A major collector and regular reader of this column invited me to visit his Hollywood screening room last week. Being a fan of The Golden Age, I quickly accepted. Over the past years I recall this man, “Jack,” visiting our shop, looking for quality unusual motion picture memorabilia.
Upon reaching his home, I had no idea what to expect. Jack met me at the door, and we proceeded to a small office off the foyer. The walls were adorned with rare photos from the set of “Gone With the Wind.” This was just a preview of things to come.
I was then advised a third party would join us shortly, and prior to that arrival, Jack told stories of his aspirations to become an actor. His first bit was in the play “Dracula” at the famous Wayside Theatre in Northern Virginia. One of the cast members included a very young Susan Sarandon.
This venture did not last long, as Jack went on to another vocation in broadcasting, where he met Roy. After leaving Virginia, the two lost track of one another until some 30 years later, when they unbelievably ran into one another right here in Bluffton.
Upon Roy’s arrival, I was treated to several great stories by each, including Roy’s job as an assistant on “The Dean Martin Show,” about which he told of side-splitting moments.
After a quick hour of trading our stories, I noted Jack squirming in his chair, anxious to show us his collection. We came to a stairway to “the room,” and each step was filled with movie posters including “Casablanca” and many great Western-themed Tim Holt, Tom Mix, and other legendary films.
At the top of the stairs, in true Hollywood style, Jack pushed a button and on a giant screen television the 20th Century Fox logo and musical theme came on.
At that moment I knew I was in seventh heaven! This room, in orderly fashion, was jam packed with the likes of Gable, Harlow, Taylor, Gish, Powell, Clift, and hundreds of others. Hollywood was alive in photos, books, memorabilia and hundreds of motion picture magazines. Jack stood there, watched both our reactions, and beamed.
For the next three hours we pored over piece by piece and marveled at the quality and historic content displayed. While doing so, “Leave Her to Heaven” was playing on the screen, and Jack kept interrupting our viewing by saying “Isn’t she beautiful?” He was describing Gene Tierney, who we later found out was Jack’s favorite because of the movie “Laura.”
By this time, I knew I was in the presence of one of the great collectors of my lifetime.
When pressing Jack on what was his best piece he commented, “That’s like asking who your favorite child is.” He sais, “I love it all,” but there is one piece of note, that being a four-page handwritten letter from Montgomery Clift, nicely framed.
That letter has more substance than “the weather in California is nice.” The letter describes Clift’s dislike of a very famous fellow actor – words that Hedda Hopper would die for.
It was now time to leave, and Jack said, “This is just the tip of the iceberg, as I have two closets filled with more!” This is a case of a professional collector, not just a person that gathers many items of interest, but one that has historic knowledge of every single piece.
Jack can tell you the date, place, and cause of Tyrone Powers’ death. He would and still writes condolence letters to survivors of passing celebrities and receives responses from Nancy Reagan, George Bush, Charleston Heston, and dozens more.
On a score of 10, Jack is a 10! I, as a very amateur historian, rate maybe a 5, but after a visit with Jack, I might now be a 6.
Collecting is so much more than stacking up “stuff.” It can be an adventure that keeps you searching for the unknown.
Jack and Roy, thank you for your wonderful stories that encourage me to continue to research my favorites. Upon leaving this little piece of Hollywood I was presented with the updated address of my favorite – Leslie Caron, who is celebrating both of our 90 years of age.
Jerry Glenn, former owner of Legends and Reminisce gift shop, currently is appraising trading card collections.