Tag Archives: collector

The Covetous Property Man, 1904

The following first appeared in The New York Times, July 24, 1904:

“There is no more assiduous collector of odds and ends than the average theatrical property man,” said a well-known actor. “Everything is fish for his net, you might say, and the contents of the chest or trunk of one of these individuals after a forage through the country would easily hold its own with Dickens’s famous curiosity shop…

“If you wish to find out the thoroughness with which the average property man accumulates, just ask him for any article, I don’t care what, and see if nine times out of ten he won’t produce it.”

“By accident I was a witness once of the manner in which a property man adds a coveted object to his collection. Our show was playing at Richmond, Va., at the time. Among the ‘props’ furnished by the theatre’s property man was a handsome rifle, which he had borrowed from a local firearms firm for the week.

“On Friday I had occasion to go to the theatre to get something I had forgotten. As I made my way to the dressing rooms I noticed our company’s property man standing to one side of the darkened stage, in a ray of sunlight, examining this rifle with the air of a connoisseur. There was nobody else in the theatre at the time, and he apparently had not seen me. I would probably have passed him by unnoticed but for the fact that he was holding a conversation with himself, which ran thus:

“‘You seem to be a pretty nice gun,’ he said, holding the rifle up to his shoulder and running his eye critically along the sights.

“‘Ever been on the road?‘ he continued, carefully scrutinizing the stock of the weapon.

“‘Why, you have no idea what a lot of fun you can have out on the road,’ he kept on seductively. ‘A great deal better than being stuck in a little town like this.

“‘How would you like to go on the road?‘ he queried, as if he had a sudden inspiration.

“‘You would? All right. I think I can fix it for you.’

“And he made for his trunk to see if he could lay in the rifle crosswise. He was just able to get it in, and the last words I heard him say to the enraptured weapon were:

“‘I’ll sign you with this company right away.‘”

Originally published in The New York Times, July 24, 1904.

Wesley’s Wicked Props Collection

Earlier this week, I headed down past Raleigh to tour the amazing film prop collection of Wesley Cannon. I first read about him in an article in the Raleigh News Observer; I realized it was only a few hours away, so I couldn’t pass up a chance to see some well-known props right in my own backyard. Wesley has been collecting props, costumes and puppets/animatronics for about a dozen years. In that time he has amassed a truly remarkable assortment of well-known (and some not-so-well-known) objects and items. In fact, some of his better pieces are currently on loan to several museums around the world.

A Gremlin
One of the Gremlin puppets from the 1984 film.

Besides what I have pictured here, he had a Mandrake root and several wands from the Harry Potter films, two pods from the 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, many costumes from Silent Hill, even more costumes and props from Thirteen Ghosts, Wolverine’s claws, Samuel Jackson’s lightsaber from Star Wars, one of Jason’s masks from Friday the 13th, one of Freddy Krueger’s sweaters from A Nightmare on Elm Street, a monster from Feast, Jennifer Lopez’s costume from The Cell, a goblin sword from Labyrinth, lots of figures from The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, and so many other pieces from films that would take too long to list here.

Seeing stone eye glass
A "seeing stone" eye glass from the film "The Spiderwick Chronicles".

Wesley has a bunch of mannequin displays of characters from several films. What is truly amazing about these is that they combine the latex prosthetics and makeup appliances, the costumes, and some of the hand props. These elements are not just made by different people, but in many cases by completely different shops and companies, so after the film, they often scatter back to their points of origin. It makes it especially remarkable that Wesley was able to track down and reassemble so many disparate parts back into what they looked like on film.

Planet of the Apes
Bodysuit and helmet from the 2001 "Planet of the Apes"

The room itself was customized by Tom Spina Designs; they also repaired and refurbished some of the older props which had fallen into disrepair. You can see a lot of photographs of the displays they created as well as some process shots of them working on the room.

The Tree of Death
One branch from the Tree of Death from the film "300".

There is an episode of Hollywood Treasure in which they visit Wesley’s collection on YouTube (for now). Wesley also runs a company called Hollywood History in which he sells movie props, costumes and other memorabilia. He was interviewed about his company by Dan Benton of the Prop Blog a few years ago.

First Links of Spring

Happy Spring everyone! I’d like to say that in the week since I’ve returned from USITT, I’ve found time to write even with tech rehearsals for the new Tony Kushner play and prepping for rehearsals of Shakespeare in the Park, but I haven’t. To paraphrase a great quote I heard in Charlotte, I’ve been busy making fake houses for fake people. Nonetheless, I have some links for you to spend your time reading and filling your head. With knowledge.

The Restraints Blog is a whole blog dedicated to historical means of restraints, such as handcuffs, padlocks and the like.

Last month, Popular Woodworking ran an important article entitled, “How Not to Hurt Yourself on a Table Saw“. It was the culmination of a series of posts looking at recently released data on the number of table saw injuries in the US (also worth reading). It is a good read for anyone who uses a table saw, beginners and seasoned pros alike.

Toolmonger asked the question, “What’s the best book for a N00b machinist?” The readers’ comments are filled with a number of great book (and video) suggestions for getting started in using machine tools for shaping and milling metal.

The Prop Blog features a number of auctions of screen-used film props. Though I do not talk about buying and collecting props on my site, I do love the pictures at The Prop Blog; quality photographs of cinema props can be hard to find, but this site has them in spades!