An important Tinseltown treasure had long been considered lost somewhere above the rainbow.
But members of the drama department at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, had a hunch that one of Judy Garland‘s “Wizard of OzDresses were hidden somewhere in their establishment, like the Washington Post reported earlier this month.
In 1973, an article in the AUC student newspaper The Tower described a “precious gift” given to the school by Oscar-winning actor Mercedes McCambridge, artist in residence in the university’s drama department. at the time. McCambridge, according to the article, was a “close friend” of Garland, who died in 1969.
According to the article, McCambridge hoped the blue and white gingham check dress would be “a source of hope, strength and courage for the students.”
Yet AUC lecturer and operations coordinator Matt Ripa had searched everywhere for the garment without success and was almost convinced his presence at school was about as real as a flying monkey.
That is, until June 7, when Ripa was cleaning the building for a renovation and came across a trash bag sitting near the college letter slots with a note.
“I found that,” was all Thomas Donahue, a now retired drama teacher, had written in the note.
“I was curious what was inside and I opened the trash bag and inside was a shoebox and inside the shoebox was the dress. !! ” Ripa recalls in university archives blog post. “I could not believe it.”
Ripa told the Post: “I was shocked, holding a piece of Hollywood history in my hands.”
Shortly after the discovery, the AUC contacted Ryan Lintelman, an expert on “Wizard of Oz” memorabilia, to weigh in on the gown’s authenticity.
Lintelman is curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, which houses a pair of sparkling ruby slippers worn by Garland, a full costume worn by Ray Bolger’s scarecrow and an original 1938 screenplay based on L. Frank Baum’s 1900 book, according to Smithsonian magazine.
Museum curators do not offer monetary valuations historical objects, but Lintelman provided some interesting information about the costume to Smithsonian magazine.
Lintelman told the outlet that he and his colleagues determined that the AUC dress “is only one of six known costumes” that have a good claim “to be the real deal.”
The recently found costume has many components that the other five dresses share, including a “secret pocket” where Garland is said to have kept his handkerchief, and the name “Judy Garland” handwritten on the piece. The writing is the same as on other known dresses.
The AUC now plans to keep the garment in “proper storage in a temperature and humidity controlled environment,” according to a university press release.
The dress, the school said, is “no longer in Kansas.”
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