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Milton Berle 'joke file' to go on sale


7. "The Milton Berle Show": Launched in 1948, this show made an entire nation buy TV sets just to watch. Credit: AP

Milton Berle's famed joke file is going on sale. Yes, the one and the same joke file that yielded this: "We owe a lot to Thomas Edison-if it wasn't for him, we'd be watching television by candlelight.”

 Sure, a bit clunky, you say. But back in the day, more than half the nation (or at least the "half" that owned television sets) roared at that one.

Bonhams, the New York auction house, will put the bulk of his literary estate on the market in early May — estimated proceeds, $200,000 to 300,000, per Catherine Williamson, Bonhams' director of Entertainment Memorabilia.

"This is certainly the bulk of Berle's literary estate: his working copies, plus revised final bound copies of nearly all of his performances. Much of this material was housed in his office over the years, including the file cabinets with the joke cards," Williamson said by email.

Joke cards!

So what does this include? Here's the laundry list:

Milton Berle included his literary archive of a working scripts from his entire career, spanning vaudeville, radio, television, and film ($80,000-100,000); the private joke file (est. $10,000-15,000); complete bound sets of scripts from the “Texaco Star Theater” and other career high points (estimates vary); one of the Powder Puff props from his television show (est. $1,000-1,500); his working script from the Marilyn Monroe film “Let’s Make Love” (est. $800-1,200); a signed photograph of JFK and Jackie Kennedy, inscribed to Berle (est. $1,500-2,000); a selection of early vaudeville costumes and props (estimates vary); a selection of humidors and cigar paraphernalia (estimates vary); a group of Friar’s Club awards and memorabilia (estimates vary); a sterling silver humidor by Tiffany with an engraved presentation from Mike Todd (est. $5,000-7,000); an original watercolor portrait used on the cover of “Time Magazine” in 1949, with copy of the printed cover (est. $1,500-2,000); a collection of photographs by Philippe Halsman (estimates vary); a sterling silver cigarette case presented to Berle by Sinatra on the occasion of JFK’s inauguration in 1961 (est. $2,500-3,500); Sinatra’s telegram to Berle, outlining the plans for Kennedy’s Inaugural Gala performance (est. $300-500) and a selection of sterling silver Christmas gifts also from Sinatra (estimates vary), among others.

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