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New Academy Museum of Motion Pictures to Display Debbie Reynolds' Collection


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This was in the New York Times today.  I've copied and pasted the contents as the New York Times likes to bury things behind a paywall sometimes.  It's working right now, apparently.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/16/movies/academy-museum-debbie-reynolds-costumes.html?fbclid=IwAR1li-aH-AARbv3R36JdJ4DCfotE7_6Z9tgOxecOzw8stZ5oJdc7ciWHfDw

Academy Museum Gives Debbie Reynolds Her Due as a Costume Conservator

When the “Singin’ in the Rain” actress was alive, the film academy turned up its nose at her fabled costume collection. Now it has gone to her son with hat in hand.

“My mother was one of the most forgiving people ever,” said Todd Fisher, Debbie Reynolds’s son, who inherited the remaining part of her collection. “She would never want me to hold a grudge.”

LOS ANGELES — For decades, Debbie Reynolds begged Hollywood to help her preserve and exhibit her vast collection of golden age costumes. “These pieces are cultural touchstones that still carry the energy of the stars who performed in them,” she once said, referring to legends like Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Garland. “There is magic in every thread, button and bow.”

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences turned her down — five times. Reynolds quoted an uninterested David Geffen in her 2013 memoir as once saying, “Why don’t you just sell that stuff?”

In debt, she finally had no other choice, auctioning Marilyn Monroe’s ivory-pleated halter dress that blew upward in “The Seven Year Itch” for $4.6 million and Audrey Hepburn’s lace Royal Ascot number from “My Fair Lady” for $3.7 million — prices that shocked moviedom’s aristocracy and proved Reynolds had been right. Also sold, in some cases to anonymous overseas collectors, were Charlton Heston’s “Ben-Hur” tunic and cape, the acoustic guitar Julie Andrews strummed in “The Sound of Music” and every hat that Vivien Leigh flaunted in “Gone With the Wind.”

Hollywood didn’t give a damn.

Now, four years after she died at 84, there has been a plot twist in the Debbie Reynolds costume collection saga, one that she would undoubtedly find both maddening and satisfying: The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, set to open on April 30 and costing $482 million, finds itself caring about her collection — at least the part that is left, which includes iconic costumes she wore in movies like “Singin’ in the Rain.” Also remaining are screen garments created for Mary Pickford, Deborah Kerr and Cyd Charisse, as well as rare memorabilia from classics like “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Maltese Falcon.”

Costumes from “Singin’ in the Rain” are part of Reynolds’s collection.

A pair of ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz.”

“There are still amazing pieces,” Bill Kramer, the museum’s director, said by phone. Reynolds passed the items to her son, Todd Fisher, a major collector in his own right, who has long focused on film cameras and lenses, or “cinema glass.” Fisher also inherited “Star Wars” memorabilia owned by his sister, Carrie Fisher, who died a day before their mother in 2016.

“I approached Todd about a year ago with the idea of naming our museum’s conservation studio after his mother, who was so key to our history, not only as an artist — acting, dancing, singing, her comedy — but also as a collector and preservationist,” Kramer said. “It turned into a conversation about how we might be able to work with Todd and the collection to bring Debbie’s legacy — and Todd’s and Carrie’s — into the museum in a tangible way.”

Todd Fisher also inherited “Star Wars” memorabilia owned by his sister, Carrie Fisher, seen here with Reynolds, her mother.

So far, Fisher has agreed to lend the Academy Museum one item from his own collection: a set of seven Bausch and Lomb Baltar lenses used by Gregg Toland, the fabled “Citizen Kane” cinematographer. But Fisher, 62, said more items would come, as long as the Debbie Reynolds Conservation Studio exists on the museum’s lower level next to the Shirley Temple Education Studio.

“My mother was one of the most forgiving people ever,” Fisher said. “She would never want me to hold a grudge just because I have knowledge of all the missed opportunities — how the people running the academy in the past were never willing to step up and support her. She would have wanted me to share these important artifacts with future generations. So, as long as they are properly recognizing my mother for her contribution to this discipline, I agreed to provide access to whatever I have access to.”

