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Auction of Original ‘Wizard of Oz’ Dress Halted

In the iconic film “The Wizard of Oz” from 1939, Judy Garland portrayed Dorothy and wore several dresses with a distinctive blue-and-white checked pattern. Many of these dresses have been lost over time, but a rare surviving dress was discovered last year in an unassuming shoebox at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. This particular dress, in excellent condition, was estimated to be worth between $800,000 to $1.2 million.

The dress was initially set to be auctioned off as part of a collection of Hollywood memorabilia by Bonhams in Los Angeles. However, the auction faced a setback when US District Judge Paul Gardephe of Manhattan intervened following a lawsuit filed by Barbara Ann Hartke. Hartke, who is the niece of the late Father Gilbert Hartke, a former staff member at the university, claimed ownership of the dress asserting that it was gifted to her uncle by actress Mercedes McCambridge in 1973.

Hartke argues that her uncle never donated the dress to the university formally or informally, making it her rightful property. On the other hand, the university’s legal team refutes these claims, stating that as a Dominican priest, Father Hartke was prohibited from accepting personal gifts, meaning the dress could not be considered part of his personal estate.

The legal battle surrounding the ownership of the dress continues, with no official court date scheduled as of now.

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