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 will carry the energy of the stars who performed in them,'' she once said, referring to the legends like Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Garland. ''There is a magic in very 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 Hitch'' for $4.6 million and Audrey Hepbuen's lace Royal Ascot number from ''My Fair Lady'' for $3.7 million - prices that shocked moviedon's aristocracy and proved Reynold's had been right.

Also sold, in some cases to anonymous overseas collectors, were Charleton 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, Deborrah Kerr and Cyd Charrise, as well as rare memorabilia from classics like ''The Wizard of Oz'' and ''The Maltese Falcon.''

''There are still amazing pieces,'' Bill Kramer, the museum's director, said by phone. Reynolds passed the item 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 pur 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.

''Debbie sat on my sofa and cried when she had to sell,'' Deborah Nadoolman Landis, founding director of the David C. Copley Center for Costume Design at the University of California, Los Angeles, said, recalling the first of three Reynolds auctions in 2011 and 2014.

''The academy bought nothing. It was a tragedy.''

The Honor and Serving of the Latest Operational Research on Hollywood, Stars and History continues. The World Students Society thanks author Brooks Barnes.


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