Denver Newsroom, May 23, 2022 / 18:50 pm
The Catholic University of America cannot auction a dress from the Wizard of Oz until a court resolves a legal challenge about its ownership, a federal judge has said.
The university had scheduled an auction of the dress worn by Judy Garland for the classic movie in hopes of raising more than $1 million for its drama department. The legal challenge comes from Wisconsin resident Barbara Ann Hartke, 81, a niece of a Dominican priest and drama professor at the university. She says that the dress should be hers because she is the priest’s closest living relative.
Judge Paul Gardephe, in a May 23 temporary injunction, ruled that the niece’s lawsuit had enough merit to proceed. He blocked the planned auction until the lawsuit challenging ownership of the dress is legally settled through proceedings in Manhattan federal court. He has set another hearing in June. The ruling could postpone the sale of the dress for months or years, the Washington Post reports.
Mercedes McCambridge, an Oscar-winning actress and artist-in-residence at Catholic University in 1973, had given the dress to Father Gilbert Hartke, O.P., the founder and head of the university’s drama school. In the late 1980s, the dress went missing and the costume became the subject of rumor. Matt Ripa, a lecturer and operations coordinator for the university’s drama department, happened upon a bag atop faculty mailboxes in 2021. He opened the bag to find a shoebox, inside of which was the dress.