Fisher continued: “I’m still here, and I know where a lot of it is — where key pieces ended up. I’m still here, and I still have some of it.”

So far, Fisher, 62, has agreed to loan the Academy Museum one item from his own collection, but he said more would come as long as his mother’s legacy was being honored.

The academy, founded in 1927, started collecting films and materials related to them in 1929. Its vast holdings include more than 100,000 titles, including obscure documentaries and early American movies; roughly 10 million photographs; 80,000 screenplays; 50,000 posters; and tens of thousands of production and costume design drawings.

But the actual garments never ranked. Deborah Nadoolman Landis, founding director of the David C. Copley Center for Costume Design at the University of California, Los Angeles, pointed out that an Oscar was not awarded for the art until 1949 and costume designers were not able to secure their own membership branch within the academy until 2013.

“I think it was institutionalized sexism,” Landis said. “Our field was considered women’s work and treated with disrespect.” Landis has been a member of the academy since 1988. Her costume design credits include “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (you can thank her for Indy’s fedora and jacket) and “Coming to America,” for which she was nominated for an Oscar. 

Some costumes and props from Hollywood’s early decades have only survived because electricians, makeup artists and other behind-the-scenes workers took items home (or scavenged them from garbage bins) and passed them down as family heirlooms. In some instances, studios cut up old costumes to use as floor rags. Reynolds started her collection in 1970, when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer sold the contents of seven soundstages; she emptied her bank accounts to buy hundreds of items, including Elizabeth Taylor’s pink and yellow racing silks from “National Velvet” and Leslie Caron’s plaid schoolgirl outfit from “Gigi,” complete with wool cape and straw hat.

A set of lenses used to film “The Godfather.”

“Debbie sat on my sofa and cried when she had to sell,” Landis said, recalling the first of three Reynolds auctions in 2011 and 2014. “The academy bought nothing. It was a tragedy.”

Kramer noted that the Academy Museum had recently purchased an array of costumes in private transactions, including Marlene Dietrich’s evening robe from “Blonde Venus” (1932), Gene Kelly’s sweater and slacks from “An American in Paris,” and a denim and flannel outfit worn by Kathy Bates in “Misery.” Leonardo DiCaprio, Steven Spielberg and Terry Semel, the former Warner Bros. chief, teamed in 2012 to buy a pair of ruby slippers from “The Wizard of Oz” for the museum, which was then pointed toward an opening in 2017. (Four pairs, size 5, are known to survive.)

And some things have recently been gifted in full or part to the museum, including Bela Lugosi’s floor-length “Dracula” cape. (Museum conservators have worked to restore it. The black wool exterior and taupe silk crepe lining tore apart over the years, likely the result of changing humidity.) “It is important to us as a museum to be able to restore and safeguard this artifact, especially knowing that much of the material history of the classic horror cycle has been lost forever,” Jessica Niebel, exhibitions curator, said in a statement last year.

Props donated to the museum include one of the “Rosebud” sleds made for “Citizen Kane.” (Three were made. Two were burned during filming.) A full-scale fiberglass “Jaws” shark, salvaged from a junkyard in 2016 and restored, will be on display.

The new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is set to open April 30 in Los Angeles.

Designed by Renzo Piano, the Academy Museum, which announced on Friday that it had reached its pre-opening fund-raising goal, hopes to attract more than 800,000 visitors a year. To do so, Kramer must appeal to two discordant audiences, offering scholarship for academy members (and students and film snobs) and sparkle for the masses. Approached in the right way, costumes could serve both needs — as Landis demonstrated in 2012, when she curated Hollywood Costume, an exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. (The Los Angeles County Museum of Art was initially approached with the exhibition idea and passed.)

The New York Times called Hollywood Costume “extraordinary” and “intelligent.” The exhibition, which finally made its way to Los Angeles in 2014 with Kramer’s help, turned into a blockbuster, ranking as one of the biggest draws in the V & A’s 168-year history.

