The cape Bela Lugosi wore in the 1931 horror movie classic Dracula will go under the hammer at the Icons of Hollywood Auction in mid-December. The pre-sale estimate is a substantial $1,500,000 – $2,000,000, but given what a cultural icon that cape is, it could easily sell for more.
Bela gave the cape to his ex-wife, Lillian Lugosi, in 1956. They had divorced three years earlier and he had actually married someone else the year before, but he wanted Lillian to have the original cape from the film that made him a star so she could give it to their son, Bela G. Lugosi (aka Bela Lugosi, Jr.). Bela Lugosi died in August of 1956 and was buried in his Dracula costume. Rumor had it that he had requested that personally, but in fact it was Lillian who made the decision because she believed it was what he would have wanted. Since Bela wanted his son to have the original cape, the family buried him in a light-weight cape he used for personal appearances.
Lillian kept the cape her whole life, bequeathing it to Bela, Jr. after her death in 1981. Several other important pieces of Dracula memorabilia that went from Bela to Lillian to Bela, Jr. will be sold at the auction, including Bela’s Dracula jumbo lobby card, title cards from The Return of the Vampire and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein and a number of pictures from the Lugosi family album.
Also for sale at the three-day auction will be a nude portrait of Marilyn Monroe, her wedding ring to Joe DiMaggio, and the DeLorean time machine from Back to the Future III. The most expensive lot will probably be the last remaining pair of Dorothy’s ruby slippers worn in The Wizard of Oz still on the market. (There are three other known screen-used pairs, one in the Smithsonian, one that was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, one held by memorabilia company Elkouby and Co.)
This pair is known as the “Witch’s slippers” because they are the only ones of the four without orange felt soles so they could be shot on the dead feet of the Wicked Witch of the East. They’re also the pair that Judy Garland wore for their greatest close-up: when she clicked her heels together three times saying “there’s no place like home.” They were purchased by Philip Samuels, a businessman from St. Louis, Missouri, for $165,000 in 1988. Over the years Samuels had used the shoes to raise money for children’s charities and has loaned them to the Smithsonian when their slippers are being cleaned or on tour. The pre-sale estimate is $2 million – $3 million.