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Lot # 1134 (of 1866)   < Previous Lot | Next Lot >

1919-1920 Honus Wagner Movie-Photo Collection (23)

Starting Bid - $300, Sold For - $948

While Honus Wagner's exploits on the baseball diamond are legendary, less well known are his exploits on the silent screen. Unbeknownst to even many of the most astute historians is the fact that shortly after his retirement in 1917 Wagner starred in a number of short silent films produced by a local Pittsburgh acting company headlined by actress Marguerite Byrant and her husband, Charles Kramer. Incredibly, at that time (1919-1920) the acting company also included both Moe and Shemp Howard, who would later go one to greater fame as members of The Three Stooges. Offered here is an exceedingly rare collection of vintage photos taken during the production of two different 1919-1920 films that starred Honus Wagner.

The first group of fifteen photos, which were taken during the production of a film called The Hunter, range in size from 2.25 x 3 to 8 x 10 inches. Wagner is featured in five of the photos, all of which measure at least 7.75 x 7.25 inches or greater. The photos are accompanied by two period (undated) newspaper clippings from The Pittsburgh Gazette Times documenting the production of the film, including photos of Wagner with other cast members. The article notes that the film is Wagner's second with the acting troupe and that, according to other cast members, Wagner "already is a movie star of considerable ability, cleverly adapting himself to the various roles to which he has been assigned." Apparently, Wagner had no stunt double in the film, which was shot in the snow-covered hills of Aspinwall, Pennsylvania (outside of Pittsburgh). According to a further account in the paper, Wagner "was scheduled to achieve a funny little slide down a snow-covered hill. He slid, all right, past the camera, but couldn't stop. He grabbed wildly at a tree, lost his balance, slid on his shoulder for 10 rods, skidded against a stump, scraped the side of a boulder, dropped over an 11-foot cliff, and landed in a snow drift on the bank of the creek."

The second group of ten small photos, ranging in size from 4.25 x 2.75 to 4.5 x 3.5 inches, is from an unidentified film, but one with a baseball theme. Wagner is featured in six of the photos in his role as a barber. What is interesting about these photos is that they might be from the film Spring Fever, as the plot of that film supposedly had Wagner teaching a young boy the skill of batting. In 2004 REA sold a rare collection of lobby cards from that film. Unfortunately, the scenes from the lobby cards seem to have nothing in common with the images from this film. Adding to the intrigue of these photos is the fact that in four of the photos Wagner is pictured with a teenage boy in a baseball uniform (two different boys in each pair of photos). While we can only surmise, it is possible that one of the boys pictured is either a young Moe Howard or Shemp Howard. Moe Howard once stated that in his younger days he made twelve two-reel comedies with Honus Wagner, but historians have never been able to verify that fact. Perhaps these photos are from one of those lost two-reelers.

This entire group of photos was found by our consignor at a yard sale in Idaho over ten years ago. She had purchased a box of playbills and when she arrived home she discovered the photos at the bottom of the box, along with a few typed pages that were obviously written by Marguerite Bryant's son or daughter. The three typed pages we have (two of which are numbered "20" and "21," respectively) provide a history of Byrant's acting and film career, and fully document the fact that Honus Wagner, as well as Moe and Shemp Howard, were members of her acting troupe around 1920 (copies of the typewritten pages accompany the lot). Given the presence of those typewritten notes, it seems reasonable to assume that these photos originate from the Byrant family. All of the photos display tape and/or paper residue on the reverse from having once been mounted in an album. A few photos also display tape remnants along the front edges. Nearly all of the photos have been trimmed to their current dimensions. Other minor flaws include tack holes and small edge tears and/or chips. In Very Good condition overall. This is a fascinating and unique collection of Honus Wagner photos, made all the more interesting given their possible connection to the early film careers of Moe and Shemp Howard. Total: 23 photos.
Reserve $300. Estimate (open). SOLD FOR $948

(Click the smaller thumbnails to the left and right (if any) to cycle through each photo in the gallery of images for this lot.)