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  WHAT'S ON THE BLOCK

The stuff of dreams

Auction of film props signals sale of a century

June 7, 2000
Web posted at: 4:34 p.m. EDT (2034 GMT)


In this story:

Absolute sale

Trash, treasures

RELATED STORIES, SITES icon



HOLLYWOOD (CNN) -- It's a nondescript warehouse located in the heart of Hollywood, with only a sign outside announcing the presence of Ellis Mercantile.

But inside?

From the floors to the ceilings, for as far as the eye can see, there are shelves jammed with all sorts of items -- stuff ranging from sporting equipment to spears, from baby carriages to bath tubs.

Want a Roman baton from "Ben Hur"? A gladiator helmet from "Spartacus"? How about the baseball bat Robert DeNiro used in "The Untouchables" to pound a point home?

These items, and millions more, are going to be sold June 8 through June 12. For the first time in its nearly 100-year-old history, the contents of the Ellis Prop Shop are going on the auction block.

"This is the first time that Ellis will go to auction," said Keith Burns, a film director whom Ellis has hired as a consultant. "And indeed, for the Hollywood prop houses, this is the end of an era."

This is the largest auction of Hollywood memorabilia since MGM sold its backlot in the 1970s. The owners of Ellis, which began as a pawn shop here in 1908, cite changing times, production changes and the advent of modern technology for their decision to call it quits.

Absolute sale

And, as the saying goes: Everything must go.

"We expect the auction to do phenomenally well for a couple of reasons," Burns said. "There hasn't been a prop house come to auction for a generation, and it's not just people living in and around Los Angeles and the Hollywood community that will be buying these things.

"There will be people bidding on the Internet from around the world," he said. "Wherever you can tie up a computer or telephone there will be people bidding on material that has never seen the light of day" since it was used in a film.

Propp house
 

The auction will be held at the Universal Hilton Hotel, next door to Universal Studios in Los Angeles. For a complete list of items you can go to www.remarketingassociates.com.

The auction will begin each day at 10 a.m. PDT (3 p.m. EDT). Collectors can bid live throughout the event by logging onto www.livebid.amazon.com.

Trash, treasures

Make no mistake about it: There is junk among the jewels. There are thousands of generic items ranging from glassware to stuffed animals, and hundreds of things will be sold by the lot. Much of it belongs in the trash.

But oh, the bargains that can be found!

"From salt-and-pepper shakers made for some nondescript little comedy from the 1940s, to important pieces from important features of today, all exist at Ellis," said Burns. "It's hard to imagine any important film from the last century that some item from that film is not in some way here at Ellis."

Unfortunately, many items cannot be authenticated. "There are millions of pieces here that we cannot name because we don't have the research anymore," Burns said. "But that's the sad tale of Hollywood. You cannot name a major studio that did not at some time send things to the landfill."

plastic horse
A life-size plastic horse with plastic guns is up for sale  

That's precisely where all of Ellis' paperwork ended up.

Items that can be authenticated include luggage -- complete with a big "L" emblazoned on its side -- used by Penny Marshall in the TV show "Laverne and Shirley"; the gong used in "The Gong Show"; and a deck of cards used by Mel Gibson in the film "Maverick."

That connection to popular culture is what will set this sale apart, Burns said. "It's not just (items used by) Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable and James Dean that are getting big money anymore," he said. "Some of the things that look insignificant to most people will get fantastic bids because at least two people know that that piece came from that classic movie and they will bid as much as they can."

For instance, Burns noted, "We have the Roman spears here that were used in 'Cleopatra' in 1934 with Claudette Colbert, that were then used by Mel Brooks to make 'Robin Hood: Men In Tights.'

"Now how's that for a bargain?"



RELATED STORIES:
A bit of what's behind the Elvis auction
October 7, 1999
Marilyn mania surpasses $13 million at auction
October 28, 1999

RELATED SITES:
Ellis Props and Graphics
Remarketing Associates
www.livebid.amazon.com


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