Several priceless pieces of movie memorabilia are going to be auctioned — for a price — in New York on Monday, and the headlining piece is a set-used Cowardly Lion costume worn by actor Bert Lahr in MGM’s classic The Wizard of Oz, the Hollywood Reporter is reporting.
The auction will be held at venerable New York auction house Bonhams, and will feature several pieces Wizard of Oz memorabilia from the private collection of collector James Comisar, who is hoping to raise money to fund an exhibit space for his extensive movie and TV memorabilia collection, according to the New York Daily News.
The auction will include several pieces of rare Wizard artifacts, including actor Bert Lahr’s original script, multiple props, and costumes of several other secondary characters, including Munchkins and flying monkeys, according to Comic Book.
But the big daddy of all of the pieces is the Cowardly Lion costume. The costume has been authenticated, according the Bonham’s sales catalog and via the New York Daily News, as the one Lahr wore on set. The costume is made of actual lion hide; because each lion’s hide is unique, analysts were able to match the costume frame-by-frame with footage from the movie to confirm that it is, indeed, the same costume Lahr wore on set.
Further, since Lahr wore the same costume for the majority of filming, for the sake of visual continuity, the costume is unique. MGM didn’t have several spares in the costume department, like a major picture in production would today, according to a press release from Bonhams.
“For famed MGM costume designer Gilbert Adrian, the only option for creating a realistic lion costume in 1938 was to fashion it out of actual lion hides. He was challenged with locating several that visually matched each other so a few costumes could be made and used interchangeably throughout filming. Adrian soon discovered, however, that every available lion hide had very distinctive colors, hair patterns and scars, so he had no choice but to dress Lahr in a single costume for much of the filming.”
Set-used props and costumes are coveted pieces of movie memorabilia among collectors, and important pieces from important films can fetch tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of dollars. For example: Last summer, according to this Inquisitr report, Lucille Ball’s famed polka-dot dress from I Love Lucy sold at auction for $168,000.
As of this post, it is not known how much the Cowardly Lion costume may sell for; a similar, secondary such costume sold at auction years ago for close to a million dollars.
[Image courtesy of Los Angeles Times]