There are many reasons collectors value these pieces, Comisar said. They are part of our shared culture. Many are associated with stars in famous roles, from Tyrone Power in "Blood and Sand" to Kevin Costner in "Dances With Wolves." A few, such as the beaded gowns worn by Julie Andrews in "Star" and her TV specials, are genuine works of art.
Moreover, many are by gifted artisans who are "dead or otherwise very unavailable," such as the late Gilbert Adrian, the genius who got movie audiences to forget Joan Crawford's substantial hips by padding her shoulders. The sale includes an Adrian-designed military hat worn by Barrymore in "Rasputin and the Empress" (1933). Other major Hollywood designers whose work will be sold include Edith Head, Irene Sharaff, Travis Banton and Orry-Kelly.
Collector and costume expert Bill Thomas worked with Comisar, sifting through Western's stock in search of treasures. The costume company is no museum and so there were no detailed historical files on the individual pieces.
There were some wonderful surprises during the three months the men worked on the project, Thomas said. "I was shocked to find all seven Von Trapp children," said Thomas, alluding to seven sailor-suit costumes of increasing size featured in "The Sound of Music" (1965). Another thrill was finding a brown velvet coat worn by Errol Flynn in his first swashbuckler, "Captain Blood" (1935). Until they came upon the jacket, the men thought all of Flynn's early costumes had been made at Warner Brothers.
Actors' names were routinely sewn into the garments, but that did not tell the team what film the costume had appeared in. To pin that down, they screened likely movies and searched through mountains of stills. Thomas' partner Larry McQueen worked on the project, as did Glenn Brown.
Comisar thinks big-ticket items at the sale will include the Flynn jacket (Flynn material has been shooting up in value in recent years, Comisar said). He also thinks top dollar will be paid for a cream-colored dress uniform worn by Charlie Chaplin in his career-stunting sendup of Hitler, "The Great Dictator" (1940).
Thomas predicts that contemporary costumes will do very well, including several Oscar-winning outfits Warren Beatty wore in "Bugsy" (1991).
And, out there somewhere, surely there is someone who can't live without a "Planet of the Apes" suit or the ridiculous white evening clothes Tom Hanks wore as he ate the tiny ear of corn in the party scene in "Big."
Butterfield & Butterfield is at 7601 Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. The sale will be at 2 p.m. Oct. 10. The costumes will be on display from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 8 and 9 and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 10. For a catalogue or further information, call (213) 850-7500.