At Bonhams & Butterfields’ entertainment memorabilia sale on June 25, film legend Charlie Chaplin’s trademark bowler hat and cane from his iconic Tramp costume sold for $139,250.
“We are a global company with an international vision of customer service and sales,” said Jon Baddeley, group head of the collectibles department, “the Chaplin hat and cane is a prime example of this; although these items were initially consigned in London, Bonhams draws from corporate resources worldwide to place a lot where the market is strongest, across a nation or around the globe.”
Chaplin’s famous origins of the Tramp persona were concocted almost spontaneously in the communal male dressing room at Keystone Studio in Hollywood. As the legend goes, one rainy afternoon in early February 1914, Chaplin created an inspiring ensemble of contrasts; he borrowed Fatty Arbuckle’s voluminous trousers, Charles Avery’s tiny jacket, Ford Sterling’s size 14 shoes, which he was obliged to wear on the wrong feet to keep them falling off, a too-small derby belonging to Arbuckle’s’ father-in-law, and a moustache intended for Mack Swain’s use, which he trimmed to toothbrush size.
According to Chaplin’s Hollywood producer and costumier at the time, Ted Tetrick, the hat and cane were originally at the studio costume department and were selected by Chaplin personally. The bowler hat, stamped with manufacturer’s details inside the leather hatband and original studio label stamped “The Chaplin Studios Inc. California” and ink stamped “Charles Chaplin Film Corporation.” The cane is 32 inches long and made of bamboo. Charlie Chaplin was without doubt, the most innovative and recognizable comic of the silent screen.
Additional highlights from part one of the entertainment memorabilia sale include a world auction record for a two-headed llama from the original Doctor Dolittle, 1967, starring Rex Harrison fetched $4,780, a John Lennon inscribed book Kahlil Gibran brought $9,560, a Walt Disney celluloid from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs sold for $8,365, and a saxophone played by former US President Bill Clinton went for $7,768.
A complete report will appear in a future issue.