It included at least eight showstopping pieces from Reynolds’s original collection.

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I remember interviews with Debbie in which she would mention her wish to display her inventory and she was indeed flabbergasted that no one was interested. I'm so glad her son is making it happen.

Thanks for pasting the article, speedracer5.

Those paywalls are annoying....but I understand why they use them.

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On 11/16/2020 at 9:30 PM, speedracer5 said:

attract more than 800,000 visitors a year

Count me in as one of them. 

When I had the incredible good fortune to meet Debbie Reynolds, that's exactly what I spoke with her about, her costume collection. I thanked her so much for gathering them together, the incredible cost of storing them and how important these items are for illustrating the artistry of American film productions. It's thrilling to see the actual sizes of the movie stars by the mannequins wearing the garments. Sometimes costumes are pinned together unfinished and other times they have incredible hand sewn detail.

It's an illustration of an industry of people who MADE things and made a living doing it. On a personal note, I actually know a Hollywood costumer, it's a tough, innovative, fascinating business. I think the backdrop paintings and props are also fascinating Hollywood History and deserve preservation & exhibition as well.

And I appreciate Todd's interest in camera equipment: I once sold old Hollywood camera equipment & lenses on ebay for a client. I didn't have any idea what I was selling, but people paid big bucks for it. 

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2 hours ago, UMO1982 said:

Could they have built an uglier building? I doubt it.

There were soliciting for donations for the museum at the TCM Film Festival a few years back.  It was part of the printed materials you received with your pass.

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4 hours ago, TikiSoo said:

Count me in as one of them. 

When I had the incredible good fortune to meet Debbie Reynolds, that's exactly what I spoke with her about, her costume collection. I thanked her so much for gathering them together, the incredible cost of storing them and how important these items are for illustrating the artistry of American film productions. It's thrilling to see the actual sizes of the movie stars by the mannequins wearing the garments. Sometimes costumes are pinned together unfinished and other times they have incredible hand sewn detail.

It's an illustration of an industry of people who MADE things and made a living doing it. On a personal note, I actually know a Hollywood costumer, it's a tough, innovative, fascinating business. I think the backdrop paintings and props are also fascinating Hollywood History and deserve preservation & exhibition as well.

And I appreciate Todd's interest in camera equipment: I once sold old Hollywood camera equipment & lenses on ebay for a client. I didn't have any idea what I was selling, but people paid big bucks for it. 

I wish I could have met Debbie.  That would have been amazing.  I love seeing costumes in person, especially costumes that were in b&w films.  I saw Ginger Rogers' beaded gown with the hood that she wears near the end of The Major and the Minor.  I had pictured the dress being light pink.  And I realize that costumes may discolor with age, but I was pretty close in my guess.  Ginger's dress was a peach color.  I also saw Lucille Ball's brown dress that she wears in The Long Long Trailer.  That was amazing.  It's fascinating to see how small the costumes are, though Lucy's was pretty average for a woman with a good figure--but not someone who was extremely thin like Audrey Hepburn. Ginger's dress was probably the equivalent to a modern size 4. 

When we're allowed to travel again and everything is operating normally, I definitely want to go down to LA to go to this museum.  

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After my son and I attended  Debbie's show at her Las Vegas Hotel in 1998, we went to her Movie Museum also located in the hotel.  Her employee in the museum, Bob Isoz, gave a presentation of her many costumes complete with revolving stage.  We saw Betty Grable's dress from The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend,  Gene Kelly's and Donald O'Connor's suits from the "Fit as a Fiddle" number in Singin' in the Rain (they looked so small!), Marilyn's pleated dress in The Seven Year Itch (Bob pointed out that it was similar to a yellow dress Grable had worn in 1951's Meet Me After the Show) Charlton Heston's tunic from Ben Hur and so much more.  This was, obviously, before Debbie's sale.  Before her show, we met Debbie.  She came out to greet everyone standing in line in the hallway.  I was with my 22 year old son.  She said "I'll bet your dad had to drag you to see me and you don't even know who I am!"  I answered "All I had to tell him was that you're Princess Leia's mother and he was on board."  She must have gotten a kick out of my comment, because she used it in her show!

