Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly
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Gene Kelly
Gene Kelly filmography
Pilot No. 5
DuBarry Was a Lady
Thousands Cheer
Let Me Call You Sweetheart
The Cross of Lorraine
Cover Girl (film)
Christmas Holiday
Anchors Aweigh (film)
Ziegfeld Follies (film)
Living in a Big Way
It Had to Be You (1947 film)
The Pirate
The Three Musketeers (1948 film)
Words and Music (1948 film)
Take Me Out to the Ball Game (film)
On the Town (film)
Summer Stock
An American in Paris (film)
It's a Big Country
Love Is Better Than Ever
Singin' in the Rain
The Devil Makes Three (film)
Brigadoon (film)
Seagulls Over Sorrento
Deep in My Heart (1954 film)
It's Always Fair Weather
Invitation to the Dance (film)
The Happy Road
Les Girls
Marjorie Morningstar (film)
The Tunnel of Love
Inherit the Wind (1960 film)
Let's Make Love
Gigot (film)
What a Way to Go!
The Young Girls of Rochefort
A Guide for the Married Man
Hello, Dolly! (film)
The Cheyenne Social Club
40 Carats (film)
That's Entertainment!
Viva Knievel!
Xanadu (film)
Cats Don't Dance
Article Sources and Contributors
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Gene Kelly
Gene Kelly
Gene Kelly
Kelly in 1986, by Allan Warren
Eugene Curran KellyAugust 23, 1912Pittsburgh,
United States
February 2, 1996 (aged 83)Beverly Hills, California,
United States
Actor, dancer, singer, director, producer, choreographer
Years active 1938–94
Betsy Blair (1941–1957)
Jeanne Coyne (1960–1973) (her death)
Patricia Ward (1990–1996) (his death)
Eugene Curran "Gene" Kelly (August 23, 1912 – February 2, 1996) was an American dancer, actor, singer, film
director and producer, and choreographer. Kelly was known for his energetic and athletic dancing style, his good
looks and the likeable characters that he played on screen.
Although he is known today for his performances in Singin' in the Rain and An American in Paris, he was a
dominant force in Hollywood musical films from the mid 1940s until this art form fell out of fashion in the late
1950s. His many innovations transformed the Hollywood musical film, and he is credited with almost
single-handedly making the ballet form commercially acceptable to film audiences.[1]
Kelly was the recipient of an Academy Honorary Award in 1952 for his career achievements. He later received
lifetime achievement awards in the Kennedy Center Honors, and from the Screen Actors Guild and American Film
Institute; in 1999, the American Film Institute also numbered him 15th in their Greatest Male Stars of All Time list.
Early life
He was the third son of James Kelly, a phonograph salesman, and Harriet Curran, who were both children of Irish
Roman Catholic immigrants. He was born in the Highland Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and, at the
age of eight, was enrolled by his mother in dance classes, along with his elder brother James. They both rebelled,
and, according to Kelly: "We didn't like it much and were continually involved in fistfights with the neighborhood
boys who called us sissies...I didn't dance again until I was fifteen." He thought it would be a good way to get
girls.[2] Kelly returned to dance on his own initiative and by then was an accomplished sportsman and well able to
take care of himself. He attended St. Raphael School Elementary School [3] In the Morningside neighborhood of
Pittsburgh, PA. He graduated from Peabody High School in 1929 at the age of sixteen. He enrolled in Pennsylvania
State College to study journalism but the economic crash obliged him to seek employment to help with the family's
finances. At this time, he worked up dance routines with his younger brother Fred in order to earn prize money in
Gene Kelly
local talent contests, and they also performed in local nightclubs.[2]
In 1931, Kelly enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh to study economics
where he joined the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity.[4] While at Pitt, Kelly
became involved in the university's Cap and Gown Club, which staged
original, comedic musical productions.[5] Earning a Bachelor of Arts in
Economics with his graduation from Pitt in 1933, he remained active with
the Cap and Gown Club, serving as its director from 1934 to 1938, while at
the same time enrolling in the University of Pittsburgh Law School.[6] Also
during this period, the Kelly's family started a dance studio on Munhall
Road in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh in 1930. In 1932, the
dance studio was renamed The Gene Kelly Studio of the Dance. A second
location was opened in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1933. Kelly served as a
teacher at the dance studio during both his undergraduate and law student
years at Pitt. In 1931, he was approached by the Rodef Shalom synagogue in
Pittsburgh to teach dance and stage the annual Kermess and was so
successful that his services were retained for seven years until his departure
Kelly's senior picture from the 1933
for New York.[7] Eventually, though, he decided to pursue his career as a
yearbook of the University of Pittsburgh
dance teacher and entertainer full-time and so dropped out of law school
after two months. He began to focus increasingly on performing, later
claiming: "With time I became disenchanted with teaching because the ratio of girls to boys was more than ten to
one, and once the girls reached sixteen the dropout rate was very high."[2] In 1937, having successfully managed and
developed the family's dance school business, he moved to New York City in search of work as a choreographer.[2]
Stage career
After a fruitless search, Kelly returned to Pittsburgh, to his first position as a choreographer with the Charles Gaynor
musical revue Hold Your Hats at the Pittsburgh Playhouse in April, 1938. Kelly appeared in six of the sketches, one
of which, "La Cumparsita", became the basis of an extended Spanish number in Anchors Aweigh eight years later.
