Originally created 06/12/04

Auction of Katharine Hepburn items fetch nearly $1.8 million



NEW YORK -- A diamond and sapphire brooch given to Katharine Hepburn by her then boyfriend, Howard Hughes, sold for $120,000 at an auction of hundreds of items from the estate of the late actress.

Among the other lots sold Thursday at Sotheby's were artworks executed by Hepburn herself as well as furniture, clothing, studio photographs, movie contracts and membership cards in the Screen Actors Guild and Actors' Equity. All 222 items sold, fetching nearly $1.8 million.

About 400 people filled Sotheby's East Side showroom and competed with phone and Internet bidders to drive the prices far above pre-sale estimates for the two-day sale.

"I just wanted something small from her estate and I'm probably not going to get it," complained DeWitt Peterkin III of Dover, Del., who said Hepburn's family and his - his father was a J.P. Morgan director - knew each other in Connecticut.

Hepburn, who won four Academy Awards, died last June at age 96 at her home in Old Saybrook, Conn.

The auction offered a glimpse into the life of an intensely private star who appears to have been a bit of a pack rat as well.

The cream-colored velvet dress Hepburn wore to her 1928 wedding to Ludlow Ogden Smith sold for $27,000. The marriage lasted six years.

Two canceled checks to Hepburn's long-ago voice coach sold for $2,280 and $2,400. A suffragist leaflet with a picture of Hepburn's mother on it sold for $2,700.

A seascape painting by Sir William Nicholson, "Mending the Nets," sold for $102,000, and a silver cigarette box engraved with the signatures of the rest of the cast from the Broadway production of "The Philadelphia Story" sold for $57,000.

The buyers of the top lots were anonymous, but Sotheby's said that romance novelist Danielle Steel, bidding by phone, bought three of Hepburn's hats for $3,600.

Craig Bowley, who runs the box office at a Broadway theater, bid unsuccessfully on several items before scoring an early Victorian armchair for $3,200.

"We just renovated our apartment," he said. "We'll put it in a prominent place."

Magda Heinz, of Fair Lawn, N.J., was waiting to bid on some kitchen items. An auction veteran, she also attended the 1997 Sotheby's sale of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's belongings.

"I have a few pieces of interest ... from people who inspire me," she said.

The sale continues Friday with more artwork, furniture and movie memorabilia as well as golf clubs and a set of department store credit cards.

"We are absolutely thrilled with the results from the first session ... but it is completely understandable given Miss Hepburn's worldwide celebrity and stature," Leila Dunbar, director of Sotheby's collectibles department, said.

The prices include the auction house's commission of 20 percent of the first $100,000 and 12 percent of anything in excess of that amount.

On the Net:

www.sothebys.com