Tuesday, June 30, 2015

FAVORITE MOVIE PROPS: A DREAM WISH LIST

It’s been my experience that it’s the rare film enthusiast who doesn’t also possess a passing interest in (if not an outright mania for) those fascinating objects of tangible trivia associated with the making of motion pictures. I’m speaking, of course, about movie memorabilia. And whether in the form of collecting marketing materials like posters, stills, pressbooks, and souvenir programs; attending museum exhibits displaying classic movie costumes and props; going to celebrity autograph conventions, or scouring online auction sites for items from celebrity estates or rare props and collectibles from favorite films – the motivation behind the actions are the same. It’s the desire to possess part of a dream. To rekindle and revisit the sensations inspired by a favorite film. The wish to bridge the gap between reality and the fantasy world movies.

When I was a youngster, I really had a thing for movie posters and movie poster graphic design. I loved looking at the poster display cases outside movie theaters, and even had a scrapbook where I'd paste my favorite movie poster ads clipped from the entertainment section of the newspaper. In 1970 when I was 13-years-old I purchased the original 1968 Barbarella poster for $8.50. It was my very first movie poster acquisition (I still have it, framed, in my home today) in what would grow to become a collection of movie promotional material so sizable, by 1975 I had more posters than wall space to accommodate them.display them.
My bedroom during my senior year in high school.
I moved to Los Angeles in 1978 and suddenly autograph collecting was added to my fanboy obsessions. Working at a McDonald's in Hollywood, I got Stevie Nick's autograph the night Fleetwood Mac won for Rumors (and no, she didn't order a Big Mac); working at a bookstore in Beverly Hills Diane Keaton, Steve Martin, and countless others. I still have the overflowing scrapbook.

By the late 90s, with the advent of eBay and what I perceived to be a decline in movie poster design, I wound up either selling off or donating to a local film museum the bulk of what had grown into a cumbersome movie poster and Lobby Card collection. I held onto the ones that meant the most to me: Barbarella, Rosemary’s Baby, The Day of the Locust, Bonnie & Clyde, Andy Warhol’s BAD, Myra Breckinridge, Reflections in a Golden Eye, and They Shoot Horses, Don’tThey?. The ones I regret selling?: Chinatown and Shampoo. What was I thinking? ...I must have been offered a lot of money.

The collection is gone, but my fondness for movie memorabilia of all stripes has never abated. And as one might guess, Los Angeles is a wellspring for the movie memorabilia fan. Annually, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising has an exhibit of Oscar-nominated costumes, the County Museum frequently has film-related exhibits featuring props and artifacts from classic films and filmmakers; and it's a trend now for movie theaters to have have lobby displays of props and costumes of featured films.

The Only Piece of Movie Memorabilia I Own 
The weirdest (and thus coolest) gift I ever received from my partner is this plaster-cast of the right side of Liza Minnelli's face from the Paramount Studios makeup department. It was used as a form to design and fit the acid burn prosthetic makeup for her role in Otto Preminger's, Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon (1970).  


It's because of my love of movie history and memorabilia that I decided to write this post after being contacted by the online auction site, Invaluable.com, and asked if I was interested in writing about what would be my dream movie prop or bit of memorabilia to find and pick up in an auction.
As I've only been to one auction in my entire life and wanted to bid on everything in sight (in 1984 Francis Ford Coppola's American Zoetrope Studios auctioned off tons of items from its films. I had my eye on all the miniature Las Vegas props from One From the Heart), I jumped at the opportunity to mount my own dream auction of movie props I would die for.


KEN'S TOP-TEN MOVIE MEMORABILIA AUCTION WISH LIST (money is no object):

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 giant, inflatable easy chairs from Ken Russell's The Boy Friend (1971)

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

5. One of those belts worn by Judas and the angels in the musical Jesus Christ Superstar (1973). Although difficult to make out, each belt has a rhinestone buckle in the shape of the "praying angels" logo. While I'm at it, Judas' white, fringed jumpsuit wouldn't be bad, either!

