Some Like It Hot at ACMI

Dinner can wait. How about movie and a show? This month ACMI is screening the classic film Some Like It Hot while the Dressing Hollywood Exhibition is running. See Orry-Kelly’s work on screen and then attend an exhibition of his life’s work. Tack on some lunch and it’s suddenly an occasion that demands champagne.


Some Like It Hot (PG)

Two jazz musicians (played by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis) witness the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre and escape the hot pursuit of gangsters by disguising themselves as women and joining an all-girl band travelling to Miami. Many fans remember this as one of Marilyn Monroe’s best performances in her career.


Writer/director Billy Wilder and co-writer I.A.L. Diamond knew very well at the time that they were making the funniest film of their careers when they created Some Like It Hot.

While it’s often presumed that Lemmon and Curtis were dressed in old Norma Shearer and Debbie Reynolds leftovers, their clever disguises were attributed to the genius of Australian costume designer, Orry-Kelly. Lemmon and Curtis lobbied the studio for Orry-Kelly to create their frocks, as well as Marilyn’s; it was vital that they didn’t look like drag queens, but rather, unattractive women. “Jack Lemmon loved telling the story of the two of them going on a lunch hour into the ladies restroom at the studio to see if anybody would notice and no one did”, recounts Hollywood chronicler Leonard Maltin in Gilliam Armstrong’s documentary Women He’s Undressed (2015).

Orry-Kelly won his third and final Oscar® for his work on Some Like It Hot. Marilyn’s ‘barely-there’ dresses left little to the imagination, proving that it’s sometimes what you leave out that makes all the difference. Kelly resisted the use of superfluous flourishes and embellishments, unlike many costume designers of the time. His almost minimalist approach became his signature.

See Some Like It Hot at ACMI until 21 November, 2015.

Orry-Kelly: Dressing Hollywood Exhibition

Orry Kelly and Ava Gardner behind the scenes in One Touch of Venus, 1948. Image credit: United Artists Photofest
Orry Kelly and Ava Gardner behind the scenes in One Touch of Venus, 1948. Image credit: United Artists Photofest


You can see dresses worn by Josephine/Joe (Tony Curtis) and Daphne/Jerry (Jack Lemmon) from Some Like It Hot’s ‘I Wanna be Loved By You’ scene in ACMI’s exhibition Orry-Kelly: Dressing Hollywood – the world premiere exhibition celebrating the life and work of one of Australia’s most successful artistic exports to Hollywood.

15. ACMI_Orry-Kelly, painted costume sketch (1960s). Image courtesy of Barbara Warner Howard_300dpi
Orry Kelly, painted costume sketch (1960s). Image courtesy of Barbara Warner Howard


Orry George Kelly (1897-1964) was a talented costume designer who hailed from Kiama, New South Wales. He was responsible for some of the most memorable and magical visions to grace our screens. Orry-Kelly holds a unique place in cinema history as the first Australian costume designer to win three Academy Awards®. He was also one of the few Australians to thrive within the powerful Hollywood studio system, designing gowns for iconic films including 42nd Street (1933), Jezebel (1938), The Maltese Falcon (1941), Casablanca (1942), Auntie Mame (1958), and Gypsy (1962).

Mitzi Gaynor in Les Girls (1957)
Mitzi Gaynor in Les Girls (1957)


As chief costume designer at Warner Bros. between 1932 and 1944, followed by subsequent contracts at the other major Hollywood studios, Orry amassed a staggering 295 film credits in a career that spanned more than three decades.

Orry-Kelly: Dressing Hollywood is a free exhibition showing at ACMI until 17 January 2016. For more information, please visit
Watch the trailer for Women He’s Undressed here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.