Kurt's Historic Sites

Adrian and Janet Gaynor


Interment Location Visited  
Hollywood, CA April 1, 2023  

Photographed April 1, 2023.

Adrian Adolph Greenburg, known and usually credited in show business simply by the mononym Adrian, was a couturier and costume designer whose work appeared in Hollywood movies such as The Great Ziegfeld, The Philadelphia Story, Rope, Ninotchka, and The Grand Hotel. His accolades included a posthumously-received Tony Award for his designs for the 1960 play, Camelot. But Adrian’s legacy primarily endures because he created what may be the most recognizable apparel in cinema history: Dorothy Gale’s ruby slippers from the seminal cinematic staple, The Wizard of Oz.

In 2022, for the centennial of actress Judy Garland’s birth, Hollywood Forever Cemetery placed signs at the graves of its permanent residents who worked with the screen legend. The text on the marker at Adrian’s grave reads, “Adrian designed all the whimsical outfits of the various characters for ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and in particular, Judy’s iconic, blue and white gingham pinafore as well as the sequined, ruby slippers. He also worked with Judy on ‘Broadway Melody of 1938’ and ‘Ziegfeld Girl’, 1941.”

Photographed April 1, 2023.
Photographed April 1, 2023.

In 1939, Adrian married Academy Award-winning actress Janet Gaynor, a divorcée. Adrian was gay, but lived in an era where non-heterosexuality was taboo. Gaynor herself is believed to have been bisexual or a lesbian, which would have given the pair the common cause of self-preservation by keeping up heteronormative appearances. They were wed for two decades, until Adrian’s death. Gaynor remarried in 1964, but upon her passing in 1984 was buried at Adrian’s side.

The inimitable Karie Bible has led tours of Hollywood Forever Cemetery since 2002. I highly recommend taking a day or night tour with her, which you can book on her website. Photographed here standing at Adrian’s grave, Ms. Bible shows her group a poster for the 1939 MGM film The Women. Adrian designed costumes for the all-female cast, which included Norma ShearerJoan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell. Adrian’s work in that movie is best highlighted in a Technicolor fashion show, a portion of which can be viewed here.

Photographed April 1, 2023.

Fast Facts

Born: March 3, 1903 in Naugatuck, Connecticut

Spouse: Janet Gaynor (m. 1939-1959)

Tony Award: Best Costume Design in a Musical (1961)

Died: September 13, 1959 in Los Angeles, California

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

Age: 56

Interment: Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Hollywood, Los Angeles, California

"Few people in an audience watching a great screen production realize the importance of any gown worn by the feminine star, the fact that it was definitely planned to mirror some definite mood, to be as much a part of the play as the lines or the scenery, seldom occurs to them."
- Adrian
in a 1937 interview

Sources Consulted and Further Reading

Adrian Original. “Life of Adrian.” Accessed June 5, 2023. http://adrianoriginal.com/life-of-adrian/.

FIDM Museum. “Adrian: Hollywood Costumer Designer.” August 2009. https://fidmmuseum.org/2009/08/adrian-1.html.

New England Historical Society. “Adrian, The Hatmaker’s Son Who Dressed America.” Updated 2022. https://newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/adrian-hatmakers-son-dressed-america/.

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