This page will feature some of the many awards, honours and tributes showered on Gene during his long and illustrious career. Some entries will be more comprehensive than others, depending on the available information or pictures.
Screenland. February 1945
Joan Crawford predicts players she thinks will win Awards first and fastest.
In For Me and My Gal, he proved he was not only a fine dancer but could act. He has a dapper quality and the ability of being sweet and simple and masculine. In the various roles he has portrayed since For Me and My Gal, he has proved he can play a leading man or heavy with equal authority.
MOTION PICTURE RELIEF FUND TESTIMONIAL. March 22nd 1943
Presented to Gene "In appreciation and gratitude for your usefulness, service and contributions..."
ACADEMY AWARD NOMINATION FOR BEST ACTOR. 1945
Gene was nominated for an Oscar for his role as Joe Brady in Anchors Aweigh.
Other nominees were Bing Crosby, Gregory Peck, Cornel Wilde, and the winner, Ray Milland for The Lost Weekend.
Anchors Aweigh won one Oscar; Georgie Stoll for the scoring of a musical picture. It was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Cinematography, and Best Song: I Fall In Love Too Easily.
St. Petersburg Times. 3rd March 1946
Although Gene Kelly’s acting and dancing in Anchors Aweigh win him enthusiastic applause at the Academy Showing, I doubt that he has a chance for the award. The picture has the artificiality of all musicals and it is a tribute to Kelly that he was nominated in spite of this. His is the first nomination of a dancing star if my memory serves me right.
PAGE ONE AWARD. Dance Magazine December 1945.
For outstanding performance in the field of dance for 1945
The award will be presented to Kelly at the Page One Ball in New York’s Madison Square Gardens on December 6th.
The committee who selected Kelly for the honor consists of columnists Ed Sullivan, Earl Wilson…newspapers…TheTimes, Herald Tribune, The Post, Brooklyn Eagle… The award was given to Kelly for his “inventive utilization of the motion picture camera in widening the scope of the dance on screen.”
JOHNSTOWN AWARD March 1946
Johnstown Junior Chamber of Commerce. March 22nd 1946
The people of this city have watched you play the game of life throughout your career and in recognition of success in your chosen field of endeavour this award is made to you. It is a symbol of the high esteem in which you are held by your friends and former associates of this city as well as a token of appreciation for the honor you have reflected upon your former home. The friendly City of Johnstown.
CITATION FROM GEORGE SIDNEY Possibly 1948
This great certificate, in an 'olde-worlde' design, can be seen in the Gotlieb Archives in Boston. It is dated 1625 but I think it is more likely to be around 1948, when Gene made The Three Musketeers! (Sidney was the Director of the picture.)
Let it be known that Gene Kelly of Gascony and Pittsburgh, known as D'Artagnan, for services above and beyond the call of duty, for always having your union dues paid, for always being willing to expose your blade, in spite of the condition of your baldrick, for being just a great wonderful guy and artist. I nominate you for a life term as a Lt. In Sidney's Musketeers. Love, George. May 4th 1625.
HONORARY ACADEMY AWARD 1951
"To Gene Kelly in appreciation of his versatility as an actor, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film."
The Academy Award for An American In Paris was an acknowledgment that Gene Kelly was something more than just a hoofer, that he really was an artist.
Los Angeles Times. March 1952
Gene Kelly in Europe had typed an acceptance speech for An American In Paris and it had been sent here for the program.
Motion Picture magazine, 1954
The way he learned about it is a story in itself. He was in Germany [Making The Devil Makes Three] and sound asleep. At 5 in the morning the phone rang. It was Stanley Donen calling from Hollywood. "What are you doing", Gene hollered into the phone, "getting me up in the middle of the night?"
“Standing in for Gene Kelly on the Academy stage”, Stan told him. “They’ve just given you a special Oscar for your starring performance and choreography in An American In Paris”.
Gene didn’t get back to sleep that night, and he woke the family up early to tell them the news.
“He was awfully pleased”, Lois McClelland, his secretary for the last eight years, recollects. “We knew that he was terribly, terribly pleased because he underplayed it so.”
Modern Screen December 1952
American In London
In spite of anything he may have said before, or even at the time, he was thrilled to receive it. As a matter of fact he didn’t quite believe the BBC broadcaster who announced it. It took a recording from Hollywood, and a playback of those familiar voices in the actual ceremony, to convince him. It was almost too good to be true. It meant more than personal acclaim. It meant that the public had accepted his ideas; that it was eager to receive the best he could give. It also meant that he could count on all the studio backing he needed.
Source unknown, possibly Photoplay late 1973.
Article by Barbra Paskin. Living The Life Of Kelly
In 1951 Kelly was awarded a special Oscar…Even today he still feels somewhat awed by the sight of the small, bronze statuette.
“The glamour has worn off but I’m still impressed by it. I’ve got two now – the first one was a nomination in 1945 for Anchors Aweigh. I figure I’m dead lucky to have one in the house – let alone two!”
Gene's Oscar was destroyed along with almost all of his possessions in a fire at his house in December 1983
At the 1984 Awards when Gene and Ray Bolger were doing presenting duties, Gene was presented with a replacement Oscar:
Ray Bolger: "Before we turn to the next award there is something I'd like to do."
