In an indelible scene from The Wizard of Oz, the bright green Wicked Witch held a frightened Dorothy captive by threatening to harm her dog Toto if she didn’t give up her ruby-red slippers.
The scene was memorable not only for the bright red of Dorothy’s shoes, but also for her striking white and blue gingham pinafore dress – one of many teenager Judy Garland wore in one of the first major films shot in Technicolor. , in 1939. .
“The dress was a legend, but no one had seen it since the late 1980s,” said Jacqueline Leary-Warsaw, dean of the Catholic University’s School of Music, Drama and Art, on Friday. America in Washington, DC. . A priest who headed the drama department had received the dress in 1973, but the university had lost track of it.
Now the university hopes to auction it off for at least $1.2 million, with the money going to pay for a new film program. It will be on display Saturday at Bonhams New York, 580 Madison Avenue in Manhattan, where the public can view it through April 29. Then, on May 24, it will be presented at the “Bonhams Classic Hollywood: Film and Television” auction in Los Angeles, Bonhams announced this week.
Garland wore several versions of the flimsy blue and white dress, but only one other – used elsewhere in the film – is known to still exist. Julien’s Auctions sold it for $480,000 in 2012. Bonhams resold the same dress for almost $1.6 million in 2015. The auction house also sold the Cowardly Lion costume worn by the actor Bert Lahr for over $3 million the previous year.
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This second dress was found by chance last year, in a shoebox, inside a bag, placed on some mailboxes of the faculty. It had been “legend around the drama department,” Dean Leary-Warsaw said, but no one was quite sure if the story was true.
The story was that a friend of Garland’s, Mercedes McCambridge, who was then an actress and artist-in-residence at the university, gave her to the school’s former theater director, Father Gilbert Hartke, in 1973. .
Photographs existed of her from that time, but the dress was “hidden” in the 1980s and the university apparently lost track of her, the dean said.
That changed last year when Matt Ripa, a lecturer and operations manager at the drama school, was cleaning up for renovations to the Hartke Theater and found the bag on top of the mailboxes.
“I opened the bag and inside the bag was an old shoebox and inside the shoebox I saw the blue and white gingham dress,” Mr Ripa recalled on Friday . “And I knew exactly what it was.”
His first reaction? “‘Oh my God!'”
He told a colleague to take latex gloves and he took pictures of the dress, which he said he had heard of since being hired in 2014.
“It was one of those tall tales,” he said. “You’ve heard stories from former students and faculty that Father Hartke received this dress,” adding “I had never laid eyes on it.”
After folding the dress and putting it back in the box, he took it to the campus archivists. They contacted the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History to help with authentication, Dean Leary-Warsaw said. She noted that the museum has the famous ruby slippers.
When she learned of the discovery last year, Helen Hall, director of popular culture at Bonhams in Los Angeles, said Thursday she was stunned and immediately contacted the university.
“These costumes are exceptionally rare and the collecting community believed that all existing dresses had been accounted for,” Hall said. “To surface more than 80 years after the film’s release, it’s amazing.”
The dress features a fitted bodice, high neck blouse and full skirt, with a fabric tag inside that reads “Judy Garland 4223”. Bonhams says the dress matched the scene where Dorothy faces the Wicked Witch of the West in her castle.
In addition to paying for the new film program, proceeds from the auction will be used to staff a faculty principal position in Father Hartke’s name, Dean Leary-Warsaw said.
“We love the dress, but it has never been displayed or shared widely in the last 50 years and we hope it will be now,” she added. “And, maybe it will inspire other people who learn it to check their own closets and desks for hidden treasures.”