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Auction of Judy Garland Wizard of Oz dress in jeopardy, set for court hearing

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A lobby card from the film ‘The Wizard Of Oz,’ shows a movie still of a scene through which American actress Judy Garland (1922 – 1969) (as Dorothy) wipes tears from the eyes of actor Bert Lahr (1895 – 1967) (because the Cowardly Lion), while watched by Jack Haley (1898 – 1979) (because the Tin Man) (left), and Ray Bolger (1904 – 1987) (because the Scarecrow), 1939. The film was directed by Victor Fleming.

Hulton Archive | Moviepix | Getty Images

The planned auction of a long-lost dress worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” is in jeopardy after a federal judge on Monday ordered a hearing on why he shouldn’t block the sale pending the consequence of a lawsuit over its ownership.

The hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan was set for May 23, a day before Bonham’s auction home is currently scheduled to auction the dress on behalf of The Catholic University of America.

Judge Paul Gardephe’s order scheduling the court session got here after a lawyer for Wisconsin resident Barbara Hartke asked him to stop the dress’s sale until the lawsuit could possibly be decided.

Hartke, 81, claims in her suit that the dress is the legal property of the estate of her late uncle, the Rev. Gilbert Hartke, who founded Catholic University’s drama school.

Barbara Hartke, as an heir, could possibly be certainly one of the people to inherit the dress if she wins the lawsuit.

A blue and white checked gingham dress, worn by Judy Garland within the “Wizard of Oz,” hangs on display, Monday, April 25, 2022, at Bonhams in Latest York.

Katie Vasquez | AP

However the Washington, D.C., university has said it’s the “rightful owner” of the dress that was given to Hartke in 1973 by Academy Award-winning actress Mercedes McCambridge.

The university said that Gilbert Harkte’s vow of poverty as a Roman Catholic priest barred him from accepting gifts as his personal property.

“Fr. Hartke’s estate doesn’t have a property interest in it,” the varsity said in a May 6 statement.

The blue-and-white gingham dress is certainly one of just two of what are believed to have been six dresses made for Garland to wearing the classic “Oz” film. Bonham’s has estimated the dress could sell for anywhere between $800,000 and $1.2 million.

The opposite dress was auctioned in 2015 by Bonham’s for greater than $1.5 million.

Gilbert Hartke’s possession of the dress was well-known at Catholic University after McCambridge gave it to him in appreciation for his assistance to her as she battled alcoholism.

However the dress was missing for many years until it was found last June in a trash bag above the school mail slots during a renovation of the varsity’s Hartke Theater.

Amin Al-Sarraf, a lawyer for Catholic University, in a press release to CNBC, said he and other lawyers for the varsity later this week will submit legal briefs defending the auction.

Al-Sarraf noted that the temporary restraining order issued Monday by Gardephe barring the auction for “is just effective until the hearing, so it doesn’t prevent the auction from going forward unless the Court grants the injunction request on the twenty third..

“We look ahead to the chance to present the overwhelming evidence supporting Catholic University’s ownership of the dress to the Court next week,” he said.

Barbara Hartke’s lawyer and Bonham’s didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.

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