Orry-Kelly: Dressing Hollywood



Orry-Kelly was born on the last day of 1897 in the coastal NSW town of Kiama. 
Having a dream to become a broadway star, Orry left Sydney for New York in 1922 at the young age of 24.  

Having found limited success on the stage, he found employment as a tailor's assistant, then as a painter of murals for nightclubs and department stores. He would hand paint silk ties to make extra money.
His creative murals led to work as a tittle-designer for silent films  for Fox Film Corporation later designing sets and costumes on broadway. 

He had contracts with Twentieth-century Fox, Columbia, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, RKO Radio Pictures, United Artists and Paramount.  His costumes and designs had a "no frill" approach.  In the beginning he knew the only way to be different was to avoid glitter 

Orry-Kelly had dressed and created costumes for some of the greats during the golden age dressing Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Katherine Hepburn, Kay Francis, Marion Davies, Betty Grable, Errol Flynn, 
and of course the dress Marilyn Monroe wore in "Some Like It Hot".

Gillian Armstrong

Gillian Armstrong

I was lost for words by Gillian Armstrong speaking about her research of Orry-Kelly's life.  
She had started a documentary about him back in 2012, looking for the missing memoir, they had been looking for over 30 years. His long-lost memoir Women I've Undressed was finally found in a pillowcase by Orry's great-niece in 2014.
Gillian Armstrong spent three years of her life researching him.







Finally found in a warehouse located in the valley, Warner Brothers archives.
The box was unmarked, and inside contained loose papers which were parts Orry's memoir. Ann Warner collected personal items of Orry's with a broken heart, putting pictures into the box of Orrys-life.
Each of these objects was part of a great Australian's life, from beautiful drawings to pieces of fabric and inside also had three tarnished oscars. 

Gillian stated that "The most emotional moment was to see the three  oscars light and in a proper  glass case and presented" 

The three oscars he won were for:
An American in Paris (1951)
(shared with Walter Plunkett and Irene Sharaff) 

Les Girls (1957)
Some Like It Hot (1959) 


Gillian had said the exhibition was like a jewelry box, each object had a very special story to tell. 


Photographer Credit: Mark Gambino

As I entered the jewelry box I  was mesmerized by a time of glamor, beauty, and sophistication.  Each piece told a story about the costume and the process. Beautiful garments on display designed by one very talented  Australian. A true talent of understanding the wants and needs of the industry and character outfits. On display were original costumes, design sketches, production photographs, publicity materials, studio correspondence and film clips. 

The exhibition is free for all, so be sure to check it out. 

18/8/2015 until 17/1/2016

Special Thanks to ACMI