Death is a way of life for classic movie fans. And if you don’t believe me, just search YouTube for TCM Remembers (and remember to have plenty of Kleenex handy).
For many of us, the passing of Lauren Bacall last summer at age 89 was a loss deeply felt, and one that still stings. Humphrey Bogart’s co-star in TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT (1944), THE BIG SLEEP (1946), DARK PASSAGE (1947), and KEY LARGO (1948) – and his partner in life from 1944 until his death in 1957 – remained vital until the end, acting in more films and TV shows in the last decade of her career than the first. (And yes, I know TV didn’t exist in 1944, but you get my point).
Seventy years after her film debut, Bacall made her final “appearance” in March of 2014 as the voice of a sultry senior on the Fox animated series Family Guy. It was a fitting, satirical end to the career of an icon whose husky pipes made her a sex symbol and who never seemed to take herself too seriously (despite our tendency to do so).
We still have Bacall’s iconic film work to remember her by, of course. But for fans who want more, on March 31 and April 1 Bonhams will be auctioning personal items owned by the actress over the course of seven decades. And the venerable auctioneer, well known to classic film fans thanks to their record-breaking TCM auctions in 2013 and 2014, announced today that the Lauren Bacall Collection will be available for viewing on a worldwide tour prior to the auction date.
The tour begins in Hong Kong January 14 – 19, before traveling to Paris (January 29 –February 3), the Grand Palais (February 4 – 5), London (February 15 – 19), and Los Angeles (February 27 – March 6). The entire collection will be previewed in New York from March 25 – 30, prior to the four-part auction event.
The touring collection speaks to Bacall’s taste which was, in a word, classy. It includes sculptures by Henry Moore and David Graham, jewelry by Jean Schlumberger, and signed lithographs by David Hockney. But there are also a handful of lots of particular appeal to classic film fans, and they’re estimated to sell at surprisingly low prices.
One lot includes two silver-plated “table items” presented to Bogart. The first is an engraved pitcher from his friend Spencer Tracy jokily recognizing “Hump-Free” Bogart’s prowess at poker. The second is a silver-plated bowl honoring the victory of Bogart’s boat the Santana in the 1950 Santa Barbara Island Race. In 1947 Bogart named his production company Santana Productions after his beloved yacht, and the current films made by the Bogart estate including THIS LAST LONELY PLACE (2014) are produced under the Santana banner. (Estimated price: $1,500 – $2,000)
Another lot of interest is a beautiful 1953 sketch by Hungarian Marcel Vertès of the artist painting a portrait of Lauren Bacall. It’s signed and inscribed Madame Humphrey Bogart quand elle était Betty Bacall / Avec ma fidèle amitié Vertès / 1953. (Estimated at $1,000 – $1,500)
The next is a delightful classic film trifecta: a lithograph of a painting Henry Fonda did for co-star Katharine Hepburn during production of ON GOLDEN POND (1981), his final theatrically released film. The painting, entitled “Norman Thayer Jr.” (the name of Fonda’s character in the Mark Rydell film), is of three hats Fonda wore throughout filming, including a brown Fedora Hepburn gave him on the first day of production. That Fedora had been Spencer Tracy’s lucky hat.
According to Bonhams, Fonda presented Hepburn with the original watercolor, and subsequently produced an edition of 200 lithographs of the painting. He signed, numbered and presented a lithograph to cast and crew of the film. Fonda died at age 77 just six months after the release of ON GOLDEN POND. (Estimated at $ 600 – 800.)
There’s not much information in the listing about the provenance of this 14 1/4-inch “patinated bronze figure cast by the Otto Strehle foundry,” but a statuette of Bogart as Sam Spade that belonged to Lauren Bacall would make the perfect gift for any classic film fan – particularly this one. (Estimated at $ 600 – 800.)
These few items really give you a sense of the private relationships that classic film stars had. They aren’t just icons, they were real people with friendships that often stretched across decades. And the preview items in the Bacall Collection represent only a small portion of the 750 that will eventually be presented at auction, so check back at the Bonhams website as we get closer to the auction date. But whatever you do, don’t bid on the Sam Spade statue – unless you plan to give it to me. Because that one is mine.
For more information on the Bacall Collection, visit Bonhams.com