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A Hollywood Era Comes Out From the Dust

November 5, 1986

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Nearly 7,000 photographs documenting 45 years of Hollywood history will be put into storage until a judge can decide whether the photographer or his daughter is the rightful owner.

The collection of photographer Robert W. Coburn’s work was removed Tuesday from the Canoga Park garage of his daughter, Julia Benard, where they were covered with dust in decaying cardboard boxes, according to court papers.

Coburn, 86, a leading portrait and still photographer for major studios like RKO, Samuel Goldwyn and Columbia from 1920 to 1965, gave the collection to his daughter for safekeeping when he moved into an apartment in 1960, according to his lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Ownership of the collection, which includes most of Hollywood’s major stars and many of its famous movies, has sparked a bitter family dispute.

The photos were nearly forgotten until earlier this year when the Los Angeles County Museum of Art started preparing a major exhibit and asked Coburn for permission to include his works, the lawsuit says.

Ms. Benard refused to hand over the photos, saying her father had given them to her as a gift, said Coburn’s attorney, Alan B. Pick.

Ms. Benard allowed museum curator David A. Fahey to look at the collection recently. He said in a court declaration that he was alarmed at its condition, and that it would be ruined if left in the garage.

Superior Court Judge Jack M. Newman on Tuesday ruled that Pick and an art- handling specialist may pick up the pictures and place them in storage pending a Nov. 24 ownership hearing.

Coburn, of Palm Springs, shot some of the most memorable stills of the late Merle Oberon in ″Wuthering Heights,″ and supervised still photography for the films ″Citizen Kane″ and ″For Whom the Bell Tolls,″ among others.

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