Vintage Hollywood Bowl photos hitting the auction block

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Nostalgia for Old Hollywood is a robust business. Most of it tends to center around the moviemaking industry but for native Angelenos, the emotions run deeper than that, touching on all aspects of the city’s cultural and social landscape in the first half of the 20th century.

As a gathering spot for the Los Angeles cultural elite for close to 90 years, the Hollywood Bowl has played a key role in the city’s musical history. In December, a collection of vintage Bowl photographs dating from around 1918 to 1965 will hit the auction block at Bonhams & Butterfields in L.A. The approximately 100-image collection depicts the Bowl at various stages of development and includes signed photos from prominent conductors and musicians.


Margaret Barrett, director of the entertainment memorabilia department at Bonhams, said the photos come from a single collector who was a film historian and worked at one of the film studios. The collector has since passed away. (The auction house said it could not reveal the name of the collector.)

The photographs are almost all black-and-white -- some are so old that they are sepia-toned -- and are 8 by 10 inches in size. Many of them are professional quality shots from surveyors. The collection also includes performance shots and aerial shots of the surrounding hills.

Of particular note in the collection is a panoramic image of a 1924 memorial service at the Bowl for President Woodrow Wilson and an Easter Sunday service in 1921 showing people sitting on the hillside. The collection also includes signed photographs of some notable musicians -- conductor Leopold Stokowski, composer Percy Grainger, conductor Frederick Stock and conductor Karl Krueger.

Barrett said the collection is in excellent shape. She said the public is welcome to view the photos prior to the auction. The auction house will even allow visitors to handle the photos using special white gloves.

The Bowl photographs are being sold as a single lot as part of a larger Dec. 13 auction of entertainment-related items that includes a ring worn by actor Eli Wallach in ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly’; a script of ‘Gone With the Wind’ owned by actress Hattie McDaniel; and a Golden Globe statuette won by actress Jennifer Jones.

-- David Ng


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