A lawsuit was filed against the Catholic University of America which hindered them from auctioning the 'Wizard Of Oz' Dress worn by Judy Garland in her classic role "Dorothy."
According to a complaint filed in the Southern District of New York, the dress should belong to Barbara Hartke, the heir to the estate of Rev. Gilbert Hartke, the former head of the Catholic University of America's theatre department.
Last month, Catholic University declared that it would sell the dress Garland wore in the 1939 film after it was regained on campus last year, decades after it had been thought to be lost, with all proceeds going to the drama department. Bonhams estimated the dress would fetch between $600,000 and $1.2 million via auction.
According to Bonhams, actress Mercedes McCambridge gave the dress to Hartke in 1973 after the priest helped her overcome her substance abuse troubles. People who knew McCambridge speculated that she may have gotten the outfit from MGM's costume vaults during an inventory clearance.
In the complaint, Barbara Hartke's legal team claims that the university has no authority to sell the garment because McCambridge "clearly and publicly" handed it to Hartke and it is thus "an asset of the decedent's estate." Her lawyers allege that no attempt was made to contact Hartke's heirs after the dress was discovered, and her team is seeking a temporary restraining order or an injunction to prohibit the sale.
In a response to Forbes, Catholic University said it is evaluating the charges in the case and will release further information "after a full investigation of the complaint."
Devout Dominicans Restrictions
The institution claimed that the relatives who oppose have no case, Catholic News Agency reported. They said that the lawsuit's allegations are without merit because Catholic University is the lawful owner of the dress and Hartke's estate has no property interest in it.
The dress was handed to the priest in his capacity as a theatre professor at the university, according to the university's attorneys. The institution also noted that as a devout Dominican, Hartke was not permitted to keep personal belongings.
He would have been compelled to gift to his province "in line with his vows and solemn profession" if anything was offered to him in his capacity. According to Letoile, the Dominican province claims no ownership of the clothing. "I hereby affirm on behalf of the province the Catholic University of America's full ownership of the dress," he said.
A university spokesperson said the university is looking forward to next week's opportunity to provide the court with evidence, including a declaration from another family member, proving Catholic University's ownership of the dress. They said it has documents indicating that the dress was given to Hartke with the intention of it being utilized to help the theatre department when the outfit's sale was announced in April.
Judge Paul Gardephe of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York issued a temporary restraining order on the auction, pending a hearing the day before the dress was to be auctioned through the auction house Bonhams.