Women He's Undresssed

The 2016 Seattle International Film Festival welcomed this entry from Australia that features the legendary (three-time Academy-Award winning) fashion designer, Orry-Kelly. (born Orry George Kelly in Kiama, Australia).  It is Nirvana for fans of movies, celebrity insider information and just plain gossip. In addition, Director Gillian Armstrong ("Oscar and Lucinda"), working with screenwriter Katherine Thomson (LOTS of TV), has concocted a delicious peek at 30s, 40, and 50s Hollywood.

This audaciously clever docu-drama boasts a combination of newsreels, studio clips, and movie bits, plus scripted pieces using actors who occasionally fill in for celebrities. There are interviews and stars' endorsements, studio publicity photos, gossip columnists and old home movies. (Oh, did I mention gorgeous clothes?)

We learn about our hero's move to the US in the 30s, sharing space and life with Archie Leach. If that name sounds familiar, it should. That was Cary Grant's name before the movie studio changed it.

We watch an actor cleverly inhabit Orry-Kelly's persona, usually in a rowboat (!?). He efficiently fills us in on his first work (as a failed actor), his being drafted into the Army at age 46 (and soon "un-drafted"), and his move into costumes. We see Busby Berkeley's kaleidoscopic choreography (inspired by the military), plus scenes from "Casablanca," "An American in Paris," "Some Like it Hot," "Auntie Mame," "Les Girls," "Oklahoma," "Irma la Douce," "Arsenic and Old Lace," and countless Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck films. Always narrated by a voice representing Orry-Kelly from his book; and Archie Leach often moves in and out of the picture.

There is a very forthright segment of the film that talks about Cary Grant and Randolph Scott, their marriages and the gossip that constantly surrounded them. And we can count on a generous helping of wry humor to move things along.

Orry-Kelly worked on 285 films during the course of his Hollywood career and his battles with Jack Warner were legendary (but he kept working for him).

Believe it or not, I have only touched on part of this delightful film. The interviews with his mother (always at her clothesline) are funny, although her advice is terrible!

I enjoyed it.