His first Broadway assignment, in November 1938, was as a dancer in Cole Porter's Leave It to Me! as the American
ambassador's secretary who supports Mary Martin while she sings "My Heart Belongs to Daddy". He had been hired
by Robert Alton who had staged a show at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and been impressed by Kelly's teaching skills.
When Alton moved on to choreograph One for the Money he hired Kelly to act, sing and dance in a total of eight
routines. His first career breakthrough was in the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Time of Your Life, which opened on
October 25, 1939, where for the first time on Broadway he danced to his own choreography. In the same year he
received his first assignment as a Broadway choreographer, for Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe. His future wife,
Betsy Blair, was a member of the cast. They began dating and married on October 16, 1941.
In 1940, he was given the leading role in Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey, again choreographed by Robert Alton, and
this role propelled him to stardom. During its run he told reporters: "I don't believe in conformity to any school of
dancing. I create what the drama and the music demand. While I am a hundred percent for ballet technique, I use
only what I can adapt to my own use. I never let technique get in the way of mood or continuity."[2] It was at this
time also, that his phenomenal commitment to rehearsal and hard work was noticed by his colleagues. Van Johnson
who also appeared in Pal Joey recalled: "I watched him rehearsing, and it seemed to me that there was no possible
room for improvement. Yet he wasn't satisfied. It was midnight and we had been rehearsing since eight in the
morning. I was making my way sleepily down the long flight of stairs when I heard staccato steps coming from the
stage...I could see just a single lamp burning. Under it, a figure was dancing...Gene."[2]
Gene Kelly
Offers from Hollywood began to arrive but Kelly was in no particular hurry to leave New York. Eventually, he
signed with David O. Selznick, agreeing to go to Hollywood at the end of his commitment to Pal Joey, in October
1941. Prior to his contract, he also managed to fit in choreographing the stage production of Best Foot Forward.
Film career
1941–1944: Becoming established in Hollywood
Selznick sold half of Kelly's contract to MGM and loaned him out to
MGM for his first motion picture: For Me and My Gal (1942) with
Judy Garland. Kelly was "appalled at the sight of myself blown up
twenty times. I had an awful feeling that I was a tremendous flop" but
the picture did well and, in the face of much internal resistance, Arthur
Freed of MGM picked up the other half of Kelly's contract.[2] After
appearing in the B-movie drama Pilot #5 he took the male lead in Cole
Porter's Du Barry Was a Lady opposite Lucille Ball. His first
opportunity to dance to his own choreography came in his next picture
Thousands Cheer, where he performed a mock-love dance with a mop.
He achieved his breakthrough as a dancer on film, when MGM loaned
him out to Columbia to work with Rita Hayworth in Cover Girl (1944),
where he created a memorable routine dancing to his own reflection. In
his next film Anchors Aweigh (1945), MGM virtually gave him a free
hand to devise a range of dance routines, including the celebrated and
much imitated animated dances with Jerry Mouse, and his duets with
co-star Frank Sinatra.[8] Anchors Aweigh became one of the most
Gene Kelly dancing with Jerry in Anchors
Aweigh (1945)
successful films of 1945 and it garnered Kelly his first and only Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. In
Ziegfeld Follies (1946) – which was produced in 1944 but not released until 1946 – Kelly collaborated with Fred
Astaire – for whom he had the greatest admiration – in the famous "The Babbitt and the Bromide" challenge dance
routine before leaving the studio for wartime service. Throughout this period Kelly was obliged to appear in straight
acting roles in a series of cheap B-movies, now largely forgotten.
At the end of 1944, Kelly enlisted in the U.S. Naval Air Service and was commissioned as lieutenant junior grade.
He was stationed in the Photographic Section, Washington D.C., where he was involved in writing and directing a
range of documentaries, and this stimulated his interest in the production side of film-making.[4] [9]
Gene Kelly
1946–1952: MGM
On his return to Hollywood in the spring of 1946, MGM had nothing
lined up and used him in yet another B-movie: Living in a Big Way. The
film was considered so weak that Kelly was asked to design and insert a
series of dance routines, and his ability to carry off such assignments
was noticed. This led to his next picture with Judy Garland and director
Vincente Minnelli, the film version of Cole Porter's The Pirate, in which
Kelly plays the eponymous swashbuckler. Now regarded as a classic,
the film was ahead of its time and was not well received. The Pirate
gave full rein to Kelly's athleticism and is probably best remembered for
Kelly's work with The Nicholas Brothers – the leading
African-American dancers of their day – in a virtuoso dance routine.
