Marilyn, Alberto Vargas, Buddy Holly, Jerry Garcia & the Beatles to Highlight Bonhams & Butterfields Winter Entertainment Sale

. December 1, 2007 – Bonhams & Butterfields, international fine arts auctioneers, brings a star-studded Winter line-up of vintage and contemporary film and television props, costumes, and Rock ‘n Roll memorabilia from ground-breaking artists to auction on Sunday, December 9, 2007 in Los Angeles.

The marquee lot of the sale is a Marilyn Monroe archive of never before seen documents and personal items related to the star. The collection includes: a copy of Monroe’s first contract from 20th Century Fox relating to her work, her name change, and her termination; documents linked to the infamous ‘Happy Birthday Mr. President’ gown and pumps worn to President John F. Kennedy’s birthday party in 1962; a never-before-seen group of telephone bills from Monroe’s personal archive, including four billing statements from the General Telephone Company sent to the star for her Brentwood, California home telephone line; and a black and white snapshot taken in 1952 while the star was filming Niagara.

“The Entertainment Memorabilia Department is excited to offer pieces related to the icon that had not been known to exist until now,” said Margaret Barrett, Department Director. “Most of the Monroe items on offer in December have never been seen by the general public. This is a fantastic opportunity for any Marilyn collector or fan to buy a piece related to her history.”

A Joan Crawford collection of love letters handwritten to a beau in 1923 when she was a teenager will also be featured. Comprised of 28 letters, most still with their original transmittal envelopes, each has been written to a Fred ‘Nig’ Stafford, a boyfriend of the then-named Billie Cassin (later: Joan Crawford), while she was a student at Stephens Junior College in Columbia, Missouri. Penned in different colors of fountain pen ink on numerous types of stationery [college letterhead, plain notepaper, various hotel letterheads], the collection spans a short six months, from February to August of 1923, when Cassin/Crawford would have been 17 and 18 years old.

The content of the letters is overly effusive and melodramatic (as might be expected of a teenager) – likely due to the writing style of the era, but also because of the young Billie’s ‘theatrical’ personality. According to Barrett, “This is the period in Crawford’s life when she began traveling around the country, performing in nightly dance contests and reviews garnering experience and public exposure. This explains much of the hotel stationery within the body of letters. Overall, these letters provide a fascinating glimpse into the teen-aged Joan Crawford’s life, in the period before she became a huge movie star.” The lot is estimated to bring $3,000 o $5,000.

Highlighting the Rock ‘n Roll section of the sale are two guitars once owned by the legendary musician and leader of the iconic rock band The Grateful Dead. Consigned by Leon Day, former personal chauffeur to Jerry Garcia, the very special instruments are being offered to support the building of a facility devoted to the treatment of Autism. Estimates for the two guitars range from $40,000-$50,000 each.

Also featured in the Winter auction is a Buddy Holly stage-worn outfit from 1958 (est. $15/20,000). The costume consists of a brown and black wool tweed sports jacket with a with a three-button front closure. An inside breast pocket tag notes “Buddy Holly / Date 10-1-58.” Offered with a pair of dark wool flat-front trousers with a similar inside label, the outfit was worn by Holly throughout his tour including at the Syria Mosque venue in Pittsburgh, PA on October 13, 1958 and at the Community War Memorial Building venue in Rochester, NY on October 15, 1958. Included with the lot are reprinted black and white images showing Holly wearing the jacket, two auction lot tags, and a photocopy of the original receipt from the Rockefeller Center retailer Alfred Norton.

Next on the block is a rare Beatles “Butcher Cover” set of 4-color separations from the stereo version of the 1966 album Yesterday…and Today (est. $10/15,000). The lot consists of four separate transparent monochromatic sheets with each individual page displaying the infamous image of the album cover art. The first sheet is the yellow version, the second is red, the third blue, and the fourth is in black. This is an original set of artwork used by the printer to create this now notorious Butcher Cover. Considered too extreme and disturbing for 1966’s tastes, the record company recalled the album and re-released it with a more clean-cut image of the “Fab Four” seated around a steamer trunk.

Each of the twice-yearly entertainment memorabilia sales at Bonhams & Butterfields features collectibles from the estates and collections of actors, directors, screenwriters and others in “the industry,” as well as from private collectors, wardrobe houses and studios themselves. The auctions include property associated with costume designers, as well as illustrators and in December, an original drawing by pin-up artist Alberto Vargas should interest bidders. Rendered in pencil on paper, the image, popularly referred to as a “Vargas Girl” (after his series of illustrations in Playboy Magazine), depicts a lounging female wearing only a sheer robe and high heels. Rare to auction, the work is signed and dated “August 1955” on the right (est. $3/5,000).

Also included with the “Vargas Girl” is a compelling archive related to this popular and influential 20th century artist. Personal Vargas materials include: eight letters — dated from 1960 to 1974, typed on Playboy letterhead, addressed to the artist and signed in blue fountain pen or ballpoint ink “Hef” [Hugh Hefner, founder, editor, and publisher of the magazine]; a 1955 canceled bank check signed by Vargas; numerous letters handwritten by Vargas to Hugh Hefner and other business associates; a green spiral notebook filled with additional handwritten letters by Vargas; a 1954 contract signed by the artist; an original hand-painted Christmas card; three magazines featuring artwork by Vargas (a 1963 Playboy, a 1947 Motion Picture, and a 1948 Scop [a UCLA magazine]; and other pieces related to the artist and his career.

The memorabilia section of the sale features a 5-foot 7-inch humanoid/amphibious creature from the classic 1954 Universal horror flick The Creature from the Black Lagoon (est. $3/5,000). The life-size figure was created for movie theater lobby displays in Mexico, likely for its original release south of the border in 1955.

Bound in black leather, the original script for the 1954 holiday film White Christmas was owned and used by the film’s director, Academy Award®-winning director Michael Curtiz (he also directed classics such as Casablanca, The Adventures of Robin Hood and other prestigious celluloid works). The script, from the now-classic movie starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney, was consigned by Curtiz’s grandchildren and is expected to bring $3,000 to $5,000.

Additional highlights from the December sale include a one-sheet film poster from David O. Selznick’s 1939 Academy Award®-winning epic Gone with the Wind (est. $10/15,000); a one-sheet movie poster from the MGM 1956 classic sci-fi film Forbidden Planet (est. $10,000-15,000); a never before seen life-sized wax figure of Princess Diana as she looked in the late 1990s, shortly before her untimely death (est. $6/6,500); a Victorian style cut-glass inkwell prop from the Academy Award®-winning film My Fair Lady (est. $1,000/1,500) and an Errol Flynn costume design sketch from The Sea Hawk (est. $400-600). Bonhams & Butterfields will also offer a collection of animation cells from classic Disney films and numerous vintage film posters for movies spanning the history of cinema, many to be offered without reserve.

The illustrated catalog will be available online for review and purchase at in the weeks preceding the sale and its previews.

Category: Auction News

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