Orry-Kelly with 1930s Hollywood star Kay Francis.
Orry-Kelly with 1930s Hollywood star Kay Francis. CONTRIBUTED

The forgotten first Aussie to win three Academy Awards

ORRY-Kelly, the boy from Kiama, took his exceptional wit and talent to design gowns that lit up the golden age of cinema and became the first Australian to win three Academy awards.

He headed the Warner Brothers costume department during the richest period of American film, the establishment of the dream factory and its affect on mass culture.

Now he's the subject of a film about his life, called Women He's Undressed, which will screen at Lismore's Star Court Theatre in two screenings on Sunday, 2.30pm and 5.30pm. Tickets for the screenings are $15.

He was outrageous, witty, outspoken, a drinker and uncompromising but he survived partially protected by his friendship with Jack and Ann Warner and gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and ultimately by his extraordinary talent.

The film includes Orry-Kelly's stunning costume design work for films including Some Like It Hot, Casablanca and Oklahoma, plus insightful stories from the likes of Jane Fonda and Angela Lansbury.

Women He's Undressed is a one-and-a-half hour documentary that explores the life of Australia's most prolific costume designer.

Until now, Orry-Kelly has been unacknowledged in his country of birth and pretty well forgotten in the adopted country of his greatest success.

During the boom years of Hollywood he was the costume designer on an astonishing 282 motion pictures.

He designed for the stars like Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Humphrey Bogart, Rosalind Russell, Errol Flynn and many more of the immortals.

Women He's Undressed

Director: Gillian Armstrong

Writer: Katherine Thomson

Stars: Darren Gilshenan, Deborah Kennedy, Louis Alexander


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