of the most prestigious awards in Hollywood.

Judy Garland, along with actress Billie Burke, in a scene from the Wizard of Oz (right) and the famous shoes.

That’s why, experts say, explains the passion aroused by objects of The Wizard of Oz (1939). And precisely the dress that the actress wore in that film was going to be auctioned a few weeks ago, until an American judge prevented it. 80 years after its premiere, the Catholic University of America (Catholic University of America) was going to auction it off.

It is a private university, located in Washington DC that expected to obtain more than a million dollars with the auction. The institution I was going to allocate the money to the theater department, because the dress was given, in 1973, to Reverend Gilbert V. Hartke, head of that department for many years and who died in 1986.

But Barbara Ann Hartke, the reverend’s niece and sole heiress, objected. to the auction claiming that the dress has great sentimental value for her. The 81-year-old retired professor, who lives in Wisconsin, claims ownership of the garment and says she is upset to have learned from the media of the University’s intention to auction it.

And, a day before the bidding was to open, federal judge Paul Gardephe ruled that the lawsuit had sufficient grounds to proceed and therefore the dress could not be auctioned while the case is pending in federal court in Manhattan.

According to the magistrate, the pledge cannot change hands until the true owner is established, so the auction must be postponed and this can mean months of delay.

This complicates the plans of the Bonhams auction house, which intended to put up for sale, in addition to the mythical dress, other famous objects such as the jacket worn by actor Leslie Howard in gone With the Wind (1939) and a chair from the famous Cafe Rick from the movie White House (1942).

It was the actress Mercedes McCambridge, a friend of Judy Garland, who donated it to the reverend, Well, this was her mentor when she attended, as an artist in residence, the theater program of the University.

Mercedes McCambridge in 1950.

Mercedes McCambridge in 1950.

The actress won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for the film The politician (1949) and precisely worked with James Dean in Giant (1955), but the roles that gave her the most fame were those of evil in films like johnnyguitar (1954) and Suddenly last summer (1959).

However, one of the most unknown roles by the general public and, however, most praised, was the voice actress, giving voice to the actress Linda Blair (when his character was possessed) in the movie The Exorcist (1973).

The actress made headlines by suing Warner Bros. and the film’s director for not including her name in the credits as promised, though she eventually succeeded with the help of the Screen Actors Guild. For this reason, and because Father Hartke was well known in Washington for his efforts in favor of the theater, the donation was also front page news in the media in the 1970s.

During filming, the wardrobe department created six identical dresses for the famous actress, made up of a white blouse with short lantern sleeves and a pinafore dress or apron on top, in white and light blue gingham checks. A number of experts ruled that the dress now in dispute was one of those original six.

Probably Mercedes McCambridge and Reverend Hartke, who loved acting, the stage and the theater so much, would agree that the dress be auctioned and with the money the department of the University dedicated to training future actors and actresses would be expanded, but the auction will be paralyzed until the dispute over its ownership is resolved.

The University’s lawyers allege that Father Hartke worked there for 40 years and wanted the garment to stay there. They consider that the gift went to the institution and not to the priest since he, being a member of the Dominican order, had a vow of poverty.

Likewise, they assure that, although there is no written proof of his will that the dress remain in the Catholic University, it is proven by the fact that, when he retired, he did not take it with him.

The most surprising thing is that the dress appeared, during the summer of 2021, in a University office and inside a garbage bag.

The gold mine of the auctions of dresses and other objects of mythical films