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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 16:56 GMT 17:56 UK
Bette's Oscar snapped up
Bette Davis in Jezebel
Davis won the Oscar for playing the impetuous Julie Marsden
Bette Davis' best actress Oscar for Jezebel has sold for more than 400,000 at auction.

The Oscar, won by the late Hollywood star in 1938, was sold by Christie's at its Rockefeller Centre in New York as part of an entertainment memorabilia sale.

An anonymous telephone bidder snapped up the golden statuette after a fierce series of bids.

A spokeswoman for Christie's said: "The lot sold for $578,000 (413,000) to a telephone bidder who has asked to remain anonymous."

The sale price was more than double the auction house's estimated top price of 170,000.

Pop star Michael Jackson paid the record amount for an Oscar in 1999 when he bid $1.54m - more than 1m - to own the Best Film Oscar awarded to producer David O Selznick for Gone With The Wind.

The next highest amount paid for an Oscar was $607,000 (425,000) for Clark Gable's best actor Oscar for his role in the 1934 film It Happened One Night.

Legend has it that Bette Davis' statuette is the reason the trophies, given annually by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, were christened Oscars.

Bette Davis' Oscar
Davis' joke about the award may have led to the name Oscar

Davis said her statuette's bottom looked like that of her first husband, Harmon Oscar Nelson.

The sale also included items from classic movies and bands, as well as personal celebrity belongings.

Margaret Barrett, head of the popular art department at Christie's in New York, said the memorabilia came from a number of people.

"There are the actors themselves, their relatives, people who have worked on films and collectors," she added.


In period drama Jezebel, Davis played the impetuous Julie Marsden. The film also starred Henry Fonda.

The 12-inch high Oscar is different from the modern day version of the award.

Russell Crowe's axe from Gladiator
Russell Crowe wielded the axe in the arena

Davis' award has a black stone base, a material used by the academy until World War II when it was replaced with plaster and then brass, as used today.

The plaque on the front of the statuette reads: "Academy First Award to Bette Davis for Her Performance in Jezebel."

Another on the back reads: "Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences First Award 1938."

Other Davis items in the sale included personal items including scripts, pictures, earrings and a Bible inscribed Ex Libris Bette Davis.

All were being sold to aid the Bette Davis foundation for aspiring young artists. Davis had a Hollywood career spanning five decades. She died in 1989 aged 81.


Other items of note going under the hammer included the original golden calf from Old Testament epic The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston as Moses.

The idol from the 1956 Cecil B DeMille movie is valued between $15,000 (10,645) and $20,000 (14,190).

The calf from The Ten Commandments
The calf from The Ten Commandments was seen in the last sequence

Russell Crowe's axe from 2000's Roman empire blockbuster Gladiator will also be on sale, valued between $1,200 (850) and $1,400 (994).

There are also pieces from classic sci-fi movie Blade Runner and costumes worn by Marilyn Monroe.

In the rock and pop category, a black Fender Squire Stratocaster electric guitar signed by Sir Paul McCartney stands out.

It is estimated to fetch between $5,500 and $6,500 (4,610).

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See also:

13 Jun 99 | Americas
Oscar's million-dollar sale
13 Nov 00 | Entertainment
Neeson auctions Jedi lightsabre
14 Mar 01 | Scotland
Braveheart props up for auction
15 Mar 99 | The Oscars 1999
Oscar glamour under the hammer
26 Mar 01 | Film
Crowe leads Gladiator to glory
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