6. Those Op-Art sunglasses worn by Debbie Watson in The Cool Ones (1967)

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

8. One of those adorable bulbous Munchkinland taxicabs from The Wiz (1978)*

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

10. Elton John's space-age Pinball Wizard machine from Ken Russell's Tommy (1975)


The above list encompasses everything from small props to items so huge they count as art direction or automotive. But a wish list is a wish list.

I'd be curious to find out if any of you out there harbor any unrequited movie prop/memorabilia desires from any of your favorite movies.

As stated, the idea for this post idea sprung from the marketing minds of the folks at the auction house of Invaluable.com, which seems to be doing a bit of research into what kinds of items film enthusiasts might find desirable. And if this post seems like the internet version of an infomercial, it's a one-sided one. I'm getting nothing out of promoting the site for free (which does have some pretty cool stuff. I'm no Star Wars fan but a while back they auctioned off a prop gun used by Harrison Ford in the film) -save perhaps their allowing me to steal their post idea.

If you're interested in seeing what type of movie items are currently up for auction, you can visit the move memorabilia section of the site HERE.

On a closing note, here are two of the miniatures from One From the Heart  I had the opportunity to see in person back in 1984 at the American Zoetrope auction. I have no idea what they ultimately sold for, but they were featured in the film's title sequence. They couldn't have been more than 5 or 8 inches high.

*Update
Looks like one of those taxi cabs from The Wiz popped up in Atlantic Beach, NY. Story Here


MOVIE MEMORABILIA AUCTION ITEMS WISH LIST (Reader submissions):
The beaded wedding veil worn by Guenevere in the film, Excalibur (1981)
(submitted by Joel)
Doris Day's mermaid outfit from The Glass Bottom Boat (1966)
(submitted by David Kucharski) Image: thewackytacky.blogspot.com 
An original Baby Jane Doll from What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1961)
(submitted by Rick)
One of the Gothic ankh pendant/daggers from The Hunger (1983)
(submitted by Darin)
One of these futuristic team jerseys from Rollerball (1975)
(submitted by Mark V)
The ghost viewer given out to patrons of William Castle's 13 Ghosts in 1960.
Pictured item is an original once up for auction at theauctionfloor.com
(submitted by MDG 14450)
Not a movie prop, but this 1957 Jayne Mansfield water bottle would keep many a collector warm
(submitted by Chris)

This Everlasting Gobstopper from the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory was sold at auction by actress Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt) in 2012 for the tidy sum of $40,000.
(submitted by John)


Copyright © Ken Anderson

28 comments:

  1. My goodness but you are prolific this week Ken!! That's a cool list of dream items. I'm much more of an erratic collector and don't really have many items but the ones I do I treasure totally. I have a beautiful wood framed original artwork poster of The President's Lady which I picked up for pennies and has hung everywhere I've lived since. A poster from the 2002 film The Trip signed by the cast which was a gift, a few random stills from old films and my prized possession an autographed photo of Linda Darnell. I was in a collectible shop in L.A. years ago and they had one of her costumes, an elaborate beaded number from when she played an opera diva in the film Everybody Does It which I refused to touch because I was afraid I'd be lost and buy it if I did.

    A top 10 wish list would take a while to compile but the first item that came to mind is the amazing beaded veil, it shimmers as if it were made of teardrops, that Cherie Lunghi as Guenevere wore in her wedding scene to Arthur in Excalibur.

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    1. Hi Joel
      I've had such a busy, distracting month, I guess I'm making up for lost time. I get such a charge out of writing, but it's not often a very swift process.
      Thanks so much for submitting a "wish list" memorabilia auction item (I've included a pic of the veil above) and for sharing with us what items you currently possess. I had to Google the two poster items you mentioned. The President's Lady poster must be stupendous!

      My most treasured poster is an oversized Italian Rosemary's Baby poster (3-sheet or quad, I'm not sure) I have framed in my living room.
      And I didn't know you were a Linda Darnell fan! Thanks for contributing to this post, Joel!

