Brando Memorabilia Goes on Block
Before there was Don Corleone, there was this, scrawled on the back of a script:
“through the nose” “High voice” “Nose broken early in youth to account for difficulty.” Marlon Brando, it turns out, was a jotter. Also a doodler, a book lover, and a bit of a pack rat, at least when it came to sun hats and baseball caps.
A trove of the legendary actor’s personal effects is to be auctioned next week at Christie’s in New York. To glance through the catalog is to feel a voyeur’s sense of poking through the closets and drawers at the late actor’s Mulholland Drive home.
There are childhood school yearbooks and summer camp medals, correspondence from co-stars and directors such as Karl Malden, Elia Kazan and Francis Ford Coppola. There are three pages of facial caricatures Brando doodled back in the 1980s, along with handmade furniture, bongo and conga drums, harmonicas, boxing gloves and a foosball table.
Among the more mundane trophies: two California driver’s licenses, priced from $300 to $500, and six store cards and charge cards for $300 to $500, (who knew Brando shopped at Montgomery Ward and the Price Club or belonged to AAA?) There’s also a collection of approximately 25 sun hats and baseball caps, including two novelty solar-powered fan caps that Brando wore while on location in Australia during the filming of “The Island of Dr. Moreau,” $400 to $600.
One item speaks volumes about the reclusive side of the Oscar-winning actor’s lifestyle.
Brando’s son Miko chuckled as he recalled the warning sign that hung for years outside his father’s home, which was recently purchased by Brando’s neighbor, Jack Nicholson. The sign, red letters on a white background, read: “Do Not Leave Car. Sound Horn. Attack Guard Dog on Property.”
“We had those dogs up there, and if you didn’t know them or they know you, you would have to wait in your car until someone escorted you to the house,” the son recalled. “A 200-pound mastiff and a big Rottweiler would greet you at the top of the driveway. If they didn’t know you, you’d be sitting in your car all day.”
The metal sign, with an estimated value of $800 to $1,200, is Lot No. 197 of 320.
Helen Bailey, the head of pop arts at Christie’s, estimates the auction could bring in $400,000 to $500,000, conservatively. But she said that Marilyn Monroe’s artifacts sold for more than $12 million at Christie’s in 1999, after being valued at $2 million to $3 million.
Bailey said some items would start at $100. But others are likely to lure more serious collectors.
“There are two scripts from ‘The Godfather,’ ” Bailey said. “One is un-annotated and the other is annotated with notes in the margins as he goes through the script.”
Christie’s also is selling some 3,600 books from the actor’s personal library. “He was an avid reader,” Miko Brando recalled. “He would write notes to himself in the books. ‘Cliff Notes’ almost. He would almost talk to the book and write his little notes in there.” Also up for auction are two of Brando’s cars -- including the 2003 white Lexus LS430 (with just under 14,000 miles on the odometer) that Miko Brando said his father drove to the Santa Ynez Valley to visit pop star Michael Jackson at Neverland ranch.
The actor and the singer spent considerable time together in the months before Brando died on July 1, 2004.
Other items on the block include Brando’s Oscar nomination certificate for 1954’s “On the Waterfront,” estimated value: $7,000 to $9,000; the black velvet tunic he wore in 1978’s “Superman,” $4,000 to $6,000; and an extensive collection of hand-written notes on “Mutiny on the Bounty” showing Brando exploring themes, the subtext and the plot of the story.
In his will, signed Aug. 28, 2002, in Beverly Hills, Brando named nine of his children as beneficiaries. Left out was a 10th -- his adopted daughter, Petra.
Elizabeth A. Bawden, the attorney for the Brando estate, said the proceeds from the auction would go into a trust created by Brando for his children.
She said that Brando’s oldest son, Christian, had requested that the estate sell his father’s personal property that he and the other children chose not to keep
The family held on to some things. “I kept a lot of his clothes,” Miko said. “Also, a lot of his shoes. We had the same shoe size -- 10 1/2 .”
As for the rest, “It’s hard to see it go, but it’s part of history,” Miko said.
George Englund, who directed Brando in the 1963 film “The Ugly American” and was a close friend for 48 years, said he was sorry that a museum wasn’t given the collection.
“I know every piece of furniture in that house,” said Englund, who last year wrote a book of reminiscences called “My Friendship With Marlon Brando.” “I know all [of his] kimonos and everything else.... I don’t know what Marlon would feel [about the auction]. He might think, once you’re gone, you’re gone and who the hell cares?”