Peter Ustinov Scripts, Short Stories, and Letters at Sotheby's


Spartacus script

Items from the private collection of Oscar-winning actor, playwright, and raconteur Sir Peter Ustinov (1921-2004) are being offered by Sotheby’s across two auctions in Paris, with a live sale on July 6 and a further online auction running alongside, open for bidding until July 7. 

Film memorabilia and annotated scripts from his life on the big screen include Dalton Trumbo's script for Spartacus directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1960, after Howard Fast's 1951 novel (estimate 500 - 800 EUR). In fact the lot features:

  • four revised final typescript screenplays, January 16, 1959, one with a few pencil annotations and drawings by Peter Ustinov
  • two first draft typescript screenplays dated July, 15, 1958
  • a final screenplay dated 9, december, 1958 with changes steps
  • A revised shooting schedule dated 2/20/59  together with four bound slips of changes for Peter Ustinov’s character

Elsewhere there is a script for Quo Vadis directed by Melvin LeRoy in which he played Nero, together with a pronunciation guide (estimate 400 - 600 EUR) and the Golden Globe he won for his work on the movie, for which he was also nominated for an Oscar.


A collection of Ustinov's various short stories and screenplays (estimate 600 - 800 EUR) includes:

  • Lady L. Screenplay written and directed by Peter Ustinov, 1955, after a Romain Gary's book, starring Paul Newman, Sofia Loren and Philippe Noiret
  • Original autograph manuscript screenplay by Peter Ustinov, with drawing and annotations (130 p.) ; together with handwritten sheets of the screenplay ( 20 p) hold by a paper clip
  • Dreams of Papua. Autograph manuscript screenplay (45 p.) together with two pages of notes and drawing of figures by P. Ustinov and three typed script with annotations
  • Frontiers of the Sea. Autograph manuscript short story, 1966 (23 p.) and four typed version and the copy of the publication of the story in the Dunhill magazine Summer
  • The velvet knife. Autograph manuscript short story (18 p.)  

An autograph letter to his father ("My Dear Papi") on a menu card, inscribed and dated on the reverse Camaret 1926 together with an autograph letter to his aunt Olga depicting ajourney with drawings of people he met has an estimate of 300 - 500 EUR.

Ustinov's mother was Nadia Benois, a painter who began her career creating sets for the Ballets Russes dance company and then for productions by Tchaikovsky for the Royal Ballet in London. Nadia was the niece of Alexandre Benois, a painter and theatre designer whose name became synonymous with Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes. The auction includes around 50 letters between Alexandre and Nadia (400 - 600 EUR) plus Benoi's watercolour and gouache set design for The Shrovetide Fair section of the ballet Petrushka, signed and inscribed (6,000 - 8,000 EUR).