Adrian (costume designer)

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Adrian Greenberg, known as Adrian or sometimes Gilbert Adrian.jpg
BornAdrian Adolph Greenburg
(1903-03-03)March 3, 1903
Naugatuck, Connecticut, U.S.
DiedSeptember 13, 1959(1959-09-13) (aged 56)
Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Resting placeHollywood Forever Cemetery
OccupationCostume designer
Janet Gaynor (m. 1939–1959)
(his death; 1 child)

Adrian Adolph Greenburg (March 3, 1903 — September 13, 1959), widely known as Adrian, was an American costume designer whose most famous costumes were for The Wizard of Oz and hundreds of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer films between 1928 and 1941. He was usually credited onscreen with the phrase "Gowns by Adrian". Early in his career he chose the professional name Gilbert Adrian, a combination of his father's forename and his own.

Early Life[edit]

Adrian was born on March 3, 1903, in Naugatuck, Connecticut, to Gilbert and Helena (Pollak) Greenburg. Adrian's father Gilbert was born in New York and his mother Helena in Waterbury, Connecticut. Both sides of the family were Jewish. Joseph Greenburg and his wife Frances were from Russia, while Adolph Pollak and Bertha (Mendelsohn) Pollak were from Bohemia and Germany, respectively.

In 1920 Adrian entered the New York School for Fine and Applied Arts (now Parsons School of Design)[1]. In 1922 he transferred to the NYSFAA Paris campus, and while there, he was contracted by Irving Berlin to design settings and costumes for Berlin's Music Box Revue of 1922-23 in New York.

Career in Hollywood Motion Pictures[edit]

The original Adrian-designed ruby slippers used in The Wizard of Oz; now on display at the Smithsonian.
Adrian's costume designs for The Wizard of Oz (1939), L-R: Bert Lahr, Judy Garland, Ray Bolger, and Jack Haley

Adrian was brought to Hollywood in November 1924 by Rudolph Valentino's wife Natacha Rambova to design costumes for The Hooded Falcon. The Valentino company dissolved, and Adrian's first screen credit was for the Constance Talmadge comedy Her Sister from Paris. In 1925 Adrian was hired as a costume designer by Cecil B. DeMille's independent film studio. In 1928 DeMille moved to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and Adrian was provisionally hired as a costume designer for M-G-M. After a few months, he signed a contract as head designer, ultimately remaining for thirteen years and 200 films.

Costumes designed by Adrian in George Cukor's 1939 film, The Women

Adrian worked with the biggest female stars of the day: Greta Garbo, Norma Shearer, Jeanette MacDonald, Jean Harlow, Katharine Hepburn and Joan Crawford. He designed twenty-eight Crawford films, eighteen Shearer films, and nine Harlow films. He worked with Garbo from 1928, when he arrived, until 1941, when both departed the company.[2] The Eugénie hat he created for her film Romance became a sensation and influenced millinery styles.[3][4] When Adrian emphasized Crawford's shoulders by designing outfits with shoulder pads, these created a trend.

Adrian was famous for evening gown designs, a talent displayed in The Women. Though filmed in black and white, The Women includes a Technicolor fashion show of Adrian designs. Adrian was acclaimed for the period costumes of Romeo and Juliet; the extravagant costumes of The Great Ziegfeld; and the opulent gowns of Camille and Marie Antoinette. Adrian insisted on the finest materials and workmanship for the execution of his designs, cultivating fabric manufacturers in Europe and New York.

Adrian's best known film is The Wizard of Oz, for which he designed the red-sequined ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland.

Adrian left M-G-M in 1941 to open a salon in partnership with actress Janet Gaynor and Woody Feurt, a clothing merchandiser. However, Adrian designed for the occasional film project through the '40s, most notably Humoresque.

Sexuality and Marriage[edit]

Adrian's wife Janet Gaynor

Though the unmarried Adrian was rumored to be gay, he married Janet Gaynor on August 14, 1939. Gaynor had been unmarried for ten years, and while the marriage could have been a response to industry whispering campaigns, both Adrian and Gaynor went on record to say they were happily married, and they remained so until his death in 1959. Gaynor and Adrian had one son, Robin (born July 6, 1940).

Designer of American Fashion[edit]

In 1942 Adrian established Adrian, Ltd., at 233 North Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, in the building formerly occupied by the Victor Hugo restaurant. (He had been courted by retailers to design for public sale but rebuffed those offers. In 1932 Macy's Cinema Shop had copied his work with the studio's tacit approval, much in the same way that department stores produced so-called "Paris fashions," which were unapproved copies of French couturiers' works.)

Adrian's fashion line filled the gap left by Paris, which could not export during the German occupation. American women responded to Adrian's clean-lined designs, and he exerted a strong influence on American fashion until the late 1940s.

Adrian returned to M-G-M in 1952 for one film, Lovely to Look At. He was never nominated for an Academy Award as the costume category was not introduced during the time of his major work for the studios.

Illness, Retirement, and Death[edit]

Adrian was stricken with a heart attack in 1952. Because he never assigned work to assistants, preferring to do all drafts and designs himself, the business could not be continued under his name. Consequently, he was forced to close Adrian, Ltd.

Adrian and his wife Janet bought a fazenda (ranch) in Anápolis, in the state of Goiás, in the interior of Brazil. They spent a few years developing it, frequently in the company of their friends Richard Halliday and Mary Martin.

In 1958 Adrian came out of retirement to design costumes for At the Grand, a musical version of the 1932 film Grand Hotel that starred Paul Muni and Viveca Lindfors and played only in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In 1959 Adrian was hired to design costumes for the upcoming Broadway musical Camelot. While at work on this project in his studio, Adrian suffered a fatal heart attack, and was posthumously awarded the Tony Award for Best Costume Design in a Musical. [5] He was buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Selected Filmography[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. Census reports 1900, 1910
  2. ^ "Screens: Review – Gowns by Adrian". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 2010-05-03.
  3. ^ Robinson, David (5 January 1977). "Turning Women into Goddesses" (59900.). The Times.
  4. ^ Grantland, Brenda; Robak, Mary (2011). Hatatorium: An essential guide for hat collectors (1st ed.). Mill Valley, CA: Brenda Grantland. p. 90. ISBN 9780984785902. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  5. ^ Blum, Daniel (1960). Screen World. 11. Biblo & Tannen Publishers. p. 215. ISBN 0-8196-0301-5.
  • Baker, Sarah. Lucky Stars: Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell. Georgia: Bear Manor Media, 2009. ISBN 1-59393-468-8.
  • Stern, Keith (2009). "Adrian". Queers in History. BenBella Books, Inc.; Dallas, Texas. ISBN 978-1-933771-87-8.

External links[edit]