Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Debbie Reynolds Auction

By now, you've probably heard about the record breaking prices set at Saturday's auction of Debbie Reynold's Hollywood costume and prop collection.  Reynolds started the collection in 1970 when she hand picked and purchased a large selection of items that MGM had sold to an auctioneer.  She continued to collect and receive donations for decades.  For years, she sought to to find a museum for the collection and she came close 7 times, but each venture ended in failure.  Reynolds was left with the bills for architects, designers, contractors and materials.  As the creditors started to close in, she was forced to admit defeat and came to the heart-wrenching decision to sell the collection. 

As Reynolds said of the Hollywood studios that didn't care, "It's not so much that I had vision, it's that they had none."   It is sad to find that many of the most iconic pieces from the auction are now headed to Japan and Saudi Arabia.  An important part of America's movie history will no longer reside here.  Following, a look at some of the highlights of the auction.  Keep in mind that ending bids shown do not include the 23% buyer's premium or California state taxes.


Claudette Colbert's gold lame gown from Cleopatra, 1934 sold for $40,000.



Judy Garland's blue dress worn during the first 2 weeks of filming The Wizard of Oz sold for $910,000 to a buyer representing Saudi Arabian oil money.

Garland's ruby slippers sold for $510,000 to the same buyer.  These are one of about 7 pair used during the film.

Marilyn Monroe's red sequined costume from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes sold for $1.2 million.  "We're two little girls from Little Rock."


If I had been able to bid on anything, this would have been my choice.  Bette Davis' gown from The Virgin Queen sold for $22,500.  Bette Davis is my all-time favorite actress and this was one of her best roles.


Grace Kelly's dress from To Catch a Thief sold for $450,000.




Charlton Heston's tunic and cape from Ben-Hur sold for $320,000.



Elizabeth Taylor's ceremonial headress from 1963's Cleopatra sold for $100,000.



The second highest ending auction price, Audrey Hepburn's Royal Ascot dress and hat from My Fair Lady sold for $3.7 million.


Called the "most recognized costume in film history", Marilyn Monroe's pleated crepe dress from The Seven Year Itch was also the most highly anticipated lot of the auction.  The dress set a record price for movie memorabilia and sold for $4.6 million.  Sigh..........

It's hard to believe, but there will be two more auctions of Debbie Reynold's massive collection, one in December 2011 and the other in spring, 1012.

31 comments:

Renée T. Bouchard said...

That is absolutely unreal to me- these pieces are definitely iconic pieces of movie memorabilia, but $4.6 million?!?!? Wow!!!

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

Yep. The buyer's premium and luxury tax take it well over $5 mil. And we'll likely never see it again.

Casey said...

That is so sad that so many of these pieces will be disappearing into private collections! :(

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

I think so too Casey. I wonder if anyone in Hollywood is looking at this with regret?

Gracie said...

Grace Kelly's dress would have been my pick.

une femme said...

It's so sad that these iconic pieces couldn't find a home where the public would have access to see them. But that's the way of the world, I guess.

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

It's so pretty isn't it? I loved that movie. Her clothes were so beautiful!

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

I agree femme. Hollywood's lack of vision and foresight is heartbreaking indeed. I just learned that the Liberace museum in Las Vegas closed due to dwindling attendance. That's too bad too.

Kay said...

Thanks for this excellent report, very, very well done!
It IS sad, isn’t it? I met her (Debbie R.) at the TCM Film Festival in late April and she was everything she projects—sassy, sweet, funny, and full of vim and vigor. She mentioned the auction, and was obviously upset at parting with her collection, but she seemed genuinely shocked that she couldn’t get the backing from her peers. It’s been reported (and I hope it’s not true!) that no one from the Academy even bid on the items. If that’s true, it explains why Debbie couldn’t muster up backers for her museum. Soooo sad!
I love your focus on vintage…it’s something I totally adhere to! I make costumed presentations of Silver Screen movies in vintage attire and whenever I do, I hear the same thing: “Oh, I wish women still dressed like that!” Vintage is forever!
Thanks again for such a terrific blog!
Warmly, Kay from Rochester, NY
PS-Here’s my blog…do come visit if you get a chance, I think you (and your readers) might like it.
http://moviestarmakeover.blogspot.com/

Elinora said...

