The dramatic story of a costume from The Wizard of Oz that was thought to have been lost for decades went through another plot twist on Monday, when a judge blocked its planned sale at auction.
One of the blue and white checked gingham dresses that Judy Garland wore in 1939 for her role as Dorothy. Part of the auction Hollywood memorabilia in Los Angeles on Tuesday, on sale by The Catholic University of America. The dress was rediscovered at school last year in a shoebox during preparations for a makeover.
Auctioneer Bonhams listed a pre-sale estimate of between $800,000 and $1.2 million for the dress before it was pulled.
But U.S. District Judge Paul Gardevi in Manhattan approved a petition for a preliminary injunction after a hearing in a lawsuit brought by a relative of Father Gilbert Hartke, who worked at the university and acquired the dress in 1973.
Hartke died in 1986; Her niece, Barbara Ann Hartke, 81, filed a lawsuit against the school and auctioneers earlier this month after media reports that the dress was up for auction.
She said in her lawsuit that the dress, as her uncle’s closest surviving relative, belonged to her. She says she gave it as a personal gift from actress Mercedes McCambridge.
According to her lawsuit, the university “has no interest in ownership of the dress because … there are no documents to prove that the deceased donated the dress formally or informally to the Catholic University.”
In a suit against the suit’s request for an injunction, the school’s attorneys said that as a Dominican priest, Hartke vowed to “never accept gifts in his personal capacity” and therefore the dress could not be considered part of any bequest.
Catholic University officials said the dress was lost for decades after it was handed over to Hartaki, then head of the drama department.
Garland wore several versions of the dress while filming the movie; Auction manager Bonhams said the one found at the Catholic University was one of two still wearing the accompanying blouse, and that Garland wore it at the scene at the Wicked Witch of the West Castle.
Bonhams has no comments.
“We look forward to presenting our position and the compelling evidence that contradicts Ms Hartke’s claim to the court in the context of this litigation,” the university’s attorneys said in a statement.
An email requesting comment has been sent to Hartke’s attorney.
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