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    2. Hi Ken,

      Thanks for including the picture, that veil is beautiful though from the looks of it I bet it weighs a ton if its made from the material I think.

      Yes the President's Lady poster is stupendous if I do say so myself. As soon as I saw if with They Branded Her "Adultress!" blazing across the top and that great picture of Susan Hayward (she in my top five favorite actresses so that was another bonus!) artfully drawn over different scenes I had to have it. I was just lucky that I was able to pick it up for so little. I bought it in the East back before memorabilia jumped in price.

      I've loved Linda Darnell since I was a kid and I caught Blackbeard, the Pirate on the Saturday Matinee Movie. Unlike most childhood favorites though she's endured. She's my favorite actress living or dead, Julie Christie is my favorite living actress, and I've been trying for years to be a completist of her films. I still have 8 left that have proved maddeningly elusive, hopefully someday!

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  2. I also had the "Chinatown" poster (so atmospheric!) on my bedroom walls, along with "The Three Muskateers" and Maxfield Parrish prints. Alas, like so much of the ephemera of my teen years, now lost to the mists of time.

    There used to be a place--I think it was in Burbank--called The Movie Set that sold movie-related props and smaller items. I still have a necklace and earrings and earrings I bought there in the early 1980s. Undoubtedly, eBay and other internet auction sites have supplanted places like that. That's undoubtedly a good thing for collectors.

    I can't think of a particular item I'd want from a movie, but when I watch Nancy Meyers's movies (Something's Gotta Give, It's Complicated), I want those houses--especially those kitchens!

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    1. Hi Deb
      Yes, eBay has opened the studios' eyes to the money-making potential of all manner of movie items they would heretofore have burned or destroyed. I wonder if we have Planet Hollywood to thank for taking movie memorabilia out of the hands of a small coterie of collectors and making its acquisition and interest more mainstream.
      Los Angeles is fairly overflowing with places to buy props and what have you.
      Now, about your watching Nancy Meyers movies... .

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    2. I know, I know! They're like a guilty pleasure. I will say this though, she really knows how to tap into the id of "women of a certain age", particularly with set design.

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    3. Months later but I had to return to post this link to an article that appeared today on Jezebel. Obviously, I'm not the only woman who lusts after those kitchens! http://jezebel.com/which-nancy-meyers-kitchen-are-you-1733023749

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    4. Ha! I see what you mean! Apparently this whole kitchen thing in Nancy Meyers movies is an oft-discussed issue, for just read a review of "The intern" and that very topic came up.
      I'm more of a bathroom man myself (I always coveted Crawford's bathroom -complete with silver coffee pot)in MOMMIE DEAREST) but those kitchens ARE something!

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  3. Dear Ken: Hi! What a fun post!!

    I do own some movie memorabilia I've purchased over the years. When I was in college there was a sale at our student union by a company selling old movie posters (mostly from the 1950s, if I recall) for very cheap prices ($20 or less). I picked up the Doris Day musical "April in Paris"; "Three Sailors and a Girl" with Jane Powell; and "I Love Melvin." I had them put on backing board (which probably destroyed their collectors' value) and framed. But my current apartment is too small to hold them; they're all sitting gathering dust in my brothers' basement.

    I also have some framed movie sheet music from the 1930s displayed on our bedroom wall, including a beautiful piece from the 1934 musical "Let's Fall in Love" with a marvelous Art Deco design and a smashing photo of Ann Sothern.

    Finally, I also used to collect movie soundtracks on vinyl. Two of my prizes are the 10 inch 33 LP of background scoring from "A Streetcar Named Desire" (with fantastic cover artwork) and the 1955 Jane Russell/Jeanne Crain musical "Gentlemen Marry Brunettes."

