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The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has acquired numerous iconic movie costumes over the last year through generous donations, partial gifts and purchase. Costume design will be one of the many motion picture arts explored in the museum’s inaugural exhibitions.
Among the additions to the fast-growing collection is the cape that Bela Lugosi wore in his legendary performance as the title character in “Dracula.” A partial gift from the Lugosi family, the famed cape was personally owned by Bela Lugosi after filming the classic. Following the runaway success of the 1931 movie, Lugosi continued to wear the cape on stage and in personal appearances. The cape remained in his possession until his death, and then in the possession of his ex-wife, Lillian Lugosi. Lillian later presented it to their son, Bela G. Lugosi.
“My father’s screen-worn cape has had a very special place in my life and in the lives of my children and grandchildren. In fact, it has been a part of my mother’s household and then my household since I was born — for over 80 years,” Bela G. Lugosi said. “After several years of discussions with founding Director Kerry Brougher, who showed such care and appreciation of its important role in film history, it became clear that there is no better home for the cape than the Academy Museum, allowing movie lovers to view a piece of classic horror film history and enjoy Bela Lugosi’s acclaimed performance for years to come.”
Exhibitions Curator Jessica Niebel said, “This outstanding acquisition simultaneously represents the character of Count Dracula as a cultural icon and the life and career of an extraordinary actor, Bela Lugosi. It is important to us as a museum to be able to restore and safeguard this artifact, especially knowing that much of the material history of the classic horror cycle has been lost forever. We are deeply grateful to the Lugosi family for entrusting us with a treasure that means so much to them.”
Other major gifts include Jennifer Jones’ wedding dress in “Madame Bovary,” a gown worn by Ann Blyth in “The King’s Thief” and Shirley Temple’s gown, cape, crown and scepter from “The Little Princess.” Like many of the costumes worn by the child star, whose outfits could not be easily repurposed for use in other films, they are in near-pristine condition.
The museum has also expanded its collection through purchase, acquiring items including costumes from “The Shining,” the black wig worn by Elizabeth Taylor in “Cleopatra,” Saorise Ronan’s costume as Mary Stuart in “Mary Queen of Scots” and more.
The Academy Museum has actively been acquiring three-dimensional motion picture objects since 2008. Its holdings now number approximately 3,500 items representing costume design, motion picture technology, makeup and hairstyling, promotional materials and memorabilia, production design and awards. The museum’s debut has been delayed until 2020 with no opening date set.
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