The unsinkable Debbie Reynolds says she’s on a mission to build a Hollywood motion picture museum for her collection of 4,000 costumes and props “so the public can come and see the films and costumes they’ve adored.”
Reynolds, 72, began collecting costumes after attending an auction in 1970 at MGM. “I was so upset that they were selling the legacy of the motion picture business,” she says. “I wasn’t planning on buying anything but I got caught up in it. I went to the bank and withdrew all my savings and just kept buying.”
Today, the tireless performer tours 42 weeks a year to earn the money to keep up with it all.
Her extensive collection, valued at $30 million, ranges from costumes from the silent-screen era worn by Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin to wardrobes from contemporary films including the white suit worn by Tom Hanks in “Forrest Gump.” Last month, Reynolds acquired Audrey Hepburn’s “My Fair Lady” Ascot dress for $100,000.
At the top of her wish list: “Elizabeth (Taylor)’s coat she wore in ‘Cleopatra.’ We have the dress, but the coat was sent over to Europe and it never did get back to the States,” says Reynolds.
Reynolds won’t disclose where she houses her enormous collection, citing security reasons, but hopes it will finally be made available to the public if plans for a 25,000-square-foot museum on Belle Island in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., come to fruition.
The actress says developers have offered to build the facility on the island, which will also serve as home to a NASCAR museum and shopping complex.
Financial woes caused Reynolds to shutter her Las Vegas museum in 1997 and she’s given up on finding space in Hollywood. “We’ve been trying for many years to have a location,” she says. “I know it’s an impossible task, but I will endeavor to see it through.”