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United States Uniforms
2 Uniform Grouping, 1934 Period, US, Western Costume Co., Costume Of A 1762 Period, Imperial Russian, Royal Court Frock Coat, As Worn By The Famous Actor "Sam Jaffe", Playing The Roll Of The Insane King Peter Of Russia
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Over the years it has been our pleasure to have had and to have seen many pieces of unbelievably rare militaria. If it was a Tank or Cavalry item, most likely we had bought it. However, many really fine pieces of other militaria were passed over as they just did not fit into the museum's Tank and Cavalry collection theme. In the last few years however, if we found a piece of rare and/or interesting militaria that was affordable, but still not fitting into our theme; sometimes we would purchase it for our PX Gift Shop, or website. These 2 rare, costumes are just suck a scenario.
Hollywood costumes are some of the most sought after of all artifacts among collectors today. From "Marilyn Monroe" to "John Wayne" - these costumes commend (pun intended!) very high prices. This great demand by collectors has even trickled down into a demand for costumes that belonged to secondary, and character actors alike. The A.A.F. Tank Museum has costumes from a Mexican Dragoon Cavalryman from the movie "The Alamo", to that of the well known German Afrika Korp Colonel from the "Humphrey Bogart" movie "Sahara". We even have a Nazi General's uniform and overcoat belonging to the famous actor "Maximilian Schell" (remember "A Bridge To Far", etc). A "George S. Patton" costume also risides here at the museum too. In searching for these rare costume treasures, the museum found 2 costumes from the famous Joseph von Sternberg, 1934 dated movie "The Scarlet Empress", starring "Marlene Dietrich" and "Sam Jaffe". The 2 costumes are nearly matching to each other and are 1762 period, Imperial Russian, Royal Court Frock coat. They resemble very ornate tailored tuxedo jackets - but are different in several design details. The Tank Museum purchased both examples for our website as they both are historically significant pieces of Hollywood film-dom.
The 1st of these costume jackets is named inside to "Sam Jaffe" (pronounced "Jay-Fee") and the 2nd to a actor named "Dick Alexander". Sam Jaffe was a hugely famous movie and T.V. star for several decades. We have included 3 pages of biographical information on Jaffe's movie career. For some of you movie buffs out there, Jaffe's more famous movies were: "The Scarlet Empress" (the same movie these 2 costumes had come from - and Jaffe's 1 major movie role), "Last Horizon", "Gunga Diu", and even sci-fi movies like "Te Day The Earth Stood Still". He is perhaps best known for playing Simonides in the famous movie "Ben-Hur". For those not familiar with film-noir; perhaps his T.V. career as Doctor Zorba in the famous T.V. series "Ben Casey" (1961-1965) is better known.
Now, for the movie "The Scarlet Empress", Sam Jaffe had to play that part of the insane mad King Peter, of Russia of 1762. This roll required few speaking lines, but instead required the actor to "put on a face" of pure insanity. All of which required great acting skill. Jaffe was a experienced actor, and for this difficult roll he put on the terrifying face of the mad King Peter. He combined a very softly spoken/meek voice, along with great bulging "bug-eyes", and a very evil smile. So perfect was his characterization of Peter that when the studio's photographers took "stills" of each actor for publicity purposes, they chose the look of Jaffe's insane face of King Peter for his publicity shot. It has been rumored that some folks did not understand that Sam Jaffe was "putting on a face" for this still shot, and that they thought that this was his real look! His look of insanity was just that good, although confusing.
In - presenting these 2 costumes to you, we were very fortunate to have located an
October 1st, 1934 dated, Paramount Studio photo of Sam Jaffe putting on the face of the mad King while wearing this
exact same costume!
It is a striking picture that shows Jaffe's very professional, if not haunting portrayl of insanity. This photo is included with the Jaffe costume, and it is
dated, studio and actor identified, and in perfect shape. It also shows that when the movie was being finalized it was originally titled "Catherine The Great", but that title was subsequently re-titled to "The Scarlet Empress". Also, included with this costume is a new DVD of the movie "The Scarlet Empress" with a historical sheet included. The cast of thousands and its hugely ornate sets well illustrate the lavish, and very expensive block-buster movies of the by-gone 1930's era. We found the movie quite entertaining - especially so for all the Cavalry uniforms throughout the film. We only wish that Jaffe's roll as the mad King was longer as he really did a great job playing an insane man.
As for the costume itself, it shows much wear from being used in
besides "The Scarlet Empress". Most Hollywood costumes were used over and over again, as the need arose. One of the main Hollywood costumers was Western Costume, the same company that produced these 2 costumes. Each costume has a "Western Costume Corp. Hollywood", bevo style of a tailor's tag found sewn inside. On the 1 costume it is named to "Sam Jaffe" and on the 2nd costume it is named to "Dick Alexander". Each costume has several ink stampings found in the sleeves and body sections, the meaning of which are unknown (probably for their sizes and/or production numbers). Each costume also has a neat, 2nd Western Costume Corp. label, but in this case they are of the ink stamping variety. The ink stampings for the costume company are not the same for both costumes, which is rather odd as you would think that they would be of the same design. Also, there is an amazing 3rd ink stamping for the costume company name found in the Jaffe costume - and it too differs in design from the other 2 ink stampings! Just why there are 3 is a mystery to us.
These costumes, like most others, were worn in more than 1 movie and by more than 1 actor. Costumes such as these 2 usually show ornament changes, size alterations, and even sometimes major re-design tailoring alterations (our German Colonel costume mentioned above and from the movie "Sahara", was altered and then re-used for the T.V. show "The Rat Patrol)! These 2 Imperial costumes are no different. Over the many years of filming, insignia gets added and removed, and coat sizes altered to fit the new actor's need. All in all, both look 95% of how they did in the movie "The Scarlet Empress". As for their condition, Jaffe's rates at GOOD/FAIR. Many seams are pulled, there is the usual staining, evidence of insignia alterations, repairs, fading, 2 missing buttons and a large rear tear which needs careful re-mending. But overall, Jaffe's costume still looks displayable. Its blue color on its front face look strong, as are the brigt red color collar and cuffs. The thick gold bullion embroidery is just great, and beautifully aged, and in almost perfect condition. The bullion is very ornate and could not be reproduced today due to its complexity. We have seen the bullion counterfiters out there and their reproduction bullion embroidery (which is made in places like Pakistan/India/China) and it just does not compare with the craftmanship of the old days - it's just that bad!
As for the 2nd coat, well this one is a real enigma. It differs slightly from that of Jaffe's coat, but not by much. It is named inside to "Dick Alexander". Information gathered from internet sources state that Richard "Dick" Alexander played Count von Breummer in the movie "The Scarlet Empress". We were able to find his movie role and career information and 11 pages of the information are included with the costume. As for his coat, it is in better condition than Sam Jaffe's, as there is no rear tear. There are also no lower red cuffs as on Jaffe's coat, in this case all of his buttons are perfect. Very interestingly - Alexander's bllion embrodiery exactly matches that of Jaffe's coat, but in this case it is all donein silver, not gold bullion thread (Hey - only the King wore gold!). All in all Dick Alexander's coat still displays well for its great 78 year age. Note - We wish to remind any prospective buyers that this is a 2 uniform grouping. Both of these costumes are being sold together as 1 set. Please do not ask us to break up this grouping as they came to us as 1 set, and as 1 set they will remain. So - here is your chance to own a rare set of costumes from a pair of actors famous from Hollywood film history.
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