Legendary actress Debbie Reynolds spent decades buying, collecting and preserving movie costumes from Hollywood’s golden age. After numerous attempts at displaying them in a museum fell through, the iconic actress wound up auctioning off much of the priceless memorabilia. But some pieces still remain in her family’s possession, and Reynolds’ son, producer Todd Fisher, is doing his best to uphold his late mother’s wishes that the public be able to enjoy these rare pieces of cinema history.
On Wednesday, April 5, Fisher spoke with Us Weekly at the TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood, where he brought a few of his mother’s most memorable costumes to be displayed for festival pass-holders. (The TCM Classic Film Festival runs from April 6-9.)
“It is special, of course because of what just happened,” Fisher tells Us of sharing his mom’s one-of-a-kind dresses with the public after her death at age 84 in December, one day following her daughter Carrie Fisher‘s unexpected passing. “And because of our family’s fondness for TCM. At my mother and sister’s houses, TCM was on all the time. My mother loved to watch old movies and drink wine! That was one of her favorite pastimes.”
Fisher says that while he didn’t always understand his mother’s fondness for collecting the memorabilia, he was exposed to it at an early age. “During the MGM auctions, I was young,” he explains. “I was 11 years old, so I didn’t know what was going on. The costumes I did not understand at all.” Later, he says, he came to appreciate the magic in the items his mother kept. “A movie is two dimensional, and it’s a re-creation of many prints and copies, but these aren’t re-creations or copies, they’re the three-dimensional objects that were worn by these great stars. These are the last things they were in when these great moments were created. And that’s pretty magical.”
He adds, “That’s why my mother always thought that these costumes were so important. It was not because she was obsessed with costumes, but what we used to always say — and Carrie coined the phrase — she’d say, ‘These are the tangibles. These are the things that remain.’ It’s something you look at that brings you back to that unforgettable scene from the film and connects you to that moment. And that was always my mother’s goal.”
One history Reynolds wasn’t all that interested in preserving, Fisher says, was her own. But the producer decided to do that for her. “I have a collection of my mom’s costumes,” Fisher tells Us. “She didn’t collect her own costumes. She had a couple of them, but not many. She didn’t want to collect her own stuff. But as they came along and I got older, I started personally collecting her costumes. So I have almost all of them, from almost all of her movies.”
And Fisher has plans to share his famous family’s incredible legacy with the public. The producer says he plans to build a museum honoring his mother and his sister near the Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio in North Hollywood, California. “What we’re going to do is take Carrie’s writing room, and Debbie’s living room, and we’re going to transplant them into a museum so you can see their rooms,” he says. “We’re going to have their rooms exactly the way they left them when they passed. Everything that was out on the table will be just as they left it. Carrie wrote longhand, so I’ll have her notes, everything that was there. Same for Debbie. And I’d like to display some of their costumes and some of their favorite props and Hollywood knick knacks and things that they collected. And I’d love to include their Broadway costumes and their Vegas costumes. I have the very early ones that Carrie and I both wore onstage with our mom when we were little kids. You’ll see their history, both of them.”
Fisher is confident he’d have his mother’s approval when it comes to sharing her collection with her fans. “My mother would support that,” he says, “and she’d want me to support it and I hope that it happens.”
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