Jay Kaufman has always had an interest in history. The Brunswick native and owner of Parker-Kaufman Real Estate Agency has extensively researched his own family, who came to the new world with Gen. James Oglethorpe. Until recently, however, he didn’t have much of an interest in the history of Hollywood. But that recently changed.
It happened when Kaufman was on a trip in Kentucky visiting his sister with his daughter. Among the horses and the sight seeing, Kaufman was introduced to a Southern gentlemen of considerable means, who came complete with an antebellum home. After some time getting to know one another, Kaufman was taken on a tour of his extensive barn. There, he found a veritable treasure trove of movie magic.
There were costumes and prototypes from movies starting in the early 1900s. They spanned every theme from swashbuckling action flicks to romantic period pieces.
“This guy, and I don’t want to use his full name, but his first name is Joel. He had a detached barn with a horde of costumes from the golden age of Hollywood. He also has the actual carriage used in ‘Gone With the Wind’ and the old Metro Golden Meyer sign that is seen here,” Kaufman said, pointing to two black and white photos on his table. “It was fascinating.”
One of the things that really piqued Kaufman’s attention was a heavy grey uniform-style outfit. While Kaufman didn’t consider himself a classic movie buff, he was pretty sure he knew where that costume came from.
“I saw it and asked him ‘is that a Winkie guard uniform?’ And he said it was a prototype of the Winkie uniform from ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ he said. “He also had an early prototype of the flying monkeys costume.”
The Winkie guards, fans will remember, served the Wicked Witch of the West, donning coats, fur hats and boots (they also chanted the unforgettable, “O-ee-yah, e-oh-ah!”). Kaufman was simply floored.
“We walked through it and he showed me some stuff. I told him if he ever wanted to get rid of it ... I would like first dibs,” he said.
As fate would have it, that day came.
“He called me up and told me he was moving out of the house and offered it to me. We were able to make a deal,” he said.
With the help of his sister, Kaufman arranged to have the lot brought back to Brunswick.
“They loaded it in a Pod and sent it down,” he said.
Now racks and racks of costumes from all sorts of periods are living in one of the real estate broker’s conference rooms. Stacks of jackets, dresses, tunics and even props, including fake grenades from “Tora, Tora, Tora,” cover the room.
“Ninety-nine percent of it is prototypes from movies. The labels they have inside tell you where they are from and what time period. I’ve been working with someone to try to figure it all out,” he said with a laugh. “But I haven’t had a lot of time.”
It will take a considerable amount of time to decipher it all, considering the size of the collection. Kaufman has, however, identified a few key pieces.
“The black writing on the label means it’s from 1914-1932. This was a jacket from ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in 1936. You can see it in this picture here,” he said, pointing to a printed screenshot of a scene from the film starring Leslie Howard.
Kaufman then walked to the rack and selected another jacket.
“This is from the ‘Tale of Two Cities,’” he said, holding the garment.
He also has pieces from “The Private Lives of Elizabeth of Essex,” a film from 1939 starring Bette Davis and Errol Flynn.
And, of course, he has the pieces that first caught his eye — the Winkie uniform as well as an early prototype of a flying monkey costume. While they are prototypes of the costumes, they do shed a unique light on what would eventually be used in the film.
And, as luck would have it, that comes in handy for one of his downtown neighbors. Golden Isles Arts and Humanities was planning its summer film fest, featuring “The Wizard of Oz.” Kaufman decided to share.
“I talked to Heather (Heath) and she came down. She was really excited about it. So they will be at the Ritz this weekend on display,” he said.
The three-day event will also feature discussions and films including “Destry Rides Again” at 6:30 p.m. today followed by a 3 p.m. showing of “The Women” Saturday. “The Wizard of Oz” will be screened at 7p.m. Saturday, followed by “Gone with the Wind” at 3 p.m. Sunday. All films will be played at the historic Ritz Theatre on Newcastle Street in downtown Brunswick. A meal prepared by Indigo Coastal Shanty and various other refreshments will be served. Free popcorn will be provided by MTR Real Estate.
For her part, Heath, executive director of Golden Isles Arts and Humanities, is thrilled to have the costume pieces to enhance attendees’ experiences over the weekend.
“It is just awesome. We are so excited to have it,” she said.
Heath will also offer insight on the films and the year they were collectively shot, 1939.
A pass for all four films plus the Sunday afternoon meal is $35; a pass for all four films without the meal is $20; and individual movie tickets are $7 each. Sunday afternoon meal and movie only cost $18 per person. Reservations for the weekend pass or the Sunday afternoon meal ticket must be made by Monday.
Tickets may be purchased online at www.goldenislesarts.org or between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. today at the Ritz Theatre box office, 1530 Newcastle St., Brunswick.