This is only our second sighting of a reused item from the silent era - the other being a costume from the 1922 Lorna Doone. The story of this magnificent bed in the shape of a boat begins with Gaby Deslys, a famous French actress, singer, and dancer. Information shows that she had a large bed in the form of a swan, as well as a bed in the shape of a boat.
Her carved and gilded bed was inspired by the boat in the “Grotto of Venus” scene from the opera “Tannhauser”. On its bow, there are two boiseries with images from Boucher’s “Cupid’s Target”.
Gaby died in 1920 at age 38 from complications due to Spanish Influenza. Some of her items were auctioned off, and the bed was purchased in Marseilles by Metro Picturesfor use in films.
The first appearance of the bed was in the 1922 film Trifling Women. A promotional photo from the movie appeared on page 59 of the July 1922 edition of Photoplay, in which Barbara La Marr, who stars in the film, was shown reclining on the bed. The bed was used again in the 1925 film The Phantom of the Opera, and in 1934 it was seen in the film Twentieth Century. In 1950 it made what is likely its most famous appearance in Sunset Boulevard as the bed of Norma Desmond. The last known film appearance seems to be 1964, where it turned up in a dream sequence in the movie Good Neighbor Sam.
After appearing in films, the bed appears to have been purchased by Jim Buckley, founder of Cambria’s Pewter Plough Playhouse. Upon his death two years ago, The Cambrian reported:
During his career, Buckley purchased a large selection of movie memorabilia, some of which wound up in Cambria when he moved there with his wife in the mid-1970s.
It was there that he opened the Pewter Plough, an antique store in Cambria’s West Village, and displayed some of his cinema keepsakes.
His inspiration to build a separate museum to house those treasures, however, was sidetracked when he came up with a better idea: using the space as a theater.
Where the bed has gone on in the last two years since Buckley’s death is not known. If you have any information about this marvelous prop that is nearly 100 years old, please do let us know!