How I Got Started, cont’d

In the current issue of Fine Books & Collections, Ellen F. Brown interviewed television writer Tom Heyes about his vintage Hollywood collection (“How I Got Started,” page 68). He has an amazing collection devoted to film producer David O. Selznick. We couldn’t fit all of the interview on the printed page (score one for the Internet), so here’s what you missed. More about Tom’s collection...

Number of items in your collection: Maybe two thousand.

First important Selznick item you collected: A “loan out” agreement signed by Selznick and his father-in-law, Louis B. Mayer. It granted Selznick permission to hire MGM’s Freddie Bartholomew for the film Little Lord Fauntleroy. Selznick had just resigned from MGM to start his own business and had to go back to his father-in-law to borrow the star.

Most recent item you bought for your collection: A neat little letter from Selznick to Hollywood columnist Walter Winchell.

Favorite bookseller/bookstore: Book Soup, the Borders closest to me, and Dutton's Brentwood Books, which is sadly no longer in business.

Farthest traveled to buy an item for your collection: I once had the opportunity to buy five beautifully bound scripts from Selznick's personal library. I had the wrong date in my calendar and missed the auction by one day. I was devastated. Five years later, the same five scripts came up for sale in London. I thought it would be awfully fun to visit a British auction house and was ready to hop on a plane and fly over until a work conflict arose. If I couldn't be there in person I wanted to be there on the phone. I remember sitting on my bed with the phone to my ear at three o'clock in the morning listening to the auction. I'll never forget that voice on the line saying "You got them!" Oh, I was so pleased. Can you imagine if I'd missed them twice?

Most overvalued item (item you think sells for more than its worth): Signed Marilyn Monroe photographs routinely sell for $8,000-$20,000, while many other top vintage stars sell for only $200 to $2,000. I'm always surprised given how many Monroe photos there are floating around.

Biggest regret in your collecting: From a purely mercenary standpoint, that early on I didn't buy movie posters and American first editions. They would have paid off handsomely.

What would you collect if you didn't collect Selznick? If I were worth millions, I'd collect antique cars.

Favorite book about books: A Gentle Madness by Nicholas Basbanes. It's beautifully done both in terms of presentation and execution.

--Interview by Ellen F. Brown, a freelance writer who specializes in stories about antiquarian books and the fine arts. Contact her at ellen@finebooksmagazine.com.
Auction Guide