Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Bonhams and TCM present - "Lights, Camera, Auction", their yearly sale of Hollywood treasures, as well as Maureen O'Hara's estate

Each year around Thanksgiving, Bonhams in New York has their yearly sale of great Hollywood memorabilia that they do in conjunction with Turner Classic Movies. This year they're also auctioning the estate of Maureen O'Hara, one of the great actresses and beauties of classic Hollywood. I went to the opening reception on Sunday night which was a lot of fun. Here I am with Judy Garland's "test" dress from "The Wizard of Oz" ... 

This dress was used during the early stages of filming, when they were trying different styles and shades of blue trying to find the right look of her character Dorothy Gale. To the left is the image of Judy wearing it, as well as a pinafore apron that was also an early test piece. These are the most important costumes in the sale... 

I also consigned a few pieces of my own, paring down the collection a bit. An Ava Gardner gown from "One Touch of Venus", Betty Hutton costume from "The Perils of Pauline" and Jill St. John dress from "Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed". I'll post pics of those later, but first let's look at some highlights from Maureen O'Hara's estate since her auction is being held first... 

Since I mainly collect vintage Hollywood costumes, it was fun to see O'Hara's estate, since she saved so much of her vintage wardrobe, going all the way back to the 1940's. She had great taste too, elegant with a flair for glamour...

This is the earliest piece in her auction, a dressing gown she wore in the movie "Sentimental Journey" in 1946. Typically the stars didn't keep costumes from their movies back then, since the costumes were owned by the studios and often re-used or re-purposed, or just kept in studio wardrobe. So it's really neat that she kept this...

In the image above there is also the accompanying portrait photo of her wearing the gown. It was also most likely used as inspiration for the gown she's wearing in the painting of her which is featured prominently in the movie. 

Next are two jackets from the 1940's, the second one was worn for publicity for the movie "The Homestretch" from 1947... 

Here is one of the more glamorous pieces, a green silk and beaded gown she wore in the movie "Malaga" in 1954 - 

There were green silk panels at the hips which were apparently removed over time. Most likely by O'Hara herself so that she could give the gown a more modern look to re-wear it. Still a great 50's glamour gown. 

There is also a dress from "Malaga" in the auction, a beautiful shade of yellow with a pleated skirt and a mini bolero. She also posed for some great publicity shots wearing it - 

She's wearing it in the image above without the jacket. If I were bidding on one this would be the one I'd go for. I was just so taken with it looking at them in person, and I love that it was movie worn and photographed so well. 

Here is a beautiful rhinestone encrusted cocktail dress she wore to the 1955 Golden Globes... and below that an image at the dinner with Marlon Brando...


Here is a classic 50's Don Loper dress... "Doesn't Mr. Loper know any other numbers but 5-0-0!" ... Fans of 'I Love Lucy' will know this quote :)

This is another favorite of mine, mostly because of the suit. It's a classic 40's style, and I love black and white check material. She took a great photo wearing it with Barbara Stanwyck and Lionel Barrymore. It's being sold with a cape and purse that she wore on a separate occasion - 

This one is unique, a Mexican style red dress with black rick-rack trim and tassels, worn for a portrait sitting she did in the 40's on the beach... 

Very sexy and sultry, even for her! But worn at the height of her beauty so she really pulls it off. I love how natural she looks here instead of all gussied up by the studio for a portrait sitting. 

Here's a green beaded dress she wore on "What's My Line" in 1959... 

My photo of the dress doesn't do it justice. It's such a rich green and the beading and trim is just beautiful. Another favorite in the sale, mostly because she wore it on this show, my favorite classic game show. That panel! I always enjoyed Arlene Francis, Dorothy Kilgallen, and Bennett Cerf all being moderated by John Daly. And the episodes with Fred Allen were the best.

Here's a dress she wore on the Dinah Shore - Chevy Show in 1957... 

A black sleeveless gown, no doubt worn to some event...


