20th to auction memorabilia online

GOOD MORNING: What’s the hottest item(s) out of Hollywood? Movie memorabilia. And while the past is the present’s darling, 20th Century Fox is working with movies’ future partner — the Internet — to quell the never-ending thirst of cinema collectors. Friday, 20th debuts an online auction of genuine props, costumes, etc. from its 1999 “Anna and the King” on: http://www.AnnaAndTheKing.com. All items were hand-crafted in Asia and will be authenticated. The props and costumes are by Oscar winners Luciana Arrighi (production designer) and Jenny Beavan (costumes). All items were made under Thai advisers during the preparation for and production of the movie. They remind me that the Asian influence is in fashion today and thus the souvenirs are useable as well as collectible. Of course, you’d have to be someone special to bid on the King’s royal barge — 40 feet long. Or to fit into the costumes worn by Jodie Foster or Chow Yun-Fat. But other items include those from the key sets such as the dining and garden rooms … On learning of this online auction, I dug into my files to uncover the 1971 public auctions of 20th memorabilia, in two giant sessions, one Feb. 25-28, another, Nov. 14-21. Profits from the giant catalogs ($10) alone went to the Permanent Charities of the Entertainment Industries. As I thumbed through 460(!) pages, memories of movies with which I’d grown up flashed. They included items from the 1946 and 1956 “Anna And The King of Siam” and “The King & I” — including Yul Brynner’s two-tiered throne. And items from other 20th magical movies: “Cleopatra,” “The Egyptian,” “The Sound of Music,” the first “Dr. Dolittle,” “Peyton Place” (and “Return to”), “Hello Dolly,” ‘”Alexander’s Ragtime Band,” Paul Newman’s bike from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Planet of the Apes,” props from the first Fox “Titanic,” ships, planes, tanks and trains from “Tora Tora Tora,” “Desert Rats,” posters, costume sketches, etc. etc … The disembowelment of major studio chef d’oeuvres had begun the previous year, starting May 3, 1970 with the public auction of “the countless treasures” acquired from MGM: five(!) books of catalogs that unloaded their remnants of Hollywood history. In my column, May 5, 1970, I reported of the monster crowd on hand for the first day’s sales: “The start of the MGM auction of 10,000-plus items — not including wardrobe(!) — should give some idea of thing$ to come.” Among those on hand that day: “Steve Boyd was looking for his ‘Ben-Hur’ chariot, (and way back then) Debbie Reynolds continues to buy (for the museum which is still searching for a home), Rock Hudson said he was just looking for a ‘gift for a friend.’ A stewardess on a N.Y.-L.A. flight told me her plane was oversold with people coming out specifically for the auction.” Little did anyone guess what those items would be worth today — and tomorrow.

SO, HOWCUM 20TH IS AUCTIONING THEM off at this date? I spoke to Alan Adler, executive director of 20th Century Fox Archives. He came on board and created the department in 1992. Since that time he has zealously been collecting and guarding these memories and credits “management with being dedicated to this work.” He says they’ve saved everything from “Anna” and are auctioning only those (100-200) of which “we have duplicates and are not being kept for exhibition value. And we have enough to share.” He says they are conscious of what had happened (disastrously) in the past. He’s back from seven weeks in Australia where 20th has a 5,500-square-foot museum of movie memorabilia; next will be one in Baja where Fox has another studio (built for the recent) “Titanic.” What about a museum in Hollywood? He couldn’t give an answer — yet. Some of the 1998 “Titanic’s” items — from lifeboats to dishes — were sold via the (late) J. Peterman Co. catalog But there’s lots left. Adler assures this Internet auction “is not just a money thing — it’s in tandem with advertising, etc. for “Anna and the King.” What happens with the funds raised by the auction? Tom Sherak allows, “We’re still trying to figure it out. Maybe some charity — but we’re also a business.” He recalls “Titanic” director Jim Cameron had autographed 100 “Titanic” one-sheets that were donated and sold at $1,000 apiece, with $50,000 going to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.

THERE WAS MORE THAN THE USUAL interest in participants at the Kennedy Center Honors last year when Andre Previn’s ex-wife, Mia Farrow (they were married 1970-79), was one of his presenters. Previn was accompanied to the awards by his wife, Heather (Hales), who has since filed to divorce him. This year, Previn attends with — Farrow. Washington’s photogs will get a chance to catch up with their NY. and L.A. brethren as Catherine Zeta-Jones arrives on the arm of Michael Douglas. Representing the Kennedy family at the Center named for JFK will be Sen. Edward Kennedy, Eunice Shriver and ambassador Jean Smith. And among the close Clinton celeb friends at the awards and the White House reception will be Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson … Woody Allen and Sean Penn host tonight’s screening of their “Sweet & Lowdown” at the Academy. Penn is so proud of this pic, he’s bringing 50 guests … Sharon Stone, Meryl Streep, Katie Couric and “The View’s” ladies receive Good Housekeeping’s Great Works Award tonight in N.Y. at the mag’s institute. You know the food will also be great there! … More than 25 officers of flag rank will be on hand Dec. 7 at the BevWilshire when the Veterans’ Foundation honors Ernie Borgnine as Veteran of the Year. Tom Hanks chairs. Borgnine was a gunner’s mate on the USS Lamberton which often tied up alongside my ship, the USS Boggs.

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