Debbie Reynolds’ Cinema Costume and Prop Auction Offers Unique Hollywood Treasures

Remember the dress that flies up and exposes Marilyn Monroe’s legs to her waist as she stands over a New York City subway grate in “The Seven Year Itch?” The resulting widely published photograph became an iconic Monroe image, although it disturbed her then-husband, baseball great Joe DiMaggio, so much it contributed to the disintegration of their marriage. Now you can own that dress, if you can afford it.

Monroe’s “Seven Year Itch” dress is expected to rake in between $1 million and $2 million.

Actress and longtime movie memorabilia collector Debbie Reynolds is selling more than 300 costumes and props in the largest such auction in 30 years, beginning June 18, to raise money for the planned Hollywood Motion Picture Museum.

“My lifetime dream has been to assemble and preserve the history of the Hollywood film industry,” Reynolds said. “Hollywood has been an enormous part of my life, as I know it has been for countless fans all over the world.

“This collection represents a lifetime of collecting Hollywood artifacts and this is a rare opportunity to own a piece of Hollywood History for those who love the movies as much as I do.”

Reynolds acquired many of the items after MGM consigned them to an auction house decades ago, sorting through 300,000 costumes and props.

Marilyn Monroe’s white dress from the subway grate scene in “The Seven Year Itch” is expected to bring between $2 and $3 million.

The iconic scene that makes this dress a must-have item for serious collectors of Hollywood memorabilia.

Reynolds labored for years trying to establish a museum to house her extensive collection, but debts mounted, forcing her to sell the collection. She has said “it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” but expressed the hope that some who purchase movie treasures will loan them to the museum for display afterward.

If you’re in Beverly Hills, you have until June 17 to see most of the costumes for free at the Paley Center for Media on the corner of North Beverly Drive and Santa Monica Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

Reynold’s Handpicked Collection:

Richard Burton's costume from "Cleopatra."

Charleton Heston's costume from "Ben Hur."

Claude Raines' costume from "Casablanca."

Among the items that will be crossing the block are from some of the most iconic movies in Hollywood history, including a pair of Judy Garland’s red slippers and cotton dress from “The Wizard of Oz,” Charlie Chaplin’s bowler, the hat that matched the gown Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) made from green draperies in “Gone With the Wind,” Richard Burton’s costume from “Cleopatra,” Marilyn Monroe costumes from “River of No Return” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” Charlton Heston’s costume from “Ben-Hur,” Marlon Brando’s costume from “Desiree,” not to mention Monroe’s famed “subway grate” dress from “The Seven Year Itch.”

Judy Garland's costume from "The Wizard of Oz."

Julie Andrews costume from "The Sound of Music."

Elizabeth Taylor's costume from "National Velvet."

Other costumes and props in the auction were used by:

• Julie Andrews in “Star”;
• Fred Astaire “Belle of New York”;
• James Cagney in”Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Strawberry Blonde”;
• Judy Garland in”Ziegfeld Follies” and “Presenting Lilly Mars”;
• Rita Hayworth in “Loves of Carmen”;
• Katherine Hepburn in”Little Minister”;
• Marilyn Monroe in”Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “Don’t Bother to Knock,” and “Ticket to Tomahawk”;
• Mary Pickford in”Rosita” and “Secrets”;
• Ginger Rogers in “Roxie Hart” and “Black Widow”;
• Jane Russell in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”;
• Lana Turner in “Weekend at the Waldorf”;
• Mae West in “Every Day’s a Holiday”

The auction will also include arm chairs and a hardware store display form “Gone with the Wind,” paintings of Garbo and Marion Davies, and more. Historical memorabilia dealer Profiles in History will auction items starting June 18, with two more auctions to follow on Dec. 6, and next spring. The December sale, “Selections from the Collection of the Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Motion Picture Museum,” will be conducted at the Le Meridien Hotel, 465 S La Cienega Blvd., Beverly Hills, Ca. Reynolds will attend an auction preview, from 6 to 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5, at the Le Meridien Hotel.

Online bidding for these auctions also will be conducted through Julian Entertainment. Printed catalogs are available for $15 each through Autrographs.com. Free digital catalogs are also available by calling 800.996.3977.

Allan Maurer is a Worthologist who specializes in Hollywood and movie memorabilia and is the publisher of the web site BestFilmFests.

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