ByKen Anderson, writer at
Ken Anderson

For years, movie fans, cinema historians, and private collectors have bemoaned Hollywood’s ages-old practice of destroying, discarding, or just allowing to rot, the no-longer-useful props, sets, and costumes from beloved films.

Movie studios, through their extensive prop and costume departments, at one time had both the space and means of storing and maintaining the one-of-a-kind items they created for their films. Often generating revenue from the rental and sale of these items to other studios, prop houses, and theatrical companies.

But with the dissolution of the studio system in the 60s, and the subsequent selling off of acres of backlot real estate in the 70s; preserving such a vast inventory proved a financial impracticality. Thus, props and costumes from hundreds of classic motion pictures were destroyed, seized (illegally) by nostalgic collectors, or sold at pricey auctions.

Today, thanks to the contemporary phenomenon of online auction sites like Ebay and eBid, studios and celebrities alike have wised up to the advantages of selling items once considered disposable or thought to be of little interest to the public.

This week (July 31-Aug 6) an online auction site known as Screenbid has put up 1,400 items of memorabilia from the popular, now defunct, TV show, Mad Men. And from the look of things, items as commonplace as ashtrays ($425) and hairbrushes ($75) are selling like the proverbial hotcakes.

So while I’ve never watched the retro-themed Mad Men, I am a big fan of retro films. A fact that inspired me to compile a fantasy “wish list” of my most-desired movie props, costumes, and items of memorabilia from classic (and not so classic) films.

1. The tannis root charm and chain from Rosemary's Baby (1968)

2. Any one of the futuristic, blatantly phallic weapons from Barbarella (1968)

3. The enormous, inflatable easy chairs from Ken Russell's The Boy Friend (1971)

4. One of those bulbous Munchkinland taxicabs from The Wiz (1978)

5. One of those prop photography books with Faye Dunaway on the cover used in Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)

6. The miniature replica of the Hollywood Bowl Muse Fountain from Xanadu (1980)

7. The hypodermic Iron Maiden worn by Tina Turner in Ken Russell's Tommy (1975)

8. A Golden Ticket from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

9. Eve Harrington's Sarah Siddons Award from All About Eve (1950)

10. One of those belts worn by Judas and the angels in Jesus Christ Superstar (1973). Although difficult to make out, each belt has a rhinestone buckle in the shape of the "praying angels" logo.

11. Jay Gatsby's gold vanity set from Great Gatsby (1974)

12. A Gillian Cosmetics prop hairspray bottle from Valley of the Dolls (1967)

13. Annie Hayworth's red mailbox from Hitchcock's The Birds (1963)

14. Portrait of actor Helmut Berger from Dorian Gray (1970)

15. This bizarre op-art getup by designer Arnold Scaasi worn by Barbra Streisand in a discarded scene from On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970)

16. A life saver emblazoned with the ship's name from The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

17. The mod sunglasses from The Cool Ones (1967)

18. Sketch drawing of Katherine Ross from The Stepford Wives (1975)

19. The ankh ring from The Love Machine (1971)

20. Raquel Welch's iconic star-spangled suit from Myra Breckinridge (1970)

Read more about these movies and other classic curios at Dreams Are What Le Cinema Is For...


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