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Original Citizen Kane Scripts Are Going Up for Auction

On September 29, film fanatics can bid on a piece of cinema history: Orson Welles’s personal screenplays for Citizen Kane.

Replete with stray notes, changing character names, and progressing plot points, the three manuscripts help trace the film’s evolution from a fledgling screenplay originally titled American to the groundbreaking film that earned nine Academy Award nominations in 1942. They’re expected to fetch $20,000 to $30,000 each, according to Profiles in History, the Calabasas, California-based auction house responsible for the sale.

Bidders can choose from Citizen Kane’s earliest first draft, which was written in 1940 by Herman J. Mankiewicz, Welles's collaborator; a fleshed out second draft; or the shooting script, which was revised by Welles himself and includes handwritten annotations, directing and camera notes, and the signatures of the movie’s stars.

According to The Guardian, a close friend of Welles’s acquired the screenplays from the famed director before his death in 1985.

Other Welles memorabilia for sale includes a proposed TV adaption of Citizen Kane from the 1950s, an original transcript of the 1938 Mercury Theatre radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, and the apology letter that CBS released in response to the mass War of the Worlds-induced hysteria. 

[h/t The Guardian]

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By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
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Photo of Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett, Purchased for $10, Could Be Worth Millions
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
By Ben Wittick (1845–1903) - Brian Lebel's Old West Show and Auction, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Several years ago, Randy Guijarro paid $2 for a few old photographs he found in an antiques shop in Fresno, California. In 2015, it was determined that one of those photos—said to be the second verified picture ever found of Billy the Kid—could fetch the lucky thrifter as much as $5 million. That story now sounds familiar to Frank Abrams, a lawyer from North Carolina who purchased his own photo of the legendary outlaw at a flea market in 2011. It turns out that the tintype, which he paid $10 for, is thought to be an image of Billy and Pat Garrett (the sheriff who would eventually kill him) taken in 1880. Like Guijarro’s find, experts say Abrams’s photo could be worth millions.

The discovery is as much a surprise to Abrams as anyone. As The New York Times reports, what drew Abrams to the photo was the fact that it was a tintype, a metal photographic image that was popular in the Wild West. Abrams didn’t recognize any of the men in the image, but he liked it and hung it on a wall in his home, which is where it was when an Airbnb guest joked that it might be a photo of Jesse James. He wasn’t too far off.

Using Google as his main research tool, Abrams attempted to find out if there was any famous face in that photo, and quickly realized that it was Pat Garrett. According to The New York Times:

Then, Mr. Abrams began to wonder about the man in the back with the prominent Adam’s apple. He eventually showed the tintype to Robert Stahl, a retired professor at Arizona State University and an expert on Billy the Kid.

Mr. Stahl encouraged Mr. Abrams to show the image to experts.

William Dunniway, a tintype expert, said the photograph was almost certainly taken between 1875 and 1880. “Everything matches: the plate, the clothing, the firearm,” he said in a phone interview. Mr. Dunniway worked with a forensics expert, Kent Gibson, to conclude that Billy the Kid and Mr. Garrett were indeed pictured.

Abrams, who is a criminal defense lawyer, described the process of investigating the history of the photo as akin to “taking on the biggest case you could ever imagine.” And while he’s thrilled that his epic flea market find could produce a major monetary windfall, don’t expect to see the image hitting the auction block any time soon. 

"Other people, they want to speculate from here to kingdom come,” Abrams told The New York Times of how much the photo, which he has not yet had valuated, might be worth. “I don’t know what it’s worth. I love history. It’s a privilege to have something like this.”

[h/t: The New York Times]

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