Memorabilia, Thou Glittering Baubles
Anyone who refers to him or herself as a “collector,” be it of dolls, clocks, vintage toys, trains, or green glass, will tell you that collecting is a hobby/investment that can often veer out of control. Movie memorabilia collectors are probably most familiar with the term “out of control,” since the prices of memorabilia have gone up substantially since the 1970s. Back then, the studios didn’t realize what they had, and one could get something for a quarter. Now it’s a quarter of a million.
My own history with collecting Tyrone Power memorabilia started back in the aforementioned ’70s. In that era, thanks to a renaissance in classic film, there were nostalgia magazines aplenty, and inside, ads from dealers and collectors looking to sell or buy. It was then that I developed a very warm relationship with Larry Edmunds Bookstore and a few other Hollywood places that specialized particularly in photos of the stars, books, posters, and sometimes drawings. Today, it’s ebay and various auction houses, notably Profiles in History, Heritage, and Julien’s, to name but a few.
Many memorabilia collectors in the beginning will buy anything related to his or her subject that bears the star’s name or likeness, anything the celebrity touched, signed, wore, used to wipe his face, or used for their cigarettes while dining at Perrino’s.Later, as you sit in what used to be your home and now looks like the local junk shop, you become more selective about your interests. Put it this way: When you have to turn sideways to get out the door because it’s been narrowed by towers of photographs, it’s time to make a change.
In my own case, I began with photos. Hard to believe that there are still some photos of Tyrone Power that I don’t own. It seems impossible that one man could have his face on so many photos. But then, considering that he was one of the most gorgeous men who ever walked the planet, and his tremendous popularity — so big, that even today he is considered one of the top box office stars of all time — it’s understandable. A tiny sampling:
Then there were the costumes. No woman’s closet is complete without the pants, vest, and jacket from Suez, and one of the coats from Lloyds of London. And personal items. What would I do, how would I live, without Tyrone’s long red bathrobe, one of his coats, a pair of his gloves, his blue tie, or his herringbone jacket?
The very first clothing item of Tyrone Power that I ever purchased was a cutaway coat made for him in 1948 by Caraceni in Italy. It set me on a path leading to near bankruptcy. (A friend of mine wore it to an opening night party, with a pair of Ty’s cufflinks — yes, I have several pairs of those — and he was a smash.)
Here is something I could not allow to pass me by: The straight razor someone stole from the set of Nightmare Alley. Tyrone used to shave more than once a day when he was filming.
A cigarette case…a pewter cup with his signature that he gave as a gift to people who worked on The Black Rose…programs…signed books…It’s a slippery slope. On the left, a copy of The Razor’s Edge by Somerset Maugham, signed by the film cast; center, one of his cigarette cases; and on the right, a copy of George Bernard Shaw’s St. Joan, signed by Shaw himself and the cast of the touring company, which included Katherine Cornell, Brian Aherne, Tyrone Power, Jr., and others.
That slippery slope, as I was sliding, included Rains Came doll. Like I suppose you could get any better than that. Actually, you can, with a Rains Came miniature used in the hurricane sequence.
What did that doll have to do with Tyrone Power? Uh…nothing.Slide…slide. The jewelry he bought for Lana Turner in Mexico. Of course, I wasn’t content only to buy those items, I had to buy a pair of her earrings that he had no connection to as well. One piece, a bracelet, is pathetically photographed here.
From there, I graduated to posters. Only original posters were allowed to adorn my wall.
Finally, thousands of dollars later, I discovered what I really wanted to collect. In memorabilia-land, that’s called hitting bottom. Letters! And contracts! Leases! Postcards! Christmas cards! They take up less space and are filled with interesting tidbits. Ah…life before email. Hard copies. I love it. Mere samples:
So I’ve finally settled on correspondence and other Tyrone writings, which live happily in archival scrapbooks. But once in a while, a gift he and Lana Turner gave to Darryl Zanuck, a vest, an autograph, a script tempt me. Then I think of myself outside, tin cup in hand, singing “How Great Thou Art” … and I buy the thing anyway.
Welcome to the World of Memorabilia.