Thursday, December 12, 2013

Funny Old Props and Costumes


 Too few props from old comedy films are known to exist today.  I cannot say that a comedy film has produced anything as legendary as Sam Spade's Maltese Falcon or Dorothy Gale's Ruby Slippers, but I nonetheless wish more of those funny old props were still around today.


The Nineteenth Century Gentleman's Hobbyhorse that Buster Keaton had reproduced for Our Hospitality (1923) is presently housed at the National Museum of American History in Washington D. C.
 

It interested me to learn recently that this model of bicycle, which was also known as a Pedestrian Curricle or a Dandy-horse, had been popularized in England in 1818 and it was already outdated by the 1830s, which is when the film takes place.  But it doesn't really matter.  I very much share the opinion of the author of the Alpena Tweed and Bike Club website.  He wrote, "Though many people have pointed out that the Dandy-horse would have been rather old fashioned in the 1830s, . . . the thing that amazed me was how much fun Keaton made it look!"  Yes, indeed, Keaton did make it look like a fun little toy.


Not long ago, Debbie Reynolds consigned to the Profiles in History auction house a number of items from her vast movie memorabilia collection.  These items included a 1918 Ford Model T purportedly used in a film by Laurel & Hardy.  Brian Chanes, a Profiles in History representative, could not say for sure that this was an authentic article.  He explained, “[Y]ou’re not going to find a VIN number or a document proving that the car was used by Laurel & Hardy.  There’s no paper trail leading back to the Hal Roach Studios.”  Still, the buyers who attended the auction must have been convinced that it was for real because, in the end, it sold for $35,000.  Another of Laurel and Hardy's Model T Fords is on exhibit at the Hollywood Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Miami.  The crushed car from Hog Wild (1930) is on display at The Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.


Profiles in History sold many of Reynolds' items at an auction held in June of 2011.  Laurel & Hardy's suits from Jitterbugs (1943) sold for $16,000.

 
A top hat and wig that Harpo Marx wore in the 1930s sold for $55,350.


 A bowler that Charlie Chaplin wore in several films sold for $135,300.


Laurel and Hardy costumes from the 1954 film The Bull Fighters sold for $7,768 at Sotheby's in December, 2002.

Joe DeRita's widow sold this mallet, which Moe Howard had used as a prop in a number of Three Stooges films.  


This wolf mask was used in Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).



This is the scene.


The monster's boots from Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein has also become a collectible.

    
On November 25, TCM acted as the curator of an auction event titled "What Dreams Are Made Of: A Century of Movie Magic at Auction."  Several costumes from comedy features were presented at the auction.  This includes the following:

Robert Woolsey costume from Cockeyed Cavaliers (1934)
W.C. Fields' jacket from The Bank Dick (1940)

Chico Marx's tailcoat from Horse Feathers (1932)
Harold Lloyd blazer from For Heaven's Sake (1926)

This original script from Buster Keaton's Spite Marriage (1929) sold for $1,187.

   
One interesting item that turned up at the auction was W. C. Fields' joke file.


Personally, I would most love to own Oliver Hardy's ukulele from Sons of the Desert (1933).  To me, that ukulele is truly the stuff that dreams are made of.


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