Debbie Reynolds 'Hurt' by Academy for Refusing Her Memorabilia Collection
A version of this story first appeared in the May 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
On May 17 and 18, the last of Debbie Reynolds' fabled collection of Hollywood memorabilia is will be sold off at her eponymous dance academy in North Hollywood by local auctioneers Profiles in History. It's the third -- and final -- auction for what was considered the greatest private such collection ever assembled. The first two sales raised more than $26 million, and now Reynolds is selling what's left, including Orson Welles' fur coat from 1941's Citizen Kane and a collection of Rat Pack tuxes that were gifts from Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop. (Bishop once joked that Reynolds was a "nutcake" for wanting his old pants.) The five tuxes are estimated to fetch $30,000 to $50,000 as a group.
Reynolds first started seriously collecting when she emptied her bank account — some $600,000 — to buy as much as she could at MGM's legendary 1970 prop and costume auction. (Her purchases included a pair of ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz that sold at the first auction in 2011 for $690,000.)
"They literally threw away our history and I just got caught up in it," Reynolds tells THR. "The stupidity and the lack of foresight to save our history. Oh yes, they gave them away if you came up and said that you have something you had to offer. It was no matter about the history."
She went on collecting, acquiring pieces from everyone from Cary Grant (who inspired daughter Carrie Fisher's name, she claims) to Fred Astaire to Shirley MacLaine.
Other important items up for sale include a number of cameras collected by her son Todd Fisher, including the ones used to film Dracula, To Catch a Thief and the special effects on Star Wars. Among the trove of posters is the only surviving three-sheet for Singin' in the Rain. Other memorabilia includes a Charlie Chaplin bowler, a Harpo Marx wig and one of Scarlett O'Hara's dresses from Gone With the Wind.
"They should be in a museum," she tells THR of the items in her collection.
Natch, the actress opened a Las Vegas museum in the '90s, but it went bankrupt in 1997. Her last best hope was that her collection would find a home in the Academy's museum. She recalls approaching the Academy's leaders not once, but five times.
"I said, 'Please, let's do this together.' It was refused each time." She's saddened by the fact that so many of the pieces now are scattered throughout the world but brushes off the idea of a last-ditch donation to the planned Academy Museum.
"I am a little hurt. I mean, I don't feel that I should donate what I have left of my collection. … I did it all when nobody else would." Still there's one item that she's hanging on to -- an original Maltese Falcon (another sold last year for $4 million). Says the thrice-married Reynolds, "I'm keeping him. He's mine. It's one man that did not get away."