Gene Kelly

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Gene Kelly (1986)

Eugene Curran "Gene" Kelly (born August 23, 1912 in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania , † February 2, 1996 in Beverly Hills , California ) was an American dancer , actor , singer , film director , producer and choreographer . He gained roles in musical films such as An American in Paris and Singin 'in the Rainworldwide fame and shaped an athletic dance style. He has also worked successfully behind the camera in many films.


Childhood and adolescence

Gene Kelly was born in Pittsburgh as the third child of five . His parents were Harriet Catherine (nee Curran) and James Patrick Joseph Kelly, who was of Irish descent. His maternal grandmother, on the other hand, came from Germany . At the age of eight, Kelly and his older brother James received dance lessons, albeit against their will and at the request of their mother. Kelly's childhood dream, on the other hand, was to become a shortstop with the Pittsburgh Pirates . He continued to take dance lessons at the age of 14 because, as he said himself, he discovered girls and their love for good dancers. Kelly studied economics at the University of Pittsburgh and graduated in 1933 with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Meanwhile, his family opened the first of two dance studios, which was renamed The Gene Kelly Studio of the Dance in 1932 and where Kelly gave dance lessons alongside his studies. In 1937 he moved to New York to work as a choreographer.


In November 1938, Kelly received his first Broadway engagement in a supporting role in Cole Porter's musical Leave It to Me! . This was followed by One For the Money in 1939. That same year he played in the musical The Time of Your Life , whose dances he choreographed himself. Betsy Blair , who also played in the musical, he met during this time. The two married on October 16, 1941. The lead role in the musical Pal Joey from 1940 helped the young Kelly break through and made Hollywood aware of him.

Film career

At the side of Judy Garland Kelly made his film debut in the MGM musical For Me and My Gal in 1942 . The smaller film productions Pilot # 5 and Du Barry Was a Lady followed , both alongside Lucille Ball . For the first time in the film musical Thousands Cheer (1943) he was able to implement his own choreography. His breakthrough as a dancer in Hollywood came with the realization of the alter ego dance number in the film The Goddess Dances , where he took on the male lead alongside Rita Hayworth . The dance number in which Kelly dances with his own reflection in the mirror was considered impossible to implement at the time. Kelly, who originally didn't want to stay in Hollywood, changed his mind after this experience and decided to overcome the difficulty of forcing dance into a 2D medium.

Kelly as a lieutenant in the US Navy (around 1944)

1945 followed George Sidney's musical vacation in Hollywood ( Anchors Aweigh ) in which he appeared for the first time with Frank Sinatra . Responsible for the choreography again, the musical contains the legendary dance number with Jerry the mouse. Anchors Aweigh was the most commercially successful film of 1945 and earned Kelly an Oscar nomination for Best Actor . A dance duet with Fred Astaire followed in the musical Ziegfeld Follies, produced in 1944 but not released until 1946 . In late 1944, Kelly joined the United States Navy and was posted to the Photographic Section in Washington DC. He was involved in several documentaries he co-wrote and directed (including Combat Fatigue Irritability ).

Upon his return in 1946, Kelly starred in Living in a Big Way . This was followed by a renewed collaboration with Judy Garland in the film musical The Pirate , directed by Garland's husband Vincente Minnelli . The film, considered ahead of its time, was a box office flop. It was believed that the audience didn't want to see Kelly with a wig and a beard or Garland in an adult role. Another collaboration with Garland was planned for Easter Walk. However, Kelly previously broke his ankle playing volleyball and convinced Fred Astaire to take over the role. Take Me Out to the Ball Game was the second film with Sinatra. Kelly paid tribute to his Irish origins with the song The Hat My Father Wore on St. Patrick's Day . The third and final collaboration with Sinatra followed with Heut 'geht wir bummeln ( On the town ) in 1949. Kelly directed it for the first time (together with Stanley Donen ). Today we go for a stroll was the first film musical that was shot on original locations.

