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Auction of Original ‘Wizard of Oz’ Dress Blocked

In her classic role as Dorothy in 1939’s The Wizard of Oz, actress Judy Garland wore a handful of different dresses, all designed in the same blue-and-white checked pattern. Most of these dresses have been lost to the ages, but last year, one of the few remaining dresses was uncovered in an innocuous shoebox at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. The dress was in immaculate condition, with experts ballparking its value at $800,000 to $1.2 million.

The dress was scheduled to be sold off as part of a Bonhams auction of Hollywood memorabilia in Los Angeles, but it seems the process has hit a snag. US District Judge Paul Gardephe of Manhattan halted the sale of the dress after a lawsuit was filed by one Barbara Ann Hartke. Hartke, the niece of the late Father Gilbert Hartke, a staff member of Catholic University, filed the lawsuit after hearing of its recovery on the grounds that it is her rightful property.

Hartke claims that the dress was given to her uncle in 1973 by actress Mercedes McCambridge as a personal gift. As such, the university “has no ownership interest in the dress as … there is no documentation demonstrating decedent ever formally or informally donated the dress to Catholic University.”

The university’s lawyers have dismissed Hartke’s claims as false, citing the fact that, as a Dominican priest, her uncle was under religious vow “to never accept gifts in his personal capacity.” Therefore, personal gift or not, the dress could not be considered to be the property of his family.

An official date for court proceedings has not been set at the time of writing.

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