Although MGM wanted Kelly to return to safer and more commercial
vehicles, he ceaselessly fought for an opportunity to direct his own
musical film. In the interim, he capitalised on his swashbuckling image
as d'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers. and also appeared with
An American in Paris (1951)
Vera-Ellen in the Slaughter on Tenth Avenue ballet in Words and Music
(1948). He was due to play the male lead opposite Garland in Easter
Parade (1948), but broke his ankle playing volleyball. He withdrew from the film and encouraged Fred Astaire to
There followed Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), his second film
come out of retirement to replace him.
with Sinatra, where Kelly paid tribute to his Irish heritage in The Hat My Father Wore on St. Patrick's Day routine. It
was this musical film which persuaded Arthur Freed to allow Kelly to make On the Town, where he partnered with
Frank Sinatra for the third and final time, creating a breakthrough in the musical film genre which has been
described as "the most inventive and effervescent musical thus far produced in Hollywood."[2]
Stanley Donen, brought to Hollywood by Kelly to be his assistant choreographer, received co-director credit for On
the Town. According to Kelly: "...when you are involved in doing choreography for film you must have expert
assistants. I needed one to watch my performance, and one to work with the cameraman on the timing..without such
people as Stanley, Carol Haney and Jeanne Coyne I could never have done these things. When we came to do On the
Town, I knew it was time for Stanley to get screen credit because we weren't boss-assistant anymore but
co-creators."[2] [11] Together, they opened up the musical form, taking the film musical out of the studio and into real
locations, with Donen taking responsibility for the staging and Kelly handling the choreography. Kelly went much
further than before in introducing modern ballet into his dance sequences, going so far in the "Day in New York"
routine as to substitute four leading ballet specialists for Sinatra, Munshin, Garrett and Miller.[4]
Gene Kelly
It was now Kelly's turn to ask the studio for
a straight acting role and he took the lead
role in the early mafia melodrama: The
Black Hand (1949). This expose of
organized crime is set in New York's "Little
Italy" the late 19th century, and focuses on
the Black Hand, a group which extorts
money upon threat of death. In the real-life
incidents upon which this film is based, it
was the Mafia, not the Black Hand, who
functioned as the villain. Even in 1950,
however, Hollywood had to tread gingerly
whenever dealing with big-time crime; it
was easier (and safer) to go after a "dead"
criminal organization than a "live" one.
Singin' in the Rain (1952)
There followed Summer Stock (1950) –
Judy Garland's last musical film for MGM –
in which Kelly performed the celebrated "You, You Wonderful You" solo routine with a newspaper and a squeaky
floorboard. In his book "Easy the Hard Way", Joe Pasternak, head of one of the other musical units within MGM,
singled out Kelly for his patience and willingness to spend as much time as necessary to enable the ailing Garland to
complete her part.[2]
There followed in quick succession two musicals which have secured Kelly's reputation as a major figure in the
American musical film, An American in Paris (1951) and – probably the most popular and admired of all film
musicals – Singin' in the Rain (1952). As co-director, lead star and choreographer, Kelly was the central driving
force. Johnny Green, head of music at MGM at the time, described him as follows:
"Gene is easygoing as long as you know exactly what you are doing when you're working with him.
He's a hard taskmaster and he loves hard work. If you want to play on his team you'd better like hard
work, too. He isn't cruel but he is tough, and if Gene believed in something he didn't care who he was
talking to, whether it was Louis B. Mayer or the gatekeeper. He wasn't awed by anybody, and he had a
good record of getting what he wanted".[2]
An American in Paris won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and, in the same year, Kelly was presented
with an honorary Academy Award for his contribution to film musicals and the art of choreography. The film also
marked the debut of Leslie Caron, whom Kelly had spotted in Paris and brought to Hollywood. Its dream ballet
sequence, lasting an unprecedented seventeen minutes, was the most expensive production number ever filmed up to
that point and was described by Bosley Crowther as, "whoop-de-doo ... one of the finest ever put on the screen."[4]
Singin' in the Rain featured Kelly's celebrated and much imitated solo dance routine to the title song, along with the
"Moses Supposes" routine with Donald O'Connor and the "Broadway Melody" finale with Cyd Charisse, and while
it did not initially generate the same enthusiasm as An American in Paris, it subsequently overtook the earlier film to
occupy its current pre-eminent place among critics and filmgoers alike.[12]
Gene Kelly
1953–57: The decline of the Hollywood musical
Kelly, at the very peak of his creative powers, now made what in retrospect is seen as a serious mistake.[4] In
December 1951 he signed a contract with MGM which sent him to Europe for nineteen months so that Kelly could
use MGM funds frozen in Europe to make three pictures while personally benefiting from tax exemptions. Only one
of these pictures was a musical, Invitation to the Dance, a pet project of Kelly's to bring modern ballet to mainstream
film audiences. It was beset with delays and technical problems, and flopped when finally released in 1956. When
Kelly returned to Hollywood in 1953, the film musical was already beginning to feel the pressures from television,
and MGM cut the budget for his next picture Brigadoon (1954), with Cyd Charisse, forcing the film to be made on
studio backlots instead of on location in Scotland. This year also saw him appear as guest star with his brother Fred
in the celebrated "I Love To Go Swimmin' with Wimmen" routine in Deep in My Heart. MGM's refusal to loan him
out for Guys and Dolls and Pal Joey put further strains on his relationship with the studio. He negotiated an exit to
his contract which involved making three further pictures for MGM.
