Pin-up queen Betty Page’s never-seen photo collection to be auctioned
New York: A Manhattan entertainment mecca has shut its doors, selling off its entire collection of Hollywood memorabilia, including one of the largest sets of late American model Bettie Page’s original pin-ups.
The treasure trove of more than 3 million photographs, 10,000 films, and 250,000 negatives were sold by entertainment mecca Movie Star News for a seven-figure sum last week and will be auctioned off by Guernsey’s next year.
“It’s one of the most important photo archives in Hollywood history,” the New York Daily News quoted Stuart Scheinman, co-owner of the Las Vegas-based Entertainment Collectibles that purchased the collection, as saying.
Movie Star News was a New York institution for 73 years, buying stills from the studios and selling them for next to nothing.
But in the age of the Internet, the dying business sold its entire inventory and the brick storefront on West 18th Street is now being leased to another tenant.
Auction house Guernsey’s was called in less than two weeks ago to assess the cinema buff’s paradise.
The company quickly moved 100 full file cabinets and 300 large cartons of memorabilia out on Thursday, vacating the building just before the lease ran out on Monday, Arlan Ettinger, president of the auction house, said.
Ettinger said that the multi-day auction will probably be beginning in January and will be open to the public. He plans to group photos of each of the 5,000 film stars in their own lots, “so that if James Dean is your passion, you’ll be able to bid on materials specifically related to him,” he said.
There’s something for everyone in the collection, ranging from original RKO westerns starring John Wayne to never-before-seen negatives of Charlie Chaplin.
“There’s over 750 original negatives and photos of Marilyn Monroe, from the early, early years of her career,” Scheinman said.
“There are 680 Betty Grable originals. These are tens of thousands of original negatives that nobody’s ever seen before,” he added.
But the highlight of the collection is the thousands of Page’s photos and memorabilia.
The photographer Irving Klaw, who had established the store in 1939, “made Bettie Page famous,” Scheinman said.
“In the 1940s, she answered an ad to be one of his models in this new form of the pin-up, which was just evolving then. And then Bettie Page became the pin-up queen,” he said.
During the 1950s Senate hearings on pornography, the late photographer was threatened with jail time if he didn’t destroy his extensive set of the racy Page negatives.
Although Klaw burned most of them but his sister and fellow photographer Paula Klaw wasn’t intimidated - she not only kept her collection of photos, but also kept Page’s costumes and props, too.
The collection included nine pairs of Page’s shoes, dozens of whips, chains, and ropes, and the original cameras with which she was photographed.
“It’s tame by today’s standards, but it was extremely controversial at the time,” Scheinman said.
The collection will be auctioned off, beginning next year. Some of the items may go for only 20 dollars, Scheinman guessed, but others have been valued in the 50 dollars to 100,000 dollars range.
“There’s nobody that’s not represented in this collection,” he added.