By Eric Niderost
On Saturday, March 15, 2003 a huge storm swept into Los Angeles, dumping three inches of rain onto a normally sun-drenched basin. It was an unusual day in Hollywood, but somehow the inclement weather seemed appropriate to the occasion. I was going to meet Forrest J Ackerman, literary agent, magazine editor, and one of the greatest collectors of movie memorabilia of all time.
I was here to meet Ackerman, but also to view parts of the movie memorabilia collection he has on display. Ackerman lives in a 1911 Craftsman style bungalow on Russell Avenue in Hollywood, only about 10 minutes or so from the hoopla of the Kodak Theater and Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
The first thing I noticed was a black cape carefully
draped on a mannequin. I recognized the garment immediately, but a nearby
picture confirmed the identification. This silk-lined cape was Bela Lugosi’s
original costume from Dracula. The cape is original, but technically not
from the classic 1931 movie. Lugosi wore this cape while essaying the Dracula
role on Broadway in 1927. The garment does have one “screen credit” however.
Bela wore this cape in the infamous Plan Nine From Outer Space, (1956–released
1959) which regularly wins the “coveted” title of worst movie of all time.
A glass case encloses a silk top hat and a pair of dentures. On closer inspection, the teeth are all filed to rapier-like sharpness. The top hat and dentures are from the “lost” Lon Chaney Sr. film London After Midnight (1927), the “Man of a Thousand Faces” plays a police detective and a mysterious, vampire-like creature. With his pointed teeth and ghoulish, black-rimmed eyes, Chaney’s interpretation is truly chilling.
A somewhat battered Brontosaurus peered down from a high
shelf in the kitchen, the model, partly wrapped in plastic to guard against
further deterioration. This Brontosaurus model is a rare survivor from the
classic King Kong (1933). A coppery-colored spaceship model sits on one
cabinet, an artifact that Forry proudly proclaims as the “last surviving flying
saucer from War of the Worlds (1953). Its “manta-ray” silhouette and
snakelike death ray tube is familiar to fans of the 1953 Gene Barry starrer.
King Kong strongly influenced another master of stop-motion fantasy, Ray Harryhausen. A model of the U.S. capitol dome, authentic in every detail, sits next to a bust of Frankenstein’s monster. A sleek flying saucer is poised to crash into the dome, marking the whole ensemble as props from the Harryhausen movie The Earth Versus The Flying Saucers (1956).
Forry likes to have open house, and on most Saturdays the public can visit from 11:00 am to noon. Forrest J Ackerman’s address is 4511 Russell Avenue, Hollywood, CA 90027, and his phone number is (323) Moon-Fan (666-6326).
Mr. Ackerman was a recent honoree by the American Cinematheque’s at the Egyptian Theater. He will also be helping us to honor Robert Kinoshita on May 19 in our Evening @ the Barn (see page 6).