Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Auction it, Sam

As time goes by, pianos used in famous movies rise in value (or so it is hoped by an owner of such);

The piano used for the song "As Times Goes By" in the classic 1942 film "Casablanca" is getting another turn at fame.
The instrument is going up for sale at Sotheby's in New York on Dec. 14, and the auction house estimates it'll fetch up to $1.2 million.
It's being offered by a Japanese collector on the film's 70th anniversary.
The collector purchased the movie prop at a Sotheby's auction in 1988 for $154,000.
Ironic, in that the movie was part of probably the most successful anti-capitalist, pro-communist propaganda offensive in history.  The story in Casablanca, of a Czech anti-Nazi organizer attempting to elude Hitler's minions during the early days of WWII, was inspired by the legend (self-perpetuated) of Otto Katz, a Stalinist agent who was well known to the script writers Julius and Philip Epstein, and Howard Koch--who won Academy Awards for their work.

Katz, and as his wife Ilse, were part of German Communist Willi Muenzenberg's worldwide efforts to instill the attitude in western intellectuals that it was the mark of nature's noblemen to be favorably disposed toward the Soviet Union.  As well, that to oppose Communism or Stalin, was the mark of a stupid, venal, atavistic person.

At which, they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.  The Katz legend was also perpetuated in the same year by the film Watch on the Rhine, based on the Broadway play by Katz's friend Lillian Hellman. Dashiell Hammett writing most of the screenplay for that film.  Needless to say, both Hellman and Hammett--themselves their own inspiration for Nick and Nora Charles of The Thin Man fame--were either Communists or sympathetic to it.

Both Muenzenberg and Katz eventually met their just deserts thanks to the ruthlessness of their common master, Joseph Stalin.  The former's body was discovered in rural France in late 1940, murdered either by agents of Stalin or his ally Hitler.  Katz lived until 1952, when, after a show trial in Prague of Jewish communists, he was hanged.

But their anti-capitalist mentality survives.

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