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Auction PR Publicity Announcements News and Information

Estate Of Charles Williamson And Tucker Fleming for Bonhams Auction

Bonhams & Butterfields is pleased to present the Estate of well-known collectors and autograph dealers, Charles Williamson and Tucker Fleming, on April 20, 2011. The sale, simulcast between Los Angeles and New York, features an impressive collection of approximately 600 lots highlighted by one-of-a-kind personal letters, documents, and photographs covering literature, art and film.

Collected throughout their extraordinary 54 years together, the Estate features items related to Marlon Brando, Charlie Chaplin, George Cukor, William Faulkner, Ian Fleming, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Greta Garbo, Ava Gardner, Ernest Hemingway, Audrey Hepburn, Alfred Hitchcock, Vivien Leigh, Margaret Mitchell, Elizabeth Taylor, Rudolph Valentino and a 16 year-old Marilyn Monroe, among others.

Highlights from the Estate include an eight-page autograph letter from Marilyn Monroe, signed Norma Jeane Dougherty, describing the personal details of her wedding at age 16 to Jim Dougherty (est. $25,000-35,000); personal letters from Greta Garbo to George Cukor, and a signed copy of her first contract with MGM (est. $3,000-5,000 each); letters from Margaret Mitchell to George Cukor, regarding pre-production progress on Gone With the Wind (1939) (est. $1,500-2,000 each); a 1948 sketch by Alfred Hitchcock (the iconic line drawing of his profile) signed “Hitch,” and inscribed to actor John Dall, star of the thriller Rope (1948) (est. $1,500-2,000).

Additional Hollywood collectibles from the Estate include a photograph of Audrey Hepburn to George Cukor, the director of My Fair Lady (1964), inscribed “Darling George: I worship and adore you;” a publicity still of Vivien Leigh from Gone With the Wind (1939), signed and affectionately inscribed to Cukor, the original director of the film, and the one to whom she credited her performance (est. $1,500-2,000); a portrait of Ava Gardner by photographer George Hoyningen-Huene, signed and inscribed by Gardner to Cukor: “I’ll always be grateful to you for giving me my first real interest in making pictures” (est. $1,500-2,000); and a rare autograph letter signed by silent film star Rudolph Valentino (est. $2,000-3,000).

The sale also features unique items from 19th and 20th century literature, music, and art collected by Williamson and Fleming. Material of note includes a 1955 letter from Ian Fleming to his Hollywood agent, thanking him for taking interest in his thrillers and letting him know Live and Let Die and Moonraker would soon be on shelves, and that offers of $500 options he’d received were insulting (est. $1,000-1,500); letters of crime novelist Dashiell Hammett, including one written from Alaska while he was serving in WWII (est. $1,500-2,000 each); William Faulkner’s 1943 contract with Warner Brothers to work on a film entitled The De Gaulle Story (never produced) (est. $2,500-3,500); and an autograph letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald to actress Ina Claire, sent in the hours before a date, and another sent the next morning, apologizing for his boorish behavior (est. $3,000-5,000 each).

Other 19th and 20th century literature, music, and art highlights include an archive of letters from Paul Bowles to James Herlihy (est. $8,000-1,200); a letter signed by Paul Gauguin (est. $10,000-15,000); a rare autograph letter signed of L. Frank Baum of Wizard of Oz fame, on pictorial letterhead, featuring the covers of his novels: “I’ve looked in my magic box and find I’ve used up all my magic words and things just now and will have to wait till the Fairies put more in it” (est. $3,000-5,000); an autograph letter by Johannes Brahms (est. $1,500-2,000); an autograph letter of Bela Bartok (est. $1,000-1,500); a letter signed by George Gershwin, written to a young autograph collector, encouraging her to take up collecting books (est. $1,500-2,000); a letter signed by WWI spy Mata Hari (est. $2,000-3,000) and a typed letter signed by Dorothy Parker, complaining about The Algonquin Hotel in New York (est. $700-900).

Catherine Williamson (no relation to the Estate), Director of Fine Books and Manuscripts, said: “The Estate of Charles Williamson and Tucker Fleming is one of the most comprehensive autograph collections to come to public auction in recent years. The two men accumulated a remarkable group of manuscripts and ephemera that covers literature, art, music, theater, and film, which Bonhams & Butterfields is now pleased to offer.”

Charles Williamson and Tucker Fleming resided in Los Angeles for most of the second half of the 20th century. While in Southern California they earned the friendship of Hollywood director George Cukor and his many acquaintances including Judy Garland, Vivien Leigh, Katharine Hepburn, Joan Crawford, Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo, and others.

San Francisco native Tucker Fleming graduated from University of California, Berkeley. He went on to serve in the U.S. Army, becoming a surgical technician after studying at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Fleming went on to study at the Sorbonne in the early 1950s, before meeting Williamson, a Yale drama student, in Cannes. Together, their social circles involved the likes of artists and writers that included Tennessee Williams, Paul Bowles, Noel Coward, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Somerset Maugham, Christopher Isherwood and others.

It was in the 1960s that Williamson and Fleming moved to West Hollywood, next door to Hollywood legend, George Cukor. They became instrumental in helping Cukor organize his library and papers. Upon Cukor’s passing, the director left the bulk of his extensive archive to them.

Williamson and Fleming also handled the papers of MGM executive Eddie Mannix, actress Ina Claire, and writer James Herlihy. By the 1980s and 1990s, the pair had decided to compile a comprehensive collection that would represent every actor, writer, director and producer of note in cinema, in addition to the fields of theater, music, literature, and art. By the time of Fleming’s passing in 2010, they had almost done just that.

The April 20th single-owner auction also features letters, documents and signed photographs from Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball, Honore de Balzac, Tallulah Bankhead, John Barrymore, Ingrid Bergman, Humphrey Bogart, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, James Cagney, Raymond Chandler, Anton Chekhov, Montgomery Clift, Claudette Colbert, Colette, Gary Cooper, Bette Davis, Olivia De Havilland, Marlene Dietrich, Arthur Conan Doyle, W.C. Fields, Errol Flynn, Henry Fonda, Clark Gable, Judy Garland, Betty Grable, Cary Grant, Rita Hayworth, Katharine Hepburn, Boris Karloff, Gene Kelly, Veronica Lake, D.H. Lawrence, Carole Lombard, Bela Lugosi, Thomas Mann, the Marx Brothers, Hattie McDaniel, Laurence Olivier, Dorothy Parker, Marcel Proust, Ginger Rogers, Frank Sinatra, Stendhal, James Stewart, Bram Stoker, Gloria Swanson, Elizabeth Taylor, J.R.R. Tolkein, Spencer Tracy, Lana Turner, John Wayne, Eudora Welty, E.B. White, Walt Whitman, Thomas Wolfe, and Emile Zola, among many others.

The illustrated auction catalog for the Estate of Charles Williamson and Tucker Fleming will be available online in the weeks preceding the sale at

San Francisco Preview: February 10-12, 2011 (highlights only), timed to coincide with the 44th California International Antiquarian Book Fair

New York Preview: April 8-10, 2011

Los Angeles Preview: April 15-17, 2011

Auction: April 20, 2011, Los Angeles, simulcast to New York

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