Feature: Hollywood Memorabilia from the Estate of Clara Bow Chatelaine's Antiques Collectibles Appraisals


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Hollywood Memorabilia from the Estate of Clara Bow

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Clara Bow Memoribilia

Hollywood Memorabilia from the Estate of Clara Bow Takes the Spotlight in Entertainment Memorabilia Auction

Born in the Brooklyn in 1905, the actress earned her first role in the early 1920s, and by 1926 was Hollywood’s biggest star, having been dubbed the "IT" girl by racy novelist Elinor Glyn. Her career flamed out in the 1930s after several scandals, and she retired at 28 to a 300,000-acre ranch in Nevada with her cowboy-star husband Rex Bell. Bow passed away in 1965. From her estate are a rare and unusual collection of photographs, scrapbooks, trophies and personal effects.

Clara Bow told reporters and fans toward the end of her life that she had saved nothing from her film career, but in fact she spent her twilight years meticulously organizing and identifying photographs and clippings for her sons. These photographs and scrapbooks became an important primary source for David Stenn’s biography Clara Bow: Runnin’ Wild and for an upcoming Biography episode on Bow to air in early July on the A&E network. Butterfields’ specialist in charge Catherine Williamson says, This collection is a rare find, containing as it does artifacts from Clara’s early career previously thought lost coupled with commentary, sometimes nostalgic, sometimes bitter, added at the end of her life.

Entertainment memorabilia including Clara Bow property direct from the silent screen star’s estate, Buddy Holly’s first electric guitar and rare vintage film posters will be offered at Butterfields, the West Coast’s leading auctioneer, on Thursday, June 27, 2002 in San Francisco and via the Internet.

Public previews of the celebrity memorabilia to be sold to the highest bidders open in Los Angeles June 14-16 and in San Francisco June 21-23. The online illustrated catalog will be available for purchase and review at www.butterfields.com. During the sale, Internet bidders using eBay’s Live Auctions capability will compete with bidders in the San Francisco salesroom and on telephones.

Featured in this, the second session of Butterfields’ summer Books, Manuscripts & Entertainment Memorabilia auction is a collection of material from silent screen star Clara Bow. Decades before Marilyn and Madonna, Clara Bow fans flocked to her more than 60 movies to watch the plucky, free-spirited actress who, according to F. Scott Fitzgerald, was the generation’s best embodiment of the flapper.

Nearly 50-lots of Bow material will be offered including black & white portraits inscribed to her father and to her husband and a collection of forty 8x10 publicity stills from her early career, also inscribed by the actress (est. $4/6,000). A set of 120 large format silver gelatin prints bear the stamps of major studio photographers and display provocative images captured from 1925-1931. The photographs could bring $5,000 to $7,000. Also offered are rare key still sets from Bow films such as The Saturday Night Kid (1929), Her Wedding Night (1930) and Kick In (1931), each believed to be the only surviving set from those films. A rare one-sheet for Bow’s last film Hoopla (1933) should bring $2,000 to $3,000.

A personal collection of 29 photographs of the star on honeymoon with husband Rex Bell features the couple in Europe in 1932 and an actual sound recording made in the 1950s features Bow, with her sharp Brooklyn accent, reciting Shakespeare and poetry.

Clara Bow’s trophy from a 1924 dance contest, a 1927 WAMPAS trophy for screen achievement and a 1957 Eastman House Medal of Honor awarded to the actress will be offered as will a first edition copy of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Swords of Mars inscribed by the author to the movie star. A Jack Dempsey poster inscribed to Bow’s father and photos given to Bow by other Hollywood luminaries such as Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Gilbert Roland are expected to interest collectors. Several interesting short stories written by Bow will be offered including a manuscript she penned from The Institute of Living, a Hartford, CT psychiatric hospital at which she was diagnosed as schizophrenic in 1949.

Other entertainment lots on the block in June include Buddy Holly’s first electric guitar, a 1953/54 Les Paul Gibson Gold Top, offered with its original amplifier and case (est. $80/120,000). The guitar was purchased by Holly in 1954 according to the original receipt now housed at the Buddy Holly Museum in Lubbock, Texas where the guitar had been exhibited (loaned to that museum by its current owner). Though Holly eventually traded-in this guitar and later purchased what came to be his signature guitar, the Fender Stratocaster, his selection of the Les Paul as his first electric guitar represents a significant step in his musical evolution away from Country & Western and toward Rock & Roll.

Other highlights in the June sale include an archive of 399 charcoal, crayon and pencil storyboards for the never-produced animation film Finian’s Rainbow by John Hubley (est. $25/30,000). Hubley, an accomplished animator, began his career with the Disney studios working on Snow White, Bambi and many other now-classic films. His career (and specifically this project) was derailed by the House Un-American Activities Committee’s Hollywood witch-hunt.

A Cecil Beaton watercolor of Greta Garbo in Camille will be offered, as will collections of letters of Ingrid Bergman and Audrey Hepburn, concept artwork for an early Disneyland attraction and a collection of intriguing manuscripts of Beatle George Harrison. A large format photograph of Marilyn Monroe inscribed to the head of Fox publicity could bring $4,000 to $6,000 while a signed synopsis of a never-produced Preston Sturges film written in Paris in 1957 is estimated at $2,000 to $3,000.

An interesting lot is an annotated 186-page manuscript of an unpublished Orson Welles autobiographical book tentatively titled Letter to a Young Actor (est. $15/20,000). The pages had been in the possession of his typist Hannah Scheel and detail Welles’ early theatrical career and his move to Hollywood.

Nearly 120-lots of vintage movie posters will be offered, many dating from the 1920s. Highlights include a trio of Disney/Winkler 1924 releases, each offered separately. One-sheets for Alice Gets in Dutch, Alice’s Spooky Adventure and the only known copy of Alice the Peacemaker could each bring as much as $20,000.

Specialist Contacts:
Catherine Williamson, Director, Fine Books, Manuscripts & Entertainment Memorabilia, (323) 436-5442 Email: cwilliamson@butterfields.com


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