No Business Like Show Business: Archive Material from Major 20th Century Theatrical Agencies Garners Rave Reviews at Bonhams & Butterfields

  • LOS ANGELES, California
  • /
  • February 22, 2010

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A massive lot of materials associated with architect Frank Lloyd Wright, estimated to bring $20,000-30,000, sold to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation for $48,800 including buyer's premium.
Bonhams & Butterfields

+++No Business Like Show Business: Archive Material from Major 20th Century Theatrical Agencies Garners Rave Reviews at Bonhams & Butterfields+++

Simulcast between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the February 14, 2010 auction of Fine Books and Manuscripts garnered international attention with competitive bidding both on the telephone and in the saleroom.  "It was an energetic sale which reflected continuing interest and strength in the areas of Hollywood history, 20th Century literature and the work of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.  We saw strong participation from the East Coast, as well as attendees of the California ABAA Book Fair in Los Angeles," said Dr. Catherine Williamson, Department Director, Fine Books and Manuscripts. 

Included within the 400-lot auction were the extensive archives from the New York theatrical agency, American Play Company (APC)/ Century Play Company (CPC), including correspondence, contracts, company records, and theatrical scripts covering the first two quarters of the 20th century.  The records of APC and CPC provide a rich resource of information on the business of show, including author representation, show production, publishing, and licensing for television, film, radio, and stock production. 

The archive included a selection of contracts between agency and authors covering production rights, film and television rights, and publishing; correspondence between agents and authors, producers, publishers; company records; and nearly 1000 theatrical scripts, representing early working drafts of popular 20th century dramas and stock productions of the period.  Literary greats represented within the offering included works by Philip Barry, Guy Bolton, George M. Cohan, John Colton, Rachel Crothers, A.A. Milne, Eugene O'Neill (early performance drafts of "Anna Christie," "Mourning Becomes Electra," "Strange Interlude," and others), Sigmund Romberg, Harry Segal (including early drafts of "Heaven Can Wait" and original drafts of several unproduced plays), Preston Sturges and Tennessee Williams (early draft of "The Glass Menagerie" with original screen device note still intact), among others.  After several rounds of competitive bidding, the highly sought after lot brought $146,000. 

Also of note was a massive archive of photographs, correspondence and select building plans related to groundbreaking architect and designer Frank Lloyd Wright.  Assembled by Professor Henry Russell Hitchcock for the landmark 1942 treatise In the Nature of Materials, which he co-authored with Wright, the archive offered an exceptionally rich documentation of the architect's work and included notes for images of many buildings that no longer survive. 

Highlights from the archive included approximately 600 rare black and white photographs of Wright's buildings and interiors; many from the architect's own collection.  Several of the interior photographs showed the original furnishings and the houses in daily use - papers strewn across desks, tables set for dinner, and toys on the floor.  Families could be seen standing proudly in front of their new homes.  A number of photographs record buildings that no longer survive, including one of Wright's own homes, Taliesin I (burnt beyond recognition in 1914), Midway Gardens in Chicago (destroyed in 1929), and the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo (demolished in 1968).  Estimated to bring est. $20,000-30,000, the lot sold to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation for $48,800 including buyer's premium. 

"The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation is the ideal home for Henry-Russell Hitchcock's historical materials; it's where they belong," said Daniel Marquardt, Chairman of the Foundation Board of Trustees. "This priceless asset complements our vast archives in helping convey Wright's world view. We are delighted that this addition will be preserved and maintained by the Foundation, where it can be studied by scholars and researchers for generations to come."

Literary and historical highlights from the auction included a first edition of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, signed and inscribed by the author to Tommy Hitchcock, the model for character of Tom Buchanan (est. $15,000-20,000, sold for $61,000); an original watercolor and pen drawing by Arthur Rackham used in an illustrated version of Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream (est. $7,000-9,000, sold for $39,650); a copy of Charles Darwin's first published work, A Narrative of the Surveying Voyages of His Majesty's Ships Adventure and Beagle, 1839 (est. $20,000-30,000, sold for $36,600) and a first addition, first printing copy of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (est. $60,000-80,000, sold for: $73,200).  The world auction record for The Great Gatsby was set in June 2009 at Bonhams New York and stands at $182,000.

-End-

Press Contact:  Jannelle Grigsby, (310) 567-7990, jannelle.grigsby@bonhams.com

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About Bonhams

Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's oldest and largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son and Neale UK. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America and in August 2003, Goodmans, a leading Australian fine art and antiques auctioneer with salerooms in Sydney, joined the Bonhams Group of Companies. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street, and Knightsbridge, and a further seven throughout the UK. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York and Boston in the USA; and Switzerland, France, Monaco, Australia, Hong Kong and Dubai. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 57 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments, go to www.bonhams.com. (01-08) For other press releases, go to www.bonhams.com/press.


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