Priceless 145-Year-Old Martin Guitar Accidentally Gets Smashed to Smithereens in Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight

Quentin Taran­ti­no has always had a way of get­ting on the wrong side of var­i­ous groups. Most recent­ly he angered the gui­tar-heads of the world when, to their shock and dis­may, it came out that, under the auteur’s watch on the set of his lat­est pic­ture, the post-Civ­il War inten­si­fied West­ern The Hate­ful Eight, a price­less 145-year-old six-string met its bru­tal end. “In the scene in ques­tion,” writes Van­i­ty Fair’s Rachel Han­dler, Kurt Rus­sell, “as boun­ty hunter John ‘The Hang­man’ Ruth, snatch­es the gui­tar from the hands of Jen­nifer Jason Leigh’s Daisy Domer­gue and hurls it against the wall, as one does.” That gui­tar — “an invalu­able his­tor­i­cal arti­fact,” Han­dler explains — came on loan from Pennsylvania’s Mar­tin Gui­tar Muse­um (and its like­ly irked direc­tor Dick Boak).

Even if you don’t play the gui­tar your­self, you’ve prob­a­bly heard of the Mar­tin brand name. Estab­lished in 1833 in New York as the cab­i­net-mak­ing C.F. Mar­tin & Com­pa­ny, they went on to intro­duce some of the inno­va­tions that have come to define the acoustic gui­tar as we know it today, from X‑bracing in the 1850s to met­al strings, replac­ing tra­di­tion­al catgut, in the ear­ly 1900s. The ill-fat­ed spec­i­men lost to the hands of Kurt Rus­sell — who, accord­ing to the pro­duc­tion’s offi­cial sto­ry, nev­er got the memo about cut­ting and swap­ping out a repli­ca before the smash — which the Mar­tin Gui­tar Muse­um orig­i­nal­ly acquired (and insured) for about $40,000, came out of the Mar­tin work­shop in the 1870s.

Nat­u­ral­ly, the far­ther back you go in gui­tar-mak­ing his­to­ry, the few­er gui­tars made at the time still exist. You can still go out and buy a ser­vice­able gui­tar from the end of the 19th cen­tu­ry with­out com­plete­ly wip­ing out your sav­ings, but you’d be hard pressed to find a Mar­tin made a few decades ear­li­er — such as the one smashed in The Hate­ful Eight — at any price at all; less than ten may exist any­where. But Mar­t­in’s sol­id stan­dard of crafts­man­ship ensured that their instru­ment would hold up over the 140 or so years until a film­mak­er want­ed to use it as a prop in his peri­od piece, where it still, aes­thet­i­cal­ly as well as son­i­cal­ly, fit right in. Still, no gui­tar could hold up against the vicious­ness of a char­ac­ter like The Hang­man as envi­sioned by Taran­ti­no — nor against the ded­i­ca­tion of a direc­tor like Taran­ti­no who, always in search of a per­fect­ly vis­cer­al moment, sim­ply can’t bear to cut.

Well, at least he was­n’t using the last playable Stradi­var­ius gui­tar in the world. The Mar­tin Muse­um retained the pres­ence of mind to ask for their gui­tar’s pieces back, and though they could­n’t put the his­tor­i­cal instru­ment back togeth­er again, maybe they’ll find a place to dis­play the frag­ments them­selves. That way, both gui­tar-heads and cinephiles could pay their respects.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

Musi­cian Plays the Last Stradi­var­ius Gui­tar in the World, the “Sabionari” Made in 1679

Dave Grohl Shows How He Plays the Gui­tar As If It Were a Drum Kit

How Fend­er Gui­tars Are Made, Then (1959) and Nowa­days (2012)

The Sto­ry of the Gui­tar: The Com­plete Three-Part Doc­u­men­tary

The Real Val­ue of a Gui­tar

Eric Clap­ton Tries Out Gui­tars at Home and Talks About the Bea­t­les, Cream, and His Musi­cal Roots

Gui­tar Sto­ries: Mark Knopfler on the Six Gui­tars That Shaped His Career

Bri­an May’s Home­made Gui­tar, Made From Old Tables, Bike and Motor­cy­cle Parts & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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