This is not about and Leica me. But when I was young, my mother often mentioned the performance of an actor called Yul Brynner in a film called The King and I, which appeared when I was about seven years old. I don’t believe that I saw it then or, indeed, later, but I may have viewed a few snippets over the years.
The film, of which I am sure our friend David Babsky will know much, was based on a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical from 1951. This was itself based on a 1944 novel, Anna and the King of Siam, by Margaret Landon. Brynner, who was Russian-born, appeared as King Mongkut of Siam in the original stage production and successfully transferred that role onto film.
My own first acquaintance with Brynner was when I saw him in a Western, The Magnificent Seven. I must have been around eleven at the time. Back then, we had no time for “love stories”, but we loved any Western or War film with plenty of shooting going on, and we imitated our heroes on the way home from the cinema with “finger pistols”.
So, what has all of this got to do with Leica? Well, Yul was a Leica user and not just a celebrity user, he was also an excellent photographer with an eye for the great image. Two of his cameras are coming up for auction at the 43rd Leitz Photographica Auction on November 25 and, on the day before, November 24, some of his images are also being auctioned by Leitz Auction.
The cameras are two black-paint MPs with the sequential numbers MP-59 and MP-60. They come with that highly desirable finish and the added gloss of a celebrity owner. There will be an inevitable temptation for wealthy people to buy both, as the numbers are in sequence. MP-59, shown above, comes with a Canon 25mm f/3.5 LTM lens on an M adapter and a matching viewfinder.
I have a Canon 35mm f/2.8 lens from the same era, and it is the equal of the contemporary Leica 35mm f/2.8 Summaron lenses, which I have in both LTM and M mounts. Leica did not make a 25mm back then.
MP-60 comes with a Leitz Summicron 5cm f/2, which is commonly called a Summicron Rigid lens. I have one of these as well as its close cousin, the 5cm DR (Dual Range) and I can vouch for the fact that these were two of the finest lenses ever made by Leica. Brynner must have liked using a separate viewfinder, as MP–60 comes with a Zeiss 50mm finder
Both cameras come with their serial number stamped inside, and on the top plate.
Both also come with a rare black paint version of the Leicavit MP winder
With all the factors mentioned above, these cameras are likely to attract substantial bids, particularly if one or more people are seeking to acquire both cameras because of the number sequence. Bidding will start at €400,000 for each camera, with an expected range of €600,000 to €700,000. One question worth pondering is whether, if someone wants both cameras, they will bid on the second camera if they are not successful on the first one.
The photos of Yul Brynner in the auction are just a small sample of the many he took in his lifetime.
This photo of Deborah Kerr on the filmset of The Journey in 1957, is my favourite in this group. Released in 1959, the film also featured Yul Brynner. Kerr had been in The King and I and there was rumoured to be a love affair between the two. However, this was denied by many, who said they were like sister and brother.
What I like about this image is that Deborah Kerr is photographed through what looks like a set window, but she seems to be concentrating or “inhabiting a part” as actors might say. This image has a starting price of €1,600.
This next image shows Ron Howard, aged three, on the set of The Journey in 1957. It was his first-ever film role, would you believe? His parents were both involved in the film business, and he went on to have an extensive career as a child actor. Today he is well known as a producer, director, and screenwriter, as well as being an actor.
What I like about it is that young Ron, or Ronny as he was then known, is behaving like any normal three-year-old boy and having fun while the adults were getting on with the things that adults do. The starting price here is also €1,600.
This shows Frank Sinatra getting out of a helicopter with a drink in his hand, probably just a normal thing in the Sinatra world. I believe I heard or read somewhere that Brynner and Sinatra had been in the helicopter together, but the drink thing was most likely pre-arranged. Nevertheless, the world has many Frank Sinatra fans, and I am sure that this one will attract a lot of attention. The start price is €4,000.
Last June a Terry O’Neill Special Edition Leica MP (modern) with a picture of Audrey Hepburn with a pigeon, taken by Terry, sold at Leitz Auction for the extraordinary price of €240,000. I was at that auction and I still find it difficult to explain. Anyway, this nice image of Audrey in a gondola in Venice starts at €10,000, and you never know where the price may go when the bidding starts.
This striking image is part of a 22-strong collection from German photographer Oscar Steinert, which is also coming up for auction. This and some others in the collection were shown by Leitz Auction photography curator Anna Zimm at the recent Leica Society International Conference in Wetzlar. There was some debate as to how this was done, but it seems to me to consist of several negatives which were overlapped and subsequently photographed, but I could be wrong. What counts, of course, is the final image.
Steinert, who was a medical doctor by profession, was one of the founders of a group called Fotoform in 1949. In reaction to pre-war restrictions on photography, Fotoform set out to experiment with subjective, rather than objective, forms of photography (subjektive Fotografie) which sometimes involved darkroom manipulation.
Whatever one might think about movements in photography, Steinert’s work contains an impressive range of subject matter, ranging from portraits such as Claude 1952 (below)…
…to more abstract subject matter, such as Punkte und Linien, below.
The collection has a start price of €150,000.
Truth in Focus
This time the auction contains not two, but three parts. It includes a section, entitled Truth in Focus in aid of The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Many items which have been donated in aid of this worthy cause, which will receive the proceeds of the auction. There are both cameras and photographs in this section.
Anyone who knows me will know that this is not my thing, but what do I know? This item, which has an estimate of $10,000 to $12,000 already has a bid of $10,000 on the table and I suspect the price will go much higher. This is a prototype of the Leica M10-P Ghost Edition, one of only five made. There is a connection to the New York-based Hodinkee horological website, but my knowledge and interest ends there, apart from the fact that I hope that the CPJ gets a good chunk of change out of the item.
To end on a brighter note, this lovely image is by Maggie Steber and is entitled, “Flora from the Garden, Miami 2019”. Maggie is an excellent photographer who has done some work with Leica Society International. As well as this item in aid of CPJ, I would commend her work to all readers. This item starts at $1,500 with an estimate of $2,000 to $2,600.
So, a different auction structure this time, but there are plenty of other items to see in the three auction catalogues. Clicking the link reveals a much interesting material about the history of photography.
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