Jocelyn Rickards

Costume designer for New Wave films

Those films were by one of the most influential dramatists of the era, John Osborne, who became one of Rickards's lovers. It is fair to say that the personal life of Rickards, a petite, green-eyed brunette who was described by one of her contemporaries as "drop-dead beautiful" attracted even more attention than her costumes - besides Osborne, she had passionate affairs with the philosopher A.J. Ayer and the novelist Graham Greene.

A businessman's daughter, Rickards was born in 1924 in Melbourne, Australia, and attended a local grammar school until she was 14, by which time her flair for design was such that she was able to persuade her parents to send her to art school in Sydney.

In 1949 she travelled to London, where her fellow Australian Loudon Sainthill, one of the theatre's top costume designers, then asked Rickards to be his assistant on some West End shows. When the musical Expresso Bongo opened in London in 1958, the critic Milton Shulman described it as "deliciously dressed by Jocelyn Rickards".

Her first film credit was as assistant to Roger Furse on The Prince and the Showgirl (1957), the prestigious, if disappointing, adaptation of Terence Rattigan's play The Sleeping Prince, directed by Laurence Olivier, who starred opposite Marilyn Monroe. Rickards described watching hostilities between the two stars and their respective entourages as "like being an observer at a civil war". The following year, she had her first solo assignment, Look Back in Anger, with its contrasting costumes for mousy Mary Ure and sophisticated Claire Bloom.

In colour, she designed the glamorous outfits for the women in James Bond's life in the second Bond film, From Russia with Love (1963), although the sinister villain played by Lotte Lenya was given an appropriately quirky masculine outfit. Rickards felt that correct costuming should tell the audience a lot about the character, and for most of her films she insisted on costuming "every actor, every crowd part". For Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow-Up (1966), she fashioned the women's dresses only, creating stunning outfits for Vanessa Redgrave and Sarah Miles in the style of Mary Quant and Rudi Gernreich.

She won a Bafta for her work on Tony Richardson's Mademoiselle (1966) starring Jeanne Moreau, and she worked with Sarah Miles again on David Lean's Ryan's Daughter (1970). She also designed for Rita Tushingham in The Knack (1965), Shirley MacLaine in The Bliss of Mrs Blossom (1968) and Glenda Jackson in Sunday, Bloody Sunday (1971). Successful enough to select her projects, she stated that she preferred to work with directors for whom she felt an immediate rapport, and she chose her films on that basis.

Her relationship with Professor A.J. Ayer, Britain's best-known philosopher of the generation that came after Bertrand Russell (in those days intellectuals were given enough time on radio and television to become popular icons), started in 1949 when she met him at a New Year's Eve party. She wrote recently that she found "Freddie" Ayer "thin, lithe and quick, attractive in an unconventional way", adding, "We talked and danced, and at midnight he found me on the stone and wrought-iron staircase and rammed his tongue down my throat."

Although Ayer was divorced from his first wife, Renee, when he met Rickards, he still had a close bond to her, and Rickards later described Ayer's romantic merry-go-round:

Girls came and went, or came and stayed. Progressively I became a part of a trio, a quartet, a quintet and sextet (plus Renee). All the ladies knew about me, I knew all about them, but none of them knew about each other.

Rickards described her love for him as "uncritical", and among the things she credited him with was awakening in her a love of early cinema. "Every evening for a week we went to the NFT to catch the complete oeuvre of Erich von Stroheim or of Buster Keaton, and I still like black-and-white films best." When her affair with Ayer ended, a devastated Rickards embarked on what she called "two weeks of compulsive promiscuity". She later professed a lasting love for Ayer, and she was a regular visitor when he was on his deathbed with emphysema. "He asked me once if I thought him a genius. 'No,' I said, 'You've just missed it. What do you think?' 'I think you're right,' he answered."

Shortly after breaking up with Ayer, Rickards took another lover, the writer Graham Greene. The pair had met in 1951, but did not begin their affair until two years later. Rickards described him as "the only man about whom I've never had one vindictive thought", while he described her open and honest attitude as "rare in the jealous world of arts and letters".

Their affair took place in the middle of Greene's 12-year relationship with Catherine Walston, the American wife of a rich socialist farmer, and to many minds the most important woman in Greene's life. In her autobiography, The Painted Banquet (1987), Rickards blamed the slow start of her relationship with Greene on Walston, who "kept getting in the way". The couple are reputed to have made up for lost time by making love at every opportunity, most notoriously in a first-class railway carriage. "Every time we saw a horizontal surface," said Rickards, "we'd look at each other and think, 'What a nice place to lie down.' "

Rickards usually maintained a respectful silence about their relationship, but in 1992, a year after Greene's death, a bitter wrangle erupted between Greene's biographer, Professor Norman Sherry, and Rickards over the disappearance of correspondence between the lovers. Rickards demanded their return from Sherry while he claimed that they had already been returned.

She met John Osborne, then married to the actress Mary Ure, when designing the costumes for the film of Look Back in Anger. In his autobiography, Osborne described his immediate attraction to her. He was less kind about Ayer, who attempted to win Rickards back, describing him as "possibly the most selfish, superficial and obtuse man I had ever met", a "cruel, pear-shaped Don Giovanni". Rickards, who also designed the costumes for Osborne's disastrous musical show The World of Paul Slickey (1959), which was booed off the stage on its first night, fell deeply in love again.

When Osborne left her for the writer Penelope Gilliatt, in 1963 Rickards married the painter Leonard Rosoman - on the rebound, she later admitted. In 1968, she was costume designer on the film Alfred the Great when she fell in love with the director Clive Donner, and their marriage lasted until her death.

Tom Vallance

Jocelyn Rickards, costume designer: born Melbourne, Victoria 29 July 1924; married 1963 Leonard Rosoman (marriage dissolved 1969), 1970 Clive Donner; died 7 July 2005.

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