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Sale of long-lost ‘Wizard of Oz’ dress suspended by judge

NEW YORK (AP) — The dramatic story of an iconic “Wizard of Oz” movie costume thought lost for decades got another twist on Monday, when a judge blocked its auction planned.

One of the blue and white checkered gingham dresses Judy Garland wore in 1939 for her role as Dorothy was due to be part of a Hollywood memorabilia auction in Los Angeles on Tuesday, offered by the Catholic University of America . The dress was rediscovered at school last year in a shoebox during preparations for a renovation.

Auctioneer Bonhams listed a pre-sale estimate of $800,000 to $1.2 million for the dress before it was pulled.

But US District Judge Paul Gardephe in Manhattan granted a motion for a preliminary injunction after a hearing in a lawsuit brought by a relative of father Gilbert Hartke, who worked at the university and received the dress in 1973.

Hartke died in 1986; a niece, Barbara Ann Hartke, 81, filed a lawsuit against the school and the auctioneer earlier this month after media reports the dress was going to be auctioned.

In her lawsuit, she said that as her uncle’s closest living relative, the dress belonged to him. She says it was given to her as a personal gift by actress Mercedes McCambridge.

According to her lawsuit, the university “has no ownership interest in the gown because … there is no documentation to show that the deceased ever formally or informally donated the gown to the Catholic University. “.

In a filing opposing the request for a trial injunction, lawyers for the school said that as a Dominican priest, Hartke took a vow “never to accept gifts in a personal capacity” and that the dress could therefore not be considered part of any estate.

Catholic University officials said the dress had been missing for decades after it was given to Hartke, then head of the drama department.

Garland wore several versions of the dress while filming the film; Auctioneer Bonhams said the one found at Catholic University was one of two that still had her accompanying blouse, and that Garland wore it in the castle scene from The Wicked Witch of the West.

In a statement, lawyers for the university said, “We look forward to presenting our position and the overwhelming evidence contradicting Ms. Hartke’s assertion in court in this litigation.”

An email seeking comment was sent to Hartke’s attorney.



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