Gene Kelly

American dancer, actor, singer, film director, producer, and choreographer “Gene” Kelly was born August 23, 1912 in Pittsburgh. Kelly started dancing At the age of eight after he 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. 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 Elementary School in 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 local talent contests, and they also performed in local nightclubs.

In 1931, Kelly enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh to study economics. While at Pitt, Kelly became involved in the university’s Cap and Gown Club, which staged original, comedic musical productions. 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 Also during this period, Kelly’s family started a dance studio on Munhall Road in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. 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 studio during both his undergraduate and law student years at Pitt.Eventually, though, he decided to pursue his career as a dance teacher and full-time entertainer, so Kelly dropped out of law school after two months. He began to increasingly focus on performing. , having successfully managed and developed the family’s dance school business, he moved to New York City In 1937 in search of work as a choreographer, but 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.

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”. In 1939, he was selected to be part of a musical revue “One for the Money” produced by the actress Katharine Cornell, who was known for finding and hiring talented young actors.Kelly’s first career breakthrough was in the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Time of Your Life, In the same year he received his first assignment as a Broadway choreographer, for Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe and In 1940, he was given the leading role in Rodgers and Hart’s Pal Joey which propelled him to stardom and Offers from Hollywood soon began to arrive. His first motion picture was “For Me and My Gal” (1942) with Judy Garland. He achieved his breakthrough as a dancer when he worked with Rita Hayworth in Cover Girl (1944), his next film Anchors Aweigh (1945) became one of the most successful films of 1945. Upon his return to Hollywood in the spring of 1946, he starred in Living in a Big Way and led to his next picture, a film version of Cole Porter’s The Pirate with Judy Garland in which Kelly plays the eponymous swashbuckler. Later he capitalised on his swashbuckling image as d’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers. and also appeared with Vera-Ellen in the Slaughter on Tenth Avenue ballet in Words and Music (1948) followed by Words and Music (1948), Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), and On the Town, partnered with Frank Sinatra. In 1949 he took the lead role in the early mafia melodrama: The Black Hand.This was then followed by Summer Stock (1950) in which Kelly performed “You, You Wonderful You”, An American in Paris (1951) and, probably the most popular and admired of all film musicals – Singin’ in the Rain (1952). Kelly, at the very peak of his creative powers, now made what in retrospect is seen as a serious mistake, and went to Europe to make a pet project of his to bring modern ballet to mainstream film audiences. The film Invitation to the Dance It was beset with delays and technical problems, and flopped when finally released in 1956. For his next picture Brigadoon (1954), he starred alongside Cyd Charisse, In his next film Deep in My Heart, He also appeared with his brother Fred in. He made three further pictures for MGM. It’s Always Fair Weather (1956), Les Girls (1957) and The Happy Road.

Leaving MGM in 1957, Kelly returned to stage work, although he continued to make some film appearances, such as Hornbeck in the 1960 Hollywood production of Inherit the Wind. Kelly also frequently appeared on television shows during the 1960s, including a role as Father Chuck O’Malley in Going My Way (1962–63). He also appeared in three major TV specials: New York, New York (1966), The Julie Andrews’ Show (1965), and Jack and the Beanstalk (1967) which won him an Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program. He joined 20th Century Fox in 1965, wher he starred the major box-office hit A Guide for the Married Man (1967) and was commissioned to direct Hello, Dolly! (1969), starring Walther Matthau and Barbra Streisand. In 1970, he made another TV special: Gene Kelly and 50 Girls. He also directed veteran actors James Stewart and Henry Fonda in the comedy western The Cheyenne Social Club (1970). 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.Sadly Kelly’s health declined steadily in the late 1980s, and a stroke in July 1994 resulted in a seven week hospital stay. Another stroke in early 1995 left Kelly mostly bedridden in his Beverly Hills, California home. He died in his sleep on February 2, 1996, and his body was subsequently cremated, without any funeral or memorial servicesAlthough 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. Kelly sadly passed away on February 2, 1996 but recieved many awards during his career including the Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur from the French Government, an Academy Honorary Award in 1952 for his career achievements, a lifetime achievement awards in the Kennedy Center Honors, and in 1999, the American Film Institute also numbered him 15th in their Greatest Male Stars of All Time list.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.