Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly Headshot

Actor • Dancer • Singer • Director • Choreographer

Birth Date: August 23, 1912

Death Date: February 2, 1996

Birth Place: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Arguably the most influential and innovative screen dancer after Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly's effortless physicality and extraordinary vision for the Hollywood musical resulted in some of the most enduring screen song-and-dance films of the 20th century, including "An American in Paris" (1951) and "Singin' in the Rain" (1952). Born Eugene Curran Kelly in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on August 23, 1912, Kelly's initial dream was to play shortstop for his hometown baseball team, the Pirates, and he was dismayed when his mother enrolled him and his brother, James, in dance classes. He quit after being bullied by neighborhood toughs, and resumed his focus on sports until high school, when he found that he could earn money in local dance contests and through teaching dance at his family's studio, which opened in 1931. The studio provided him and his family with support during his undergraduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh, where he pursued a degree in economics; Kelly might have gone on to become a lawyer had the family's school not proven so successful, prompting him to move to New York and try his hand at acting in New York. His first attempt, in 1937, yielded no jobs, so Kelly returned to Pittsburgh, where he choreographed and performed in a production of "Hold Your Hats" the following year. After seeing his work in Pittsburgh, dancer and choreographer Robert Alton invited Kelly to perform in the Broadway run of Cole Porter's "Leave It To Me!" This led to his own choreography and dancing in 1939's "The Time of Your Life" and "Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshow" (1939), where he met and married fellow cast member Betsy Blair, and finally, top billing in Rodgers and Hart's "Pal Joey" in 1940. A graceful but unquestionably athletic dancer who also possessed a capable singing voice, comic timing and movie star charisma, it was inevitable that Hollywood would come calling, and after signing with David O. Selznick in 1941, he was loaned out to MGM for his first feature, "For Me and My Gal" (1942), which starred Judy Garland. A box office success, it led to supporting roles in "Christmas Holiday" (1944) and his first lead, opposite Lucille Ball, in "Du Barry Was a Lady" (1943), which was soon followed by his first screen choreography assignment in "Thousands Cheer" (1943), where his humorous routine with a mop drew critical praise. But with his next picture - a loan-out to Columbia for "Cover Girl" (1944) with Rita Hayworth - Kelly established himself as a new and innovative force in screen dance and musicals, one that hinged equally on technique and skill as it did on visual effects and cinematography. In "Cover Girl," Kelly, in collaboration with choreographer Stanley Donen, created indelible dance routines - using superimposition to suggest Kelly dancing with himself in the "Alter Ego" sequence - and would top these efforts with his next picture, "Anchors Away" (1945), which found him dancing opposite MGM's cartoon star Jerry Mouse. Both films were huge hits, and "Anchors" earned Kelly an Oscar nod for Best Actor; by the following year, his status was such that he was partnered with the reigning king of screen dance, Fred Astaire, to perform and collaborate on a route for "Ziegfield Follies" (1946). Recognizing that they had an assured box office draw in Kelly, MGM kept him in regular rotation as an actor/dancer and choreographer for its musicals, including "The Pirate" (1952) with reunited him with Garland, and two successful team-ups with Frank Sinatra in "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (1949) and the Oscar-winning "On the Town" (1949), which brought the screen musical out of the soundstage in and into real-life locations like the streets of New York City. Despite these laurels, Kelly wanted to direct his own vision of a Hollywood musical, and in 1951, he earned the chance with "An American in Paris." A stunning, Impressionistic effort that crystallized his style of dance - a combination of ballet, tap and modern dance captured in fluid, always moving camerawork and editing - "Paris," which featured a 17-minute dream ballet sequence, won six Oscars, including Best Picture and an honorary Oscar to Kelly for his contributions to musicals and choreography. Its reputation as Kelly's best film effort has been largely eclipsed by its follow-up, the effervescent "Singin' in the Rain" (1952), the most streamlined union of comedy, music and romance conceived by Kelly and co-director Donen, and featuring what is arguably one of the most iconic screen moments in the title sequence. But the film was not as successful with critics and audiences as its predecessor, and it would mark the beginning of the end of Kelly's tenure with MGM and as its leading purveyor of screen musicals. Audiences' interests in musicals had begun to wane, and Kelly's efforts were growing increasingly more artistic in their scope: the ballet-fueled "Invitation to the Dance" (1956) was an expensive flop, and "Brigadoon" (1954) and "It's Always Fair Weather" (1956) were hampered by studio interference and disinterest. He would complete one last musical for MGM, "Les Girls" (1957), before focusing his attention behind the camera. He could still be called upon to appear on screen - most notably in a dramatic turn as acerbic reporter Hornbeck in the 1960 film version of "Inherit the Wind," and he was memorable in Jacques Demy's "Les Demoiselles de Rochefort" (1967), which paid tribute to Kelly's MGM work - but he found more rewarding work as a producer/director for television. He earned an Emmy nomination for a 1958 episode of "Omnibus" (CBS/NBC/ABC, 1952-1961) in which he worked with sports greats like Mickey Mantle and Sugar Ray Robinson, and won the Emmy for Outstanding Children's Programming with a 1967 production of "Jack and the Beanstalk" which, like "Anchors Aweigh," skillfully integrated live action and animation. One of his biggest theatrical successes of the period was a comedy, "A Guide for the Married Man" (1967), which gave Kelly the clout to direct a film version of "Hello, Dolly!" (1969). Though popular, and the recipient of three Oscars, the film was so expensive that it failed to recoup its massive costs. Kelly's final projects were a mixed bag - the Western comedy "The Cheyenne Social Club" (1970) was a flop, but his participation in the MGM compilation film "That's Entertainment!" (1974), which included several song and dance duets with a 77-year-old Fred Astaire, received glowing reviews. He would appear in a handful of features and television episodes, most of which hinged on his screen image - the surreal musical "Xanadu" (1980) showed that he could still carry out dance sequences - and numerous tributes, including Kennedy Center Honors in 1982. a Health issues, including a stroke in 1994, would bring to a close his storied career, and after a second stroke in 1995 left him impaired, Kelly would die in his home in Beverly Hills, California, on February 2, 1996 at the age of 83. Quincy Jones paid tribute to Kelly at the Academy Awards that year with Savion Glover's rendition of Kelly's dance from "Singin' in the Rain."

