My Treasures from the Dream Factory

DreamFactory_posterTCM joins with Bonham’s auction house to present “Treasures from the Dream Factory,” a selection of high-profile movie memorabilia to be sold this November. This is the third year for the event, which is open to everyone. The first year, the statue from The Maltese Falcon sold for $4 million; last year, the piano from Casablanca was auctioned for $3.5 million. I am sure you have seen the video preview on TCM for this year’s auction. Among the items up for bidding is a Rosebud sled from Citizen Kane, which had been given to Herman Mankiewicz at the end of shooting, Dorothy’s gingham dress from The Wizard of Oz, a Golden Ticket from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, and a variety of items from Natalie Wood’s estate. The video promises that most of the items for auction will be affordable to the average collector, despite these high-profile pieces.

The video for the auction prompted me to think about what pieces of movie memorabilia I would like to own. I discovered that my tastes run on a much smaller scale than iconic props and costumes from Hollywood’s most famous movies. However, Hendrik Wynands, the head of construction on Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory who provided the Golden Ticket, makes a good point in the video. He notes that people should collect what appeals to them based on the movies that touch them personally. That is where the true value lies. Memorabilia is more than owning a piece of the movie; it’s a tangible reminder of the meaning that the movie holds for the collector, and a trigger for the emotions behind that meaning.

blogusualIn no particular order is my wish list of memorabilia that I would consider bidding on. What props, costumes, or set pieces would you like to own? Let me know; I am intensely curious.

Kobayashi Porcelain Coffee Cup from Usual Suspects. I recently caught Usual Suspects on the big screen as part of a classic-movie series sponsored by Carmike Cinemas. It was by far the best film I have seen all summer. The experience provided proof that there is no substitute for watching a film on a big screen, particularly one like this, which is dependent on following a series of clues to understand the outcome of a complex narrative. And, the clues are embedded in tiny details, like the Kobayashi Porcelain coffee mug. I want one of these mugs as reminder of the power of a simple prop and of the fun that can be had in getting lost in a good mystery.

blogscarfaceThe Coin Tossed by George Raft in Scarface. Raft’s depiction of Tony Camonte’s right hand thug, Guino, in Scarface was his big breakthrough in the film industry. Hollywood folklore claims that Raft hated being typed as a gangster, partly because he was sensitive about his association with real-life gangsters in his native New York. Guino’s cool confidence was telegraphed by his habit of tossing a coin. Of course, his downfall was love, which created a crack in his cool facade. I like the symbolism associated with coins: A coin is one object with two sides, which is sometimes true of people. And, a coin toss is associated with fate or luck, often bad luck or ill fate.

blogstreetA Painting from Scarlet Street. In Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street, a meek, mild amateur painter falls for a femme fatale who is at the mercy of a conniving criminal. The criminal steals the paintings from the artist and tries to sell them, claiming the woman is the painter. My favorite part of the film is the way the snobby art critics interpret and misinterpret the paintings based on who they think the artist is. But, the paintings themselves are interesting. They are rendered in a kind of simple surrealism, in which the irrational juxtaposition of objects and figures in the paintings obviously have symbolic meaning. Hard-edged like the work of many surrealists, the paintings were done by John Decker, who also painted the portraits for Brute Force and The Two Mrs. Carrolls.

blogdoubleThe Ankle Bracelet in Double Indemnity. When Barbara Stanwyck descends the stairs in the beginning of Double Indemnity, a close-up of her legs reveals she is wearing an anklet. In the 1940s, ankle bracelets were considered déclassé, a flashy tasteless trinket for women of low class or low morals. Walter Neff can’t take his eyes off her “honey of an anklet,” as he calls it, because he is hooked. The ankle bracelet was the hook, Stanwyck’s sexuality the bait, and Walter the poor fish. I liked that one piece of jewelry could wield so much power.

Jigsaw Puzzle from Citizen Kane. While one of the infamous sleds built for Citizen Kane will be auctioned off by Bonham’s, I would prefer to have one of the jigsaw puzzles that belonged to Suzan Alexander Kane. The puzzles represent her loneliness and boredom with her life in secluded Xanadu, where she is kept like one of the statues Kane collected and stored in the basement. The puzzles remind me of the reporter’s metaphor at the end of the film, where he likens his task of finding Rosebud to a jigsaw puzzle with a piece missing.

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Pocket Watch from Somewhere in Time. Watches and clocks are potent symbols in movies and pop culture. They can suggest a character’s time is up, or that another is past his time, or that modern society is so fixated on time that we are slaves to the clock. The ultra-romantic Somewhere in Time is about two people from different eras who fall in love across time. A pocket watch is the incentive that brings a woman’s lover back in time so they can be reunited. I want this particular watch because I want to be reminded that maybe there is a chance that pure romance still exists, even if you have to go back in time for it, though experience tells me otherwise.

blogmystery Toy Tiger Purse in Mystery Train. Jim Jarmusch’s 1989 indie film is an experiment in narrative structure. Three separate stories about three sets of characters come together in a unique way at the end of the film. Because the film is set in Memphis, it should come as no surprise that the ghost of Elvis (literally and figuratively) hangs over all three stories. The first tale involves a hip, young Japanese couple who are avid consumers of pop culture, which is evident in their attire and the fact that they are in Memphis to visit Graceland. As soon as I saw the girl’s purse, which looks like a stuffed toy tiger, I was obsessed with having one. I never found a tiger purse, but I did manage to find two fish purses, two bear purses, and one cow purse. In an era when Gucci purses, leather purses, and other high-ticket bags were status symbols, I liked this character’s toy-tiger purse, because it was an un-status symbol.

