Few iron beds that have been photographed in the movies have ever received the attention as the one used in the movie “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” with Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman.
It was an incredibly scrolled Victorian piece that really highlighted the mood and personalities of the actors and story. What many people don’t know is that it was specifically made for the movie and was not actually an antique iron bed or brass bed. If you look closely at the photo of Elizabeth Taylor setting on the bed, you can see the connecting point of the side rails is considerably lower than what an antique bed has. Traditional beds from the 1800’d have side rails that are usually right around 13″ off the ground. With today’s tall box spring and pillow top mattresses, it becomes a real dilemma to get into bed, it’s so high. The side rails on the bed in the photo are about 5 to 6″ off the ground and do not have the antique “hitches”, antique beds have for attaching the side rails to.
This bed was always one, people would refer to when they wanted me to know how fancy an bed they were looking for. It was the bench mark for fancy beds .
I had originally started selling brass beds when I was going to school in Washington DC. I’d travel north to Pennsylvania, fill my van with old iron beds. I’d bring them down to my apartment in DC and put an ad in the Washington Post. It wasn’t long before I started getting a reputation for being able to unearth some of the better beds that were made in the 1800’s. Dealers found out about me and it wasn’t long before I found myself “picking” for over a dozen DC antique dealers.
They had all wanted the fanciest ones I could find. The higher end dealers wanted the “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” brass bed. It was also an ongoing pursuit of mine. It was like a treasure hunt every time I went into the back woods of PA. I’d track down the slimmest of leads to see if that elusive brass bed even existed. Along the way I found hundreds and hundreds of beautiful metal beds that had yet to really gather much popularity. People were still in love with brass beds. Metal beds would take a few years to build and eventually far surpass the popularity brass beds once had.
I’d become friends with Boyd Barr, a dealer who called me one day and said “I found it”….. What I asked. “That crazy ornate brass bed you’ve been looking for”. Sure enough he had found the best brass bed I’d ever seen. It wasn’t the same bed as in the movie…….but better. I bought it from him and kept it for many years. I received some outrageous offers over the time I had it. Some very difficult to turn down. I eventually traded it back to Boyd.
Few, if any, iron beds have ever seen the popularity as the “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” bed did………. until I found the two iron beds my daughters have to this day….stay tuned for that blog.