Tom Gregory: Collecting Hollywood’s Stories

By KIMBERLY COLE
Originally published in the March 2010 issue of Autograph

UPDATE: RR Auction is selling Tom Gregory’s vintage Hollywood Signed Photo collection from December 8 – December 15. There are over 250 signed photos in the auction. We only had room to feature eight in this article from the March 2010 issue of Autograph. View the entire collection at RRAuction.com

Don’t miss this new video with Tom Gregory about his collection.

Tom Gregory in his eye-catching gallery of Classic Hollywood signed portraits.

Tom Gregory in his eye-catching gallery of Classic Hollywood signed portraits. Photo by Patricia Williams

“Lucy, I’m ho-ome!” The driver’s voice booms out of the tinny speakers on the small green and white bus. The tourists’ laughter is lost in the sudden roar of a leaf blower. A gardener directs the flurry of leaves away from me as I stumble up the walkway to Tom Gregory’s front door. I’m distracted because I’m not sure my batteries will last the interview, I’ve had to dig through my trunk for a ragged notepad—and I’m late. 

The home before me is daunting. I knew the address was in Beverly Hills, but I hadn’t expected this double-lot estate. I should have dressed better.

Tom Gregory is a good looking man with intense dark-framed glasses and short-cropped silvering hair. His engaging manner puts me immediately at ease. He gives me a tour of the house. The foyer’s grand, circular staircase is the starting point for a journey no tourist ever gets to travel. Tom takes me through exquisitely decorated and restored rooms, up one staircase and down another. I get a quick glimpse of a bathroom with lighted alabaster floors. The Golden Age of Hollywood has been faithfully restored and lovingly nourished. The house isn’t about wealth or luxury, it’s about staging—creating a setting for a life of elegance and charm in classic Hollywood style. [Read more…]

Beethoven Letter, Reagan and Magritte Archives, Rare Autograph Letters, in Profiles in History’s April 18th Auction

Beethoven Twice-Signed Autograph Letter

 

Profiles in History has a very interesting historical document auction on Monday, April 18, starting at 11 a.m. PDT. Joe Maddalena and his staff have assembled one of the finest collections of historic documents they’ve ever brought to auction. It’s an extraordinary catalog featuring 197 lots of rare and desirable, fascinating material.

The auction takes place at Profiles in History in Calabassas, Calif. on Monday at 11 a.m PDT. You can bid in person, by phone or online.

A few of their offerings:

The auction features Lincoln, Freud, John Quincy Adams, Mark Twain and other highly sought-after names. Many of the lots have notably desirable content. It’s a catalog you’ll definitely want to view if you’re an historic autograph collector.

A reminder: The auction is this Monday, April 18 at 11 a.m. PDT, so take a look at it now.

Review the catalog on Invaluable.com. You can bid online there, too.

View the printed catalog online at Profiles in History.

Register and view all your options here.

Remarkable Ronald Reagan archive of over 350 photographs (majority unpublished) and 128 letters - 92 autograph letters signed and 35 typed letters signed.

Remarkable Ronald Reagan archive of over 350 photographs (majority unpublished) and 128 letters – 92 autograph letters signed and 35 typed letters signed.

 

An important unpublished archive showcasing the intimate correspondence between René Magritte and his wife, Georgette Berger

An important unpublished archive showcasing the intimate correspondence between René Magritte and his wife, Georgette Berger.

 

You can email Profiles in History about the auction at info@profilesinhistory.com

Or call them at 310-859-7701

The Doc Salomon Collection

All of the items that come through RR Auction have a story. Each one is special, whether on its own or as part of a broader collection. These pieces not only tell the story of the celebrity they represent; some of these gems carry with them the story of the individual who collected them. The story behind our latest collection – the Doc Salomon collection – is one such legacy that deserves as much recognition as the pieces themselves.

Doc Salomon and Jack Warner

Through letters and autographed photos, we were able to piece together the life of a man whose name truly became synonymous with both Warner Bros Studios and Hollywood: A. M. “Doc” Solomon, a beloved friend and colleague of co-founder, Colonel Jack Warner. Having started with the fledging production studio in 1918, Doc proved a loyal and dedicated employee, quickly climbing the ranks from janitor to general manager of the Burbank, California studio. When the time came for Warner Bros to open shop across the pond, Doc was Warner’s man, and would come to be known as the face and man behind the magic of the Teddington, England branch.

During his personal and professional journey with the studio, Doc amassed a most impressive collection of memorabilia from stars and starlets who comprised his Hollywood family, including Barbara Stanwyck, John Barrymore, Roscoe Ates, Pauline Frederick, Edward G. Robinson, Jack Sharkey, Richard Bartholomew, Kay Francis, Mae West, Anna May Wong, and two of his dearest friends, James Cagney and Jack Warner.