The first of these, It's Always Fair Weather (1956) co-directed with Donen, was a musical satire on television and
advertising, and includes his famous roller skate dance routine to "I Like Myself", and a dance trio with Michael
Kidd and Dan Dailey which allowed Kelly to experiment with the widescreen possibilities of Cinemascope. A
modest success, it was followed by Kelly's last musical film for MGM, Les Girls (1957), in which he partnered a trio
of leading ladies, Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall and Taina Elg, fittingly ending, as he had begun, with a Cole Porter
musical. The third picture he completed was a co-production between MGM and himself, the B-movie The Happy
Road, set in his beloved France, his first foray in his new role as producer-director-actor.
1958–1996: Years of perseverance
Kelly did not return to stage work until his MGM contract ended in 1957, when in 1958 he directed Rodgers and
Hammerstein's musical play Flower Drum Song.[13] Early in 1960 Kelly, an ardent Francophile and fluent French
speaker, was invited by A. M. Julien, the general administrator of the Paris Opéra and Opéra-Comique,[2] to select
his own material and create a modern ballet for the company, the first time an American received such an
assignment. The result was Pas de Dieux, based on Greek mythology combined with the music of George
Gershwin's Concerto in F. It was a major success, and led to his being honored with the Chevalier of the Legion
d'Honneur by the French Government.
Kelly continued to make some film appearances, such
as Hornbeck in the 1960 Hollywood production of
Inherit the Wind. However, most of his efforts were
now concentrated on film production and directing. He
directed Jackie Gleason in Gigot in Paris, but the film
was subsequently drastically recut by Seven Arts
Another French effort,
Productions and flopped.
Jacques Demy's homage to the MGM musical: Les
Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) in which Kelly
appeared, also performed poorly. He appeared as
himself in George Cukor's Let's Make Love (1960).
Kelly as Hornbeck in Inherit the Wind
His first foray into television was a documentary for
NBC's Omnibus, Dancing is a Man's Game (1958) where he assembled a group of America's greatest sportsmen –
including Mickey Mantle, Sugar Ray Robinson and Bob Cousy – and reinterpreted their moves choreographically,
as part of his lifelong quest to remove the effeminate stereotype of the art of dance, while articulating the philosophy
behind his dance style. It gained an Emmy nomination for choreography and now stands as the key document
explaining Kelly's approach to modern dance.
Gene Kelly
Kelly also frequently appeared on television shows during the 1960s, but his one effort at television series, as Father
Chuck O'Malley in Going My Way (1962–63), based on the Best Picture of 1944 starring Bing Crosby, was dropped
after thirty episodes, although it enjoyed great popularity in Roman Catholic countries outside of the United States.[4]
He also appeared in three major TV specials: New York, New York (1966), The Julie Andrews Show (1965), and Jack
and the Beanstalk (1967) a show he produced and directed which returned to a combination of cartoon animation
with live dance, winning him an Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program.
In 1963, Kelly joined Universal Pictures for a two-year stint which proved to be the most unproductive of his career
so far. He joined 20th Century Fox in 1965, but had little to do – partly due to his decision to decline assignments
away from Los Angeles for family reasons. His perseverance finally paid off with the major box-office hit A Guide
for the Married Man (1967) where he directed Walter Matthau and a major opportunity arose when Fox – buoyed by
the returns from The Sound of Music (1965) – commissioned Kelly to direct Hello, Dolly! (1969), again directing
Matthau along with Barbra Streisand, but which unfortunately failed to recoup the enormous production expenses.