Credits

Hollywood Musicals

Actor
Show
2022

Pas de dieux et Soir de fête

Actor
Chorégraphe
Show
2016

Pas de dieux by gene kelly - soir de fête by leo staats, nice méditerranée ballet

Choreographer
Show
2016

`Pas de Dieux' de Gene Kelly - `Soir de fête' de Leo Staats, Opéra de Nice

Choreographer
Show
2016

Pas de Dieux

Choreography
Show
2016

Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly: Ol' Blue Eyes Is Back

Self
Show
2015

Happy Again

Actor
Don Lockwood
Movie
2006

Family GuyStream

Guest Voice
Joseph Brady (archive footage)
Series
1999

That's Entertainment! III

Self
Movie
1994

Sins

Actor
Show
1986

North and SouthStream

Actor
Senator Charles Edwards
Miniseries
1985

That's Dancing!

Executive Producer
Movie
1985

That's Dancing!

Self
Movie
1985

The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts

Self
Show
1983

Xanadu

Actor
Danny McGuire
Movie
1980

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: George Burns

Actor
Show
1978

Viva Knievel!Stream

Actor
Will Atkins
Movie
1977
14%

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Danny Thomas

Guest
Show
1976

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Dean Martin

Guest
Show
1976

That's Entertainment, Part 2

Director
Movie
1976

That's Entertainment, Part 2

Narrator
Movie
1976

The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast: Jackie Gleason

Guest
Show
1975

That's Entertainment!Stream

Self
Movie
1974
100%

Forty Carats

Actor
Billy Boylan
Movie
1973

The Peking Ballet: First Spectacular from China

Narrator
Show
1972

The Funny Side

Host
Show
1971

The Cheyenne Social ClubStream

Director
Movie
1970

The Cheyenne Social ClubStream

Producer
Movie
1970

The Brass are Coming

Self
Show
1969

Hello, Dolly!Stream

Director
Movie
1969
45%

1968 Hollywood Stars of Tomorrow

Actor
Show
1968

A Guide for the Married Man

Director
Movie
1967
44%

The Young Girls of Rochefort

Actor
Andy Miller
Movie
1967

The Julie Andrews Show

Actor
Show
1965

At Your Service

Actor
Show
1964

What a Way to Go!Stream

Actor
Pinky Benson
Movie
1964
18%

The Danny Kaye ShowStream

Guest
Series
1963

Going My Way

Actor
Series
1962

Gigot

Director
Movie
1962

Hollywood: The Golden Years

Host
Movie
1961

Here's Hollywood

Self
Show
1960

Let's Make LoveStream

Self
Movie
1960
69%

Inherit the WindStream

Actor
E. K. Hornbeck
Movie
1960
93%

The Gene Kelly Pontiac Special

Host
Show
1959

The Tunnel of Love

Director
Movie
1958

Marjorie Morningstar

Actor
Noel Airman
Movie
1958

Les Girls

Actor
Barry Nichols
Movie
1957

The Happy Road

Actor
Michael J. Andrews
Movie
1957

The Happy Road

Director
Movie
1957

The Happy Road

Producer
Movie
1957

Invitation to the Dance

Actor
Host/Pierrot/The Marine/Sinbad
Movie
1956

Invitation to the Dance

Director
Movie
1956

Invitation to the Dance

Screenwriter
Movie
1956

It's Always Fair Weather

Actor
Ted Riley
Movie
1955

It's Always Fair Weather

Director
Movie
1955

Crest of the Wave

Actor
Lt. `'Brad'` Bradville
Movie
1954

BrigadoonStream

Actor
Tommy Albright
Movie
1954
86%

Love Is Better Than Ever

Self
Movie
1952

Singin' in the RainStream

Actor
Don Lockwood
Movie
1952
100%

Singin' in the RainStream

Director
Movie
1952
100%

The Devil Makes Three

Actor
Capt. Jeff Eliot
Movie
1952

An American in ParisStream

Actor
Jerry Mulligan
Movie
1951
95%

It's a Big Country

Actor
Movie
1951

What's My Line?Stream

Guest
Game Show
1950

The Black Hand

Actor
Giovanni E. "Johnny" Columbo
Movie
1950

Summer StockStream

Actor
Joe D. Ross
Movie
1950
100%

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Actor
Eddie O'Brien
Movie
1949

On the TownStream

Actor
Gabey
Movie
1949
93%

On the TownStream

Director
Movie
1949
93%

Words and Music

Self
Movie
1948

The PirateStream

Actor
Serafin
Movie
1948
78%

The Three MusketeersStream

Actor
D'Artagnan
Movie
1948
75%

Living in a Big Way

Actor
Leo Gogarty
Movie
1947

Ziegfeld FolliesStream

Actor
Gentleman in 'The Babbit and the Bromide'
Movie
1946
67%

Anchors AweighStream

Actor
Joseph Brady
Movie
1945
53%

Escale à Hollywood

Actor
Movie
1945

The Cross of Lorraine

Actor
Victor
Movie
1944

Cover GirlStream

Actor
Danny McGuire
Movie
1944
95%

Christmas Holiday

Actor
Robert Manette
Movie
1944

Pilot No. 5

Actor
Vito S. Alessandro
Movie
1943

Thousands Cheer

Actor
Private Eddie Marsh
Movie
1943

Du Barry Was a LadyStream

Actor
Alec Howe/Black Arrow
Movie
1943

For Me and My Gal

Actor
Harry Palmer
Movie
1942