Marilyn Monroe's Seven Year Itch dress sells for $4.6m

Marilyn Monroe in The Seven Year Itch (Sept 1954)

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The white dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in the 1955 film The Seven Year Itch has sold for $4.6m (£2.8m) at an auction in Los Angeles.

The dress was part of a collection of film memorabilia collected by actress Debbie Reynolds over four decades.

She had hoped to house them in a museum but the project never came to fruition.

Other lots included Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra headdress, a Charlie Chaplin bowler hat and the guitar played by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music.

Reynolds, 79, was in tears as the auction on the iconic Seven Year Itch dress closed, CNN reported.

Auction house Profiles in History had expected it to reach around $2m.

It was bought by an unidentified buyer bidding by telephone.

A red sequined dress and feathered headdress worn for Monroe's role in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes reached $1.47m and a saloon girl costume from River of No Return for $510,000.

Analysis

Debbie Reynolds has made a mint from her collection of costumes and artifacts, but the sale is tinged with sadness.

For decades the actress personally attended studio auctions to buy spectacular costumes from some of the most iconic films. For Reynolds it was a labour of love and reflected a passion to preserve the artifacts of Hollywood's golden age.

But little interest was shown in the collection from any organisation with the wherewithal to put it on display. The actress decided to sell off the items individually because caring for them had become a financial burden.

Joe Maddalena, who runs the auction house, Profiles in History, told me it reflected badly on Hollywood: "Why there isn't a movie hall of fame, a cultural institute to share this around the world is an atrocity. I don't think anybody cares enough about their heritage to do something about it."

Many of the items had been given to Reynolds by her close friend Dame Elizabeth Taylor, who died earlier this year. The horse racing outfit worn by Taylor as a child in National Velvet sold for $73,800.

The trademark bowler hat worn by Charlie Chaplin in several films, including The Little Tramp, reached $135,300 while a dress and pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the filming of The Wizard of Oz sold for $1.75m despite not having appeared in the film.

Keya Morgan, a collector of memorabilia and author of a book on Monroe, said the auction was "totally crazy, especially in this recession".

She told CNN Monroe would have been amazed to see her old outfits sell for so much.

Reynolds began collecting props and costumes in 1970 and had amassed some 3,500 items.

Speaking before the auction, she said the cost of maintaining them had become too high and that by selling them "I won't have quite so much responsibility and I can rest a little more".

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