Here are two "Nudies" Rodeo Tailors vests that she had custom made. Nudies pieces are collectible in their own right, and these are even better having been made for a star like her.

Some more of her glamorous wardrobe... 

Many of the pieces above have photo matches and provenance. I just don't want to get into the details of every single dress. But for a celebrity auction it's actually pretty rare to see so many personal pieces having a photo match, and going back so early in their career. The last time I saw this was with Edie Adams. Both she and O'Hara saved so much of their wardrobe, as well as so many photos, so that matching up images of them wearing the pieces is inevitable. 

In this image below, the dress on the left was worn to the 1957 Oscars, where Ralph Edwards did a live episode with her for "This Is Your Life". The gown on the right was worn on "The Bell Telephone Hour" in 1964 when she was host...


This beautiful green chiffon gown was worn on "The Andy Williams Show" in 1963 - 

This Pucci gown was worn in the movie "The Battle of the Villa Fiorita" in 1965 and also to the premiere of 'Mary Poppins' the same year - 


These two cocktail dresses are really something, being sold together, they're two of the nicest in the sale. In the second image she's with her daughter Bronwyn...


Here's a gown she wore on the TV special "The Fabulous Fordies" when she sang "I Don't Care" 


And another gown she wore on the same special, as well as to the AFI Tribute to John Ford in 1973...

And last but not least, the highest valued piece of wardrobe in her estate, her signature jacket from "The Quiet Man" arguably the most important movie of her career - 

Here are some more images from the sale, including some of her accessories, furniture, etc., and the carriage from "The Quiet Man"

 And her portrait, painted by Montagu Marks...

Here's the costume I have from her, a navy blue silk cocktail dress from "The Parent Trap". I plan to do a separate post for it sometime in the future, but since we're talking about O'Hara I thought I'd share it...

Designed by Bill Thomas, it was made by the Western Costume Company, who made all of the costumes for the Disney live action films and TV shows. It's one of the better pieces in my collection, for O'Hara, the movie, and how elegant the dress is. I love the mid-century glamour pieces.

Now onto part 2, the main sale of Hollywood memorabilia...  

This painting is called "Farewell to Earth" by Pilides Tino Costa and is an image of Jean Harlow. It was commissioned by her mother after Harlow died tragically in 1937 at the age of 26 from kidney failure. It's exceptional, not only as a great piece of art but as a great piece of Hollywood history as well. Interestingly, and in true Hollywood fashion, the painting was lost for many years, decades actually and was feared gone forever, and then about a year ago it was found in an attic of a house in the mid-west. Apparently someone in Harlow's family had inherited it after Harlow's mother passed away, and it wound up languishing in an attic somewhere until recently being discovered. I really feel someone should do a documentary about the painting and how it was lost for so many years. It would make for a great hour long show on the History Channel or Nat Geo, a station like that

The painting was featured in the front window of Bonhams facing Madison Avenue. They had a few select important items there, including Yul Brynner's cape from "The Ten Commandments" and Harpo Marx's signature harp... 

Here is the Yul Brynner cape. These are the best photos I could get of it from the way it was positioned in the window. My friend Nick in Australia who is a longtime collector of vintage movie costumes bought it. I'm glad such a great costume wound up in a great collection... 

Here is Harpo's "harp" which was so neat to see. He played one in every movie the Marx Brothers made, and who could forget him on "I Love Lucy" playing it as well.

Here are my three pieces, first up the Ava Gardner gown from "One Touch of Venus" designed by Orry-Kelly. It failed to sell, mostly because of the very high price I put on it. To me it represents the best of classic Hollywood glamour, worn at the height of her beauty in 1948, and it's also in excellent condition. It's also never been available on the open market. I was lucky to be able to acquire it privately when it turned up in L.A. a few years ago. I might offer it for sale again in the future since I have other things from Ava.

Here are the photos I took of it on one of my forms. I think they came out great... 

