Friday, June 17, 2011

wacky tacky goes Hollywood!

The Paley Center for Media - Beverly Hills

Just by the very skin of our teeth did we manage to see the exhibit of Debbie Reynolds' priceless collection of Hollywood history before it goes to auction tomorrow, June 18.  Okay, maybe it isn't exactly priceless (every item was marked with an estimated auction value) but imagine the feeling you'd get knowing you owned the iconic dress Marilyn Monroe wore while the subway gave her a moment of very-personal air conditioning in The Seven Year Itch - pretty priceless, I'd say.

"The" dress
The Seven Year Itch (1955)
worn by Marilyn Monroe
designed by Travilla

The crowd was densely-packed but well-behaved.

For the last few weeks, The Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills has hosted a preview of Reynolds' collection.  As world-champion procrastinators, we - of course - waited until the last day to go.  It was an amazing experience to see the very costumes that inspired my love of costume history and design.  Pieces worn by Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner, Debbie Reynolds, Lucille Ball, Audrey Hepburn, Claudette Colbert, Julie Andrews and more were on display.  Pieces from some of my favorite movies were less than two feet from me.  Pieces from my favorite Hollywood designer, Walter Plunkett, were close enough to touch - but I refrained.  Maybe I'll do a future post on the art of self-control!

The Long, Long Trailer (1953)
worn by Lucille Ball
designed by Helen Rose

To Catch a Thief (1955)
worn by Grace Kelly
designed by Edith Head

It was a slightly-unsettling moment when Mary became giddy over the very-faint "pit stains" on the above Edith Head creation.  "Grace Kelly sweat too!"

Mildred Pierce (1945)
worn by Joan Crawford
designed by Milo Anderson

Many of the garments I recognized on sight.  I tried to remember the history of every item, but as you'll see with some of the garments featured below, I failed.  If you know the provenance of an unmarked piece, please feel free to let me know.

A Royal Scandal (1945)
worn by Tallulah Bankhead
designed by Rene Hubert

Blood and Sand (1922)
worn by Rudolph Valentino
designed by Travis Banton

Cleopatra (1934)
worn by Claudette Colbert
designed by Travis Banton/Vicki Williams

detail of the bust/neckline

The jewel in this collection's crown, in my opinion:

My Fair Lady (1964)
worn by Audrey Hepburn
designed by Cecil Beaton

Oh yeah, she's got the hat too.  It was Ascot!
We're pretty sure Audrey Hepburn farted in that dress...

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
worn by Mary Astor
designed by Irene Sharaff

Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)
Nightgown worn by Margaret O'Brien
Party dress worn by Judy Garland
designed by Irene Sharaff

The costumes for Singin' in the Rain were designed by Walter Plunkett who designed many, many Hollywood classics including Gone With the Wind and Pollyanna.

Singin' in the Rain (1952)
worn by Gene Kelly & Donald O'Connor
designed by Walter Plunkett

Singin' in the Rain (1952)
worn by Debbie Reynolds
 designed by Walter Plunkett

The green frock is definitely one of my favorites!

Singin' in the Rain (1952)
worn by Jean Hagen
designed by Walter Plunkett

The Littlest Rebel (1935)
worn by Shirley Temple
designed by Gwen Wakeling

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953)
worn by Marilyn Monroe
designed by Travilla

 Lana Turner                            Deborah Kerr

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
worn by Maureen O'Hara...
just checking to see if you're paying attention
worn by Edmund Gwen
designed by Mrs. Claus

Annie Get Your Gun (1950)
worn by Betty Hutton
designed by Walter Plunkett/Helen Rose

 The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964)
worn by Debbie Reynolds
designed by Morton Haack

Salome (1953)
worn by Rita Hayworth
designed by Jean Louis
Cover Girl (1944)
worn by Rita Hayworth
designed by Travis Banton

The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
worn by Ginger Rogers
designed by Irene

Gaslight (1944)
worn by Ingrid Bergman
designed by Irene

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
worn by Judy Garland
designed by Adrian
The backside of Dorothy! A rough draft for the final costume.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

worn by Eleanor Powell
designed by Adrian
completely covered in silver, bugle beads

No Man of Her Own (1932)
worn by Carole Lombard
designed by Travis Banton

Susan Hayward

The Virgin Queen (1955)
worn by Bette Davis
designed by Charles LeMaire/Mary Wills

Gone With the Wind (1939)
worn by Clark Gable
designed by Walter Plunkett

The collection consists of more than just costumes.  Reynolds has amassed many pieces of ephemera, artifacts, and art by, about, and for Hollywood heavyweights.  Here are but a few.

Monkey Business (1952)
Roadster driven by Cary Grant & Marilyn Monroe

Harpo's Hat!!

A painting of Marion Davies by Frederico Beltran Masses

A more thoughtful, conscientious blogger would have posted all the details weeks ago so those who were unaware of the event could have gone.  Being the very mean-spirited, thoughtless person that I am, I will just tell you that if you missed this, you missed a GREAT thing!!  As many of these gems will be sold off to private collectors, it is not only the last time they will be seen together, it may be the last time that they are ever seen publicly!  Surprisingly, not all of the estimates seemed outrageous.  We'll have to wait until tomorrow to see how it all plays out.  The infamous dress featured below has an auction estimate of $1-2 million - well worth it at twice the price!!!

The Seven Year Itch (1955)


Mr. Tiny (Hollywood Square)


  1. Oh wow! How did I not know about this? I would have gone! So awesome, I am glad someone went and did a write up about it so the lame -os like me who didn't know about it could awe over these costumes. So cool :)

  2. I didn't know the exhibit was open to the public until just a couple days ago! I'm so glad I went. Too funny about Grace Kelly sweat - I felt the same way about the pitstains in Eleanor Powell's silver sailor costume. And I'm not embarrassed to say, I teared up when I saw Judy's and Margaret's costumes from Meet Me in St. Louis. I didn't know they were going to be there, and I just turned around and was shocked to see them.

    This is only a fraction of Debbie Reynolds' collection, and the next batch is going up for auction in December. Hopefully there is another exhibit!

  3. Beth...I am glad you agree!! haha I have just put Grace Kelly on a pedestal, and it was nice to know it gets hot up there too!! haha I think it made her more accessible. It was such a neat exhibit!!

  4. Emily - I wish you had made it. You would have LOVED it!!

    Beth - I'm so glad that we all made it in the nick of time! I knew her collection was huge - I remember seeing years ago that her plan was to open a museum in Vegas or Branson or??? I think her ex-husband ran off with all of the money. I hope that they have another viewing if more goes up for auction!! NEVER be embarrassed about getting emotional over "Meet Me in St. Louis" - I'm glad you weren't.

    Mary - have you tried clinical strength?

  5. I was there today, too!!! OH MY GOSH it was so cool.
    And you're funny. Audrey Hepburn didn't fart. Ever ;)

  6. Lauren - I'm very glad that you got to go. I have not been feeling that well this week and it only occurred to me that we should have called you when we were already on our way. I made sure that I rallied for the last day of the show! In regards to Audrey Hepburn - only my brain works that way. I just got to thinking about the math of craft services + tiny dress + long shoot = well, you know....

  7. So sad that she sold it all. I wish her dream of a museum would have been a success! It would have been such a magical place