Auctions of all kinds seem to be proliferating–which may say more about the economy than we want to know–but three super-star auctions are on the immediate horizon from the collections of John Wayne, Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynolds.
John Wayne, the USC footballer born Marion Morrison who went from B westerns to Oscar-winner, passed away in 1979, but the family says this is the first auction of his personal property. Everything from his True Grit eye patch to his Golden Globe for the same film is up for sale, as well a myriad of costumes, cowboy boots and hats and over 50 scripts, many with his own notations.
The Wayne auction, put on by Heritage, will be held on October 6 at the The Hyatt Regency in Century City with previews on the 3rd, 4th and 5th. An internet-only auction will complete the sale on October 7. Presumably entrance to the preview is free (except for parking), but a catalogue is for sale for fifty dollars and a DVD is a bargain at 19.95 (HA.COM.)
The Wayne family has waited over thirty years since his passing, but the family of Elizabeth Taylor didn’t need six months to think about what they were putting up for sale. Just the same, the Taylor auction is one of the most elaborately promoted of any on record, complete with a eight-city international preview tour.
Yes, there is the 33-carat diamond ring from Richard Burton, the diamond tiara Mike Todd gave her, and over 200 other pieces of “jaw dropping” jewelry. Those fabulous jewels will be sold over the first two of the four day auction to be held at New York’s Rockefeller Center beginning December 13. Costumes and memorabilia will go on the 16th and her artwork, which includes a Degas, a Renoir and a Van Gogh, will be sold in London in February. But first the world tour has already been to Moscow and London and is coming to Los Angeles at MOCA at the Design Center from Oct. 13 to 16. A limited number of tickets at twenty dollars each are being sold at the Christies site for $20 a head, with part of the profit reportedly going to Taylor’s AIDs foundation. Then the preview collection will hit Dubai, Geneva, Paris and Hong Kong before going to New York for for ten days before the gavel comes down.
That 33-carat diamond is estimated to bring $3 million, but that has to be a lowball figure when you consider that just this summer, Marilyn Monroe’s Seven Year Itch dress went for $4.6 million and Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot Races dress from Gigi brought in $3.7 million. That ring might be heavy, but it is a lot easier to carry and you can wear it everywhere. The dresses were bought at Debbie Reynolds’s first auction, the second of which will be held on December 3 in Beverly Hills. Some of costumes to be sold that day are currently on display at the Paley Center and included Monroe’s dresses from Bus Stop and Let’s Make Love.
And in case anyone has money left, on December 15-17, Profiles in History, which is also handling the Reynolds’s auctions, is holding an “Icons of Hollywood” auction which includes a pair of Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz — one of only four pairs that were used during filming. (The pair sold at the Reynolds auction were rehearsal shoes.)
Watching these incredible collections get broken up and sent around the world to individuals to do God knows what with can be heart-wrenching – just ask Reynolds, who tried for years to hold hers together. One can argue that the Academy of Motion Pictures should have acquired at least a couple of Academy-Award-winning costumes for their long-planned museum, but they are counting on buyers being willing to loan their prizes for future exhibitions. However, what historians and archivists are losing forever are the correspondence, contracts and personal items that tell a story that now cannot be told.
Norma Shearer and Irving Thalberg’s possessions went on sale this summer, and it is one thing to witness fans buying Norma’s bed linens or tablecloths, but another entirely to see the photograph albums of Thalberg’s childhood and the box of contracts, letters and film conference notes go to collectors to be broken up and sold individually. That one file box – containing written material from a man who was secretive by nature and from whom little survives – went for $8,000. It is a shame that a proper archive could not have found that in their budget. So much history, gone with the wind.