Friday, March 25, 2011

An often overlooked Golden Age of Hollywood costume designer

Props are due to Orry-Kelly, costume designer on MANY classic movies, including The Letter, which I recently posted about on my Facebook page. He was award-winning, prolific, worked for most of the major studios as well as freelanced. He roomed briefly with Cary Grant and Charlie Spangles upon coming to NY in the '20s from Australia.  (Had me at Cary Grant.) 

He was born Orry George Kelly on New Year's Eve 1897, in Kiama, New South Wales.  He moved from New York to Hollywood in 1931, where Grant greased his entry into First National Pictures.  By 1932 he was at Warner Bros, where he was chief costume designer until 1944.  From there he went on to Twentieth Century-Fox, and to successful freelance work.  He was awarded 3 Oscars for Best Costume Design, for An American in Paris (1951, shared with two others), Les Girls (1957) and Some Like It Hot (1959).

His style was, in general, less showy than contemporaries Adrian and Edith Head, so he's sometimes overlooked in vintage costume design conversations. But if you've seen Casablanca or The Maltese Falcon, you've seen Orry-Kelly. He traded high contrast, shimmer, and glitter for unpretentious, stylishly cut, very high quality fabrics with intricate details. Which is not to say he couldn't do glitz - Orry-Kelly costumed The Gold Diggers of 1933, one of it's memorable scenes being the opening, where a gaggle of beautiful women fill the stage singing and wearing costumes constructed from coins. Another memorable creation was Bette Davis' "red" ball gown in Jezebel (1938).  He was a favorite of Ms. Davis, as well as Kay Francis.

For 34 years, he gowned and costumed Hollywood's most beautiful women, and he once quipped that "Hell must be filled with beautiful women and no mirrors."
Last week, as well as the Orry-Kelly costumed The Letter, I also watched The Kennel Murder Case, a Philo Vance mystery (William Powell as Vance), and needed a drool cup for the wardrobe of the glamourous seductress next door to the victim.

He died of liver cancer in Hollywood in 1964. And according to wikipedia, "...was interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park (Hollywood Hills). His pallbearers included Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Billy Wilder and George Cukor and his eulogy was read by Jack Warner."

And now, the photos!

Fashionably yours,

Monday, March 21, 2011

Vintage Vegas Live!

I had a ball this past weekend performing with Art Vargas as his guest in his Vintage Vegas Live! show at the Rampart Casino, here in Las Vegas.  We had packed houses and jovial, stylish crowds.  Art is a highly energetic and charismatic performer of classic vintage tunes, the live band was swinging (and mambo-ing and blues-ing) hard, and Amy Geldhof, his featured dancer/showgirl makes sure all the men in the room are happy.  Art and I did duets of Old Black Magic (Louis Prima/Keely Smith arr.), I Love Being Here With You, and I did solos of I'm A Woman (Peggy Lee - NOT Helen Reddy's I Am Woman) and Dream a Little Dream of Me.  Wore one of my favorite 50s gowns, a black lace/nude lined mermaid wiggle dress, with tons of vintage Weiss and Eisenberg jewelry, long black gloves and gorgeous black feather fan hairpiece.  Love strutting out the show-worthy vintage glamour!

Thank you to Arthur Bloberger for press coverage on and Silver Screen Magazine.

Until next time, dolls and gents-

Friday, March 4, 2011


"I never go outside unless I look like Joan Crawford the movie star.  If you want to see the girl next door, go next door."

- Joan Crawford

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A fond farewell to a legend

I was very sad two days ago to learn about the passing of Jane Russell. The blonde bombshell persona was typified by more than a few actresses in Old Hollywood - Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, Mamie Van Doren, Diana Dors all come to mind immediately. But the Brunette Bombshell was a category almost solely created and owned by Jane Russell. From her start as a WWII pinup to her long career as an actress and singer, this lady had guts, fire, brains, talent, always gave as good as she got, and had legs that seemed a mile long. At 38D-24-36, she also had the required bombshell curves. What I admired about her was that she never had to play dumb, or pander to the men in the roles that she played. She created a new "type" and she rocked it. Thank you, Jane. You will be missed.

I have assembled a photo gallery tribute, only a few of which I will post here due to space constrictions. Please visit my facebook page, for the entire album, 48 gorgeous promo and candids. And counting!