Women He’s Undressed – Director – Gillian Armstrong

This is a truly great documentary about Orry-Kelly who is perhaps the most influential costume designer of his time — the golden age of Hollywood. He was Australian from a small rural town and the most unlikely to end up where he did. As a costume designer he worked on over 250 films including Casablanca. Some Like it Hot, Irma la Douce and An American in Paris. He won three Oscars and worked for MGM, 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios. He dressed Marlene Dietrich and Betty Davis and Marilyn Monroe and of course did the gowns for Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis in Some Like it Hot. His sense of design allowed him to make the careers of many female stars of his time.

He was also gay and had a long term relationship with Cary Grant and shared the lifestyle with many other stars and artists of the time including Randolph Scott among others. However being gay was illegal and increasingly frowned upon by the industry leading to Grant and others having to abandon their obvious lifestyle and even getting married to cover the reality of their lives. Orry-Kelly was not so willing to cover his real life. It led to the end of his relationship with Grant but he moved on and found another lover who was not in the business and who he kept secret.

The documentary uses an actor to play the role of Orry-Kelly as a narrator which works very well as well as some great scenes from his movies and interviews with other costume designers, directors and film critics who know his work and aspects of his life. The Director, Gillian Anderson introduced the film and told us not to leave before the credits run since she inserted a final scene in the middle of the credits. The last scene of the film before the credits tells us that Orry-Kelly wrote a tell all memoir that has been repressed and prevented from publication by Cary Grant. The manuscript was lost. However Gillian Anderson made a great effort to track it down and in the final final scene inserted in the credits we learn that the manuscript was with his mother in Australia and is still in the hands of the family. One can only hope that the legal obstacles can be overcome so we can buy the book. Apparently it is available there but I can’t see how to get it shipped to Canada. Rats!!!

At any rate this is a great film, funny, interesting and educational all in one. Go for it.


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