The so-called “subway” dress is perhaps the most recognizable in movie history. In Billy Wilder's 1955 movie, a passing train sent a draft through a grate as Monroe giddily stood above it proclaiming, “Isn't it delicious?” The William Travilla design was estimated to sell for between $1 million and $2 million, the crown jewel at a 12-hour auction of nearly 600 costumes and pieces of memorabilia being sold by actress Debbie Reynolds in Beverly Hills on Saturday.
Monroe's red-sequined dress from “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” went for $1.2 million. Its pre-sale estimate was $200,000 to $300,000. Audrey Hepburn's Ascot dress from “My Fair Lady,” carrying the same estimate, sold for $3.7 million.
The collection featured costumes worn by other Hollywood stars, from Grace Kelly, Natalie Wood and Elizabeth Taylor to Madonna and Mike Myers.
Reynolds, 79, began amassing the impressive collection when she was a young actress under contract at MGM. When the studio auctioned off everything except its real estate in 1970, she turned a pastime into what she called an “obsession.” But her dream of displaying her beloved costumes in a museum was dashed when a Tennessee project went bankrupt in 2006, and she was forced to sell them to pay back creditors. “Now everyone has the opportunity to own them,” Reynolds said.
Other costumes sold by auction house Profiles in History included:
- Judy Garland's blue cotton dress used in test shots for “The Wizard of Oz,” $910,000 (estimate: $60,000-$80,000)
- Kelly's rose crepe outfit from “To Catch a Thief,” $450,000 (estimate: $30,000-$50,000);
- Marlon Brando's elaborate coronation costume from “Napoleon Bonaparte,” $60,000 (estimate: $60,000-$80,000);
- Claude Rains' ivory military suit from “Casablanca,” $55,000 (estimate: $12,000-$15,000);
- Taylor's brown period dress from “Raintree County,” $10,000 (estimate: $10,000-$15,000);
- Madonna's black evening gown and shoes from “Evita,” $22,500 (estimate: $4,000-$6,000);
- Myers' swinging '60s blood-orange outfit from “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me,” $11,000 (estimate: $6,000-$8,000).
- Wood's real-life high-school graduation dress, $4,250 (estimate: $2,000-$3,000).
Photo: Audrey Hepburn's Ascot dress from “My Fair Lady”
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.