The grey wool suit that Gene Kelly wore in 1952 in the centerpiece number of the beloved MGM Hollywood musical Singin' in the Rain arguably one of the most famous musical numbers in all film history has surfaced after more than four decades, after being kept in a closet by retired Postal Service worker and memorabilia collector, Gerald Sola, of Northern California.
The suit will make its auction debut on Dec. 6 in Dallas as part of Heritage Auctions
Entertainment & Music event and could bring more than $20,000 when it comes up on the block.
Sola, who has been collecting Hollywood memorabilia most of his life, was sorting a stack of mail in the post office one evening in 1970 and saw a flyer for the now legendary MGM Auction on the studios back lot. He sent away his $5 for a catalog and, a month later, travelled down from Northern California to Los Angeles for the month-long event.
I stayed with my aunt and uncle, who lived down there, said Sola, now 72 and retired. I had the best time of my whole life. In fact, if there was one thing I could do over again from my life, it would be that, just because it was so much fun. It was like dying and going to heaven.
During the auction itself, thousands of costumes were sold in the range of $200 to $400, but there were still hundreds of thousands more costumes that then-MGM owner Kirk Kerkorian wanted sold to raise capital for a Las Vegas casino.
The company charged with running the auction decided to liquidate the inventory with a good old fashioned rack sale. It was during this end-period of the event that Sola, digging through those racks, came across a single-breasted suit of grey wool with multi-colored flecks, with a four-button front closure and a self-belt with a two-button closure. Inside, the label read: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Gene Kelly/No. 1546-8565.
I took it off the rack and looked at it, said Sola. I noticed right away that there were water stains in the jacket. I knew right away what it was from so I bought it.
The price? $10.
Sola now stands to make get a return on that investment a few thousand times over. While he insists that he never bought anything but for the love of it or he would have already sold the suit its still going to be the subject of many a collectors eye, not to mention bank accounts.
I think this is such a wonderful and historically important costume, said Margaret Barrett, Director of Entertainment & Music Auctions at Heritage. The scene where Gene Kelly wears this suit is instantly recognizable to people who may not have even seen this film but they know the song and they know the image of Don Lockwood spinning around a lamp post, in the pouring rain, while belting the song, Singin in the Rain. Now, 61 years later, looking at this suit, it brings back all those mind-blowing dance steps Gene Kelly did, soaking wet, no less, in one of the single greatest performances in Hollywood film. Its a treasure of Hollywood history and of our American popular culture.
Sola is ready to part with the suit after 43 years of safeguarding it and admiring it simply because he feels, like any true collector, that the time has come to let someone else take over stewardship of the piece.
Im 72, he said, and Ive had this stuff for a good many years. I feel like its time now to pass it on to someone else who wants it and will take care of it.