Monday, September 28 2020


A little corner of Hollywood in Viet Nam

Update: August, 23/2015 - 07:34
Totally stocked: Every corner of Nguyen Thanh Liem's small house is full of original Hollywood movie memorabillia. — VNS Photos Do Ba

A HCM City movie fanatic's walls are adorned with signed posters from Hollywood stars. His small home's rooms are stocked with famous shoes, rubies and other memorabilia - and it's all open to the public. Do Ba - Thanh Giang reports.

Hollywood movie fans can see original movie memorabilia at Nguyen Thanh Liem's small old house in Binh Thanh District in Ho Chi Minh City.

On entering the two-storey house, located in a small alley, the visitors will feel as if they are travelling back in time to the 1930s or 1940s. All the furniture seems to belong to that period, such as the ancient lamps throwing yellow light on wooden armchairs and the buffets with sophisticated designs.

Two walls of the rooms are decorated with hundreds of signed portraits of Hollywood celebrities such as Vivian Mary Hartley, who played the role of Scarlett, and Clark Gable, who was Rhett Butler in Gone with the Wind, as well as of Elizabeth Taylor, Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks.

More impressively, one of the rooms has 1,500 vinyl disc records and more than 100,000 movie posters, dating back at least 60 years, such as of the Dracula or The Mummy.

Scattered all over the house, on every corner and stair, are more than 700 pairs of shoes of all kinds that were worn by Hollywood stars, some of them even dating back to the 1860s.

More precious items are on the second floor, including 1,200 clothes, 40,000 ties, thousands of rubies, sapphires and crystal gemstones, and most notably an original Oscar statuette of the Academy Awards.

Surprisingly, the owner of the special house can clearly remember the date and even the circumstances in which he purchased each item.

Liem is full of Hollywood style himself. Though he is 65, he has a strong body with a white beard and long hair, which makes him look like a Hollywood actor.

And the award goes to...: An authentic Oscar trophy displayed in Liem's exhibition.

Liem often jokes that he is like a traveller wandering in America, when talking about the nearly 40 years that he spent in that country.

Born into a poor family of nine children in Hue, Liem took the risk of travelling to America at the age of 24, hoping to escape poverty and seek a brighter future.

When he reached America, he had no relatives and no money. He knew very little English, which could only help him to get a job as a chewing gum cleaner in Madison Catholic Centre.

Liem took up several jobs to realise his American dream, till a friend invited him to attend a hairdresser's training course. The turning point in his life came when he graduated with the highest marks and fortunately got a job offer from Hollywood film studios.

He got the chance to style several Hollywood stars. Thanks to his creativity, famous American celebrities became regular clients of the Vietnamese hairdresser.

Liem came up with the idea of collecting items related to arts, especially Hollywood movies, after he visited and was impressed by an Arab tailor's place that was beautifully decorated with pictures of Hollywood stars.

He started utilising any chance he got to ask for their photos and signatures, in addition to collecting film posters, immortal songs, clothing items and jewellery belonging to them.

After living for 40 years in a foreign country, Liem has realised his American dream to some extent. He has succeeded in not only his family life, with his two daughters studying in two prestigious universities, but also has made a success of his career and passion.

Liem's aspiration now is to open a museum in Viet Nam, "so that my countrymen can see the Hollywood items with their own eyes", he said.

In the past 13 years, he has transported memorabilia from his enormous Hollywood collection to Viet Nam six times, and has opened several exhibitions nationwide.

His booth at the 2009 Nha Trang International Film Festival received the largest number of visitors, including Miss World 2008.

He said he was always willing to wander and seek new items for his museum, as long as his finances allowed him to.

"Many Hollywood actors, directors and even leading managers are my friends. I also have many friends who are American collectors, so I'm still able to enrich my collections like I have always been able to. However, money is still the most important factor," he said.

"In America, the visitors are willing to pay $10 to $15 to take a photo sitting on a Hollywood motorbike. I don't think that we can charge Vietnamese visitors such large amounts, but they still can help to provide me an income to manage my small museum."

Liem's aspiration has not been realised yet, as five containers of his items, including an old house built in 1918, cannot be transported to Viet Nam because they do not comply with the import regulations.

Moreover, Liem's collection is considered to be worth an exhibition only as it does not match the requirements of a museum, offering him barely an income.

"However, spending my last years in my hometown with items that are full of memories is satisfactory enough for me," he said. — VNS

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