Published: February 2, 2021
Review by Greg Smith, Catalog Photos Courtesy Brian Lebel’s Old West Events
MESA, ARIZ. – There were 13 lots associated with actor John Wayne in Brian Lebel’s January 23 Old West Auction and they all shot straight, producing a combined $216,176 total for the auction house. They formed a small core from a more robust selection of Hollywood cowboy memorabilia that pulled from three collections and included pieces associated with other silver screen riders, including William Holden, Lee Marvin, Sam Elliott, Stacy Keach, Kirk Douglas, Henry Fonda, Buck Jones, George Montgomery, Tommy Farrell and more.
“The Hollywood material came from noted collections,” auctioneer Brian Lebel said. “Most had been on exhibit at different museums throughout the years.”
“Interest in the Hollywood cowboys is generational,” Lebel noted. “They come out of the woodwork for it, there’s a lot of people who don’t buy cowboy memorabilia but they love the Hollywood material. People who grew up going to Westerns and seeing John Wayne – he still has a great following.”
Lebel said that material largely dispersed evenly and caught the interest of a few museums who were buying for their collections.
The Duke’s offerings were led by an $88,500 result for the Winchester 1892 SRC rifle with shortened barrel that he used in True Grit and its sequel, Rooster Cogburn. It featured a stamped S to the receiver and forearm, the mark of Stembridge Gun Rentals, the famed firearm prop studio that began in Hollywood in 1920. The barrel on the rifle was shortened so that Wayne could perform a one-handed flip reload while on horseback. A buyer paid $29,500 for the actor’s beaver hat that he wore in the 1973 film Cahill U.S. Marshal. It had resided in the collection of Wayne’s personal costumer, Luster Bayless, until 2015, when Bayless gave it to Western film author Boyd Magers. A number of Wayne’s bib front shirts appeared, including those worn in The Searchers, $23,600; Red River, $21,240; The Horse Soldiers, $14,160; and Rio Grande, $14,160. His blouse and trousers from Rio Lobo sold for $10,030, while his jacket from Rooster Cogburn brought $12,980.
From The Quick and the Dead came actor Sam Elliott’s leather buckskin shirt with fringed yoke and lace closure. It sold for $1,416, the same price as Kirk Douglas’ screenworn shirt from A Gunfight, which the actor starred in alongside Johnny Cash. Bidders were drawn to a black vest worn by Henry Fonda in My Darling Clementine, which sold for $4,538. It had been exhibited at the National Firearms Museum in the 2010-2011 exhibition “Hollywood Guns.”
Firearms used on screen included the revolvers used by Marlon Brando in the 1961 film One-Eyed Jacks, which went out at $26,550. The mismatched pair of Colt revolvers were on Brando’s side even as he directed the film he starred in. It was the only film Brando ever directed, having stepped in to the role after Stanley Kubrick walked away from it two weeks before production. Brando shot five hours of film and destroyed much of it prior to the release.
Used by Steve McQueen in Nevada Smith was a 1st model Smith & Wesson Schofield U.S. Cavalry revolver, which sold for $26,550. The gun was stamped for Wells Fargo & Co, who bought several hundred of the surplus revolvers at one point. Selling for $32,450 was Richard Boone’s Colt single-action and Remington Deringer used for his role as Paladin in the television series Have Gun Will Travel. From the iconic film, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, came the Colt single-action revolver used by Lee Marvin in his role as Valance. It went out at $19,360. In the film, the villain Valance shot Senator Ranse Stoddard in the arm right before Stoddard shot him down, making this revolver “the gun that shot the man who shot Liberty Valance.”
Many of the sale’s spurs, which accounted for 94 lots, came from the collection of Wyoming collector Roger Wilmot.
“He had been collecting seriously for 50 years,” Lebel said. “He loved and collected the best bits and spurs and was a mentor to a lot of collectors through the years. We had a lot of serious buyers who traveled from everywhere, they wanted to make sure they had a chance at something of Roger’s. Some would say, ‘I remember 40 years ago when Roger drove 500 miles to pick up that set.'”
A number of examples were from Kelly Bros, including a $12,100 result for a pair of No. 90 spurs. The auction house said they were among the rarest of patterns from the Texas maker. Not far behind was a pair of Hollywood Specials from the same outfit, which brought $10,030. An $11,210 result was paid for a pair of prison-made spurs made by Robert Baldwin during his life sentence at the state penitentiary in Canon City, Colo. Lebel said prison-made spurs are a niche area within the broader category and command strong interest. The inmates would normally enter without metalworking experience and would apprentice with others who had been there longer. Baldwin escaped the prison and was never found. Also from Canon City was a pair of inlaid spurs with a tulip and diamond design that sold for $5,605.
Saddles were another popular category and featured a $41,300 result for an Edward H. Bohlin example once owned by President Ronald Reagan. The president gave it to Buck Wicall, who owned a tack and feed store among the ranches of the stars. Rising to $16,520 was a 1930s Bohlin silver mounted saddle owned by Clark Gable. In 1967, Bohlin sold Robert Gunderson, an Oroville, Calif., man, a mounted G.S. Garcia trophy saddle from the 1926 Elko, Nevada Rodeo. It had been consigned to Bohlin from an heir of the estate of FF Barham without knowledge of the other heirs. Barham published the Los Angeles Herald-Express. When the other heirs found out of its consignment, they threatened Bohlin with a lawsuit. Bohlin called Gunderson, who agreed to return it, and in exchange Bohlin gave him the Gable saddle free and clear.
Ninety-four lots came from the Montana History Collection of Jerry “Buzz” Nyhart, many of them historic firearms. In rifles came a $53,100 result for a Sharps Model 1874 No 1 Creedmoor target rifle that was one of three Sharps Creedmoor rifles to have been sent to early Montana pioneer, banker and miner Samuel Hauser in Helena. Hauser ordered the three for a shooting contest between himself and his friend, Granville Stewart. Hauser was a major lobbyist for the creation of Yellowstone National Park and was the first territorial governor of the Montana Territory in 1885. Also from this collection was a broadside advertising the book The Vigilantes of Montana Territory, which told the story of the chase, capture, trial and execution of Plummer’s Great Band of Road Agents. It sold for $23,600. Taking $44,250 was a Colt Model 1860 Army that was alleged to have been taken from crooked sheriff outlaw Jack Gallagher. The gun had passed down in the Lott family, whose elder included Mortimer Lott, one of six vigilantes who formed the Vigilance Committee and hung Gallagher and four others at the same time for their crimes.
“We had great response on much of the Montana historical material,” Lebel said. “It was brought back to Montana by different organizations or individuals who wanted it to keep it in the state.”
The sale total rang in at just above $1.9 million. It was followed by an 89-lot online sale, which ran until near midnight on January 23. Of the combined 543 lots on offer, only 12 passed for a 98 percent sell-through. It was the first auction that Lebel held since January of 2020, having canceled his sales in the middle of the year. “We wanted to have a live preview and we were only going to do it if we could do it safely,” Lebel said. “We had a great response; across the board it was an extremely strong sale.”
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