Hanging around for a house auction
  • An antique board with a unique purpose, but what?
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    Auction Finds

    Hanging it up with Humphrey Bogart

    Anyone who’s a movie fan instantly recognizes the image of Humphrey Bogart. See a trench coat and you think “The Big Sleep.” See an old rickety boat and “The African Queen” materializes. Think of an actor with a trademark cigarette between his lips, and his face crowds your thoughts.

    So, when I spotted a black and white image of the actor on an unusual item at an estate auction recently, I was instantly curious. Lying there on the table was a cardboard clothes hanger with  a bust of Bogart on the front and back. Made of cardboard with a plastic hook, the hanger sported Bogie with his cigarette and his cool stare.

    Even as a cardboard cutout, Bogart seemed so out of place there among the brass works, railroad lanterns, empty Kodak camera case, and tin buckets and plates on the auction table. But on second thought, maybe he wasn’t. He was an actor who played disparate roles – from brazen killer to night club owner, detective to a grizzled boatman.

    Humphrey Bogart clothes hanger by Famous Faces Inc., 1967.

    I assumed the hanger was made as a collectible, something for a company to make a few bucks off of. That was likely the idea, but this one could be used as an actual hanger. The bottom part had a rectangular slit for hanging pants.

    The auctioneer said it was made by a company in Norristown, PA, just outside Philadelphia, that had produced hangers with faces of other famous movie stars.

    The company was called Famous Faces Inc. I found several of its hangers and posters from the 1960s. Earlier this year, the auction house Hake put five hangers up for sale bearing the faces of Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren, Mae West, W.C. Fields and Oliver Hardy. Three were made by Famous Faces, and the others by a competitor called Henderson Hoggard Inc., NY. The starting bid for all five was $200 but there were no takers.

    A set with the four Monkees hangers was sold by the same auction house in June for around $175. The Bogart hanger at the estate auction I attended sold for a whopping $2.

    The hangers were described by Hake as circa 1967. They were 16″ wide and 16 ¾” tall. All had a bottom opening for hanging pants.

    Jimi Hendrix clothes hanger by Saunders Enterprises, circa 1968.

    According to the auction house, other hangers featuring the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix (his name was misspelled Jimmi) were also made during the 1960s. I also found silent film star Ben Turpin and Jean Harlow hangers on the web.

    Here’s the website of a collector of hangers who has three of the movie stars and is searching for others, which she says are hard to find.

    Famous Faces also made posters of the stars. In a 1968 Billboard ad, it solicited businesses to buy its posters and sell them at a profit. “We hate to sound corny, but if you’re not selling posters, you’re not selling one of the top 10 hits of the weeks.” The posters were 2 ½ feet wide and 3 ½ feet tall.

    On the ad were black and white pictures of such stars as Bob Dylan, Julie Andrews in her “Sound of Music” pose, Marilyn Monroe hugging a tree, W.C. Fields, Raquel Welch in her “One Million Years BC” outfit, Frank Sinatra, Paul Newman, Peter Fonda on his “Easy Rider” motorcycle, Barbra Streisand and Bill Cosby.

    Actress Jean Harlow clothes hanger by Henderson Hoggard Inc., 1967.

    On the Oakland Museum of California site, I found a Famous Faces poster titled “Bad Breath,” with a stylized drawing of Uncle Sam by graphic artist Seymour Chwast dated 1967.

    After seeing the Bogart hanger, I wondered what other items bore his image. Ever popular, his face was affixed to many of things folks thought would sell:

    A Bogie tie, a Bogie Zippo lighter, Bogie on the lid of a Dixie Ice Cream cup, Bogie cigarette card by Turf, Bogie on men’s undies and Bogie on a thimble.


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