Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Curios: Upcoming Hollywood Memorabilia Auction

Up at auction: the 1940 Buick Phaeton automobile from Casablanca (1942).

An amazing array of Hollywood props, scripts and other memorabilia is going up for auction at Bonham's in New York City on the 25th of November, 2013 at 1 p.m. Eastern - from the Maltese Falcon prop, to wafers of Soylent Green, to Michelle Pfeiffer's Catwoman suit and Michael Keaton's Batman suit. And Bonham's have storyboards from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Soylent Green! The original prop.

They have signed contracts, countless costumes (some are breathtaking, have incredible craftsmanship, or are sci-fi classics) and posters, and they have Francis Ford Coppola's working script (here) from The Godfather (1972). They have a script from Citizen Kane (1941). And Marilyn Monroe's high school yearbook.

All film genres, classics from all decades. See the auction house's Website here. You can bid online.

The iconic lead statuette of the Maltese Falcon from the 1941 film of the same name.


  1. I followed the link to the auction site and read the extensive notes provided but I couldn't find an explanation for how, of the two existing lead copies of the Maltese Falcon, the one up for auction here was the only one that appears on screen but (is a spoiler really necessary here?) shows no sign of being defaced as we've all seen happen at the end of the film. IMDB's trivia page for the movie states that there were four made-- two lead and two much lighter resin copies. One of the lead ones is seen damaged by Greenstreet on camera. The studio owner made it a gift to William Conrad and it was sold at his estate auction in 1994. The auction site describes that one as the "second" lead statue and that the one pictured here, with the tail bent by an accident during shooting, is the only one confirmed as having been on screen. Curious.

  2. That is odd! Perhaps they don't know the provenance of their own items as well as they appear to do? There is an email on the auction site for further info on any item in the action. Try asking them - I wonder what they'll say.

  3. I kept looking at movie memorabilia sites to see if there were any anecdotes kicking around and while I didn't find anything specifically about the Falcon(s), there were numerous stories about the difficulty some collectors have had verifying the authenticity of movie props, especially since it is such a common practice for multiples to be made and for less distinctive items than the Falcon to be reused to save money. (i.e., you can verify a prop was used in a 1952 B-movie but you can't tell if it was made to look like a similar item in a classic 1937 film or if it was the same item dusted off from the prop department.) Complicating matters, when Warner Brothers were promoting the 1975 George Segal comedic sequel "The Black Bird" (at least according to IMDB again), they took one of the original Falcons (presumably the unmarred, bent-tail copy) and made a mold from it to mass produce 250 replicas which were then sent to press offices in ramshackle packaging identical to the way Bogart's character (Sam Spade) received it in the original movie. Knowledgeable experts can easily distinguish them. Rubes with more money than brains have been ripped off by these copies for decades.

    The point is, as with the copies, I should have known what to look for when reading the auction site's notes. It only says that the one going up for auction is the only one authenticated-- the copy given to Conrad would not have had documentation. In the 1940's neither the giver nor the recipient would likely have thought of a gift in those terms. Once it was no longer studio property, the studio would have been overstepping its bounds to document the marred Falcon's authenticity. The likely timeline for this would be:
    .....1) Two lead copies are made
    .....2) One Falcon is dropped during shooting, denting the tail (and injuring Bogart's foot, incidentally)
    .....3) Although scenes in Hollywood movies are almost never shot in order, the scene in which Greenstreet damages the statue is shot after the scene that was interrupted by accidentally dropping it. The undented copy would have been used because it would be seen in close up and from different angles, so neither the dented copy nor either of the much lighter resin copies (which wouldn't handle correctly) could be used.
    .....4) After shooting, the marred copy couldn't be used from promotional purposes because it reveals too much about the movie's content. It also couldn't be used in future films because it was covered in scrape marks. The dented copy, at least, could still be seen from the front. (Remember, the studio had no way to know how long or well the movie would be remembered no matter how successful the box office at the time.)
    .....5) Since the studio didn't have any practical need for the marred copy, Jack Warner kept it until he gave it to William Conrad.
    .....6) Years later the studio decides to sell items from the prop department and only then authenticates them for that purpose, probably citing years of inventory documentation prepared for tax or insurance purposes (or both). Since there would be no such documentation for Conrad's copy, the studio will never authenticate it. However, overwhelming physical evidence tells us that regardless of legal definitions that both copies must have appeared on screen,... unless the only scene in which the dropped copy was used was the one in which it was in fact dropped, and that the scene was reshot with the other copy, which later became marred. If that were true, then the only copy with documentation didn't really appear on screen at all. Ooops. Well, let's just assume it was used extensively before it was dropped, shall we?

    Anyway, as somebody who has read as much pop culture 'journalism' as I have, I should have parsed the phrasing a little more carefully on the first read through. The auction site may have been unintentionally misleading but if I hadn't confused myself it shouldn't have called for that much disambiguation.

    1. Amazing deductions, pblfsda! - I still think you should write to the auction house and ask them about this! And come back and tell me and the blog readers what they say. You can legitimately inquire about the provenance of any piece up for auction, I believe.