Charles Farrell

Charles Farrell was an incredibly effective actor during the silent era (and his hair looked friggin' amazing when it was blowing in the wind), but his career as a leading man dwindled considerably with the introduction of sound, as his voice had a certain Mickey Mouse quality that seemed oddly out of sync with his good looks. But he had a very likeable quality about him and people say he was a wonderful man without a trace of vanity. He eventually moved to Palm Springs where he opened up the Palm Springs Racquet Club together with fellow actor Ralph Bellamy, and he even became the mayor of Palm Springs! The picture is undated, but I'm estimating it's from the early 30s, and it comes with a snipe that says: "A solitaire star: Charles Farrell whiles away a few idle moments in his new home at Malibu". It's quite eerie, since Farrell would spend his later years as a recluse, feeling forgotten and unloved, so him playing solitaire feels like a sort of foreshadowing. What's super special about this particular picture is that it came from the collection of Ed Diamond who ran an entertainment memorabilia store in Palm Desert, who obtained this picture from Farrell's personal estate, meaning that this picture actually belonged to Charles Farrell! It's super exciting to hold this in my hands and think that he must have held it in his hands at one point, too. 

* I actually got to talk a little bit about the history of the picture to the seller, a lovely man named Randall, and this is what he told me. "When Mr. Farrell passed away, or possibly before, much or all of his memorabilia went to Ed Diamond who was fairly well connected with movie stars at the time and had a store in Palm Desert, not far from the Farrell household in Palm Springs. Ed Diamond passed away about 1992 and everything was willed to a woman in Kelowna, Canada. It was a large collection and it was put in storage until three years ago. I think she passed away and all was sent to a local auction here in Vancouver. I sold many of my Farrell pieces but still have more. I had a rare Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell signed photo that I sold too cheaply. You have an interesting photo. I think I had twelve originally from the photo shoot but only have two left."

Clark Gable, 1952

I don't even have a crush on Clark Gable, but sweet lord was that guy photogenic. Seriously, every picture that has Clark Gable in it is a good picture. He's so very Clark Gable-y here off the coast of Cornwall while shooting Never Let Me Go in 1952. Love his sweater, and that he's wearing canvas sneakers without socks. I wonder what he's pointing at, I wonder what he's saying. Probably something very Clark Gable-y. With him in the boat are actor Richard Haydn as well as director Delmer Daves and his assistant. Really happy with this photograph, printed on really heavy paper, just a treat.

Steve McQueen, 1969

My first Steve McQueen photograph, a promo still for The Reivers, based on William Faulkner’s novel of the same title, a passion project for McQueen who also co-produced to film. Not exactly a masterpiece (sorry, Steve!), but I have always loved this picture because I think it captures him so well—his wild spirit and his strong will, the twinkle in his eye and that air of mischief. And that wonderful head of hair! Somebody at some point spilled coffee over the back of the picture, and it still faintly smells of it.

Fred Astaire and Stanley Kramer, 1959

My first Fred, and something tells me it's not gonna be my last. Here he is with director Stanley Kramer during the making of On the Beach. This was Astaire's first dramatic role, the first time he wasn't gonna dance. He was actually nominated for an Oscar for his performance, but of course he doesn't know that yet. I love how intently he's listening to Kramer, and I adore how he's sat there. Maybe my favorite thing about Astaire is that even when he was old, his body language always remained that of a young boy—in fact the older he got the more evident it became. I sometimes call him 'the eternal boy'. He's sixty years old here, but he's sitting there like a teenager. He wasn't a man of words, but his body was constantly expressing itself, constantly communicating with the world. The way his one hand is fumbling around on his foot, the way his other hand is by his face. There's always that vulnerability, and always that strength. It's so profoundly attractive how his body spoke. He loved spending time in Australia where this film was shot, and he could walk around fairly unrecognized. His co-star Gregory Peck said that he'd spend hours going through five-and-dime stores and get a kick out of buying random things like pencil sharpeners. 

Lionel Barrymore

After making a few beginner's mistakes, I finally got my first proper 8x10 today! It was a special moment. I kinda wanted my first 8x10 to be a Fred Astaire photograph, but my first experiences in the world of collecting weren't very successful—I got tricked into buying three Astaire pictures that turned out not to be originals. So that was that. Anyways, this isn't about Fred (Jesus, I just cannot ever shut up about that guy, can I?), this is about the very lovely and very talented Mr. Barrymore. The picture is undated, but from the looks of it I'm thinking it must be sometime from the late 30s. There's a little pinhole at the top, and on the back someone has marked it in a way that makes it seem like it was being prepared to be printed in a newspaper or magazine. I sat with it for a while today—what a difference to hold an actual vintage photograph in my hands, as opposed to looking at it on a computer screen. I think that's what I will love about collecting—maybe even more than the picture itself it's the history that's attached to it that excites me. To wonder who held this in their hands before me? What was their life like? I like to think that it hung on a wall in a busy newspaper office at some point, and all the guys who worked there wore hats and suspenders and had a cigarette dangling from the corner of their mouths, and they'd yell at each from behind their desks. Just like in the movies! And we're all connected through the Lionel.