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Rose Mary
By Rosemary McKittrick
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First Academy Award 1934. Clark Gable's "It Happened One Night." Sold for $607,500. Photo courtesy of Christie's
Fame made his celluloid image on the big screen even bigger. Most of us remember Clark Gable as the irreverent and irrepressible Rhett Butler in “Gone With The Wind.”

Funny how a role he never wanted to accept in “It Happened One Night,” would end up being the movie that brought Gable Hollywood’s highest award. The only Academy Award in a 40-year career.

In “It Happened One Night,” released in 1934, Gable plays an unemployed reporter chasing heiress Claudette Colbert across the country.

The movie launched the 33-year-old actor’s career and is often remembered for the scene where Gable throws a blanket over a rope to separate the motel room while the couple changes. Gable took off his shirt revealing bare skin. The public’s reaction was so strong that men’s undergarment sales allegedly dropped 40 percent.

Gable’s Academy Award for “It Happened One Night” went on the block Dec. 15, 1996, at Christie’s, New York. The Murray Feldman Gallery at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles hosted the film, television and pop auction.

The 12-inch gold-plated statue, together with a photo of the actor holding his award, sold for $607,500. Two auction records were set, one for an Academy Award, the other for the highest price paid for a piece of Hollywood memorabilia.

Director Steven Spielberg walked away with Gable’s Oscar, which came from the deceased actor’s estate. Spielberg then donated it to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Other items in the auction included Gable’s personal script for “Gone With The Wind” signed by producer David Selznick. Everyone wanted Gable for this part.

“It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate the compliment the public was paying me,” Gable is quoted as saying. “It was simply that Rhett was too big an order. I didn’t want any part of him, Rhett was too much for any actor to tackle in his right mind.”

The movie script was estimated to sell for $30,000-$50,000 and sold for $244,500. Another record. Spielberg bought this one too.

Gable’s personal script for “The Misfits,” co-starring Marilyn Monroe, brought $20,700, and went to an anonymous buyer. Even the leather padded bed Gable shared with actress-wife Carole Lombard soared. It went to an anonymous buyer for $20,700.

“This auction is a celebration of all those great Hollywood performances that will never be forgotten,” said Nancy Valentino, Christie’s entertainment memorabilia specialist. “We believe entertainment memorabilia is a very hot collecting category.”
The sale totaled $1.8 million.

Q. I have a collection of Life Magazines from 1939 through 1944. Any idea of value? C.S. Matolcsy, Pittsburgh.

A. Between 1820 and 1860 more than 1,000 magazines showed up on the market. Most vanished soon after. But a few like Harper’s Monthly (1850), Graham’s Magazine of Literature and Art (1840), and Harper’s Weekly (1857), held on. They were able to do it by hiring the best writers, editors and illustrators.

By the 20th century in depth news reporting was added and magazines like The Saturday Evening Post, McCalls and Literary Digest flourished.

The most valuable part of any old magazine is usually the cover. Covers showing illustrations by Wyeth, Parrish and Rockwell attract particular attention.

A good resource book is The Insider’s Guide to Old books Magazines Newspapers and Trade catalogs by Ron Barlow & Ray Reynolds. The book details 21,000 items priced by dealers and collectors.

The authors say most single issues of Life sell in the $5-$10 range. I think that’s high. You want to remember that condition is a critical factor with old magazines.

Some of the more popular older Life Magazines they list are: May 1, 1939, Joe DiMaggio, $45. July 15, 1940, Rita Hayworth, $15, Dec., 8, 1941 Far East Commander, $22, July 12, 1943 Roy Rogers, $35, October 16, 1944 Lauren Bacall, $25.

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