That exquisite My Fair Lady's dress!!! I saw the film several years ago and it is one of the dresses I best remind! I adore it!
3,7 million... Has any of these splendid items been bought by costume institutes or something like that? I would love them to be exposed from time to time in a museum...

Anyway I am glad for their new owners, whoever they are!

Gladys said...

You would think one of the studios would have facilitated a museum and added an additional price to it's admission price.

The Style Crone said...

The gold gown and the feather hats are stunning. Thank you for the beauty.

Susan said...

Grrr...I used to work in a museum. And I'm extremely disappointed that there wasn't a single museum who would take this collection. These are iconic pieces of American film history. So sad that many will now rarely see the light of day.

BeccakBecca said...

What I find so amazing is how beautiful the costumes look in modern day HD photography.

They don't look like they have aged a bit! And some are even more stunning now that they are captured in color!

those tricks said...

Typical.
This is why I left Hollywood.
So sad these are no being archived/museum-ed.

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

I was just watching the show "Hollywood Treasure" which featured a short clip with Debbie talking about her collection. She said collecting these things was her joy. Instead of buying jewelry or expensive cars, she bought costumes.

Mayrozez said...

Here's what I'm wondering: Would a museum have been able to compete even if they were interested? It seems that private collectors have the means to quickly drive the prices right out of the reach of the museums.

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

Most likely not, Mayrozez. And Debbie was not in a financial situation where she could afford to donate the collection to any museum whether they would have it or not.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Just to let you know that I check your blog every week - and although I don´t comment I adore it - Pls, keep sharing your treasures with us around the world! Xoxo Carina fm Brazil

Miss Rayne said...

I thought there were some amazing prices and some reasonable prices. I think i would have gone for the lilac dress worn by Mae West if I had that kind of money.
Thankyou for the mention on facebook
xx

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

Yes, not everything went through the roof price wise. There were even some things that were passed as they didn't get an opening bid.

Eden Hensley Silverstein said...

I think museums/fashion institutes might have been able to pick up some of the less iconic pieces, but unsure who has that type of budget. My pick would have been Grace Kelly's dress from To Catch a Thief. I love the color and the silhouette.

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

Edith Head did Grace Kelly's wardrobe for that film. That coral-y pink looks so beautiful on her.

verobirdie said...

I love that Grace Kelly' dress too. I saw a bit of news on Tv, but they only mentionned Marylin's dress, not the others, or I did not pay enough attention.
I can't even imagine what those prices represent on my daily basis. Sure those are treasures, but... How many families could have lived on just one dress? That thought disturbs me...
Anyway, thanks for sharing the pictures!

Audi said...

I'm glad you did a post about the auction; I've been seeing photos all over the place but hadn't heard the back story. It's so sad to see filthy oil money buying up Hollywood treasures. :-(

happythoughtsdarling said...

I found the auction really heartbreaking. I hate seeing so many of these treasures -- part of American history, in a way -- scattered here and there. They should be in a museum. It's a shame.

I enjoyed ogling the items in the catalog, though. What an amazing collection Debbie Reynolds put together! The beauty of the costumes created under the studio system blows my mind.

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

I was incredulous at the work and expense that went into making some of the costumes too. The gorgeous fabrics, the beadwork and embroidery. Just incredible!

Lexy Mademyday said...

Thanks for this post, I was wondering what were the others lots of the auction since the news on TV only talked about MM's dress! I hope the new owners will be very carefull with those pieces of history...
I heard that Mariah Carey owns Marilyn Monroe's piano and that she doesn't want the public to see it...what a shame!
ps: thanks for your comment on my blog!

Couture Allure Vintage Fashion said...

Yes, Mariah paid $662,500 for the white baby grand piano at a Christie's auction. It had a $10,000 - $15,000 pre-auction estimate.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and think it is like a tour through lovely closets by topic. Thanks for taking me on your fashion trips!!

Anonymous said...

Our thanks to Debbie Reynolds for her painstaking work assembling such an important collection of American art and film history. It is sad that folks with means in this country let this collection be divided up at auction. How sad that the MGM lion could not roar loudly enough to save these gems as a group for our future enjoyment and reference. Why are these treasures leaving this country? Shame, thrice shame on wealthy Americans for letting this happen to Ms. Reynolds and her family, and to all Americans who love the movies! I think it's time to "belly up to the bar, boys," and pass the hat so that Debbie's bills get paid and we keep our Hollywood treasures where they belong!! Bill in Fort Worth

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