Saturday, April 5, 2008

Behind the Paintings

My readers' group is doing California topics this month, so I went to the library and searched for Hollywood and gay. One of the books I found, Behind The Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood 1910-1969 by William J. Mann, had a little surprise for me. In the back of the book there's an "In Memorium" page and one of the names I found there is Orry-Kelly, a familiar one to me.

Orry-Kelly, born George Kelly in 1897 in Australia, became head of the wardrobe department at Warner Brothers in 1932. He was also a painter, and the reason this caught my attention is that my DH and I now own several of his paintings. The pictures originally belonged to my husband's aunt who knew Orry-Kelly personally. I fell in love with them the first time I saw them. They're obviously paintings of New Orleans, one of my favorite cities, but in a much earlier period. In reading the book I learned that Orry-Kelly dressed Bette Davis in Jezebel (1938) which was set in New Orleans during the antebellum period. Perhaps that's where he got the idea for the paintings. Though he was irreverent in person, his wardrobe designs were understated and elegant, as are the paintings, I think. Orry-Kelly won three Oscars for Costume Design for An American in Paris (1951), Les Girls (1957) and Some Like It Hot (1959). He must have gotten a big kick out of dressing Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon in 1920's drag.

When our aunt passed away, I asked if we could keep the pictures. My DH said he didn't think they were worth much, but I didn't care; I just liked them and still do. Alas, my photos don't do justice to them. But it's kind of cool to own a small piece of Hollywood history.

Linda / Lyndi


deboradale said...

What a great story, Linda. The paintings are charming, I can see why you'd fall in love with them. And now, I'd bet, that added dimension makes them priceless for you. How cool.

Linda McLaughlin said...


Thanks. Yes, it makes the paintings more interesting, I think.


Kathleen Rowland said...

Linda, the paintings are charming. Maybe someday we will have gay history month or some other way to acknowledge that it is JUST FINE to be gay.

Linda McLaughlin said...


Yes, a gay history month would be lovely. It's long past time, I agree.


The Class of 2k8 said...

Very interesting. What a cool surprise.