Desley Deacon reviews 'Women I've Undressed' by Orry-Kelly

Desley Deacon reviews 'Women I've Undressed' by Orry-Kelly

Women I've Undressed: A Memoir

by Orry-Kelly

Ebury Illustrated, $39.99 hb, 432 pp, 9780857985637

Orry George Kelly – the Oscar-winning costume designer professionally known as Orry-Kelly – was one of the many Australians who have made it big in Hollywood. He is lucky enough to have been rediscovered by one of our major filmmakers, Gillian Armstrong. Kelly's name and story are now well known, thanks to Armstrong's recent documentary, and so is the brilliant title of his previously unpublished memoir, Women I've Undressed, which Armstrong adapted for her own enticing title, Women He's Undressed.

One of the most interesting stories surrounding the making of Women He's Undressed was the finding of this long-lost manuscript. Scholars interested in Kelly knew he had written a memoir, and it was rumoured that a copy had made its way to the family in Australia. But it took someone of the heft of Armstrong to unearth it (inside a pillowcase in the cupboard of a relative in rural New South Wales). Another was found in an unmarked box in Warner Bros' Los Angeles archives.

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Published in November 2015, no. 376
Desley Deacon

Desley Deacon

Desley Deacon is a writer and historian living in Sydney. She is currently revising a manuscript, Four Husbands, a Lover, and a Friend: Mary McCarthy’s Experiments in Heterosexuality, for University of Chicago Press and is working on a biography of Australian-born actress of stage and screen, Judith Anderson. She was formerly Professor of History at the Australian National University, where she is now Professor Emerita, and taught for a number of years at the University of Texas at Austin. She is the author of Elsie Clews Parsons: Inventing Modern Life (University of Chicago Press), and Managing Gender: The State, the New Middle Class, and Women Workers 1830-1930 (OUP), and has co-edited, with Penny Russell and Angela Woollacott, two volumes on transnational biography.

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