Gowns by Adrian!
Adrian was the first designer to use “Gowns by…” as a film credit. He was Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s head costume designer from 1928 to 1941. During this time he worked on over 250 films, designing outfits for some of Hollywood’s most beautiful and glamorous leading ladies. Adrian made Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Jean Harlow, Norma Shearer, and Marion Davies the Hollywood icons they are today.
Fellow costume designer Natacha Rambova, the subject of a recent PCF Fashion Column, brought Adrian to Hollywood from New York in 1924. They were to work on films for Rambova’s husband Rudolph Valentino, but their first film The Hooded Falcon (1924) was never finished. Adrian would go on to work with Rambova once more on her now lost film What Price Beauty? (1925) and twice more with Valentino on The Eagle and Cobra, both in 1925.
After his time with Rambova and Valentino, Adrian worked as a fashion designer for Cecil B. DeMille’s independent production company, DeMille Pictures Corporation, from 1926 to 1928. With titles like, Gigolo (1926), Vanity (1927) and His Dog (1927), these films were unremarkable, but they did add another layer to Adrian’s foundation as a Hollywood costume designer. DeMille loaned Adrian to Fox Pictures for the film Fig Leaves (1926), which starred Olive Borden as a housewife who becomes a model in a fashion house. Adrian also contributed designs to, but was not credited for, DeMille’s epic King of Kings (1927).
When DeMille moved from the Paramount Pictures lot over to MGM in 1928, he took Adrian with him. MGM, still a young company at the time, borrowed Adrian to design for some of their productions. It worked out so well Adrian decided to remain with MGM when DeMille returned to Paramount a short time later. This was the beginning of a very glamorous and productive time for both designer and studio.
Not only did Adrian gown Garbo, Crawford, Harlow, Shearer, and Davies, but also Hedy Lamarr, Rosalind Russell, Myrna Loy, Loretta Young, Jeannette MacDonald, Ann Harding, Eleanor Powell, Margaret Sullivan, Katherine Hepburn, and Judy Garland in their most rememberable films. The credit list from these collaborations includes such classics as Mata Hari (1931), Letty Lynton (1932), Blondie at the Follies (1932), Midnight Mary (1932), Dinner at Eight (1933), The Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935), Double Wedding (1937), Marie Antoinette (1938), Sweethearts (1938), The Women (1939), The Wizard of Oz (1939), The Philadelphia Story (1940), and Ziegfeld Girl (1941).
Adrian left MGM in 1941 to open his own fashion house Adrian Ltd., in Beverly Hills. He returned to MGM in 1952 to create the gowns for his last film Lovely to Look At. To this day, Adrian was and is synonymous with MGM, the MGM look, and with the leading ladies of the most glamorous studio in Hollywood.