Bonhams & Butterfields June Auction To Feature Items Related To Barbara Stanwyck, Norma Shearer And Ethel Merman

Bonhams & Butterfields Entertainment Memorabilia auction on June 26, 2011 in Los Angeles will feature a wide variety of items related to Hollywood, Rock ‘n Roll and Animation Art. Highlights will include pieces connected to Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Nightmare Before Christmas and the grand dames of old Hollywood: Barbara Stanwyck, Ethel Merman and Norma Shearer.

Highlights from the Estate of actress Norma Shearer and Academy Award®-winning producer Irving Thalberg will be prominently featured within the auction. Thalberg is known as “The Boy Wonder” for his extraordinary ability to make very profitable films by choosing the right scripts and selecting the right actors. He married Shearer in 1927. Shearer went on to become one of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s biggest stars of the 1930s.

Items of note from the couple’s Estate include a Gone with the Wind (1939) script inscribed by David O. Selznick to Norma Shearer (est. $10,000-15,000); a nine-piece sterling silver and enamel ladies vanity set, used by one of Hollywood’s most glamorous leading ladies (est. $400–600); a pair of vintage silver gelatin photographs of Shearer taken by Hollywood glamour photographer George Hurrell (est. $1,500-2,000); a manuscript for the unpublished autobiography of Norma Shearer with the working title My Love Affair with Life (est. $600-900); and Shearer’s personal script for Marie Antoinette (1938) ($1,500-2,000). Shearer was nominated for an Academy Award® for best actress in a leading role starring opposite Tyrone Power and John Barrymore.

Property from other Grand Dames includes an oversize portrait of Barbara Stanwyck in oil (est. $4,000-6,000); a correspondence archive between Stanwyck’s husband, actor Robert Taylor and his long time publicist and friend Helen Ferguson offering an intimate portrait of his daily life, marriage to Stanwyck and their deteriorating relationship (est. $2,500-3,000); Stanwyck’s handwritten letter to former President Ronald Reagan (est. $250–350); an original candid snapshot of Merman posing with the Beatles in 1964 (est. $300–500); a substantial collection of silver and gold objects relating to the Merman family (est. $1,000-1,500); Merman’s personal, annotated script from the television special Annie Get Your Gun (1966) (est. $600–900); and a rare candid photograph of Merman with fourth husband Ernest Borgnine (est. $300-500). Merman famously refused to comment on her short-lived relationship with Borgnine, whom she married and divorced within a month. In her 1978 memoir Merman, she offered nothing more than a blank page in the chapter titled, “My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine.”

Featured in the Rock ‘n Roll section is Paul McCartney’s script for Give My Regards to Broad Street, 1984 (est. $750-1,000); a Rolling Stones silk tour banner from 1972 (est. $1,000-1,500); and one of twelve known sleeves from the Rolling Stone’s single Street Fighting Man (est. $8,000-12,000). The single was first released in August of 1968, just before the Chicago Democratic National Convention, where riots broke out between demonstrators and the Chicago police force. The Stones’ picture sleeve used two images depicting police brutality taken from one of the many riots that had broken out in over one hundred U.S. cities that year. The record company deemed the sleeve to be inappropriate and it was immediately withdrawn. No one knows for sure how many examples of this sleeve have survived but most estimate the number to be between ten and eighteen copies, placing it among the rarest pieces of Rolling Stones memorabilia.

Also on offer is a vintage Les Paul prototype guitar case, which features an original “Cunard White Star to Europe” label addressed to “Mr. And Mrs. Lester Polfuss” aboard the Queen Elizabeth, when it sailed on September 3, 1952 from New York to Southampton, England (est. $10,000-15,000). The trip is chronicled in The Early Years of the Les Paul Legacy 1915-1963 by Robb Lawrence. Paul and his wife were traveling to London to perform a series of concerts and Gibson sent this case originally containing a prototype guitar for Paul to evaluate on his trip abroad. The case, adorned with rare travel documents, is accompanied by a photo of Les Paul posing with the item.

In addition, Bonhams & Butterfields will be offering a strong selection of animation art featuring Charles Schulz and early Disney pieces. Highlights include a pen and ink Peanuts daily, dated 7-15, 1976 by Schulz (est. $10,000-15,000); a gouache celluloid from Walt Disney’s The Silly Symphony – Santa’s Workshop (1932) (est. $2,000-3,000); and a preliminary watercolor background study from Walt Disney’s Cinderella (1950) by artist Mary Blair (est. $500–700). As well, a selection of early pieces from Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) will be led by a gouache celluloid depicting the six dwarfs gesturing to Dopey (est. $4,000-6,000); a preliminary background study from the film (est. $2,000-3,000); and seven early preliminary concept drawings, one for each dwarf (est. $1,500-2,000).

Further highlights from the June 26 auction will include iconic props, concept drawings and story boards from the award-winning Tim Burton film The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993 (estimates vary), and props from the film Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark (estimates vary). Items from the classic Indiana Jones adventure will be offered in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the film’s release in June of 1981. [Please see separate press releases.]

The illustrated auction catalog is available online at in the weeks preceding the sale and Los Angeles previews.

Preview: June 24-25, 2011, Los Angeles

Auction: June 26, 2011, 10:00 a.m., Los Angeles

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