Hollywood’s vaulted secrets

Academy offers peek at museum artifacts

The Motion Picture Academy feted the 10th anniversary of the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study on Sept. 10 with public tours of its film preservation vaults, a reception and a screening of the silent “The Mark of Zorro.” The onetime TV production building on Vine Street has received about $45 million in renovations, with more on the way as the vaults expand and objects for the future Acad museum at Wilshire & Fairfax start to arrive.

The Acad collection has artifacts to make almost anyone say “Ooooh.” For Michael Pogorzelski, director of the Academy Film Archive, it’s original kinetoscope loops. “We have 10 of those that date from the late 1890s,” he says.

For Julio Vera, collections manager for the museum project, it’s the ruby slippers used for closeups in “The Wizard of Oz,” including Judy Garland’s heel clicks. “They’re like our flagship,” says Vera. “It makes something we’ve known all our lives very concrete.”

But the featured attraction of the night was a donation from Bill Marx, son of Harpo. Marx gifted his father’s prop trunk and its contents, which he’s maintained since he was Harpo’s prop man half a century ago. His favorite item? “The bubble machine,” he says instantly. Harpo used it to blow bubbles out his clarinet when he played “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.” Might it ever be used again at its new home? “No way,” said Marx. “We don’t have the clarinet.”