    I thought carefully about the list of "dream items" I would acquire if I had the funds to buy them. Since my preference tends toward movies from the 1960s and prior, I don't know if some of these items even still exist. But here they are:

    1) The painting of Jennifer Jones from "Portrait of Jennie." I think I read that her husband Norton Simon had obtained it at one point.

    2) The fantastic feathered hat Barbra Streisand wears in the opening scene of "Hello, Dolly!" (where the camera pans around to catch her face for the first time).

    3) Deborah Kerr's silver tea set from "Tea and Sympathy."

    4) Doris Day's mermaid fish tail from "The Glass-Bottom Boat."

    5) A six-foot plastic banana from the "Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat" number from "The Gang's All Here". And. . .

    6) Mrs. Meers' laundry cart (complete with squeaking wheels) from "Thoroughly Modern Millie." (As a back-up, I would accept a Paris gown stained with soy sauce!)

    Like DiscoDollyDeb, I also know of many movie sets I would like to own, but that could be a whole other post!

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    1. Hi David
      Glad you got liked the post!
      Great wish list! Special points for Mrs. Meers' squeaky laundry cart.
      You also possess some pretty choice movie collectibles. As you point out, the problem with collecting anything is having enough room for it.
      As one gets older, one finds only the most choice items avoid the storage room fate.

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    2. The Gang's All Here! I want a strawberry from the same number. Or possibly one of Mrs. Potter's hostess gowns...

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  4. Ken--
    I wonder where all those Baby Jane Hudson dolls are today? ; )

    In movies where there are portraits of its stars, who gets them? My impression was it didn't automatically go to its subject! Such as Laura with Gene Tierney or any latter day Joan Crawford movie!

    Cher was forward-thinking. She got the pick of all her one-of-a-kind Bob Mackie gowns back in her TV days. The Dark Lady sold some from her air-conditioned storage hangar a while back and made a bundle!





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    1. Whenever I read celeb biographies or listen to interviews, I'm always surprised (although I shouldn't be) when i hear a certain star saying how much they longed for a certain prop or costume from a film they appeared in.
      I guess I always assumed that if a star liked something they could have it, but sometimes I hear of studios selling stars their movie wardrobes, or certain stars stealing an item they are sure the producers won't let them have.
      Seems mostly pop stars (like Cher, Midler, Bowie, etc) have hoards of old costumes they like to auction or sell off. Movie stars, not so much.
      And yes, where did those Baby Jane dolls go? Thanks, Rick!

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  5. Hands down... one of the Ankh necklaces from The Hunger. I'm sure there are others but this one came to mind immediately!

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    1. Great selection! I wouldn't mind that one either! Love that film. Thanks!

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  6. I'm not surprised Stevie Nicks took a pass on a Big Mac. I'm certain she would've been happy with a serving of Coke.

    Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week...

    Ahem.

    If I could have just one movie prop, it would have to be a pod from INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (either version, but more likely one would find one from the 1978 remake). I'd love to carry one around all day and note all the strange looks I get. Well, actually, this already (sort of) happens. In summer months, I love eating watermelon, and because I eat so much of the stuff, I prefer to buy them whole. So in the summertime, I can often be seen carrying a watermelon (and no, I've never actually seen DIRTY DANCING, and only relatively recently was alerted to the reference--I'm also stunned by how many people ask why I'm carrying a watermelon--do people think they come in cardboard boxes?).

    Speaking of INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS, I do have some lobby cards, in addition to a soundtrack album on vinyl (both from the 1978 version).

    Your article is very timely, Ken: recently, the old tenants at the Astor Theatre left the building to make way for the new occupants from the Palace chain. So the theatre had a garage sale! I didn't buy much at all--the posters were pretty ordinary for the most part, although a few gems were sitting around.

    I did managed to purchase a few frames from a 70mm print of 2010: THE YEAR WE MAKE CONTACT, which I experienced (in the year 2010, on 70mm, a film I requested be played!) right there at the Astor Theatre. That's something you just can't do with digital motion picture projection: you can't "acquire" a few pixels and put them in your pocket. But a few frames from a film you've seen? That's something special indeed.

