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Clark Gable’s Only Oscar Sells for More Than $600,000

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Call it an expensive case of being star-struck.

On Sunday, during still another auction of Hollywood memorabilia, an unidentified buyer shelled out more than $850,000 for Clark Gable’s only Academy Award and a copy of the script that “The King of Hollywood” consulted in the making of “Gone With the Wind.”

Gable’s 12-inch-tall gold-plated Oscar for his leading role as a wisecracking newspaper reporter in 1934’s best picture, “It Happened One Night,” went for $607,500. His leather-bound copy of the script for the 1939 best picture, “Gone With the Wind,” summoned $244,500.

Gable “is still the leading man for many people,” said Vredy Lytsman, a spokeswoman for Christie’s auction house office in Los Angeles, which oversaw the bidding.

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Apparently true; even Gable’s old passport fetched $10,000.

All of the items were sold by Gable’s estate as part of a daylong auction of Hollywood artifacts at the Pacific Design Center that raised more than $1.8 million.

The winning bid for Gable’s Oscar was two to three times the pre-sale estimates, Lytsman said, and it far surpassed the record auction price paid for another Academy Award put on the block.

In 1993, a bidder paid $510,000 for the gold-plated statuette given to Vivien Leigh. Both she and Gable were nominated for their performances in leading roles in “Gone With the Wind"; she won, he didn’t.

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences had sued to keep Gable’s Oscar off the auction block, but a judge Friday ruled that the academy did not give proper notice of the hearing to Christie’s and did not notify Gable’s son, John, also named as a defendant.

The academy claims that, two years before his death in 1960, Gable signed a standard contract giving it first right to buy the statuette for $10 if it was ever sold. Christie’s claims the signature on the agreement was a fake.

Ursula Hermacinski, the Christie’s vice president who took the winning bids for both the Oscar and the script over the telephone, declined to identify the victorious bidder.

“I think the buyer is thrilled--pretty, pretty thrilled,” she said.

The $607,500 included a “hammer price” of $550,000 plus the auction house commission.

Also sold Sunday was “Rosebud,” the child’s sled that the dying Charles Foster Kane longed for in Orson Welles’ 1941 film, “Citizen Kane.” Christie’s offered the only pine wood sled of the four used in the production. The three others were made of balsa wood.

The buyer, identified only as being from Los Angeles, paid $233,500, including auction fees. The sled was expected to sell for $50,000 to $70,000, Lytsman said.

According to Christie’s, the sled originally was given away in 1942 as a prize in a publicity campaign for the film. The winner was 12-year-old Arthur Bauer.

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Other items on the block at the Pacific Design Center included Audrey Meadows’ 1954 Emmy Award for “The Honeymooners” and the wristwatch she wore on the TV show; a prop tricorder device from the original “Star Trek” TV series; and a swimsuit worn by Pamela Anderson Lee in “Baywatch.”


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