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Endless bravos to Debbie Reynolds. She was rare among the Golden Age stars for actually caring about and being knowledgeable about the films and stars who preceded her. Roddy McDowall was another who who cared deeply about Hollywood history.

 

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On 11/19/2020 at 2:33 PM, UMO1982 said:

Endless bravos to Debbie Reynolds. She was rare among the Golden Age stars for actually caring about and being knowledgeable about the films and stars who preceded her. Roddy McDowall was another who who cared deeply about Hollywood history.

 

yeah, camera stuff is always fun....

that building looks like a piece of the death star behind a radiotelescope dish.

:D

 

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On 11/19/2020 at 5:46 AM, UMO1982 said:

Could they have built an uglier building? I doubt it.

Personally, I think it was great that they didn't raze the old Fairfax area May Co. Building and incorporated its Art Deco corner facade into this new museum's overall design.

(...and something of which for years happened very rarely in L.A., resulting in the loss of so much of this city's architectual history and heritage)

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7 hours ago, Dargo said:
On 11/19/2020 at 8:46 AM, UMO1982 said:

Could they have built an uglier building? I doubt it.

Personally, I think it was great that they didn't raze the old Fairfax area May Co. Building and incorporated its Art Deco corner facade into this new museum's overall design.

I don't see an old Department Store façade, I only see a concrete ball that looks like a bunker for the apocolypse.

Looked further and found pix from the other side. I kind of like that the decoration looks like a stack of golden film cans!

lacma_west_a_l.jpg

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2 hours ago, TikiSoo said:

I don't see an old Department Store façade, I only see a concrete ball that looks like a bunker for the apocolypse.

Looked further and found pix from the other side. I kind of like that the decoration looks like a stack of golden film cans!

lacma_west_a_l.jpg

Yes, this look of what can indeed be interpreted as stacked up movie reels was I believe the reason behind the architect's decision keep the old May Co. building as part of this museum's design.

(...I know every time I'd drive through the intersection of Wilshire and Fairfax, this building would always catch my eye all those years I resided in L.A., anyway)

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12 minutes ago, UMO1982 said:

Looks better from that angle.....

So, then we'll jot you down in the "I like Art Deco" column and not the "I like Post-Modern" column here then, right UMO???  

(...Frank Gehry in particular will be most disapointed to hear this, ya know) ;)

LOL

 

 

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On 11/21/2020 at 7:38 AM, TikiSoo said:

I don't see an old Department Store façade, I only see a concrete ball that looks like a bunker for the apocolypse.

Looked further and found pix from the other side. I kind of like that the decoration looks like a stack of golden film cans!

lacma_west_a_l.jpg

And the rows of windows sort of look like sprocket holes. Seeing it squared off like this it seems like storage, display and performance spaces would be maximized and it is a museum, after all. What's done is done as far as the outside goes, but I'm really curious to see the inside, though I doubt I ever will. 

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On 11/21/2020 at 9:50 AM, Dargo said:

Yes, this look of what can indeed be interpreted as stacked up movie reels was I believe the reason behind the architect's decision keep the old May Co. building as part of this museum's design.

(...I know every time I'd drive through the intersection of Wilshire and Fairfax, this building would always catch my eye all those years I resided in L.A., anyway)

So, May Co. was/is a real place, eh?   Gracie Allen and her friend Blanche shop there all the time.  I long thought it was a "made up" store just for the program( "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show")   

Still in business, or gone the way SEARS seems to have?

Sepiatone

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31 minutes ago, Sepiatone said:

So, May Co. was/is a real place, eh?   Gracie Allen and her friend Blanche shop there all the time.  I long thought it was a "made up" store just for the program( "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show")   

Still in business, or gone the way SEARS seems to have?