In 1970, he made another TV special: Gene Kelly and 50 Girls and was invited to bring the show to Las Vegas,
which he duly did for an eight-week stint – on condition he be paid more than any artist had hitherto been paid
there.[4] He directed veteran actors James Stewart and Henry Fonda in the comedy western The Cheyenne Social
Club (1970) which performed very well at the box-office. In 1973 he would work again with Frank Sinatra as part of
Sinatra's Emmy nominated TV special Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back. Then, in 1974, he appeared as one of many special
narrators in the surprise hit of the year That's Entertainment! and subsequently directed and co-starred with his friend
Fred Astaire in the sequel That's Entertainment, Part II (1976). It was a measure of his powers of persuasion that he
managed to coax the 77-year-old Astaire – who had insisted that his contract rule out any dancing, having long since
retired – into performing a series of song and dance duets, evoking a powerful nostalgia for the glory days of the
American musical film. Kelly continued to make frequent TV appearances and in 1980, appeared in an acting and
dancing role opposite Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu (1980), an expensive theatrical flop which has since attained a
cult following.[4] In Kelly's opinion "The concept was marvelous but it just didn't come off."[2] In the same year, he
was invited by Francis Ford Coppola to recruit a production staff for American Zoetrope's One from the Heart
(1982). Although Coppola's ambition was for him to establish a production unit to rival the Freed Unit at MGM, the
film's failure put an end to this idea.[4] In 1985, Kelly served as executive producer and co-host of That's Dancing! –
a celebration of the history of dance in the American musical. After his final on-screen appearance introducing That's
Entertainment! III in 1994, his final film project was the animated movie Cats Don't Dance, released in 1997 and
dedicated to him, on which Kelly acted as uncredited choreographic consultant.
Working methods and influence on filmed dance
When he began his collaborative film work, he was heavily influenced by Robert Alton and John Murray Anderson,
striving to create moods and character insight with his dances. He choreographed his own movement, along with that
of the ensemble, with the assistance of Jeanne Coyne, Stanley Donen, Carol Haney, and Alex Romero. He
experimented with lighting, camera techniques and special effects in order to achieve true integration of dance with
film, and was one of the first to use split screens, double images, live action with animation and is credited as the
person who made the ballet form commercially acceptable to film audiences.[1]
There was a clear progression in his development, from an early concentration on tap and musical comedy style to
greater complexity using ballet and modern dance forms.[14] Kelly himself refused to categorize his style: "I don't
have a name for my style of dancing...It's certainly hybrid...I've borrowed from the modern dance, from the classical,
and certainly from the American folk dance - tap-dancing, jitterbugging...But I have tried to develop a style which is
indigenous to the environment in which I was reared."[14] He especially acknowledged the influence of George M.
Cohan: "I have a lot of Cohan in me. It's an Irish quality, a jaw-jutting, up-on-the-toes cockiness - which is a good
quality for a male dancer to have."[2] He was also heavily influenced by an African-American dancer Dancing
Dotson, whom he saw at Loew's Penn. Theatre around 1929, and was briefly taught by Frank Harrington, an
Gene Kelly
African-American tap specialist from New York.[15] However, his main interest was in ballet, which he studied
under Kotchetovsky in the early Thirties. As biographer Clive Hirschhorn explains: "As a child he used to run for
miles through parks and streets and woods - anywhere, just as long as he could feel the wind against his body and
through his hair. Ballet gave him the same feeling of exhilaration, and in 1933 he was convinced it was the most
satisfying form of self-expression."[4] He also studied Spanish dancing under Angel Cansino, Rita Hayworth's
uncle.[4] Generally speaking, he tended to use tap and other popular dance idioms to express joy and exuberance – as
in the title song from Singin' in the Rain or "I Got Rhythm" from An American in Paris, whereas pensive or romantic
feelings were more often expressed via ballet or modern dance, as in "Heather on the Hill" from Brigadoon or "Our
Love Is Here to Stay" from An American in Paris.[14]
According to Delamater, Kelly's work "seems to represent the fulfillment of dance-film integration in the 1940s and
1950s". While Fred Astaire had revolutionized the filming of dance in the 1930s by insisting on full-figure
photography of dancers while allowing only a modest degree of camera movement, Kelly freed up the camera,
making greater use of space, camera movement, camera angles and editing, creating a partnership between dance
movement and camera movement without sacrificing full-figure framing. Kelly's reasoning behind this was that he
felt the kinetic force of live dance often evaporated when brought to film, and he sought to partially overcome this by
involving the camera in movement and giving the dancer a greater number of directions in which to move. Examples
of this abound in Kelly's work and are well illustrated in the "Prehistoric Man" sequence from On the Town and "The
Hat My Father Wore on St. Patrick's Day" from Take Me Out to the Ball Game.[14] In 1951, he summed up his vision
as follows: "If the camera is to make a contribution at all to dance, this must be the focal point of its contribution; the
fluid background, giving each spectator an undistorted and altogether similar view of dancer and background. To
accomplish this, the camera is made fluid, moving with the dancer, so that the lens becomes the eye of the spectator,
your eye".[1]
Kelly's athleticism gave his moves a distinctive broad,
muscular quality,[14] and this was a very deliberate choice on
his part, as he explained: "There's a strong link between
