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Judge blocks auction of Dorothy's long-lost 'Wizard of Oz' dress

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Judge blocks auction of Dorothy's long-lost 'Wizard of Oz' dress
Dorothy's "Wizard of Oz" dress was blocked from auction Tuesday, after a judge filed a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit over the dress. Photo courtesy of Bonhams

May 24 (UPI) -- The long-lost blue-and-white gingham dress worn by Judy Garland in the 1939 film "The Wizard of Oz" will not go up for auction Tuesday after a judge blocked the sale of the iconic garment.

Dorothy's checkered dress was estimated to fetch between $800,000 and $1.2 million at Bonham's auction of Hollywood memorabilia in Los Angeles after it was found last July at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., during a renovation.

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U.S. District Judge Paul Gardephe in New York granted a preliminary injunction Monday to stop the sale after a relative of a Catholic priest at the school filed a lawsuit claiming the dress belonged to her.

The Rev. Gilbert Hartke, who died in 1986, headed the drama department at Catholic University and had received the dress as a gift in 1973 from actress Mercedes McCambridge, the lawsuit said. Gilbert Hartke is photographed holding the dress in several photos during the 1970s.

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"The university has no ownership interest in the dress as ... there is no documentation demonstrating decedent ever formally or informally donated the dress to Catholic University," Gilbert Hartke's niece, Barbara Ann Hartke, said in a lawsuit filed against the school and the auctioneer.

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Gilbert Hartke retired in 1986 and left the costume to his successors leading the drama department.

"We look forward to presenting our position, and the overwhelming evidence contradicting Ms. Hartke's claim, to the court in the course of this literation," lawyers for the university said.

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The dress was presumed lost for nearly 50 years despite many attempts to locate it, until Catholic University drama lecturer Matt Ripa found a bag on top of the faculty mailboxes.

"I was curious what was inside and opened the bag. Inside was a shoebox, and inside the shoebox was the dress! I couldn't believe it," Ripa said.

The dress is one of four blue-and-white dresses in existence from the film, according to Bonhams. It is one of only two that retains the white blouse.

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