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    Weegee (American, 1899-1968)
    L Pillar Cracks Stepin Fetchit's Skull, Harlem Car Crash, April 25, 1937 (3 works)
    Gelatin silver
    6-5/8 x 8-3/4 inches (16.8 x 22.2 cm)

    Stepin Fetchit, the tired man of the movies, was critically injured at 9:50 A.M. yesterday in an auto crash in the heart of Harlem. The comedian, internationally famous for his favorite role of the indolent, slow-spoken hired man who falls asleep standing over a broom or just standing, suffered a fractured skull when his car struck an L pillar at 135th St. and Eight Ave. At the peak of prosperity he had three automobiles, one of them a lavender Rolls-Royce, and thirty-six suits.

    The two photographs of neighborhood kids gawking across the street as a nearby woman shows her displeasure was probably staged by Weegee later in the day.

    Lost Weegee Crime Photos Revealed!, Christopher Bonanos, New York Magazine, May 13-26, 2019, p. 37, one of these photographs illustrated;
    Daily News, April 26, 1937.

    Group of Weegee Photographs Unseen for 83 Years

    In 1970, David Young walked into a secondhand shop in Philadelphia. "It was this really funky store, with nooks and crannies, and I saw this box," Young said. Through time the photographs had become curled tightly around each other. "I peeled one off and there's police officers hovering over a dead body. I said, 'God, that's weird.' So, I peeled off another and it was a car wreck. I said, 'These are cool. I think I'll buy these for $2.'"

    As he moved from place to place over the years the largely unexamined box of photographs followed him. He finally moved to the Seattle area in 1987, put them away for safekeeping, and forgot about them.

    A random inspection of his rental apartment a little over a year ago got him to do some organizing. He found a few of the photos in a box in the garage and it reminded him that the rest might be in the kitchen. He reached to the back of a cabinet next to the kitchen sink and there was a box with 52 photographs. A couple of weeks later he found a few more in another box.

    He now noticed that many had a stamp that read "Credit Photo to A. Fellig" on the backs. He Googled the name, something that was impossible back in 1970, and immediately saw that Arthur Fellig was the name of the photographer who was later known as Weegee and died in 1968. It is said that Weegee got that nickname because police and fellow photographers thought that the only explanation why the freelancer was often on the scene of the crime first was that he used a Ouija board.

    As a newspaper photographer he was only interested in taking a photo of a crime scene, making a print, and selling it to a newspaper for publication the next morning. The prints themselves were almost disposable. He joked he didn't have a filing system. He kept his photographs under the bed or in the trunk of his car. It is very rare for these prints to have survived. Most of the newspapers discarded their prints over the years. How a box Weegee's photographs, almost all from a few months in early 1937, ended up in a junk shop in Philadelphia is a real mystery. These photographs appear to be the only surviving prints of these images.

    Many of Weegee's photographs of murders, fires, car crashes and street life of New York are among the most famous in 20th century journalism. After he became famous in later life he printed photographs that ended up in museums and collections around the world. Weegee became the archetype for the cigar-chomping, hard-boiled news photographer portrayed in films like Joe Pesci's "The Public Eye" and Jake Gyllenhaal's "Nightcrawler."

    We would like to thank Christopher Bonanos, author of "Flash: The Making of Weegee the Famous," for his extensive research on these photographs.

    Condition Report*: Sheets are loose; one approximate 3 inch crease with associated loss to the upper right quadrant of one sheet; overall yellowing, creasing, and edgewear to the sheets that is commensurate with age.
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2020
    4th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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