- Associated Press - Monday, June 20, 2011

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Marilyn Monroe dress that flirted revealingly with a gust of New York subway air in “The Seven Year Itch” fetched a record $4.6 million at an auction of film memorabilia.

A more sedate outfit worn by Audrey Hepburn in the Ascot race scene of “My Fair Lady” drew a $3.7 million bid at the sale of nearly 600 Hollywood costumes and props collected by film star Debbie Reynolds.

The buyers, who were not identified, also paid a sum to the auction house and other fees, according to auction publicity firm Nancy Seltzer & Associates. That brought the total price to more than $5.6 million for the Monroe costume and $4.5 million for the black-and-white gown worn by Hepburn.

The total was $22.8 million, according to auction house Profiles in History.

“I’m thrilled beyond words. This first auction shows that our great stars were loved by the world,” Reynolds said. She plans to part with more with items later this year.

In filmmaker Billy Wilder’s “The Seven Year Itch,” Monroe’s character cooled off by standing over a subway grate to catch the breeze as a train sped underneath _ which sent her dress north and exposed a shocking amount of leg and undergarment for a 1955 movie.

The costume’s price set two records, according to Profiles in History: It surpassed the $1.26 million paid for the dress Monroe wore when she sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy, and it became the most expensive film costume sold.

That honor had belonged to Hepburn’s black dress from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which sold for $923,000, the auction house said.

More modest but still impressive bids at Saturday’s auction in Beverly Hills and online included $540,000 for a Grace Kelly costume from “To Catch a Thief,” $140,000 for a guitar used by Julie Andrews in “The Sound of Music” and $100,000 for a “Cleopatra” headdress that adorned Elizabeth Taylor.

Reynolds, 79, started collecting four decades ago at auctions held by major film studios, including MGM and Fox, and eventually acquired 3,500-plus items.

The auction meant the end of a dream for Reynolds, who starred as a teenager with Gene Kelly in “Singin’ in the Rain” and was an Oscar nominee for “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

Reynolds‘ combined casino-hotel and memorabilia museum in Las Vegas closed and she had planned to relocate the museum to Pigeon Forge, Tenn. Last year, Reynolds‘ son, Todd Fisher, said the project had to file for bankruptcy protection and the collection would be sold to satisfy creditors.

Reynolds, who still performs in nightclubs and theaters and remains the petite, pretty blonde who captured Kelly’s heart in their 1952 musical, expressed regret in an interview last week. But she looked on the bright side as well.

“I won’t have so many children to take care of,” she said, “so I won’t have quite so much responsibility and I can rest a little more.”

More items are to be auctioned in December.