On June 18th, a Hollywood costume and memorabilia auction of epic proportions will occur, featuring iconic, museum-worthy items from the life-long personal collection of American sweetheart, Debbie Reynolds.
"My passion for collecting began in earnest when the studios broke up their inventories. In 1970 MGM announced it was going to auction off everything except their real estate. I was still under contract at MGM and knew this inventory well. These were the clothes that the studio wouldn’t even lend us to wear to events or parties. Prior to this auction, I was a “normal” collector. After the auction, preserving as many of these costumes as possible became my obsession. After MGM’s auction, the other studios followed suit. I was very fortunate that I knew the president of Fox Studios, who allowed me to purchase many items prior to their auction. Over the years, I continued to save as many pieces as I could as the studios threatened their very existence."—D.R.
For those who haven't yet been dazzled by her adorability in musicals such as Singin' in the Rain, Debbie grew-up in front of the cameras at MGM . . . sharing milkshakes with Elizabeth Taylor at the studio commissary, dancing with Gene Kelly, and hanging out in the wardrobe dept., watching legendary costumers like Helen Rose create intricately beaded glamour gowns. This is where her passion for collecting bits of Hollywood's history began. She was 'vintage' obsessed, before it was even a term.
As the old studio system crumbled in the early-'70s, and MGM was sold, a legendary auction was held on the lot, and Debbie had her bidding paddle raised throughout. She knew in her heart that these artifacts would one-day be seen as an important part of America's cultural history. She rescued as many costumes and props as possible, with the dream of opening a Hollywood museum, but in recent years found that the constant preservation and storage care, were too all-consuming, both financially and emotionally. So she now hopes to find loving homes for her trove, which happens to include Chaplin's bowler, Scarlett O'Hara's curtain hat, Harpo's curls, Eliza Doolittle's derby frock (designed by Cecil Beaton), as well as a certain infamous white pleated dress. I'm also floored by the items she acquired from personal estates and prop houses, including silent-era stunt cars, sound stage lights, and rare camera equipt. This is a woman who truly loves film, body and soul.
Here are some of the featured treasures currently slaying my old Hollyweird heart:
Above: Mother-of-pearl button embellished costume from Cover Girl (Columbia Pictures, c.1944), as featured in Rita Hayworth's Poor John number. Below: Antique Native American canvas canoe, used in various MGM Westerns.
Above, L: Gold bullion-embroidered silk velvet gown designed by Adrian for Norma Shearer in Romeo and Juliet (MGM, c.1936). Above, R: Gold bullion fleur-de-lis trumpeters tunic designed by Adrian and featured in Marie Antoinette (MGM, c.1938). Below: Egyptian ceremonial headdress worn by Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra (20th Century Fox, c.1963)
Above: Gold lamé gown designed by Travis Banton for Claudette Colbert in Cecil B. DeMille's Cleopatra (Paramount, c.1934) Below: Antique carved Chinese rosewood bed from The Good Earth (MGM, 1937)
Above, L: Gold lamé Egyptian gown worn by mezzo-soprano Blanche Thebom in The Great Caruso (c.1951) Above, R: Art Deco-era 10K Fresnel MGM kleig light (can't you just picture Jean Harlow being meticulously lit with this?) Below: Ivory appliquéd lace gown worn by Mary Astor in Meet Me in St. Louis (MGM, c.1944).
Above: Watercolor, gouache and glitter sketch of Mae West by Edith Head and Theadora Van Runkle for Myra Breckenridge (c.1970). Below: Jaunty life-size oil portraits of Marion Davies from her estate (c.1920s).
Above: Portrait of Marion Davies in various film roles by Federico Beltran Masses (c.1920s) Below: The white rayon-acetate crepe dress by Travilla for Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch (20th Cent. Fox, c.1955), estimated to sell for 2 million (though I suspect it will go for much more). Remind me to tell you the story of when I got to try on this dress (I even have photographic evidence)!
Fellow film nerds, I implore you to download Debbie's auction catalog, and swoon over the historic treasures contained within.