Next is Betty Hutton from "The Perils of Pauline" which was a movie about the life of silent movie star Pearl White, who starred in the series of "Pauline" adventures. I had this costume in the MFA Boston exhibit "Hollywood Glamour, Fashion and Jewelry from the Silver Screen" held about two years ago. It's a beautiful example of workmanship by the studio, made of silk with gold braiding and sequins. I was lucky to find this one, since it's not labeled for Hutton, only stamped as from the Paramount wardrobe department. Through my detective work I was able to find Hutton wearing it in "Pauline", one of her more memorable roles, and honestly one of the few movies she made that I can actually sit through! She was great but always very off the wall, a bit much for my taste. It really looked great at the preview - 

And the last of my pieces, a black cocktail dress and jacket worn by Jill St. John in "Who's Been Sleeping In My Bed", a 60's comedy she made with Dean Martin, Carol Burnett, Elizabeth Montgomery, etc. A great example of 60's glamour, worn by one of the more beautiful actresses of the era and designed by Edith Head. This one didn't sell, but another one I'm just as happy to hold onto...

Here are some more costumes that were featured in the sale. One of my favorites was this period dress worn by Una Merkel in the 1952 version of "The Merry Widow" and designed by Helen Rose. I love the rich purple color and the beading. In the second image you can see her standing behind Lana Turner wearing it. She wears it extensively in the movie but that was the best image I could find online of her in it.


This one is very cool, Ann-Margret's green leather motorcycle jacket from "The Swinger" from 1967. This jacket was originally sold in the famous auction of Paramount wardrobe that Christie's did with the studio in 1990. The studio sold off many important costumes from the 20's to the 80's worn by just about every great star that worked there. It's nice to see this one surface again after 25 years

The little tuxedo in the image above is Shirley Temple's from "Young People" from 1940. It originally came from her estate auction where literally every single costume from her career was sold. Her mother had saved them all. It was a wonderful archive of Shirley's career.

Here is James Earl Jones' suit from "The Great White Hope". It's one I found for the consignor, and is such a great looking 20's style

This gold lame' gown designed by Ceil Chapman was worn by Jayne Mansfield for a LIFE magazine story in the early 60's. She also wore it to the 1960 Golden Globe awards. It completely represents her style and blonde bombshell persona... 

This glamour gown was worn by Hedy Lamarr in "My Favorite Spy" from 1951 and designed by Edith Head. Like the Ann-Margret, it was also sold at the famous Paramount Christie's auction in 1990. Unfortunately it's not in great shape, and needs a lot of re-beading, but at least it survives. I have a black silk cocktail dress she wears in the same movie. Pics of it are posted here on the site.


This tu-tu was worn by Doris Day in the musical "Jumbo" from 1962 and designed by Morton Haack. She had a few of these made for the movie since she wears it extensively, and this one comes from Debbie Reynolds' famous collection of movie costumes. Thankfully Debbie preserved so much. 

Here is a jacket worn by Matthew Garber in "Mary Poppins", it's one of his signature costumes from the movie. It comes from the same collection as the James Earl Jones did, and the Bobby Driscoll below also comes from the same collection. It's quite an archive of vintage actor costumes saved from Western Costume Company. This and the Driscoll did very well in the sale, both being from important Disney movies. 

The Bobby Driscoll is from "Song of the South" and is a very rare piece. Any famous child actor/actress costumes are usually sought after since they're more rare to find, and are usually connected with a famous family movie or one people remember fondly from their childhood. "Song of the South" is legendary for being the one movie Disney has banned because of its depiction of African-Americans. Watching it today and taking it into context for the time, Uncle Remus (the former slave who is the wise sage to Driscoll) is the hero of the movie. But, it's extremely racist in the way it shows former slaves happily living on a plantation, and the cartoon characters of Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox are also portrayed in a very racist way, a la "Amos and Andy." It's kind of shocking that even in the 1950's African Americans could be portrayed in a denigrating way, but it's just the way things were back then. Or maybe things were already starting to change, because the movie was a commercial failure for Disney. 

