GIL­LIAN ARM­STRONG

The Australian - Wish Magazine - - Question & Answer -

FILM DIREC­TOR

Pro­ducer Damien Parer had been re­search­ing Orry-Kelly [the leg­endary yet lit­tle known Aus­tralian cos­tume designer Orry Ge­orge Kelly, who worked in Hol­ly­wood from the 30s to the 60s] so the idea for the doc­u­men­tary film re­ally came from him. Parer sent me an out­line of Orry’s life and re­ally the key rea­son I did it was be­cause I had never heard of him. I read what his film cred­its were and un­til [cos­tume designer] Catherine Martin got her fourth Academy Award last year, he had the most Academy Awards of any Aus­tralian. I read the names of all the films, like Some Like it Hot, Amer­i­can in Paris, Casablanca — half of cinema his­tory — and I was “What? This guy is Aus­tralian?” That is what hooked me.

I am also a huge fan of the art of cos­tume de­sign my­self. I have worked with some of the most amaz­ing cos­tume de­sign­ers in the world. Peo­ple think it is just about mak­ing ac­tors look pretty, they be­lieve that half the time they turn up with their own clothes and work out their own hair-do. What they don’t re­alise is there has been months of plan­ning and testing done. Australia has pro­duced amaz­ing cos­tumer de­sign­ers that are un­her­alded.

The more we re­searched, the more things came out about Orry’s life, and about living in that whole Golden Age of Hol­ly­wood. He was the head of cos­tume de­sign at Warn­ers through that ab­so­lute Golden Age of cinema from 1932 [to] 1945. Many peo­ple con­sider that was a pe­riod where some of the most amaz­ing films were made. He sus­tained such a long ca­reer [work­ing on 282 films]. His three Academy Awards were in the last 10 years of his work­ing life — he prob­a­bly would have won a lot more if they had one for cos­tume de­sign ear­lier on, but that award only be­gan in 1948.

He was in­ter­viewed ev­ery time he came back to Australia through the 30s and 40s, and the head­lines would read “our fa­mous Orry-Kelly from Hol­ly­wood”. We even found ad­ver­tise­ments for the films that came out at the time, and they put a tag-line that said “our Orry-Kelly” so he was very well known in Australia in the 30s and 40s. There was such a change of era. I was a young film stu­dent around the time of the new wave in film in the 1970s; old Hol­ly­wood was naff and over. For me, as a film stu­dent, I was go­ing to see French

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