TCM Archive Materials VIEW ALL ARCHIVES (21)
|Also Known As:||Eugene Curran Kelly||Died:||February 2, 1996|
|Born:||August 23, 1912||Cause of Death:||complications from a series of strokes|
|Birth Place:||Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA||Profession:||actor, dancer, choreographer, director, dance instructor, gas station attendant, ditch digger|
Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY
By John Charles was even more impressive "On the Town" (1949). Having gained some experience directing while in the service, Kelly both starred in and made his directorial bow with "Town," sharing helming duties with Stanley Donen, a talented, young choreographer who had previously worked with Kelly on "Cover Girl" and "Anchors Aweigh." The two first-time directors picked a production that had more than the usual challenges, in that the customary studio work was complemented by some New York City location shooting at various Big Apple landmarks. This was a very rare occurrence for musicals of the time, which were almost always lensed on the studio back lots under closely controlled conditions, and helped to enhance the film's appeal. "Black Hand" (1950) offered Gene Kelly an unusual change of pace role as an Italian immigrant battling the Mafia in New York City, but he quickly returned to familiar territory with "Summer Stock" (1950), his final collaboration with a then very troubled Judy Garland. After the inclusion of a ballet sequence in "The Pirate," "An American in Paris" (1951) successfully incorporated a beautifully staged and shot routing that ran a then-unheard of 18 minutes. The multiple...
By John Charles was even more impressive "On the Town" (1949). Having gained some experience directing while in the service, Kelly both starred in and made his directorial bow with "Town," sharing helming duties with Stanley Donen, a talented, young choreographer who had previously worked with Kelly on "Cover Girl" and "Anchors Aweigh." The two first-time directors picked a production that had more than the usual challenges, in that the customary studio work was complemented by some New York City location shooting at various Big Apple landmarks. This was a very rare occurrence for musicals of the time, which were almost always lensed on the studio back lots under closely controlled conditions, and helped to enhance the film's appeal.
"Black Hand" (1950) offered Gene Kelly an unusual change of pace role as an Italian immigrant battling the Mafia in New York City, but he quickly returned to familiar territory with "Summer Stock" (1950), his final collaboration with a then very troubled Judy Garland. After the inclusion of a ballet sequence in "The Pirate," "An American in Paris" (1951) successfully incorporated a beautifully staged and shot routing that ran a then-unheard of 18 minutes. The multiple Oscar-winning production also introduced Kelly's discovery Leslie Caron, who took the lead role when Cyd Charisse dropped out due to pregnancy.
As fine as "An American in Paris" was, Kelly's next film was the crown jewel in MGM's musical catalogue and widely regarded as the greatest musical of all time. Set during the time when talking pictures were being introduced in a post-silent era Hollywood, "Singin' in the Rain" (1952) was a delightful, rollicking tribute to moviemaking. Kelly's remarkable choreography, including his show-stopping "Moses Supposes" tap dancing number with Donald O'Connor and, of course, Kelly's performance of the title song, performed on a rain swept street complete with an umbrella as prop, helped make this one of the most beloved musicals ever produced. Although the movie was inexplicably shut out at the Oscars, Kelly and Donen shared a Director's Guild of America Award for their efforts and Kelly received a special Academy Award that year in recognition of his amazing achievements both on and off the silver screen.
While not as well known as many MGM musicals, the company's adaptation of the Broadway smash "Brigadoon" (1954) had plentiful charm and offered the first chance for audiences to see Kelly glide his way across the wide CinemaScope frame. Originally planned as a direct follow-up to "On the Town," "It's Always Fair Weather" (1955) was slightly darker that most of Kelly's musicals from this time, with the relationship between its three protagonists strained for part of the running time, but still ended in very upbeat fashion. Kelly co-directed once again with Donen, and the show-stopping sequence came early on, with Kelly and fellow leading men Dan Dailey and Michael Kidd dancing on, around and through a taxi cab, and finally adding grace to garbage by tap dancing with trash can lids attached to their feet. Kelly directed solo on "Invitation to the Dance" (1956), an ambitious project that sought to tell three stories solely through dance (including one starring Kelly and featuring him interacting again with animation) and no dialogue. However, the project, which started filming in 1952, experienced any number of problems, and had been greatly reworked by the time it finally appeared four years later. Although it was a success overseas, "Invitation to the Dance" failed domestically, a signal that audiences had started to tire of this sort of fare.