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Pyramid Jacket from Desperately Seeking Susan. Director Susan Seidelman’s comedy about gender and identity featured Madonna in her first movie. Madonna stars as a version of herself—a free spirit unfettered by traditional roles and male expectations of women. Rosanna Arquette costars as a suburban housewife trapped in a traditional role and living vicariously through Madonna’s life. When she finds this jacket, which had belonged to Madonna’s character, it foretells changes in her personality and perspective. The jacket is a signifier of liberation from conventions and norms. The film also captures the bohemian lifestyle of 20-somethings who lived in downtown Manhattan in the 1980s, and the jacket reflects the motley fashion of that moment and place in time.

 

14 Responses My Treasures from the Dream Factory
Posted By LD : July 27, 2015 3:13 pm

There is only one object on my wish list and that is a replica of the Maltese Falcon. I stress “replica”. At this phase of my life I would not like the responsibility of owning anything that was a true piece of Hollywood history. I have actually found one but it is a bit pricy and hard to justify but one of these days who knows?

Posted By Sly Wit : July 27, 2015 4:24 pm

My top choices would probably include glassware from The Thin Man, the stamps from Charade, the portrait from Laura, the pen from Say Anything, the underlined copy of MOBY-DICK from Heathers, and anything worn by Grace Kelly in a Hitchcock film.

Posted By Emgee : July 27, 2015 7:05 pm

Charles Bronson’s harmonica from Once Upon a Time in the West.

The spur James Stewart killed Robert Ryan with in The Naked Spur.

One of the medallions from For a Few Dollars More.

The matchbox Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall used in “To Have and Have Not.

One of Oliver Hardy’s ties.

The bolts from Frankenstein’s creature’s neck.

Oh, and one of Bela Lugosi’s capes.

Now is that too much to ask?

Posted By Susan Doll : July 27, 2015 7:34 pm

Sly Wit: Oooooh, the stamps in CHARADE. Good one. Also, the glass ware from THE THIN MAN. I would definitely like one of their martini glasses.

Posted By Sly Wit : July 27, 2015 7:38 pm

I’d trade it all for William Powell making me a martini, glass or no!

Posted By Marty : July 27, 2015 9:27 pm

I have always wanted a music stand with the Martin and Lewis characatures on it. These music stands were used by members of Dick Stabile’s band — Dick was the team’s music director and was featured in many of their pictures together.
I’d love to have an authentic stand from their early 50s nigtclub and movie appearances.
For years after their breakup, Lewis had music stands with just his characature. I’d take one of those, too!

Posted By Maryann : July 28, 2015 12:18 am

The one item I have long desired is Errol Flynn’s hat from Captain Blood

Posted By george : July 28, 2015 1:54 am

Laurel and Hardy’s derbies. Chaplin’s cane and shoes. Keaton’s porkpie hat and Lloyd’s straw boater. One of W.C. Fields’ pool cues. Yes, I’m a comedy junkie.

Posted By swac44 : July 28, 2015 3:17 pm

A friend of mine recently gave me a sticky tape dispenser with Dean & Jerry’s caricatures on it, so that’s something I guess (not as cool as a Dick Stabile music stand though).

I’ve always lusted after Jimmy’s Vespa GS scooter in Quadrophenia, and of course the one that Gregory Peck takes Audrey Hepburn for a spin on in Roman Holiday. But I recently bought a mint restored vintage Vespa from a local collector, so I can at least pretend.

Posted By Richard Brandt : July 28, 2015 5:51 pm

I once entered a web contest where the prizes were all classic movie memorabilia, and the grand prize winner had to make a choice between, among other options, Indiana Jones’ hat and whip, and Rick’s trenchcoat from CASABLANCA.

That would have been a painful contest to win.

Posted By CitizenKing : July 28, 2015 6:48 pm

I have one of those replica Maltese Falcon props, I love it and it is an important piece of my movie room. My next purchase would be a Leg Lamp from A Christmas Story. It is easy to find.

But relative to the more unattainable objects, there are some good suggestions above. I especially like the Charade stamps.

Here are my wishes:

Sean Connery’s crown from The Man Who Would Be King.

A matchbook (with ROT monogram) from North by Northwest.

A baseball from Bull Durham (or maybe a Durham Bulls cap).

Posted By Steve L. : July 28, 2015 7:05 pm

A handful of the hay Teri Garr rolled in in Young Frankenstein

Posted By Marty : July 28, 2015 10:13 pm

A great friend of mine, an animation screenwriter/emmy winner who sadly passed away last year, had a great actual prop:
He had the vertical Howard Johnson One Flavor sign from the Rock Ridge exterior set of Blazing Saddles!
Whenever I watch the picture (which is frequently)the moment I see that prop sign, I think of my dear friend.
And since he was working on the Warner lot, he also happened to have an actual F Troop enlisted man’s hat.

Posted By George : July 29, 2015 4:59 am

I wonder how many people shelled out money to own a replica of this (in)famous prop? And how many displayed it in their living room?

http://www.avclub.com/article/you-can-now-buy-a-reproduction-of-the-phallic-scul-97746

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