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Mon, Mar 11, 2002 - Page 19 News List

Auction of film props offers chance to own a piece of Hollywood

REUTERS , LONDON

A porter cleans a skull used as a prop in the James Bond film Never Say Never Again. Over 1,500 film props from hits such as Bond movies, Harry Potter, Titanic and The Rocky Horror Show will be sold at auction starting tomorrow.

PHOTO: REUTERS

A Buddha from a Bond film and a coffin clock from The Rocky Horror Picture Show are among thousands of film props to go under the auctioneer's hammer at Sotheby's this month.

All belong to a vast collection from a top London film prop shop that has supplied gizmos and gadgets to some of the most famous movies of the last 50 years.

A French Empire style suite was used, for example, in Interview With The Vampire, Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, Never Say Never Again and Onegin, while a giant Buddha from The Man With The Golden Gun resurfaced in Tomb Raider, Carry On Up the Khyber and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

A small gilded Buddha that appeared in You Only Live Twice in 1967 starring Sean Connery as Britain's most famous secret agent, re-emerged over 30 years later in Entrapment, again with the smooth-talking Scottish actor and Catherine Zeta Jones.

For shop owner Chris Paul, the ultimate gem in the March 13 to March 15 auction has to be a century-old clock in a full-sized coffin, which comes complete with its own skeleton from the opening of the 1975 cult flick, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

"There's a fascinating story about that," said Paul, who has run the Ken Paul prop shop in north London since her father's death in 1989. "The skeleton is rumored to be the remains of the young Italian lover and the secretary of the Countess of Rosslyn. After his death she couldn't bear to be separated from him, so she immortalized him in the clock and took him everywhere with her. Much better than being buried, don't you think?" she said.

Now, following her decision to shut up shop, Sotheby's will sell its contents -- more than 1,500 lots which are expected to raise over Lds1 million (US$1.4 million).

Born into a family of antiques dealers, Ken Paul set up his own business after World War II. His friend, art director Scott Simon, suggested using some of the antiques as props in a film.

The business rocketed and Paul quickly became known for his expert visual eye, stocking unusual works that were able to withstand the scrutiny of the lens and worked well on camera.

It was the ideal situation for the avid collector, who could lend out his antiques without having to part with them.

The first film he supplied was The Elusive Pimpernel, starring David Niven and the first British television dramas were Robin Hood, William Tell and The Avengers.

The early James Bond films followed, paving the way for a relationship in which Paul's shop repeatedly decorated the office of "M," the head of the secret service in the spy films, and provided props for nearly every Bond film.

"We had a very special relationship with the Bond films ... from the early films like From Russia With Love right the way through to the one which is filming at the moment," Paul told Reuters.

The shop had a similar relationship with Britain's comedy Carry On films.

His business flourishing, Paul expanded into the next door property, filling it with oriental artifacts, Russian works of art and bronzes, many acquired during extensive travels abroad and sometimes to meet specific requests from art directors.

Chris Paul remembers holidays spent haggling over objects for films in an Egyptian bazaar or in local markets.

Other childhood memories include accompanying her father to film sets, such as Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton and the early Bond films.

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