Discussing Gillian Armstrong’s Women He’s Undressed from the 2015 Sydney Film Festival – by Michael Hili
He may just be the most successful unknown Australian of all time. Orry George Kelly, the subject of Gillian Armstrong’s feature length documentary dominated costume design in Hollywood in the highly productive years from the 1930s through to the 1950s. Trusted by Bette Davis and Marilyn Monroe, responsible for Casablanca (1942) and more than 285 other films. Kelly is an important icon to illuminate.
Armstrong guides us back to Kelly’s upbringing in coastal NSW, through his first tastes of excess and character in Sydney’s shady dives and eventually his escape, establishment and subsequent outstanding career in the US. The guy was and still is a big deal, this is evident from the accounts which Armstrong has captured forming the interview footage, beautifully taken by Cinematographer Anna Howard ACS (Rat and Cats, Errors of the Human Body). This is really the film’s most intriguing element.
Kelly is an important Australian and Armstrong gives us access to him with great joy, frivolity and a drama inherent to the era and circles Kelly mixed in.
Michael Hili is a video maker and visual artist based in Sydney.