Here is a selection of great numbers performed by one of America’s greatest dancers, Gene Kelly.
Eugene Curran "Gene" Kelly (1912 – 1996) was an American dancer, actor, singer, film director, producer and choreographer. He was known for his energetic and athletic dancing style, his good looks, and the likeable characters that he played on screen.
Best known today for his performances in films such as An American in Paris (1951), Anchors Aweigh (1945), and Singin' in the Rain (1952), he was a dominant force in musical films until they fell out of fashion in the late 1950s. Other than his best known films he starred in many successful films throughout the 1940's majority of them were his trademark genre Musicals, they are For Me and My Gal (1942), Du Barry Was a Lady (1943), Thousands Cheer (1943), The Three Musketeers (1948), and On the Town (1949). In his later career he starred in two notable films which were outside the Musical genre they are Inherit the Wind (1960) and What a Way to Go!. Although his 1955 film It's Always Fair Weather in later life gained recognition among his fans largely due to his musical and dance performances. Throughout his career he had directed films some of which he starred in, but the most famous film he directed that didn't star him in the cast was Hello, Dolly despite not being a commercial success at the time it is now regarded one of the greatest musical films ever. The film was even nominated back 1969 for the Academy Award for Best Picture at the 42nd Academy Awards.
His many innovations transformed the Hollywood musical and he is credited with almost single-handedly making the ballet form commercially acceptable to film audiences.
Kelly received an Academy Honorary Award in 1952 for his career achievements. He later received lifetime achievement awards in the Kennedy Center Honors (1982), 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 Classic Hollywood cinema list.
In 1940 he got the lead role in Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey, choreographed by Robert Alton. 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." His colleagues at this time noticed his great commitment to rehearsal and hard work. 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."
Kelly 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."
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.
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".
Kelly's athleticism gave his moves a distinctive broad, muscular quality, 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." 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." He acknowledged that, in spite of his efforts, the situation changed little over the years.
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 the cinema-going public.
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 Manor born — I put them on and look like a truck driver."
Kelly's health declined steadily in the late 1980s. A stroke in July 1994 resulted in a seven-week hospital stay and another stroke in early 1995 left Kelly mostly bedridden in his Beverly Hills home. He died in his sleep at 8:15 a.m. on February 2, 1996, and was cremated, without funeral or memorial services.
Enjoy Gene Kelly’s immortal style!
With young Liza Minnelli: For me and my gal
Put me to the test
Alter ego dance