Five Famous TV Costumes You Could Have Owned
Here are some of the most iconic television costumes of all time, and the crazy prices collectors paid at auction to get their hands on them!
The Dancing Bear
Captain Kangaroo was one of the longest-running children’s shows in television history. For almost 30 years, children across the U.S woke up every morning to wish the Captain “Good Morning”, along with his cast of characters including Mr. Bunny Rabbit and Mr. Moose, Mr Green Jeans, The Town Clown and the Dancing Bear.
Many of these characters were played by Cosmo Allegretti, a puppeteer who had initially worked as a set painter on the show. He volunteered as a performer, but was told he looked too tough and would scare the children. However, he brought several of the most famous puppets to life and eventually made his on-screen debut as Dennis the Apprentice.
One of Allegretti’s most famous characters was the silent but graceful Dancing Bear, who waltzed around the studio to a variety of different music over the years.
In May 2013 a collection of memorabilia from the show came up for auction at Nate D. Sanders in Los Angeles. The leading lot was the original dancing Bear costume, featuring a large plush head and a one-piece costume, worn throughout the run of the show. It smashed its estimate to sell for an amazing $207,019.
(Image: Nate D. Sanders)
The Flying Nun
ABC’s show The Flying Nun remains one of the stranger sitcom ideas to appear of U.S television. Running for three seasons from 1967 until 1970, it featured Sally Field as a nun at the San Tanco Convent in Puerto Rico with an unusual gift – the ability to fly.
Her prowess in the air was a result of her diminutive size and weight, the favourable air currents around the convent, and her nun’s habit which included a heavily starched cornette. This headpiece acted like a pair of wings, and sent her soaring through the skies every episode with the explanation “When lift plus thrust is greater than load plus drag, anything can fly."
Field spent much of the production hanging from cranes, suspended by wires and moved into position by directors like a prop rather than an actress. And in the final series, producers had to be careful to conceal the fact that a supposedly celibate nun who was lighter than air was being played by a clearly-pregnant actress.
Despite only lasting three years and never recapturing the high ratings of its early episodes, The Flying Nun’s bizarre concept means it remains one of the most remembered shows of the era with many nostalgic fans. This was clearly illustrated in 2008, when the only-known Sally Field screen-worn costume from the show sold at Guernsey’s for $36,000.
The Lone Ranger
From 1949 until 1957, The Lone Ranger was one of the biggest shows on US television. Having originated as a hit radio serial in the 1930s, the story of the mysterious Texas Ranger who fights against injustice throughout the West became a series of popular books before hitting the small screen.
The man behind the mask was actor Clayton Moore, who starred in 169 episodes alongside Native American actor Jay Silverheels as his faithful companion Tonto. In 1952 a dispute over pay led Moore to be replaced by John Hart, with the producers assuming nobody would really notice the difference behind the mask. But a disastrous reception meant that a year later Moore was back on the show, where he remained the star until its final episode in 1957.
Moore spent the rest of his life embracing his former role, claiming he had "fallen in love with the Lone Ranger character" and his values of honour. He spent 40 years making public appearances across the U.S, and filmed countless TV guest spots and commercials spoofing the character. In 1979 the owner of the rights to the character tried to sue Moore and prevent him making further appearances, but Moore counter-sued and won, supported by public opinion and fans of the original show.
In December 1999 Moore died at the age of 85, and much of his personal collection of memorabilia was offered at auction years later. A Lone Ranger suit worn throughout years of later appearances, although not on the show itself, sold at A&S Auctions in 2014 for $195,000.
(Image: A&S Auctions)
Tom Baker’s incarnation as the Fourth Doctor remains a firm favourite, consistently topping polls voted for by the shows devoted fans around the world. He also remains the longest-serving Doctor, having spent seven years and 172 episodes behind the controls of the TARDIS from 1974 until 1981.
Baker combined a maniac grin and a remarkable voice with a unique costume which can be spotted at sci-fi conventions five decades on, and remains the most recognisable of any Doctor Who costume. However, the most famous item of his costume – the enormous scarf – was made completely by accident.
A designer in the BBC costume department was given a huge quantity of wool to knit the scarf, and mistakenly kept going until she’d used it all. Although ridiculously long, Baker insisted on keeping it and it quickly became his trademark.
In 2007 a version of the original costume made for Baker to wear during publicity appearances crossed the block at Bonhams. Featuring a burgundy frock coat, brown tweed trousers, a felt hat and a striped wool scarf, the costume was mentioned by Baker in his 1997 autobiography ‘Who on Earth is Tom Baker’ and had been worn by the actor at numerous events. It sold for £24,600.
Never mind Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale or even Ben Affleck – for some fans there’s only one true Batman and his name is Adam West.
Despite being equally loved and loathed by fans of the original comic book, there’s no denying that the 1960s Batman TV show revived the popularity of the character. In equal parts camp and corny, the show nevertheless attracted a new audience and was described as “the biggest TV phenomenon of the mid-1960s".
With a combination of cheap sets, wildly overacting villains, strange catchphrases and cheesy moral lessons, it continues to capture the imaginations of fans through constant re-runs around the world. The darker reinvention of Batman in the 1970s was a direct reaction to the lighter TV show, and created the version of the character most recently seen on the big screen in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy.
Adam West’s performance as Batman laid the template for the rest of his career, with the strange, deliberately stilted delivery leaving him typecast for decades. But he remains a highly successful voice actor, well-known for parodying himself (and in the case of Family Guy, actually playing himself). And the Batman show remains one of the most popular and fondly-remembered in television history, with props, costumes and even the original Batmobile selling for enormous sums at auction.
One such sale took place at Heritage Auctions in 2005, when one of West’s original screen-worn suits sold for $35,850 (along with a letter from West claiming that wearing the suit in public may get you institutionalised!)
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