Thursday, July 28, 2016


By José Alberto Hermosillo
Women He’s Undressed

A triumph, this documentary is glamorous and splendid! A milestone for the Golden Age of Hollywood!

“Women He’s Undressed” is a personal outlook on the life, creations, and romance of the legendary Academy Award winner Australian costume designer Orry-Kelly (“Some Like It Hot,” “Casablanca,” “An American in Paris”).

Australian Poster

“Women He’s Undressed” is a well-researched documentary with immense material that no one ever imagined existed. It contains plenty of fantastic footage of many of the films Orry-Kelly worked on designing clothes for the biggest movie starts and mesmerizing audiences worldwide.

The interviews with directors, historians, celebrities, collectors, and close friends were well-staged. They remember Kelly’s work, talent, and friendship with admiration and high appreciation.

Women He’s Undressed

During Hollywood’s Golden Age, Orry-Kelly designed clothes for more than 282 movies. “Nothing makes you a better designer than practice.”

This documentary focused heavily on the dirt of the designer’s private life. At the time, it could have been an epic scandal. But how was it possible to have a personal experience when he was working on a set sixteen hours a day, 50 movies a year?
Women He’s Undressed
Director Gillian Armstrong. Photo by Tim Baure
Despite Orry-Kelly’s controversial life, director Gillian Armstrong kept it classy.

Orry-Kelly dressed and undressed many actors and actresses, including Dolores Del Rio, Marilyn Monroe, Betty Davis, Ingrid Bergman, Betty Grable, Ava Garner, Loretta Young, Angela Lansbury, Natalie Wood, and Jane Fonda.
Women He’s Undressed
Photo courtesy of Wolfe Video
“Orry-Kelly was one of the greatest costume designers of all time.” He studied the stars’ anatomy, making them look striking by accentuating their best features with glamorous results.

Most of the wardrobe Kelly designed for the movies was done in sharp colors, even if the film was in black and white. As it happens with “Jezebel” and the famous dress that Bette Davis wore emulating the “red dress” of “Gone with the Wind.” People assured me the dress looked in color. 
Women He’s Undressed
Photo courtesy of Wolfe Video

Kelly brought his genius vision so effectively to the story that the wardrobe worn by the stars added authenticity and facilitated the film’s success.

When his popularity skyrocketed, Kelly became a close friend to many stars.

Kelly’s designs were elegant, classy, stunning, and minimalist, as seen in the classic western “Oklahoma!”
Women He’s Undressed
Veda Ann Borg and Orry-Kelly, CA 1937

Some of the dresses Kelly designed for Hollywood’s classics are now part of private collections and museums. Others auctioned for thousands of dollars.

Women He’s Undressed
Photo courtesy of Wolfe Video
Orry-Kelly’s life became controversial when rumors about his affair with one of the most well-known Hollywood actors surfaced.
Women He’s Undressed
“Women He’s Undressed,” Orry-Kelly’s funeral cortege. Photo Prudence Upton
“He kept his secret to his grave, even though he had a big mouth.”

As a writer, – Orry-Kelly’s book was never published, and the manuscript got lost. Witnesses said Orry wrote in detail the most intimate moments with the love of his life, Cary Grant.
Women He’s Undressed
Darren Gilshenan playing Orry-Kelly with Warner Bros. sign. Photo Prudence Upton

In the beginning, being gay in Hollywood was not a big deal. In 1930, things changed with the conservative Motion Picture Production Code’s enforcement that affected everyone in the industry. 

When Cary Grant became more famous, married, and divorced – Orry and Cary had an “on and off” relationship.

Key Francis, Photo courtesy of Wolfe Video
Orry-Kelly was sent to WWII to fight for America, even though he was born in Australia. Upon his return, he had to start over and knock on doors in Hollywood. 

Being alone helped Kelly to create his best designs for many classic films, “Harvey,” “An American in Paris,” “Auntie Mame,” “The Sweet Bird of Youth,” “Gypsy,” and “Irma la Douce.”

“Woman He’s Undressed” is part of docu-fiction - It recreates some intimate scenes connecting important moments of Orry-Kelly’s life as if he was still alive. 

Photo courtesy of Wolfe Video

The reconstruction was done by professional actors who brought to life what could happen to Kelly’s mom and friends. This technique moved the narrative forward, making the documentary more accessible and entertaining.

Paradoxically, Orry-Kelly was a total unknown in his homeland, Australia. The only person who remembered him was his mother.

“Woman He’s Undressed” is comparable with other great films about fashion and filmmakers, such as ‘The September Issue,” “Valentino, the Last Emperor,” “The Celluloid Closet,” and “The Kid Stays in the Picture.”

Director Gillian Armstrong with Actor Jane Fonda. Photo Anna Howard

In the meticulous work of director Gillian Armstrong, we can see Orry-Kelly as a beautiful human being with so much vitality and vulnerability. 

No matter what, Kelly’s spirit was never broken.

“Women He’s Undressed” points out Kelly’s legacy as a fundamental part of moviemaking in the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Outfest, Women He’s Undressed
Outfest 2016, photo by Jose A Hermosillo. Copyrights Festival in LA, 2016
“Women He’s Undressed” was one of the best films played in OUTFEST 2016!!!  

“Women He’s Undressed” is an extraordinary work of art that can be used as a learning tool to appreciate costume designers’ work in the film industry for future generations.

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 Copyright © 2016 Festival in LA


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