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Set and Costume Design  
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Orry Kelly

Australian-born Orry Kelly (1897-1964) emigrated to the United States as a young man. He found success as a costume and scene designer on Broadway before going to Hollywood during the Great Depression. His friend Cary Grant introduced him to the head of Warner Brothers' wardrobe department, where he stayed for eleven years.

Primarily associated with Warner Brothers, he designed costumes for a broad range of films in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, including Busby Berkeley extravaganzas as well as gangster films and costume dramas. Near the end of his career he was especially associated with Hollywood musicals.

He designed for stars as various as Ingrid Bergman and Marilyn Monroe, but was especially close to Bette Davis. He won Academy Awards for his designs for An American in Paris (shared with Walter Plunkett and Irene Sharaff, 1951), Les Girls (1957), Some Like It Hot (1959), and Gypsy (1962).

Walter Plunkett

Walter Plunkett (1902-1982) is best known for his costume designs for Gone With the Wind (1939), but his long and distinguished career included many other triumphs. He came to Hollywood to become an actor, but became interested in costume design when he was invited to design costumes for dancer Ruth St. Denis.

Plunkett worked for RKO from the late 1920s to the late 1930s, earning a reputation for the authenticity of his period costumes. He later worked primarily for MGM and designed for stars such as Irene Dunne, Judy Garland, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, and Katharine Hepburn.

Although he did not receive an Academy Award for his designs for Gone With the Wind, he received numerous nominations and shared an Oscar with Orry Kelly and Irene Sharaff for their work on An American in Paris (1953).


Adrian Adolph Greenburg (1903-1959) was one of the most flamboyant and successful costume designers of Hollywood's golden age. His first films were with Rudolph Valentino; then he moved to MGM, where he had the opportunity to design for some of Hollywood's biggest female stars, including Greta Garbo, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, and Norma Shearer.

Among the films for which he designed costumes are The Wizard of Oz (1939), The Women (1939), and The Philadelphia Story (1940). His work had an enormous impact not only on other designers, but also on the fashion world in general, as fans attempted to duplicate the glamorous style he created for Hollywood divas.

Arthur Freed and Roger Edens

Primarily a lyricist, choreographer, and producer, Arthur Freed (1894-1973) nevertheless exerted a massive influence on the design of some of Hollywood's most glamorous musicals. He, along with his assistant Roger Edens (1905-1970), reshaped this genre, taking it to new heights by unifying the designs of all the artists involved.

Freed himself was not gay, but his unit at MGM was known as "Freed's Fairies" because he had gathered so many talented gay designers, costumers, and other artists, including Roger Edens, whom he trusted implicitly. Among their most notable work are such classic films as The Wizard of Oz (1939), Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Easter Parade (1948), Singin' in the Rain (1952), and Kismet (1955).

Irene Sharaff

One of the few costume designers to have worked both on Broadway productions and on their film adaptations, Irene Sharaff (1910-1993) first developed a reputation in New York and then joined "Freed's Fairies" at MGM in 1942, an association that did not prevent her from continuing to design for Broadway.

Among the shows that she designed both for Broadway and for film are The King and I (1951/1956), West Side Story (1957/1961), Flower Drum Song (1958/1961), and Funny Girl (1964/1968).

She was nominated for Academy Awards nine times and won Oscars for the following five films: An American in Paris (1951), The King and I (1956), West Side Story (1961), Cleopatra (1962), and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966).

Equally adept at period or contemporary costume, Sharaff earned distinction for her attention to detail and for the elegance of her creations.

Although several other women achieved distinction in the fields of set and costume design--Edith Head, for example, who apprenticed with Howard Greer--openly lesbian women seem not to have found the kind of success that gay men did.

Kieron Devlin

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Bottomley, George. "Charles Ricketts." The Durham University Journal 23.3 (1940): 169-184.

Castle, Charles. Oliver Messel. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1986.

Celant, Germano, ed. Keith Haring. Munich: Prestel Verlag, 1997.

Leddick, David. Intimate Companions: a Triography of Georges Platt Lynes, Paul Cadmus and Lincoln Kirstein. New York: Stonewall Inn Editions, 2000.

Lewis, Wyndham. "Round the London Art Galleries." The Listener 44 (November 30, 1950): 650.

Livingstone, Marco. David Hockney. London: Thames and Hudson, 1996.

Mann, William J. Behind the Scenes: How Lesbians and Gays Shaped Hollywood, 1910-1969. New York: Viking, 2001.

Pierpoint, Claudia Roth. "Bébé." Ballet Review 18.2 (1990): 23-27.

Saslow, James M. Pictures and Passions: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. New York: Viking, 1999.

Snow, Peter. "Designing for the Theatre and Cinema." Derek Jarman: A Portrait. Roger Wollen, intro. London: Thames and Hudson, 1996. 81-88.

Spencer, Charles. Erté. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1970.

Watney, Simon. The Art of Duncan Grant. London: John Murray, 1990.


    Citation Information
    Author: Devlin, Kieron  
    Entry Title: Set and Costume Design  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated April 6, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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