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Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Show Stopper: Debbie Reynolds Hollywood Costume Exhibit

Two Irenes from MGM
Pictured: Two Costumes by MGM Designer Irene Lentz
A few weeks ago, I discovered the Debbie Reynolds Costume Exhibit currently on display at the Paley Center in Beverly Hills.  I knew Debbie Reynolds had been buying up costumes and props from studios like MGM for years. I knew she was preparing to sell them at auction because I have seen her talking about it on TV shows like Oprah.  What I didn’t know was that for a small fee of $6.00 visitors to the Paley Center can view all these treasures.  The exhibit hasn’t received the attention that the current exhibit of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelry and fashions at MOCA has, but it is every bit as fascinating.  Charlie Chaplin’s bowler hat and the white dress Marilyn Monroe wore in The Seven Year Itch have already been sold, but there are still great pieces on display. (Marilyn's dress sold for a mere 4.6 million US.)

Reynolds costumes
Pictured: Julie Andrew's pantsuit from STAR!  flanked by Doris Day's Dumbo costumes.
Each costume is displayed on mannequin alongside a small monitor displaying the scene from the film where the costume was worn.  You’ll see Julie Andrews beautiful costumes from the movie STAR! along with her acting as Gertrude Lawrence in the film scene.  You’ll view Dean Martin’s tuxedo while you see scenes from his films and hear him singing.  The display technique of the film matched with the costume allows you to experience the full artistry of the costumes and the technique of costume on film. In many cases, the costumes look different in person, than they do on film . Colors look brighter and embellishments are amplified by the film’s lighting and cinematography.

Molly Brown dress
Pictured: Debbie Reynolds gown from The Unsinkable Molly Brown.
The crystals and beading on Debbie Reynolds gown from The Unsinkable Molly Brown were made to  sparkle under film lights.  It was no ordinary task for the designers to make these costumes.  They had to fit  the scene and the lightening as well as the actor or actress who wore the garment.  When you look at the costumes by MGM designers Irene Lentz and Helen Rose, you realize how accomplished they really were as film costume designers.

Going back much further than the MGM lot, there are costumes worn by stage actress Sarah Bernhardt along with some of her art/sculpture.  It’s amazing that Debbie Reynolds was able to find such rarities and preserve them.  If you live in Los Angeles or are visiting Southern California, take the opportunity to see these film artifacts before the rest are auctioned off and no longer available to view by the general public.  The exhibit is open at the Paley Center until Dec. 3, 2011. Thanks to Debbie Reynolds for preserving items from MGM Lot 3, and beyond, for all of us to enjoy.

1 comment:

  1. how do you find out the history of an irene dress??