sports and dancing, and my own dancing springs from my
early days as an athlete...I think dancing is a man's game and
if he does it well he does it better than a woman."[2] He railed
against what he saw as the widespread effeminacy in male
dancing which, in his opinion, "tragically" stigmatized the
genre, alienating boys from entering the field: "Dancing does
attract effeminate young men. I don't object to that as long as
they don't dance effeminately. I just say that if a man dances
effeminately he dances badly — just as if a woman comes
out on stage and starts to sing bass. Unfortunately people
confuse gracefulness with softness. John Wayne is a graceful
man and so are some of the great ball players...but, of course,
they don't run the risk of being called sissies." In his view,
"one of our problems is that so much dancing is taught by
women. You can spot many male dancers who have this
tuition by their arm movements — they are soft, limp and
feminine."[2] He acknowledged that, in spite of his efforts —
in TV programs such as Dancing: A Man's Game (1958) for
example — the situation changed little over the years.[2]
Kelly in rehearsal with Sugar Ray Robinson and assistant
Jeanne Coyne in the NBC Omnibus television special
Dancing is a Man's Game (1958)
He also sought to break from the class-conscious conventions of the 1930s and early 40s, when top hat and tails or
tuxedos were the norm, by dancing in casual or everyday work clothes, so as to make his dancing more relevant to
Gene Kelly
the cinema-going public. As his first wife, actress and dancer Betsy Blair explained: "A sailor suit or his white socks
and loafers, or the T-shirts on his muscular torso, gave everyone the feeling that he was a regular guy, and perhaps
they too could express love and joy by dancing in the street or stomping through puddles...he democratized the dance
in movies."[16] In particular, he wanted to create a completely different image from that associated with Fred Astaire,
not least because he believed his physique didn't suit such refined elegance: "I used to envy his cool aristocratic
style, so intimate and contained. Fred wears top hat and tails to the manner born — I put them on and look like a
truck driver."[2]
Personal life and death
Kelly was married to Betsy Blair for 15 years (1941–1957) and they had one child, Kerry. Kelly divorced Blair in
1957. In 1960, Kelly married his choreographic assistant Jeanne Coyne, who had divorced Stanley Donen in 1949
after a brief marriage. He remained married to Coyne from 1960 until her death in 1973 and they had two children,
Bridget and Tim. He was married to Patricia Ward from 1990 until his death in 1996.
Kelly was a lifelong supporter of the Democratic Party with strong progressive convictions,[17] which occasionally
created difficulty for him as his period of greatest prominence coincided with the McCarthy era in the U.S. In 1947,
he was part of the Committee for the First Amendment, the Hollywood delegation which flew to Washington to
protest at the first official hearings by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. His first wife, Betsy Blair,
was suspected of being a Communist sympathizer and when MGM, who had offered Blair a part in Marty (1955),
were considering withdrawing her under pressure from the American Legion, Kelly successfully threatened MGM
with a pullout from It's Always Fair Weather unless his wife was restored to the part.[4] [18] He used his position on
the board of directors of the Writers Guild of America, West on a number of occasions to mediate disputes between
unions and the Hollywood studios, and although he was frequently accused by some on the right of championing the
unions, he was valued by the studios as an effective mediator.
He retained a lifelong passion for sports and relished competition. He was known as a big fan of the Pittsburgh
Steelers and New York Yankees. From the mid-40s through the early 50s, he and Blair organized weekly parties at
their Beverly Hills home which were renowned for an intensely competitive and physical version of charades, known
as "The Game".[18]
Kelly died in his sleep on February 2, 1996, in Beverly Hills, California after a stroke – he had also suffered a stroke
the year before. His body was cremated the same day and he had left instructions that there was to be no funeral and
no memorial services.[19] Kelly's papers are currently housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at
Boston University.
Gene Kelly
Awards and honors
• 1946 – Academy Award nomination for Best Actor
in Anchors Aweigh (1945).
• 1952 – Honorary Academy Award "in appreciation
of his versatility as an actor, singer, director and
dancer, and specifically for his brilliant
achievements in the art of choreography on film."
This Oscar was lost in a fire in 1983 and replaced at
the 1984 Academy Awards.
• 1956 – Golden Bear at the 6th Berlin International
Film Festival for Invitation to the Dance.[20]
• 1958 – Nomination for Golden Laurel Award for
Best Male Musical Performance in Les Girls.
Plaque honoring Gene Kelly at his alma mater, the University of
• 1958 – Dance Magazine's annual TV Award for
Dancing: A Man's Game from the Omnibus
television series. It was also nominated for an Emmy for best choreography.
• 1960 – In France, Kelly was made a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor.
1962 – Gene Kelly Dance Film Festival staged by the Museum of Modern Art.
1964 – Silver Sail Best Actor for What a Way to Go! (1964) at the Locarno International Film Festival.
1967 – Emmy for Outstanding Children's Program for Jack and the Beanstalk.
1970 – Nomination for Golden Globe, Best Director for Hello, Dolly!, 1969.
1981 – Cecil B. DeMille Award at Golden Globes.
1981 – Gene Kelly was the subject of a two-week film festival in France.
1982 – Lifetime Achievement Award in the fifth annual Kennedy Center Honors.
1985 – Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute.
1989 – Life Achievement Award from Screen Actors Guild.
1991 – University of Pittsburgh inaugurates The Gene Kelly Awards, given annually to high school musicals in
Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
1992 – Induction into the Theater Hall of Fame.
