A Tribute to Gene Kelly
Probably the most profound thing you can say about Gene Kelly is that he did for dancing what Bill Gates did for being a computer geek; he made it cool. As somebody else has said, he was the Bruce Springsteen of tap dancers. Unlike Astaire, perhaps his only peer, he didn’t dance in top hats and tails on polished floors. He wore chinos and polo shirts and white socks with loafers. He was a guy. As somebody who once took tap-dancing lessons, I owe him a personal debt of gratitude!
As a child, Eugene Curran Kelly (born in Pittsburgh on August 23, 1912) actually preferred sports to dancing. He even wanted to play pro football! But his mother organized him and his 4 siblings as The Five Kellys, who performed at amateur nights. His sports training helped him to be a better dancer, and the girls liked it, too, so it was worth having to fight his way to dance class.
In 1932, Gene opened the Gene Kelly Dance Studio, along with most of his family. The following year, believe it or not, he graduated with a degree in economics from the University of Pittsburgh. Eventually, though, he moved to New York City and found his way into the chorus line of Broadway musicals. His big break was in the title role of the Broadway musical Pal Joey in 1940. Two years later he made his film debut inFor Me and My Gal (1942) with Judy Garland.
It was all up from there, as Kelly became one of the top stars of the 40s and 50s. He didn’t just act, sing, and dance; he also served as choreographer, and in the process had a major impact on dancing in the movies. He even directed films, including Gigot (1962) and Hello, Dolly! (1969).
His most famous films, most of which he choreographed, included An American in Paris (1951) and Singin’ in the Rain (1952), two of the greatest musicals ever made, as well as Anchors Aweigh (1945), The Pirate (1948), The Three Musketeers (1948), On the Town (1949), Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), Brigadoon (1954), and Invitation to the Dance (1956). He continued working sporadically in films through the 1980s, appearing in Inherit the Wind (1960), What a Way to Go! (1964), and 40 Carats (1973), among others. We won’t mention Xanadu(1980). He died on Feb. 2, 1996.
Kelly’s fans are quite devoted, and recently he was voted #15 on AFI list of Greatest Movie Actors. As you might expect, there are numerous pages on the Web devoted to his life and career. Most of them are listed in Part II of this article, with reviews, video sources, books, photos, and posters in Parts III and IV.
Part I: Introduction
Part II: Gene Kelly Tributes and Other Pages
Part III: Movie Reviews & Where to Find His Movies
Part IV: Photos, Art, and Posters