While manning the Teddington studio in early 1944, Doc played host to the Duchess of Kent, giving her a behind-the-scenes tour of the studio and all of its twists and turns. A January 29, 1944 newspaper clipping details the highlights of the visit, including the re-recording theatre, where she saw how “six different sound tracks, each recording a separate noise, are joined into one, one noise being superimposed on the other.” Doc himself was a pivotal figure in the advent and implementation of sound into Warner Bros films, and used the very real soundtrack of WWII to experiment with auditory effects. According to Jack Warner, “Doc had secured many reels of sound effects during the London ‘Blitz’ of a few years ago, which he had sent to the home studio for incorporation into pictures in which they would fit.” Accompanying the clipping is a beautiful photo of the two at the studio, along with a letter written from York House on behalf of the Duchess.

On July 5th, 1944, Doc would write his last letter home, typing haunting words regarding the current war: “I really don’t think it will be long before this war is over and let’s hope we can all get together again. What a day that will be!” Later that day, while recording the sound effects of robot bombs at the Teddington studio, the building itself fell target to one of these destructive devices, leveling the building…with Doc inside. Virtually nothing remained, except for this legacy of photographs.

The fact that this collection still exists is a miracle; it proved resilient in the face of a force so destructive that nothing else – not even the collector – survived. In a letter dated July 14, 1944, Jack Warner wrote to Doc’s daughter, Maxine: “From what I have learned to date, the Studio was virtually demolished by the robot bomb, and I have not heard what they have been able to salvage. If Doc’s book of autographed pictures is still intact, you are most welcome to it…” In the same letter, Warner offered condolences, and the warm sentiment, “I have always considered Doc to be my best friend…I can assure you that I will miss him a great deal, for no one could have had a more loyal friend or a more loyal employee than Doc.”

Doc’s 30-plus years of commitment to Warner Bros Studios helped build the present day multi-billion dollar production company, making him an integral brick in its legendary foundation. Doc lives on through these photos and letters, each item a testament to the love and respect he garnered from his Hollywood family. Join us as we celebrate Doc Salomon’s life and legacy! www.rrauction.com

James Dean’s Intimate Letters to Girlfriend

Three James Dean handwritten letters to his girlfriend, never before offered for sale, will be sold at Christie’s London November 23, 2011.

James Dean handwritten letters are among the rarest and most valuable of Hollywood autographs. Only a few have come to market since Dean’s tragic death in a 1955 car crash, just 24 years old. So when Neil Roberts, Christie’s Head of Pop Culture in London, asked for any information we might have on them to help him with a potential consignment, I had to know more.

But I had to wait….

“At the moment they are reluctant to send me any copies,” Neil said. “However the names and places they provided seem to add up. I’m sure you will understand that at this time I cannot pass on any details.”

That was a year and a half ago. The wait was worth it.

On November 23, Christie’s will auction three James Dean handwritten letters never before offered for sale during their fall Pop Culture: Film and Entertainment Memorabilia sale. They’re so rare that even one would be a noteworthy event—I don’t know if three have been auctioned in the last 20 years. What makes these 1954 letters especially fascinating—and desirable—is that Dean wrote them to his on and off girlfriend for two years, Barbara Glenn, during the period he was discovered and became a star. They’re filled with his feelings and experiences during that time. They are as passionate as Dean was onscreen, and sometimes even more raw.

The letters provide candid accounts of Dean’s life, sent from out of town tryouts for “The Immoralist” in Philadelphia and from behind the scenes of his first foray into Hollywood, “East of Eden.” The emotional letters reveal the strains of Dean’s work and their long distance relationship, and come with copies of never published, private family photographs of the couple from Barbara Glenn’s son, filmmaker Keith Gordon.

“As I remember her stories,” Gordon recalls, “my mother was introduced to James Dean—whom she always referred to as ‘Jimmy’—by their mutual close friend, Martin Landau, in the late 1940s or early 1950s in New York, where they were all young actors starting out and struggling together.

“She never discussed their romance in great detail, but I did know Jimmy was her first serious, grown-up relationship. It was apparently very intense and involved numerous break-ups and reconciliations, but she often remained his confidant even during some of the ‘off-again’ times.

“Eventually my mother met my father, Mark Gordon, an actor and director, and broke it off with Jimmy to go with my Dad. Jimmy actually gave her his blessing to leave—even he knew that what they had was too fraught with drama to ever be stable.

“Years later David Dalton tracked down my mother and interviewed her for his biography ‘James Dean: The Mutant King’ [first published 1974]. She is the first person thanked in the book’s acknowledgements. As far as I know, that was the first time she spoke ‘on the record’ about their time together. I think she was happy with the way the book captured the complexities of their relationship.

“I found several copies, along with James Dean’s letters to her, and other memorabilia such as reviews and photographs tucked away safely in a drawer. I hope that a fan or collector can gain as much pleasure from owning these letters as my mother clearly did from receiving them, and as I did in learning more about my mother’s history.”