After 15 years and numerous hits for MGM, the following year's "Les Girls" (1957) was Kelly's last musical for the company. The actor's marriage to Blair also ended that year. An outspoken liberal, Blair ended up blacklisted, but was able to find some work thanks to Kelly's intervention, including "Marty" (1955), which earned her an Oscar nomination. In later life, Blair described Kelly, who was also a progressive liberal, as a hardworking, attentive and near perfect husband, but divorced him because she desired her freedom. With MGM no longer producing musicals, Kelly directed and starred in "Marjorie Morningstar" (1958) opposite a young Natalie Wood and "The Tunnel of Love" (1958), as well as helming a successful run of "Flower Drum Song" (1958-60) on Broadway.
In 1960, he married dancer Jeanne Coyne and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Stanley Kramer's acclaimed drama about the real-life controversy generated by the teaching of evolution in schools during the 1920s, "Inherit the Wind" (1960) found Kelly in fine dramatic form as a journalist based on famous writer H.L. Mencken. Kelly also explored series television with "Going My Way" (ABC, 1962-63), a network version of the hit 1944 feature, with Kelly assuming the Father O'Malley role originated by Bing Crosby. The hour-long comedy failed to click with viewers, however, and was cancelled after one season.
By this time, directing became Kelly's primary occupation. In addition to theatrical features like "Gigot" (1962), "A Guide for the Married Man" (1967) and "The Cheyenne Social Club" (1970), he also directed and starred in an Emmy Award-winning adaptation of "Jack and the Beanstalk" (CBS, 1967). His main accomplishment at this time was "Hello Dolly!" (1969), a big-budget version of the Broadway hit that helped to solidify Barbra Streisand as a major box office attraction. Kelly returned to television as host of "The Funny Side" (NBC, 1971), a comedy series that included song and dance numbers. Although the program garnered an Emmy Award, it was gone from the air waves after only four months. Coyne died of leukaemia at the young age of 50 in 1973, and aside from a supporting role in the comedy "40 Carats" (1973), Kelly was mostly inactive throughout the 1970s. However, his talents were seen on movie screens around the world once again when MGM scored a surprise hit with "That's Entertainment!" (1974), a collection of memorable sequences from their library of classic musicals, which included clips from such Kelly outings as "Singin' in the Rain" and "An American in Paris" as well as new footage of the star in bookend segments. The studio also tapped Kelly to direct linking sequences and/or do additional hosting duties for the follow-ups "That's Entertainment, Part II" (1976), "That's Dancing" (1985), and "That's Entertainment III" (1994).
It was a shame these compilation extravaganzas were not released at the end of Kelly's motion picture career, as his final two original entries in his filmography were simply embarrassing. "Viva Knievel!" (1977) was a ludicrous attempt to create a motion picture career for the charmless (and frequently unsuccessful) daredevil Evel Knievel, with Kelly wasted in a nothing role as his alcoholic mechanic. Even more unfortunate was the disastrous Olivia Newton-John musical fantasy "Xanadu" (1980) in which he played a character bearing the name of his leading man from "Cover Girl," but that was where any resemblance between the two productions ended. Despite its critical drubbing, "Xanadu" did provide Kelly with his final onscreen dance with Newton-John, giving the roller disco musical its one touch of class.
Kelly earned his final acting credits in a pair of miniseries, the Civil War epic "North and South" (ABC, 1985) and "Sins" (CBS, 1986), and accepted Lifetime Achievement Awards from the American Film Institute and the Screen Actors Guild in 1985 and 1989, respectively. In 1990, the star married his third wife, Patricia Ward, and they remained together until Kelly passed away on Feb. 2, 1996 from complications brought about by a pair of strokes he had suffered. It was safe to say that with the death of Astaire in 1987 and Kelly nine years later, the two greatest dance innovators in cinema history officially brought the curtain down on the Golden Age of movie musicals.
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CAST: (feature film)
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"Where Fred Astaire glided across shiny dance floors, Gene Kelly bounced. Where Fred tapped, Gene stomped. Where Fred was an airy continental concoction, Gene was an all-American jock--and his rise to stardom revitalized the movie musical. Kelly's apotheosis came when he sang "Singin' in the Rain". ... High-voiced and easy, alone in the patently fake downpour of a studio set, Kelly reveled in the plastic bliss of a world where one can breathe out one's longings in song and dance." --From Entertainment Weekly, January 10, 1992.
He was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame (1992)
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