Debbie Reynolds Auctions off Hollywood Treasures

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Debbie Reynolds still knows how to make a splash.

She was a teenage charmer opposite Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain," earned an Oscar nomination for her gutsy character in "The Unsinkable Molly Brown" and, at 79, is going strong as a nightclub and theater performer.

On Saturday, Reynolds will demonstrate her flair with an auction of movie memorabilia she's gathered over four decades and which includes costumes evoking some of filmdom's greatest stars and roles.

Among them: The Marilyn Monroe dress that flirted with a subway gust in "The Seven Year Itch," Audrey Hepburn's stunning black-and-white Ascot race scene gown designed by Cecil Beaton for "My Fair Lady," and Elizabeth Taylor's pint-sized race togs from "National Velvet" and towering headdress from "Cleopatra."

"I consider myself a fan. I'm a fan who was lucky enough to be among stars, so I collected them," Reynolds said during an auction preview at the Paley Center for Media.

Profiles in History, the auction house, estimates the nearly 600 items could bring up to $10 million in the sale that will also be conducted online. More of Reynolds' treasure trove is to be sold in December.

Taylor, who died in March, is among the best-represented stars in Reynolds' collection — an irony, since Reynolds became the victim in one of Hollywood's most famous love triangles when singer Eddie Fisher divorced her for Taylor.

The two women eventually appeared to put the past behind them: They co-starred in a 2001 TV movie, "These Old Broads," and Taylor ended up contributing to Reynolds' collection.

When a costume worn in "Cleopatra" by Taylor's late ex-husband Richard Burton came on the market, Reynolds called Taylor for help in buying the expensive item. The pitch: it would be reunited with Taylor's Cleopatra memorabilia.

"I really need it because I have you," Reynolds recalled telling her in a phone call. "So she sent me the money for the costume."

Other pieces up for grabs include costumes worn by Yul Brynner in "The King and I," Greta Garbo in "Anna Karenina" and Marlon Brando in "Mutiny on the Bounty," along with props such as a guitar used by Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music."

Reynolds' latest acquisition was the "My Fair Lady" gown, which she bought for $100,000 at auction.

There are a number of Monroe costumes, which hold appeal for Reynolds because she knew the actress ("A sweet girl," Reynolds says) but also because they're beautifully designed and made.

Hollywood designers and seamstresses clearly knew their stuff, but why did Reynolds decide to become a keeper of the flame?

"It was inspired by shock," she said, when MGM decided in 1970 to auction off its vast number of costumes and props. "I was just emotional about it."

Cringing at the thought of fabled costumes turned into Halloween party duds, Reynolds recalls raising her hand over and over at the weeks-long auction and raiding her bank accounts. More pieces came from subsequent Fox and Paramount studio sales, as well as individuals.

The auction represents the end of a dream. Reynolds' combined casino-hotel and museum in Las Vegas closed and Reynolds planned to relocate the museum to Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Last year, Reynolds' son, Todd Fisher, said the project had to file for bankruptcy protection and the collection would be sold to satisfy creditors.

Reynolds, still the petite, pretty blonde who captured Kelly's heart in their 1952 musical, is regretful but not maudlin. She jokes about how her daughter, writer-actress Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia in the "Star Wars" films) views her passion.

"She looks on it in amazement and awe and thinks we're completely out of our minds," said Reynolds, referring to herself and her co-conspirator son. Todd Fisher handled technology for the defunct museum and set up the auction display, including movie clips showing featured costumes.

Reynolds, who takes her act on the road 42 weeks a year to theaters, nightclubs, Indian reservations, "anywhere they hire me," said the auction will give her breathing room.

She loves entertaining but also has been driven by the costly demands of her cherished collection.

"I won't have so many children to take care of," she said, "so I won't have quite so much responsibility and I can rest a little more."

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