Debbie Reynolds and the Motion Pictures Archives
I was saddened at the news of Debbie Reynolds selling off her Hollywood Studios memorabilia collection of some 5000 pieces, but I quite understand. For years, going all the way back to the 70s I think, she has been collecting artifacts from what we now call “The Golden Age of Hollywood” hoping that she would be able to someday create a Museum that could house it all. The idea being that others would step up to the plate and aid her in this endeavor. But alas no one did. Or at least no one with enough money, power or clout. Nevertheless she heroically kept the faith…At one point she did have a place in her hotel in Las Vegas where several items in her collection were on display. I visited the place whenever I was in Las Vegas and found what she had interesting, fascinating and worthy of further study. My only wish was that there might be more.
It’s a shame that through no fault of hers, she couldn’t realize her dream. Because it wasn’t just hers alone it was for all of us who love movies and revere it as the definitive art of the 20th Century, the definitive American Art where roughly between 1920 and the 1960s Hollywood with all its faults and scandal and absurdities was a magical place like none other in our history. A real place where real people worked that took on the aura and legendary status of that mythical place Mount Olympus in ancient Greece.
The Hollywood Studios created what was called “The Great American Dream Machine” or “Dream Factory” and their product (for better or worse) defined our history, our character, our values and our spirit for the rest of the world. This legacy and how it was brought about deserved to be treasured and made available for all to look at and meditate upon in a protected environment such as a museum. The kind that Debbie Reynolds dreamed about and worked so hard to accomplish.
The same way that jazz defines New Orleans and America so does The Hollywood Film Industry, especially the old “Studio System” define both California and the USA. Shame on us for not realizing and appreciating that. Shame on us for not supporting Ms. Reynolds in her endeavor. I believe our culture will be poorer for it.