The letters are being sold individually, each with prints of four 8×10 photos of Dean and Glenn, three on the beach and one with friends. Copyrights aren’t included. The auction catalog isn’t online yet, but Neil was kind enough to send me descriptions of the lots. Due to copyright restrictions, we can’t publish the letters completely—believe me, I asked! (Hmmm…is there a book in the works?) 

Letter One
The first handwritten letter from James Dean to Barbara Glenn is dated in pencil in another hand (most likely Barbara’s) 1-10-54. The one page letter, in blue ink on a single sheet of St. James Hotel, Philadelphia, stationery, starts out Darling, Don’t worry about me. I’m O.K.? It’s filled with the thoughts and feelings Dean is experiencing during rehearsals for the theatrical production of “The Immoralist,” a play set in Tunis. Dean played Bachir, a North African houseboy, and was so well received in the role, he left the play early for Hollywood.

At the top of the letter are Dean’s doodles of North African style buildings, likely similar to the set; and one of a stressed-out caricature of a head, presumably his. Dean candidly stresses in the letter how unimpressed he is with the play, Probably a monster success; but to me it’s still a piece of shit, even though he concedes that he can’t tell much about it yet. His writing soon turns to more personal matters. He finishes the letter underlining his loneliness and insecurity by asking Barbara to Please write to me darling…. Please come and see me, Love Jim. The original envelope is included, postmarked Philadelphia Jan 10 1954, and with a sketch of a steer and additional writing on the back in Dean’s hand.

Letter Two
The second letter from James Dean to Barbara is three handwritten pages on two sheets of paper, and includes the original envelope. It’s dated 5-7-54, also in pencil, most likely in Glenn’s hand. Written in blue ink, the second and third sides are each signed Love Jim. It was written in response to letters Dean mentions receiving from Glenn only a couple of hours earlier and begins, Oh baby. Dean’s exasperated start develops into the tone of a very protective, caring boyfriend.

You know how I am about stuff like that. But god damn it honey with all the gory detail… when I get hold of that son of a bitch…. before developing into a more concerned and caring manner, asking how he could help her and saying how much he wanted to see her. He would soon be going on location for two weeks, and asked her if, upon his return, maybe you could come out here then? Please tell me if you could, would, etc…. Dean goes on to explain that he’d had a rough day at the studio before going on to the stable to ride his horse, Cisco, and how conquering him is a long drawn out affair. Dean expresses admiration for the horse, stating he’s full of life and I love him, before changing the subject back to his schedule, and asking again Barbara to visit him If you want to? before signing off Love Jim. 

The second sheet of paper, the third page of the letter consists entirely of a post-script in which Dean returns to the subject matter of the circumstances Barbara has found herself in, exclaiming Listen to me god damn it, before pointing out Barbara’s failings. $8000 to see you in a bathing suit, boy that’s sellin’ out cheap. He ends with You’ve got no god damn respect for yourself , signing off love Jim.

Letter Three
The third letter from James Dean to Barbara Glenn is two pages in blue ink on both sides of a sheet of plain note paper, and includes the envelope. The letter is dated 5-19-54, also in pencil, most likely in Glenn’s hand. It’s signed Love Jim twice on the second side. The letter starts out Darling, and begins with the surprising opening line, I haven’t written because I have fallen in love. As you read it you realize Dean is talking about his horse, referring to the picture of Cisco the Kid, the new member of the family that he enclosed. The original photograph of Cisco and his trainer is included in the lot along with the four other photos mentioned.

Dean goes into detail, explaining that Cisco is a well-trained but very spirited horse, a thoroughbred Palomino…. may use him in the movie, before abruptly changing the subject matter by stating I’m very lonely and how I hate this place. In the next paragraph he tells Barbara not to call, explaining that he still doesn’t have a place of his own.

Just keep writing. Honey these are the nicest, sweetest letters in the world. Dean’s thoughts then turn to his and Barbara’s associates, which flames his fond memories of friends and places, and his dislike for his current location. In the last paragraph Dean asks with a sense of despondency, Maybe you can come and see me sometime, before ending on the positive note, I’ll be home soon Love Jim. A postscript asks Barbara to return the picture and finishes with a second Love Jim.

Christie’s estimates for the three lots are $£5,000-6,000 [$8,000-9,500]; £3,000-4,000 [$4,800-6,300]; and £5,000-6,000 respectively. But these are the low estimates many auction houses are known to use. While you never know what something may bring at auction, I wouldn’t be surprised to see these letters bring three-times estimates or more, even much more. They’re that rare and desirable. A friend said it best:

“These letters are very personal, and to my knowledge nothing comparable has ever come to market. They are the holy grail of this pop icon and should produce very spirited bidding, including from me.”
John Reznikoff, University Archives 

Go to Christie’s Pop Culture Department to ask for more information about the letters, or to get on Christie’s Pop Culture mailing list. Or call their London, South Kensington location at +44 (0)20 7930 6074.

Talk about the James Dean letters with other fans, collectors and experts on our community Web site, Autograph Magazine Live!

 

Terry Moore

By JEFF BENZIGER
Autograph June 2010 [Read more…]