The iconic white dress that cinema siren Marilyn Monroe wore as she stood giddy and beaming atop a subway grate in the ’50s comedy The Seven-Year Itch was sold at an auction for $4.6 million over the weekend — more than double the $2 million it had been expected to fetch.
The dress — arguably the most famous in film history — was bought by an anonymous telephone bidder at the Profiles in History auction in Beverly Hills over the weekend. It was immortalized in Billy Wilder’s 1955 movie when Monroe walked over a subway grate and a sudden rush of air blew her dress up to give a flash of her underwear.
Its former owner, Singin’ in the Rain actress Debbie Reynolds, now 79, wept after it was sold. She began amassing an impressive collection of cinema memorabilia 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.” Many of the items were given to Reynolds by her late friend, Dame Elizabeth Taylor, who died in March. Reynolds hoped to house them in a museum but the project never came to light. The mother of Star Wars actress Carrie Fisher has been forced to sell off her memorabilia collection to pay off mounting debt.
“I think it’s sad, but I think it’s the only way it can happen. It’s the only way I can save it. I can’t maintain it any more…By selling them I won’t have quite so much responsibility and I can rest a little more”.
Iconic movie costumes worn by Charlie Chaplin, Judy Garland and Marilyn Monroe were also sold at Saturday’s auction. Judy Garland’s blue cotton dress and ruby red slippers from The Wizard of Oz and Charlie Chaplin’s Tramp bowler hat were among the 3,500 items, 20,000 photographs, and hundreds of props and other decorations up for auction. Marilyn’s red-sequined dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes was unloaded for $1.2 million, while Audrey Hepburn’s Ascot dress, the one she wore as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady sold for $3.7 million. The horse racing outfit worn by an 11-year-old Elizabeth Taylor in the ’40s film National Velvet went for $73,800.
A second sale from the Reynolds collection is planned for December.