    The Astor Theatre had a huge cardboard promotional display for GRINDHOUSE they were trying to sell--not sure if they ever got rid of it, but they tried to auction it at the garage sale, and nobody was buying. I believe they wanted around 800 dollars (Australian) for the item.

    I was once told by an old-time film buff that Frank Thring's toga from BEN-HUR just disappeared one day. For all anybody knows, it could've been turned into drapes. Thring passed away in Melbourne (his hometown as well as mine!) in 1994.

    A few other things: I've always dug those orange jerseys from ROLLERBALL, and what ever did happen to those sunglasses from THEY LIVE? Surely some of them survived the garbage truck. I'm also curious as to whatever became of the props and sets from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (the bits and pieces from the Korova milk bar, the giant rocking plastic phallus--hilariously described by the cat lady who has it in her home as a "very important work of art"--etc). Oh, and I agree wholeheartedly about Carl Anderson's jumpsuit from JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR--sensational!

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    1. Hi Mark
      Very good Stevie Nicks joke there!
      That's very interesting about the Astor Theater selling some of its old promotional items. A great many collectors speak of the monumental "finds" they've unearthed here in LA when so many of the great movie palaces closed down and the exhibitors unloaded their stock of accumulated posters, etc. I got a great deal of my early collection from when i worked at San Francisco's Alhambra theater in my teens.
      Frames of film stock from a favored film is a great and unique collectible.
      Of the wish-list items you related, one of those Invasion of the Body Snatchers pods would definitely be a real catch.
      So many of the items from "A Clockwork Orange" are making the rounds in a Stanley Kubrick museum exhibit. i missed it whe it was here in LA, but you can Google it and see many of the items you mentioned, including that murder weapon phallus.
      Most inspired mention are those jerseys from Rollerball, I've always liked those.
      Good to hear from you, Mark! thanks for contributing to this virtual collectors must-have list.

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  7. Great Post. Thanks. I would also like to invite you to participate in my upcoming blogathon in August. The link is below with more details

    https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/in-the-good-old-days-of-classic-hollywood-presents-the-barrymore-trilogy-blogathon/

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    1. Thanks! It sounds terrific, I'll for sure check it out.

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  8. There was a restaurant in Eastchester, NY called (I think) Apple Annie's that had one of those Wiz taxis in front of it.

    I can't really think of a prop I'd really love to have. I went through a period of "collecting" movie posters, but they take up so much wall space, they just stayed folded in a portfolio. If i had the money, I'd buy some spook show memorabilia (have a few window cards), or a good half-sheet from an exploitation film (I'm a sucker for extinct formats).

    On the William Castle front, I could probably go for an original Ghost Viewer from 13 Ghosts (have a repro from an Eastman House showing) or a theater seat rigged with one of the motors from The Tingler.

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    1. I think a great many movie poster collectors wind up displaying or saving just a couple of their favorite items after a while.
      Happily for me, movie poster design started to become increasingly banal around the time I ran out of wall space.
      I very much like that your collection "wants" all fall into the realm of stuff one can imagine John Waters would covet.

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  9. So much fun, Ken!! In my very small collection is a 1957 Jayne Mansfield water bottle and original lobby cards from Seven Year Itch and The Girl Can't Help It. And I did wear an ankh earring for years, inspired by Jenny Agutter and Michael York searching for Sanctuary in Logan's Run!!

    I still want to own my VERY OWN Baby Jane doll, though, and of course, the Castevets' tannis charm ("You'll get used to the smell in no time!"). And the Sarah Siddons Award is actually based on one of the Art and Science goddesses who adorn the steps of the Boston Public Library...http://www.libraryasincubatorproject.org/?p=11537

    It's wonderful to own a little piece of movie history, but the icons themselves live forever in our dreams, and Le Cinema Dreams!!
    -Chris

    P.S. That Junie Moon is mighty scary!! Very Crawford in A Woman's Face!

