Lights, Camera, Action!

Crushed ice, champagne, bobbed hair and high hemlines, this is the jazz age, the ‘roaring’ twenties, and the Golden Era of Hollywood. While many of us can only dream of the decadence in a city they dubbed ‘tinsel town’, there was one man who lived his life to the beat of its economic boom, Academy Award winning cinematographer Milton Krasner (1904-1988); whose enviable career in the motion picture industry spanned more than five decades.

Krasner’s own rare and unique personal archive of photographs and ephemera accumulated during this period is to be sold by Laidlaw Auctioneers and Valuers in their forthcoming auction of Antiques, Esoteric Items and Fine Furnishings, to be held on March 25th, offering us an intimate glimpse behind the curtain on the ‘movie business’ of that time. Krasner worked with all the leading names in cinema, and if he was inclined to name-drop, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Jean Simmons, Fritz Lang, Lou Costello, Joan Fontaine, Lauren Bacall and John Wayne would be but a few.

Included in this auction are a number of signed photographs dedicated to Krasner from those he worked with, in particular an early studio portrait photograph of a dashing Walt Disney, signed in blue ink ’To Milt - my adopted step-son - with very best wishes, Dis’, which carries a pre-sale estimate of £300-500, and an official studio photograph taken on the set of Monkey Business (1952) featuring Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant roller skating, alongside a copy of International Photographer magazine from August 1952 when it made the front cover. However, perhaps the most evocative of the Krasner lots, is the cinematographers own original programme for the 23rd Annual Academy Awards, held at the Pantages Theatre in March 1951. The brochure brings to life the Golden Age of Hollywood, and Krasner would have found himself in good company at the ‘Oscars’, surrounded by the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Spencer Tracy and the Master of Ceremonies; Fred Astaire. 

‘Krasner’s photographs are the closest you will get to a Hollywood time machine’ says auctioneer Paul Laidlaw. ‘They offer a seductive and somewhat intimate behind the scenes glimpse into the Golden Age of cinema. I defy anyone to not get chills when looking at life through such a lens.’

Another lot featured in Laidlaw’s March sale with a Hollywood connection, includes personal effects of Sir Cosmo Edmund Duff-Gordon, perhaps best remembered for the circumstances in which he escaped the sinking of RMS Titanic. Sir Cosmo was saved from the stricken vessel, alongside his notable fashion designer wife Lucille and her assistant, by boarding a life-raft in violation of the ‘women and children first’ policy. Following the disaster Sir Cosmo was accused of not only acting selfishly, but of also bribing the crew of his raft in order to prevent a rescue attempt for survivors in the water; a controversial claim, which Sir Cosmo vehemently denied. His character was featured in the 1997 film adaptation of the sinking, which starred Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. The lot includes a manuscript menu with satirical sketches of Sir Cosmo to the border, and a pair of his binoculars, auction estimate £100-200.