Sepiatone

May Company was a large chain founded in the 1870s in Molly Brown's old stomping grounds of Leadville, CO.  It became a chain of various department stores across the country through acquisitions over the years.  Some stores that were part of The May Co. at one time or another include:

  • Famous-Barr
  • May Co.
  • Kaufmann's
  • Strouss
  • May-Daniels & Fisher
  • Hecht
  • Meier & Frank
  • Robinson's
  • Loehmann's
  • Lord & Taylor
  • Foley's (which had already acquired Sanger Harris)
  • Filene's
  • Marshall Field's

May was bought out by Federated in the mid 2000s and their stores remaining at that time were folded into the Macy's division of Federated.

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22 hours ago, Sepiatone said:

So, May Co. was/is a real place, eh?   Gracie Allen and her friend Blanche shop there all the time.  I long thought it was a "made up" store just for the program( "The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show")   

Still in business, or gone the way SEARS seems to have?

Sepiatone

No Sepia, as Tex just explained here, the May Company department store chain was quite real out this way. 

In fact, here's a shot of one which you can see in the background of the following photo taken in 1960 and one which was then the latest May Co. to be built and opened in my area of Los Angeles' South Bay (the city of Redondo Beach CA) and which would be the anchor store for one of the largest shopping centers in the U.S. at the time.

Recognize the guy standing up in the car in the foreground here and where you can barely make out the "MAY" of the large May Co. signage on the building just to the left of his head?...

MYPiaze.jpg

Yep, that's JFK alright, and I remember going to see him when I was 8 years old when one of his 1960 presidential campaign stops was right here.

In fact, the more I look at this picture, the more I think that the kid you see in the background at the 11 o'clock position from the cop's hat just off center to the right,  just might be ME. I kid you not, 'cause the other kids around that kid look like the Carey boys who lived across the street from me, and who I remember going with to see JFK that day. This shopping center being just a half-mile's walk from our neighborhood. Tommy Carey there was always a loudmouth who could never keep his big yap shut, ya know. ;) And, I do remember having my back to the May Co. building as I saw the future President drive by.

(...btw...I found this image just now on the internet, in the archives of the now defunct local newpaper in the area called "The Daily Breeze")

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;)  Hee-hee-hee;   Confused me a minute there.  "LEFT of his head...."    took a few to realize you meant HIS left!  ;)   Looking at the photo, to THE left was only some goober wearing glasses and some indistinct building way off in the background.   Reminds me of another sort of thing....

A good friend and co-worker of mine came to the Detroit area from his hometown of the Cleveland , Ohio  suburb of Parma.  It was he that also informed me that the HIGBEE'S department store mentioned in the movie A CHRISTMAS STORY was an actual chain of department stores that had branches all over Ohio and Indiana.  But we didn't have any in Michigan.  

Thanks to Tex and you for the info.

Keep safe this Thanksgiving and also keep the Bromo handy.  ;) 

Sepiatone

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May Co. can also be seen in the 1991 Sally Field film Soapdish, the Topanga Plaza standing in for a New York shopping destination for soap actress Celeste Talbert (Field) and writer Rose Schwartz (Whoopi Goldberg). In 1993 the store was re-branded as Robinsons-May and again in 2006 as Macy*s.

 

ScreenShot118.png

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I started my career working in an historical Main Street Department store, eventually bought by May Co in the late 80's. It looked very much like that shot above. I miss the elegance of these stores and camaraderie among employees especially. When the stores finally closed, some of my favorite mannequins came home with me,  now living in the attic.

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2 hours ago, TikiSoo said:

I started my career working in an historical Main Street Department store, eventually bought by May Co in the late 80's. It looked very much like that shot above. I miss the elegance of these stores and camaraderie among employees especially. When the stores finally closed, some of my favorite mannequins came home with me,  now living in the attic.

Mannequins living in the attic is a movie treatment waiting to happen. Then maybe years from now, the Academy Museum would bid a fortune for the mannequins themselves, to be housed near the Debbie Reynolds collection. (I have to ask: Do they have names?)

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