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    1. Hi Chris
      I don't know if it's an idea i would have come up with on my own, but I thoroughly enjoyed compiling a "wish list" on the topic of movie props.
      That Jayne Mansfield water bottle is quite the collector's item! So cool and so camp.
      Your mention of wearing the ankh earring inspired by "Logan's Run" (you ARE a Michael York fan!) reminds me that as a teen I wore an ankh ring because of the popularity of Jacqueline Susann's "The Love Machine"- a film I was too young to see, but not too young to sneak the paperback out of my parent's room and read the dirty parts (aka 98% of the book).
      As for the Siddon's Award, I can certainly see the resemblance in the Boston statues, but if you take a look at the 1784 portrait of Siddons as "the Tragic Muse" painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds, you can see how closely the award hews to it: http://www.sedefscorner.com/2011/10/sir-joshua-reynolds-portrait-of-mrs.html

      Since there is an actual, real-life Sarah Siddon's award given out annually, like the Oscar, I suppose it's illegal to copy it the design for knockoffs.
      And yes, that Junie Moon Liza does recall Crawford's "A Woman's Face." Thanks so much for contributing, Chris!

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  10. Here's a brief list not so much made up of objects that would be very cool to own or because of how they are designed but more because they'd be symbols of some of my favorite movies of all time. They'd be more like icons to me than any sacred object or figurine of a saint could ever be. Though I'd probably stop short of building a shrine for them.

    1. Anything from the original PLANET OF THE APES. The orangutan bust or any of the wall decorations seen in the trial sequence would be very nice.

    2. An Everlasting Gobstopper or any of the wrappers for the original WonkaBars

    3. A lifesaver with the words S. S. Poseidon on it.

    4. The box with the uranium from KISS ME DEADLY.

    5. The grandfather clock from LAURA.

    6. The statue of Kwan Yin from THREE STRANGERS which has one of the best but forgotten performances by Peter Lorre.

    7. The Scout and Jem dolls Boo Radley made. Or the ham costume!

    This was a really fun post. Loved reading all the comments from our fellow movieholics as always.

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    1. Terrific list, John! Such unique choices. The Poseidon life preserver would be great to have, but Boo Radley's soap dolls is a really inspired bit of collectable trivia.
      Like you, I've really enjoyed reading so many cinephile collector's wish lists!

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    2. 1. The jukebox in the San Francisco dive that Neely O'Hara is getting sloshed (and, to quote Addison De Witt, being all 'maudlin and full of self pity') in that has 'Give a Little More' on it.

      2. The jingle/jangle charm bracelets that Lucy Harbin wears in 'Strait-Jacket' (oh: and the wig, dress and shoes and axe, too)

      3. The crown that the winner of 'The Queen' (1968) gets (ok, it's a documentary but I've coveted that crown since I first saw this film when I was 13-ish in the early '70s courtesy of Toronto's then new 'CityTV's 'Baby Blue Movies')

      4. One of Michael's cashmere (or was it vicuna?) sweaters from 'Boys in the Band'.

      5. Cate Blanchett's mink coat from 'Carol' (just to be 'current')

      I'm just keeping it to five as I could go on forever.

      Ken, I've known of your site for ages but it wasn't until the last week or so that I really fell into it I just love it. Thanks so much.

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    3. Hi S. McDonald
      You're my new favorite person withthat nice compliment! I'm so pleased you've enjoyed the blog and have joined in contributing.
      A terrific list, too. Great collectible items, all, and refreshingly unexpected. The jukebox is inspired, and I'm surprised Joan's charm bracelet hasn't come up before. But I truly love the choice of the crown from "The Queen" (which I'm sorry to say I've never seen), and one of the sweaters from "Boys in the Band"...great! And yes, that mink coat in "Carol" is really something else. You made me smile with your choices, and oh, if I could grant each of you a wish of at least one of your items.
      Thanks for commenting, and I hope you say hello again!

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  11. what about this question...Who made the doll in the movie "Dolly Dearest"?

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