Prized Oscars are increasingly changing hands

October 01, 1992|By New York Daily News

They used to say some things are just not for sale. St. Patrick's Cathedral. The Grand Canyon. The Oscar.

Well, the Oscar is not only for sale these days, but bringing high prices or, as they say in Tinseltown, boffo box office.

Handless Navy veteran Harold Russell, who won as Best Supporting Actor in 1946's "The Best Years of Our Lives," sold his Oscar for $65,000 last summer to get money for his wife's TTC operation. On Monday, the Oscar John Lennon won for writing "Let It Be" will be sold at the Sheraton Manhattan in New York by auctioneer Herman Darvick. He expects it to bring more than $100,000.

At those prices, auction chiefs say they expect more Oscars to come on to the auction market -- and soon.

"If Harold Russell's went for $65,000 and Lennon's fetches $100,000, then what is the Best Picture Oscar for 'Casablanca' worth? $100,000? $200,000?" said Michael Schwartz, president of Camden House, the Beverly Hills movie memorabilia auction house.

Mr. Schwartz said the prices on Oscar would depend on the category and winners. Best Actor and Best Actress awards of big stars would command five to six times minor or technical Oscars.

"Prices are unpredictable. Collectors paid $156,000 for the piano from 'Casablanca.' What would Katharine Hepburn's Oscar be worth, or Clark Gable's?" he asked.

In February, Mr. Darvick will sell Marlon Brando's 1954 Best Actor Oscar for "On the Waterfront." In the spring, he'll sell Oscars won for Best Cinematography for "Naked City" (1948), and Best Supporting Actress awards won by Alice Brady for "In Old Chicago" (1937) and Josephine Hull for "Harvey" (1950).

Although Mr. Russell's was the first Oscar actually to be sold by the recipient, others, obtained by third parties, have been sold (such as Mr. Brando's). Malcolm Willets, who owns the Collectors Book Store in Hollywood, has sold the Best Picture Oscar from "An American in Paris," a 1938 special effects Oscar, a 1961 short subject Oscar, an art direction Oscar for "The Diary of Anne Frank" and producer Mike Todd's Oscar for "Around the World in Eighty Days."

Mr. Willets admits he has secretly sold others directly from stars to collectors for $5,000 to $17,000.

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, which hands out the Oscars, has always been against their sale.

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