A judge has blocked the sale of a dress worn by Judy Garland, Dorothy, in “The Wizard of Oz” – just a day before the auction, which was expected to raise up to $1.2 million.
Missing for decades but rediscovered in a shoebox last year, the suit was pulled from a movie memorabilia sale in New York last Tuesday due to an ongoing ownership dispute.
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The garment is one of several blue gingham dresses worn by Garland’s character Dorothy in the classic 1939 film. According to court documents, actor Mercedes McCambridge gifted the Reverend Gilbert Hartke, founder of the Department of Speech and Drama at Catholic University of America in the early 1970s.
Considered lost after the priest’s death in 1986, the dress was found in a shoebox by a university professor last summer. The school later put it up for sale through Bonhams auction house, which estimated bids between $800,000 and $1.2 million.
But the reverend’s niece, Barbara Hartke, has since claimed the costume was part of her uncle’s estate, of which she is the rightful heir. In a complaint filed with a New York court earlier this month, she argued that McCambridge had given the dress to her uncle to thank him for “helping her fight alcohol and substance abuse”, and that there was no evidence. showing that he had donated it to the school.
Meanwhile, Catholic University says McCambridge hoped his gift would benefit his students. In court documents, the college also argued that by becoming a priest of the Dominican Order of the Roman Catholic Church, the reverend swore never to own “temporal goods” — and therefore clothing could not be considered part of his property.
Hartke’s attorney, Anthony Scordo, said in an email that the university “is unclear exactly what the vow consisted of” and that the late priest “always accepted and (had) personal gifts.”
On Monday, Manhattan District Judge Paul Gardephe granted an injunction suspending the sale.
In a statement, the university emphasized that the decision was “preliminary” and that there was “overwhelming evidence” contradicting Hartke’s claim to ownership.
“The Catholic University remains committed to its plan to use the proceeds from the sale of the dress to endow a teaching position at the School of Music, Drama and Art in Rome, which it believes is in keeping with the original intent of Mercedes McCambridge and that of Fr. Gilbert Hartke. desire to support and increase the University’s theater program,” the statement read.
According to the auction catalogue, the item appears in scenes set in the Wicked Witch of the West’s castle. It was offered complete with the white blouse Garland wore underneath. Another of the gingham dresses worn by Garland in the film sold for $1.5 million in 2015.
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