In the movie I think the studio was trying to show what it was like after the Civil War, that some former slaves did stay on the plantations and work and get paid as free citizens. But regardless of that, it shows them on a lower level then the white people, which is unacceptable. Couple that with the cartoon characters and it's just wrong, even if Disney at the time was just trying to make those cartoon characters comical and lovable. Watching it with a historical perspective allows you to still enjoy the story and the beauty of the movie itself. It's well made since it's Disney of course. And just being able to see Hattie McDaniel makes it worth watching in my book. But anyhow, that's why the Driscoll is important. Something tangible from such a notoriously famous movie makes the costume more collectible, and a rare piece of Disney memorabilia. The movie itself although banned can be found online as a bootleg.


Here's another one that I identified, that came from the same aformentioned collection, a Richard Burton period jacket from "My Cousin Rachel". It's very distinctive and well seen in the movie, which is a great gothic, noirish classic starring him and Olivia deHavilland. 


This one is iconic, Stephen Boyd's charioteer outfit as "Messala" from "Ben Hur" 

He had more then one made for filming, but seeing one complete with the helmet no less is very cool. The chariot race scene in "Ben Hur" is one of the most famous scenes in movie history. 

Here is another iconic one that got a lot of attention, Kim Novak's suit from "Vertigo"


Iconic for sure, being from one of the great movies of all time and arguably Hitchcock's best. But, in the movie the suit is clearly grey, and this suit in person was clearly tan, so I don't know what to make of that. It does have a label from Paramount with her name, but I think perhaps it was an alternate that was not used for filming. It's possible that they intended to use it and went with grey instead, or just had a few different shades to choose from. It's not uncommon for the wardrobe department to make variations of a costume to see how it will look on screen, just like the Judy Garland "Dorothy" test dress from "Oz" which is a perfect example. I have a set of Betty Grable pajamas that were intended to be worn in "My Blue Heaven" and were labeled for her and all, but for filming the studio went with a short robe made of the same material instead. During filming changes were made, things looked one way or another in front of the camera, and costumes weren't used. I think this suit is authentic in that it was made for Novak and is from the studio and the production, but personally I don't think it's screen worn. The color is just too different. 

Here is the costume I wound up with, a coat-dress worn by Susan Hayward in the 1944 movie "And Now Tomorrow"

Hayward has always been one of my favorite actresses, and I've always wanted something from the 1940's era of her career, so I was thrilled to add this to the collection. I have a dress she wore in "Untamed" from 1955, and a dress and coat set she wore in "Where Love Has Gone" from 1964, both of which I plan to add to the blog at some point. 

Here are a few more costumes. John Wayne's pea coat from "Reap the Wild Wind" can be seen on the right - 

And here is a wedding gown Sophia Loren wore in "Grumpier Old Men" and a uniform worn by Buster Crabbe in the tv show "Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion" which comes directly from his estate. 

One of the highlights of the sale were items from the estate of Rudolph Valentino. After he died in 1926 an estate auction was held, and the catalog from the sale alone is very collectible. These items have all been in the same family since the estate sale, and here they are after 90 years still surviving. It's great to see that they were preserved. Usually stuff like this gets lost over the years. 

The best piece was this riding outfit of a jacket and jodhpurs. And he's seen here in a similar outfit with his brother Alberto and Natacha Rambova.

Other items included a leather box with his initials, shirts, a dagger from "The Sheik", a silver trophy, etc. 

Here are a few more images from the sale... 

A carriage used in "Gone With the Wind" 

The Academy Award nomination plaque for best picture for "Peyton Place" 

A crown worn by Esther Williams in "Jupiter's Darling" 

Clayton Moore's signature "Lone Ranger" mask 

And some of the many vintage movie posters that were sold, followed by another image of the "Oz" test dress, apron, and blouse... 

Looking forward to the 2017 sale. Bonhams always does a nice job assembling a wide variety of great Hollywood memorabilia.


  1. What a great post! And really love the blog! Thanks!

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