Summer Stock would be the last collaboration with Judy Garland. Filming proved extremely difficult due to Garland's frequent absence. Despite the well-known perfectionism, a penchant for hard work and an aversion to any unprofessionalism, Kelly was very patient, helpful and supported Judy Garland through the filming. An American followed in Paris in 1951 and won six Academy Awards, including for Best Picture . Kelly was the driving force as an actor, choreographer and director (assisted by Donen) in his best-known film Singin 'In The Rain (1952), which is supposed to depict the switch from silent films to sound films in a humorous way. In 1952 Kelly received the Honorary Oscar for his performance in film musicals and choreographies. Singin 'in the Rain is considered by most critics to be one of the best musical films of all time.

In December 1951, Kelly signed an MGM deal that allowed him to live in Europe for 19 months and shoot three films. But only the musical invitation to dance resulted from the stay, and the film was a flop at the box office. Back in Hollywood, MGM cut the budget for Brigadoon due to diminishing public interest in movie musicals. It's Always Fair Weather , Les Girls and The Happy Road were Kelly's last films under the MGM contract. After that, Kelly's career as one of the leading stars in Hollywood ended. After working on the stage in France, Kelly returned to the screen with a "non-dancing" role in Stanley Kramer's drama Who Sows the Wind (1960) alongside Spencer Tracy and Fredric March . However, in the following years he concentrated more on film production and directing, including Gigot, the mute from Montmartre , Guide to Affair , Hello, Dolly! , and appeared regularly on television shows in the 1960s. Kelly received an Emmy for Jack and the Beanstalk (1967), a partially animated children's film that he directed .

After Kelly was the guest speaker for That's Entertainment! (1974), he took over the direction of the sequel That's Entertainment, Part II in 1976 and hosted the special together with Fred Astaire. The last film musical by Gene Kelly followed in 1980: the lavish musical Xanadu at the side of Olivia Newton-John and Michael Beck , however, was not a great success with both critics and audiences. He took on the last acting role as Eric Hovland in the TV series Sins alongside Joan Collins . Kelly's last public film appearance was for the second and final installment of That's Entertainment! , That's entertainment! III (1994). Cats Don't Dance (1997) was his last film project as a choreography consultant and was dedicated to him.


Gene Kelly was married to Betsy Blair from 1941 to 1957 . Their daughter, born in 1942, who later became a psychoanalyst Kerry Kelly Novick, was their only child together. Three years after the divorce, Kelly married his assistant choreographer Jeanne Coyne in 1960 and was married to her until her death in 1973. From this marriage the children Bridget and Tim emerged. He was married to Patricia Ward from 1990 until his death in 1996.

Kelly's health deteriorated from the late 1980s. In July 1994 he suffered his first stroke, which required several weeks of hospitalization. Another stroke in early 1995 left him largely bedridden. He died in his sleep in Beverly Hills, California on February 2, 1996 at the age of 83. His body was cremated on the same day, according to his last will.



Golden Globes

Further awards

The American Film Institute also voted him 15th on the list of the 25 Greatest Male Film Legends of All Time.


Kelly was dubbed by many speakers in the German-speaking world. Erik Ode was the only one to do this more than once until the 80s (e.g. in An American in Paris or Singin 'in the Rain ), then he was featured in several early films (in which he appeared with Sinatra) spoken by Lutz Mackensy . Other speakers were Fred Maire , Paul Klinger , Edgar Ott , Heinz Drache and Niels Clausnitzer .

Filmography (selection)



Web links

Commons : Gene Kelly  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. Memories of 'Singin' in Rain 'still thrill Kelly's daughter , Old Post Gazette, September 24, 2002
  2. Kerry Kelly in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  3. ^ Gene Kelly's daughter recalls `wonderful parent , Chicago Tribune, March 15, 2002
  4. On Combat Fatigue Irritability: Kerry Kelly Novick . In: of March 12, 2014.