Often unnoticed to the untrained eye, props function as the glue that holds a movie together. Whether it is a Civil War battle or a futuristic alien invasion, prop masters are charged with the task of making sure every detail on the screen appears historically accurate and realistic.
But what is a prop? It seems like a simple question, but it is not so easy. A prop is anything a character can pick up, be it a magazine, weapon, or lamp. This can include food items and, depending on production, even decals, such as those on the sides of ambulances and police cars.
A prop is not, however, the vehicle itself. It is also not the furniture that the lamp sits on or the uniform that goes with the weapon, although jewelry can be considered a prop. So while Judy Garland’s ruby red slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” pulled quite a prize at auction, they aren’t props. Nor is Orson Welles’ pinstriped shirt from “Citizen Kane,” but the sled called “Rosebud” owned by a young Welles in the movie would be considered a prop, and was bought at auction by Steven Spielberg in 1982 for $60,500.
When it comes to collecting props, there are two types: those that were actually used on a movie set during production, and replicas, which may even be licensed by a studio. Like autographs, it is often extremely difficult to fully authenticate a prop. Studios have even been known to sell props post-production claiming they were used on set, when the piece in question was actually a less collectible re-creation.
Getting your hands on authentic props can be difficult. In older movies, props were often discarded after the film because the studios didn’t have space to store them. In other instances, props were left in the possession of the prop master, which is why such individuals are usually the best sources of authentic props.
Acquiring props from recent movies is no easier. Because studios pay for the props in a film, they often maintain possession of them after production. In recent years, studios have started to hold on to props so they can be used in sequels, potential or planned. In other instances, studios will hire an auctioneer to sell props immediately after filming has ceased in order to recoup some of the movie’s production costs.
The prop collector also needs to keep in mind that many props are not what they appear to be on screen. For example, if a character in a movie that’s set in the 18th century is r...
For the most part, props from the most memorable movies are the ones most sought by collectors, be it a blaster from the original “Star Wars,” a pair of dice rolled by Marlon Brando in “Guys and Dolls,” or the “Witch Remover” sprayer used by the Cowardly Lion in “The Wizard of Oz.”
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Recent News: Movie Props
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This Tesla Model S Easter Egg Lets You Be James BondTechCrunch, March 1st
Specifically, he's a fan of Bond's submersible Lotus Esprit from 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me — so much so, in fact, that he dropped nearly a million dollars in an auction for the movie prop. His eventual goal? To convert the prop (which, sadly, doesn...Read more
Movie bosses charged in “Midnight Rider” train death to stand trialAtlanta Business Chronicle, February 27th
Jones, 27, was killed in February 2014 when a train hit a movie prop placed on a railroad bridge spanning the Altamaha River in southeast Georgia. The film's first assistant director Hillary Schwartz, who faces the same charges and is seeking to have...Read more
Towed 'Movie Prop' Helicopter Hits Bridge on 15 Freeway in FontanaKTLA, February 20th
by a big rig hit a bridge and ended up blocking lanes Friday morning. The military style helicopter, which was described as a “movie prop,” came to rest on the southbound side of the 15 Freeway at Duncan Canyon Road, according to a tweet from Caltrans...Read more
CNN Student News - February 20, 2015CNN, February 19th
secret movie prop archive is located on the outskirts of what European city? 4. About what percentage of the U.S. population is composed by people of Hispanic or Latino descent, the largest ethnic or race minority in the country? 5. Bertha, a massive...Read more
Lucky dog gets canine home modeled after the 'Up' houseCNET, February 17th
"Super-Fan Builds" shows off the talents of movie prop designers, led by industry veteran Tim Baker. Along with his talented team of artists, he builds amazing tributes to movies and video games for superfans nominated by friends and family. In this...Read more
Visit the Warner Bros. secret movie prop archiveCNN, February 14th
Visit the Warner Bros. secret movie prop archive. By Rachel Rodriguez, CNN. Updated 12:17 PM ET, Sat February 14, 2015. This one might be a bit tricky. Can you place the space suit? <img alt="This one might be a bit tricky. Can you place the space suit?...Read more
Inside Warner Bros.' secret movie props archiveCNN International, February 13th
CNN's Max Foster gets an exclusive, behind the scenes look at the Warner Bros. prop and costume archive in a top-secret location on the outskirts of London. That's Pretty Cool! (14). Water bounces off metal treated by a special laser process. <img alt...Read more
Look if You Dare at What is Definitely the Creepiest Movie Prop of all Timemoviepilot.com, February 10th
Every now and then when exploring the world of amazing prosthetics and make-up you find something so amazingly horrific that you need to share, and this giant 'ball-of-eyes' used in the 2005 French-Canadian film Saints-Martyrs-des-Damnés is definitely ...Read more