Biography of Orry Kelly
“ORRY KELLY: MISS WESTON’S PROTÉGÉ – THE STORY OF A GREAT HOLLYWOOD COSTUME DESIGNER.”
Written by Robert Parkinson.
Impact Press has released the first biography of the great Australian costume designer, Orry Kelly.
Orry Kelly was born in Kiama, NSW in 1897 and went to the USA in 1922. After eight years in New York he moved to Hollywood where he worked with many major studios, dressing all the well-known female stars of the day until his death in 1964. He won three Academy Awards and was nominated for a fourth. Until 2014 he held the record for the most Oscars won by an Australian and, yet until this year, little was known about his glittering career. Then the dam burst!
A documentary by Gillian Armstrong was released in 2015 (Women He’s Undressed) along with Kelly’s own published memoir (Women I’ve Undressed: A Memoir); an exhibition about his life and work recently concluded at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Melbourne (Orry-Kelly: Dressing Hollywood); and now Robert Parkinson’s widely researched biography has been published, providing a complete picture of this talented Australian-born costume designer. It is the first biography of Orry Kelly to appear in print.
Robert Parkinson studied classics and education at University of Sydney, graduating in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a Diploma in Education. Robert is a member of the Cinema and Theatre Historical Society of Australia Inc. and writes articles for their quarterly journal. He is also a member of the Royal Australian Historical Society and Sydney Mechanics School of Art.
“Orry Kelly: Miss Weston’s Protégé – The Story of a Great Hollywood Costume Designer”
Impact Press, 212 pp. inc. 16 pp. of b/w photos. RRP. $25.00
To order a copy please contact:
Robert Parkinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or mob 0403874145.
ORRY KELLY: MISS WESTON’S PROTÉGÉ
SYDNEY ARTS GUIDE
10 March 2016 - Richard Cotter
Back in 1994, a Vogue Australia article on Oscar winning costume designer, Orry Kelly, piqued the curiosity of esteemed film commentators, Ian and Sheila Taylor.
Though they had worked in film distribution in Australia for many years, his name had never come up. Curious, since, at the time, Orry Kelly was the Australian who had garnered the most Academy Awards.
The Taylors embarked on research with an idea of making a documentary about this unsung Australian Hollywood hero. However, their labours could not interest local funding bodies, and the project was put in turnaround. Three years ago, Gillian Armstrong was successful in getting a green light to make the documentary that would become Women He’s Undressed. The fabled autobiography had not been discovered so the Taylors handed over their research to Robert Parkinson, who agreed this important story needed to be told. Parkinson proceeded to meticulously pan through the material which, in turn, prompted his own marvellous inquiry into the ‘kid from Kiama’.
The merits of that meticulousness is evident not only in the body of the narrative, but in the copious indices and footnotes that take up half of the volume.
He has named the book ORRY KELLY: MISS WESTON’S PROTÉGÉ, a nod to Eleanor Weston, a family friend who encouraged Orry’s artistic ambitions and coached him in acting. Miss Weston ran a florist business, which is fascinating when one considers that the sign over Orry’s father’s shop read: William Kelly, merchant tailor, but, as well a cutter of cloth, dad was a keen horticulturist, a hybridiser of carnations, one shocker in shocking pink, which he named for his son.
There are some delicious anecdotes recounted such as Orry Kelly’s dictum for avoiding divorce – “Negligee ‘sure cure’ for marital misery. A wife who overlooks her boudoir wardrobe is taking the first step in marital suicide’’, was reported in the Stars and Stripes newspaper, calling Kelly a ‘classy clothes concocter’.
Also his mother, Florence and Eleanor Weston arrived in Los Angeles on 12 July 1937 by the SS Monterey. Neither was aware that on board were three passengers – the mothers of Australian actresses May Maguire and Marcia Ralston, both contracted to Warner brothers, and Gwen Howarth, visiting her sister, Enid, who had recently become the third wife of Warner’s leading man George Brent.
On his final visit to Australia in 1952 he was distracted by June Dally-Watkins, whom he invited to stay with him in Hollywood, and opened her eyes to homosexuality!
ORRY KELLY: MISS WESTON’S PROTÉGÉ is a welcome companion to the recently published memoir by Orry Kelly, Women I’ve Undressed, contrasting the subjective and the objective and consolidating his place in the pantheon of motion picture legends.
ORRY KELLY: MISS WESTON’S PROTÉGÉ by Robert Parkinson is published by Impact Press.