LOS ANGELES If you ever wanted to relive the movie scene in which Marilyn Monroe's dress is blown upwards by a burst of air, you will get a chance on Saturday when her gown from "The Seven Year Itch" goes on auction.
Expect to fork over at least $1 million to $2 million for the ivory rayon-acetate halter dress with pleated skirt, one of about 500 wardrobe items being offloaded by actress and lifetime collector Debbie Reynolds at a Beverly Hills sale.
The so-called "subway grate" dress is the jewel in a collection that includes costumes previously worn by the likes of Grace Kelly, Natalie Wood, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn, Marlon Brando, Julie Andrews and Madonna.
And Mike Myers. One of his shagadelic "Austin Powers" combos, a groovy blood-orange number, is on the block for a relatively modest estimate of $6,000 to $8,000.
Reynolds, 79, has been collecting costumes since her early days as a contract actress at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where she spent her spare time in the wardrobe department watching the artisans create movie history with needles and thread.
When the cash-strapped Hollywood studios started selling off their movie props in the 1970s, Reynolds presciently scooped up the best items. She used her connections to buy many items before they went on auction.
The dream was to display the 3,000-odd costumes in a museum, but that never came to fruition. A planned project in Tennessee went bankrupt in 2009, and a heartbroken Reynolds was forced to sell her beloved collection to pay back creditors. Several sales are planned.
"As I turn these precious items over to the auction, my wish is that they will find homes where they will be revered and preserved along with their history," Reynolds said.
Among the items are nine dresses that Reynolds wore in such films as "The Unsinkable Molly Brown," "How the West Was Won" and "Singin' in the Rain."
Prices for entertainment memorabilia have not been affected by the recession, so many of the estimates will likely be easily exceeded. Perhaps the real test of buyers' appetites will be what amounts to a heap of dirty rags: a tattered brown robe worn by Charlton Heston in "Planet of the Apes" is expected to fetch $8,000 to $12,000.
Also up for grabs at the Profiles in History sale are:
- Monroe's red-sequined dress from "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" ($200,000 to $300,000);
- Hepburn's Cecil Beaton-designed Ascot dress from "My Fair Lady" ($200,000-$300,000);
- replicas of Judy Garland's blue cotton dress ($60,000-$80,000) and ruby slippers ($120,000-$150,000) used in test shots for "The Wizard of Oz";
- an elaborate coronation costume worn by Brando in "Napoleon Bonaparte" ($60,000-$80,000);
- the "Do-Re-Mi" dress worn by Andrews in "The Sound of Music" ($40,000-$60,000);
- Kelly's rose crepe outfit from "To Catch a Thief" ($30,000-$50,000);
- an ivory military suit worn by Claude Rains in his Oscar-nominated "Casablanca" role as Captain Louis Renault ($12,000-$15,000);
- Taylor's brown period dress from "Raintree County" ($10,000-$15,000);
- Madonna's black evening gown and shoes from "Evita" ($4,000-$6,000);
- Wood's real-life high-school graduation dress ($2,000-$3,000).
(Reporting by Dean Goodman; Editing by Nichola Groom)