Wednesday, January 18, 2017

With Gratitude to Debbie Reynolds

The Wizard of Oz, 1939.

I was so sad to hear of the passing of George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds last month. While those stars meant a lot to me at different times of my life (George especially), I feel a special debt of gratitude to Debbie Reynolds. Anyone who loves movie costumes owes that lady a thank you. Big time!

Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers.

There is a great article over at The Hollywood Reporter that gives an overview of the Debbie Reynolds costume collection. She was interested in costumes from the time she was a young actress, first at Warner Bros., then at MGM, and she became a serious collector when she bought many items at MGM’s famous 1970 auction of costumes and props. Notable pieces she owned included Dorothy’s ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz—part of a recent, and successful, Kickstarter campaign to raise $300,000 to help curators at the Smithsonian save them, (I donated and hope you did too!)—the white pleated “Subway” dress by Travilla that Marilyn Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch, the white and black Ascot dress and hat Audrey Hepburn donned in My Fair Lady, and a headdress Elizabeth Taylor wore in Cleopatra. Those were just a drop in the bucket, the collection contained 3,500 articles and 20,000 original photographs.

Marilyn Monroe (with photogs) trying to shoot the famous scene from The Seven Year Itch, 1955.

Debbie’s dream of a costume museum came true, but it was a short-lived venture in Las Vegas, housed inside the hotel she briefly owned there, and after that folded she was rebuffed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, not once, not twice, but FIVE TIMES, when she wanted to donate the items to the Academy’s museum (click here to read more). They were not interested! Can you imagine? When the collection became too costly to continue to store herself, Debbie was forced to sell it all, which she did in three separate auctions. The pieces fetched unbelievable prices. The “Subway” dress alone sold for $5,658,000! Audrey’s Ascot dress? Oh, that went for a cool $4,551,000.

Another costume Debbie saved was this Cecil Beaton vision from My Fair Lady, 1964.

Debbie’s husband, Eddie Fisher, may have run off with Elizabeth Taylor, but that did not stop Debbie from saving this headdress that Liz wore in Cleopatra.

Liz in Cleopatra, 1963.

I loved Debbie in The Unsinkable Molly Brown and also as the voice of Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web. As a fan of Hollywood and its history, I am so grateful to Debbie for saving these costumes that are part of our shared American heritage, even if they are not all in one place.

Debbie herself (with Harve Presnell ) in The Unsinkable Molly Brown, 1964. Photo from IMDb.

All photos except for Dorothy’s slippers and Debbie and Harve came from Doctor Macro.


Data in the Rough said...

I am still in shock at Carrie and Debbie passing away. I really wish Debbie could have created that museum for these treasures. She really had her share of hard times. I am glad she had her good health as long as she did. Did you see the HBO documentary this month on Carrie and Debbie?

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

Do you know that I went to that very costume auction n LA! I only stayed half an hour but it was such a hoot - it was like a party and people were whooping and clapping and the atmosphere was fantastic. Like you - so sad - it makes us full on adults with people like George Michael passing. He was so my generation of music that that was a big hit along with Prince. I feel like a musical orphan. I can't wait to see the HBO documentary. they were such smart women! Debbie was funnier than she was known for of course and Carrie seems to have gotten a lot of humour from her.

GSL said...

I did know even more than a decades ago Debbie Reynolds was a major Hollywood memorabilia collector who endured a lot of financial troubles because of the bad male characters in her life. She too was a treasure.

GSL said...

This post reminded me of something from long ago which I mentioned in today's Den post. Thanks Jill.

Jill said...

Hi Michelle! I have not seen that documentary but I want to. I will look to see if Netflix is carrying it yet since I don't have cable. xx

Jill said...

Hi Naomi, I love that you went to the auction! I can't just imagine the atmosphere, based on your description. How amazing that you witnessed it. I am so with you re music, an orphan, ha ha I love that! I was/am still devoted to Madonna and Depeche Mode, with heavy sides of The Smiths and The Cure, so I am glad they are still around and Madge seems like she will be touring into her 60s and beyond. xx

Jill said...

Hi GSL, thank you for the shout out on your blog, I truly appreciate it! xx