Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Orry-Kelly - he's back ...

A hefty 420 page tome landed on my coffee table yesterday - Orry-Kelly's memoirs from 50 years ago - in a glamorous book crammed with photos and Orry's true story of his youth in Australia and move to New York in 1932 when he took up with another aspiring young man: Archie Leach from Bristol. They moved in together as they pursued their respective careers. The penny-pinching Archie of course became Cary Grant (who later moved in with Randolph Scott to save rent money ...) - we get Orry's take on all that, as he of course became one of the leading dress designers in Hollywood: the book's full title is: WOMEN I'VE DRESSED - THE FABULOUS LIFE AND TIMES OF A LEGENDARY HOLLYWOOD DESIGNER.

Reading the rave review in the weekend papers I felt this had to be a con, a fake concocted by some hack - but its the real thing. Orry's 50 year old memoir was found in a pillowcase by his great-niece in her laundry room, and its been given the full gloss treatment by reputable publishers Allen & Unwin, and is well worth the price for the photos alone.  

Orry (1897-1964) was a costume designer per excellence (he was chief costume designer at Warner Bros from 1932 to 1944) and won an Oscar three times (AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, LES GIRLS, SOME LIKE IT HOT); he dressed Hollywood's leading ladies including Bette Davis in all her great movies (JEZEBEL, DARK VICTORY, NOW VOYAGER etc), Ingrid Bergman in CASABLANCA, he was great friends with Fanny Brice, Kay Francis and Roz Russell, he liked Olivia  but clashed with her sister Joan, loved working with Kay Kendall and has some delicious stories on making LES GIRLS, a particular favourite of ours here - see label - and also clashed with Marilyn Monroe when designing those incredible dresse for her on SOME LIKE IT HOT, where he also dressed Jack and Tony in those 1920s costumes .... he also did THE CHAPMAN REPORT, SWEET  BIRD OF YOUTH, GYPSY, AUNTIE MAME and so many more.
He did several Billy Wilder films and when he died of liver cancer in 1964 pall bearers at his funeral included Cary, Tony Curtis, Wilder and Cukor. 

He had quite a wild time when young in Sydney - he was 17 when he moved there -  and we get it all in detail, before his move to the States. Its page 160 before he arrives in Hollywood .... and became one of the great designers, on a par with Adrian, Irene Sharaff, Edith Head, Travis Banton, Jean Louis ... he often worked on as many as 60 films a year. We get some Garbo stories, and he used to dine with Cukor, Cole Porter, and the Hollywood elite. He did have a problem with alcohol in his later years ... but comes across as as a happy, likeable guy - widely perceived to be gay, but he kept that under wraps here - well, it was written over 50 years ago (and Cary was still alive). So, highly recommended .... there will hardly be a more glamorous book this year.  

It is also going to be a film: WOMEN HE'S UNDRESSED, directed by fellow Australian Gillian Armstrong, who writes the foreword here. That should be fascinating too. 


  1. Not sure I want to fork out for the book (I mean where would I put it!!) but the film sounds great!


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