1994 – National Medal of Arts awarded by United States President Bill Clinton.
1994 – Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded by President Bill Clinton.[21]
1994 – The Three Tenors performed Singin' in the Rain in his presence during a concert at Dodger Stadium in
Los Angeles.
1996 – Honorary César Award The César is the main national film award in France.
1996 – At the Academy Awards ceremony, director Quincy Jones organised a tribute to the just-deceased Kelly,
in which Savion Glover performed the dance to "Singin' in the Rain".
1997 – Ranked #26 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list.
1999 – Ranked #15 in the American Film Institute's "Greatest Legends" list.
Gene Kelly
Musical films
Gene Kelly appeared as actor and dancer in the following musical films. He always choreographed his own dance
routines, and often the dance routines of others, and often used assistants. As was the practice at the time, he was
rarely formally credited in the film titles:[1]
For Me and My Gal
Harry Palmer
Du Barry Was a Lady
Alec Howe/Black Arrow
Thousands Cheer
Private Eddie Marsh
Cover Girl
Danny McGuire
Anchors Aweigh
Joseph Brady
Ziegfeld Follies
Gentleman in 'The Babbit and the
Living in a Big Way
Leo Gogarty
The Pirate
Words and Music
Take Me Out to the Ball
Eddie O'Brien
On the Town
Summer Stock
Joe D. Ross
An American in Paris
Jerry Mulligan
Singin' in the Rain
Don Lockwood
Tommy Albright
Deep in My Heart
Specialty in 'Dancing Around'
Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actor
Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion
Picture Musical or Comedy
It's Always Fair Weather Ted Riley
Invitation to the Dance
Host/Pierrot/The Marine/Sinbad
Les Girls
Barry Nichols
Marjorie Morningstar
Let's Make Love
What a Way to Go!
Pinky Benson
Les Demoiselles de
Andy Miller
That's Entertainment!
(also archive footage)
That's Entertainment,
Part II
(also archive footage)
Danny McGuire
Gene Kelly
November 9, 1938 - July 15,
Secretary to Mr.
Leave It to Me!
February 4, 1939 - May 27, 1939 One for the Money various roles
October 25, 1939 - April 6, 1940
The Time of Your
September 23, 1940 - October
19, 1940
The Time of Your
December 25, 1940 - November
29, 1941
Pal Joey
Joey Evans
October 1, 1941 - July 4, 1942
Best Foot
December 1, 1958 - May 7, 1960 Flower Drum
February 22, 1979 - April 1,
July 2, 1985 - May 18, 1986
Singin' in the Rain
Original film choreography
Nominated — Drama Desk Award for Outstanding
1962–1963 Going My Way
Father Chuck O'Malley
(30 episodes)
Gene Kelly: New York, New York
The Julie Andrews Show
Jack and the Beanstalk
Jeremy Keen, Proprietor (Peddler) Emmy Award for Best Children's
The Funny Side
Frank Sinatra: Ol' Blue Eyes is Back
Gene Kelly: An American in
Muppet Show
North and South
Senator Charles Edwards
Eric Hovland
Dancing: A Man's Game
Series host
Gene Kelly
References in Popular Culture
Gene Kelly is mentioned in the rap section of Madonna's "Vogue" from 1990 next to stars from the Golden Age era
of Hollywood like Bette Davis, Ginger Rogers or Marilyn Monroe
Gene Kelly's computer-generated likeness appeared, alongside that of Donald O'Connor, in a 2011 television
commercial, for the Volkswagon Jetta, in which they performed a seated dance in the backseat of a Jetta to illustrate
the large amount of leg room available.
Gene Kelly is also mentioned as a personal hero in the lyrics of "Take Away My Pain" by the popular Progressive
metal band Dream Theater. "Take Away My Pain", featured in the 1997 album Falling into Infinity, mentions Kelly's
then recent departure in the lines: "He said 'Look at poor Gene Kelly, I guess he won't be singing in the rain'. You
can take away my heroes Can you take away my pain".
[1] Billman, Larry (1997). Film Choreographers and Dance Directors. North Carolina: McFarland and Company. pp. 374–376.
ISBN 0899508685.
[2] Thomas, Tony (1991). The Films of Gene Kelly - Song and Dance Man. New York, NY: Carol Publishing Group. ISBN 0806505435.
[3] http:/ / www. straphaelelementaryschool. net/ alumni. html
[4] Hirschhorn, Clive (1984). Gene Kelly - a Biography. London: W.H. Allen. ISBN 0491031823.
[5] The Owl (http:/ / digital. library. pitt. edu/ cgi-bin/ t/ text/ pageviewer-idx?c=pittyearbooks;idno=1933e49702;view=image;seq=0163).
Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh. 1933. p. 158. . Retrieved 2010-06-09.
[6] The Owl (http:/ / digital. library. pitt. edu/ cgi-bin/ t/ text/ pageviewer-idx?c=pittyearbooks;idno=1938e49702;view=image;seq=203).
Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh. 1938. p. 198. . Retrieved 2010-06-09.
[7] cf. Hirschhorn, p.33.
[8] Later examples of this human/animated character pas de deux include Paula Abdul opposite an animated cat in her "Opposites Attract" video,
and Kelly dancing with Stewie Griffin in the episode "Road to Rupert" from the Family Guy series.
[9] According to Blair, p.111, he directed Jocelyn Brando in a semi-documentary about war-wounded veterans.
[10] Astaire, Fred (1959). Steps in Time. London: Heinemann. pp. 291. ISBN 0-241-11749-6.
[11] Blair, p.104: "Gene was the central creative force in this initial collaboration, but he was always generous about Stanley's
contribution...Unfortunately, and mysteriously for me, Stanley, over the years, had been less than gracious about Gene"
[12] In 1994, Kurt Browning, offered an ice skating interpretation of "Singin' in the Rain" on his television special You Must Remember This. In
2005, Kelly's widow gave permission for Volkswagen to use his likeness to promote the Golf GTi car. The advertisement, shown only outside
the US, used CGI to mix footage of Gene Kelly, from Singin' in the Rain, with footage of professional breakdancer David Elsewhere.
[13] In an episode foreshadowing his later conflicts with the studio, Elia Kazan in the late 1940s offered Kelly the role of Biff in Death of a
Salesman on Broadway, but MGM refused to release him. cf. Blair, p.112
[14] Delamater, Jerome (2004). "Gene Kelly". International Encyclopedia of Dance. vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 38–40.
[15] cf. Hirschhorn, p.25,26: "What impressed Gene was the originality of the man's [Dotson's] dancing, as it was quite unlike anything he'd seen
before. The tricks Dotson was doing were absolutely fresh. He went back to see that act a couple of times, and admitted pinching several steps
for his own use...Just as he had done with Dotson, Gene made up his mind to 'steal' as much as he could from numerous touring shows...both
he and Fred were absolutely shameless when it came to pilfering, and very good at it."
[16] Blair, p.176
[17] http:/ / www. genekellyscene. com/ books. htm
[18] Blair, Betsy (2004). The Memory of All That. London: Elliott & Thompson. ISBN 190402730X.
[19] cf. Blair, p.8: "Kerry later told me that they all felt as if she [Patricia Ward, Kelly's wife at the time of his death] 'threw him away - as if he
were garbage to be incinerated and thrown away. There aren't even any ashes'. His children, who loved him, never even got to say goodbye to
their father. It would have saddened and, I imagine, enraged him because he loved his children deeply."
[20] "6th Berlin International Film Festival: Prize Winners" (http:/ / www. berlinale. de/ en/ archiv/ jahresarchive/ 1956/ 03_preistr_ger_1956/
03_Preistraeger_1956. html). . Retrieved 2009-12-26.
[21] Movie Treasures (http:/ / www. movietreasures. com/ Gene_Kelly/ gene_kelly. html)
Gene Kelly
External links
Gene Kelly ( at the Internet Movie Database
Gene Kelly ( at the TCM Movie Database
Gene Kelly ( at the Internet Broadway Database
Gene Kelly ( at
The Gene Kelly Awards - University of Pittsburgh (
Obituary, NY Times, February 3, 1996 (
Naval Intelligence File on Gene Kelly (
Gene Kelly - An American Life - PBS (
Le Site Français Gene Kelly (
Le Club Français Gene Kelly (
Gene Kelly filmography
Gene Kelly (1912–1996) was an American dancer, actor, singer,
director, producer, and choreographer whose work in motion
pictures spans from 1942 to 1996. He is probably best known
today for his performances in musicals, notably An American in
Paris (1951) and Singin' in the Rain (1952).
Kelly made his Hollywood film debut in For Me and My Gal
(1942), co-starring with Judy Garland.[1] Afterward, he went on to
work as an actor, dancer and subsequently, choreographer, in a
series of musical films. In these films, his choreography included
experiments with a combination of dance and animation (Anchors
Aweigh and Invitation to the Dance) and dance scenes involving
Gene Kelly in the trailer for Take Me Out to the Ball
Game (1949)
special effects (including the "Alter Ego" number from Cover Girl
and the split-screen dance number from It's Always Fair
Weather).[2] [3] In addition to his work as an actor and choreographer, Kelly directed or co-directed several films,
some of which did not feature him in an acting role. Kelly appeared in several non-musical dramatic and comedy
films as well.
Kelly received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for his performance in Anchors Aweigh (1945) and
won an Honorary Academy Award for his work in An American in Paris (1951). He was voted the 15th most
popular film actor on the American Film Institute’s millennium list, while his Singin' in the Rain was voted the most
popular movie musical of all time.[1] [5]
This filmography below contains a chronological listing of Gene Kelly's feature films. His musicals are indicated
with a beamed eighth note symbol (♫).