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Judge blocks auction of ‘Wizard of Oz’ dress by Catholic University

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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

A federal judge in Latest York blocked Tuesday’s scheduled auction of a dress worn by Judy Garland in “The Wizard of Oz” that had been expected to fetch as much as $1 million or more for The Catholic University of America.

Monday’s injunction barring a sale of the dress by Bonhams auction house in Los Angeles got here greater than two weeks after a Wisconsin woman sued to stop the sale, claiming it belonged to the estate of her late uncle, the Rev. Gilbert Hartke.

Barbara Hartke’s lawsuit now will proceed in Manhattan federal court.

Judge Paul Gardephe ordered Catholic U., which is positioned in Washington, D.C., and Bonhams to not sell the dress until the lawsuit is resolved.

Anthony Scordo, the attorney for Barbara Hartke, in an email to CNBC said, “I’m pleased with the ruling stopping the sale.”

“I feel the judge rigorously reviewed the submissions of all parties and got here to a good result,” Scordo said.

Catholic U., in a press release, said, “The Court’s decision to preserve the establishment was preliminary and didn’t get to the merits of Barbara Hartke’s claim to the dress.  We sit up for presenting our position, and the overwhelming evidence contradicting Ms. Hartke’s claim, to the Court in the middle of this litigation.”

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Hartke received the “Oz” dress in 1973 as a present from Academy Award-winning actress Mercedes McCambridge while serving as head of Catholic U.’s drama school, which he founded. It will not be known how MacCambridge obtained the costume from the classic 1939 film.

As an heir to the priest, Barbara Hartke stands to inherit a fraction of the ownership dress if she prevails in her lawsuit.

The dress had been missing for a long time before it was present in a trash bag in a room on the drama school last yr. Catholic U. then moved to place it up for auction, generating widespread media coverage last month.

Catholic U. argues that it’s the legal owner of the dress, because Hartke, as a Roman Catholic priest, had taken a vow of poverty and that the dress was intended to profit the varsity.

The college also submitted affidavits from a grand-nephew of Hartke who remembered that “my grand-uncle Father Gilbert Hartke said to me that I couldn’t have it because the dress belonged to Catholic University.”

That man, Thomas Kuipers, with a cousin said that they and other descendants of the priest supported the auction of the dress with the understanding that it was given as a present for the varsity.

In its statement Monday, Catholic U. said, “It continues to be committed to its plan to make use of proceeds from a sale of the dress to endow a school position within the Rome School of Music, Drama and Art, which it believes is consistent with Mercedes McCambridge’s original intent and Father Gilbert Hartke’s desire to support and grow the University’s drama program.”

The dress is one in all only two dresses known to still exist of the several created for Garland to wear in “The Wizard of Oz.”

The opposite dress was auctioned in 2015 by Bonhams for greater than $1.5 million.   

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