Gene: "If you're gonna ask me to dance, forget it."
Ray: Well, if you don't ask me I won't ask you."
Gene: "You got a deal.".
Gene Allen the President of the Academy comes on stage: "Many of you know Gene Kelly's house was gutted by a fire last Christmas and one of the valuable losses was the Oscar the Academy had given him back in 1951 for his magnificent and brilliant contribution to the art of choreography on film. Gene, the officials and the board of governors want you to accept this as a replacement."
Gene: "Thank you. That's the nicest thing. Now I must tell you I'm not completely surprised because I was tipped off. I knew they were gonna do it, I guess they thought I'd cry or something, and I'm about to so thank you so - you're all so nice. That's all. Thank you."
INDEPENDANT FILM JOURNAL AWARD 1951-52
Exhiborating Award. 1951-52. Independent Film Journal, presented to Gene for being Top Money Actor, 1951-52
LOOK MAGAZINE. ANNUAL MOVIE AWARDS 11th March 1952
SPECIAL AWARD – To Gene Kelly as the all-around star of the year – dancer, singer, choreographer, actor, director and writer – goes a special LOOK Achievement Award. A tireless and talented perfectionist who actively participates in every phase of his films, Kelly has sparked a fresh approach to movie musicals. In An American In Paris, following his early work in On The Town, he brought to full realization on the screen the concept that song and dance should spring naturally and easily from dramatic situations and further the action of the story. Hollywood got its finest choreographer and one of its all-time best dancers in 1941, after his Broadway hit in Pal Joey. With the completion of his latest musical, Singin’ In The Rain, Kelly made his tenth anniversary on the screen a Kelly year.
AMERICA'S TEN BEST-DRESSED MEN, SCREEN CATEGORY. September 1952
LA Mirror. 17th September 1952
Balletta announce Custom Tailors Annual list of America's ten best-dressed men
Screen: Gene Kelly
Gene Kelly interested the Tailors because of the many new color combinations he is daring enough to try.
GOLDEN BEAR AWARD. BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL 1956
Chicago Tribune. July 4th 1956
The Grand Prize of West Berlin’s Film Festival was awarded today to an American movie, Invitation To The Dance, starring Gene Kelly.
Gene was given the Golden Bear award for Invitation To The Dance, which was voted Best Motion Picture, 1956.
The Berlin Film Festival, held each February since 1951, ranked alongside Venice and Cannes as one of Europe's leading film festivals.
Gene was also a guest in 1960, when it was said: "The tabloid Press sulked because a lot of the sex appeal was missing, due to the many male figures on the guest list"!! No comment!!
They also showed Christmas Holiday in 1998, as a retrospective.
UCLA HONORARY FRATERNITY MEMBERSHIP. NOVEMBER 1957
Los Angeles Times November 13th 1957
Dancer Gene Kelly will be made an honorary member of Delta Kappa Alpha tonight at Royce Hall on the UCLA campus.
WINNER, DANCE MAGAZINE ANNUAL TV AWARD FOR DANCING, IT'S A MAN'S GAME 1958
ALSO NOMINATED FOR AN EMMY FOR BEST CHOREOGRAPHY.
From a letter in the Gotlieb Archives, Boston:
The Board of Trustees of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences extends sincere congratulations to Gene Kelly, for the achievement during this past year which has added your name to the roster of distinguished artists, craftsmen and organizations who have been nominated for an Emmy by the television industry.
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY FOR TELEVISION. Dancing Is A Man's Game on Omnibus.
In order that we may make the necessary arrangements, will you please phone your Academy office immediately as to whether you intend to be present at the awards telecast on May 6th 1959
TV GUIDE AWARD NOMINEE 1960
Gene was nominated for the TV Guide Award for Best Musical or Variety Programme. The Gene Kelly Show. (Not sure for which of the Pontiac Specials he was nominated.)
FRENCH HONOURS 1960/1962
Basinger 1976. The French had always respected Kelly and his work and the ballet was a huge success with audiences. Kelly was elected a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French government, an award which thoroughly delighted him, as he had long been an ardent Francophile. [The honor was presented to him by A.M.Julien the Director-General of the Paris Opera.]
TV Radio Mirror November 1962
Gene was cited by the American Legion for his outstanding contribution, to Franco-American relations…honoured as a Friend by the City of Paris where he directed Jackie Gleason in Gigot.
You can read about the love affair between Paris and Gene in the page This Star Called Paris.
HONORARY DOCTORATE OCTOBER 1961
New York Times October 5th 1961
Gene Kelly received an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree today from the University of Pittsburgh.
MUSEUM OF MODERN ART 1962
Take Me Along brochure, Dallas Summer Season, 1974
At the same time Kelly was making his debut in a weekly television series and receiving critical acclaim for his directorial achievements in Gigot, the Museum of Modern Art was honouring him with a retrospective showing of his motion pictures. His films were shown daily from September 2nd to October 6th, 1962. It was the first time the Museum had chosen an actor to be represented – usually their series were devoted to spotlighting directors.
From Gene to Bosley Crowther. 1962
Following retrospective showing of Gene's films at the Museum of Modern Art:
"Enthusiasm at the showing was a source of great joy to me. I can't be blasé about it. It made all the sweating hours behind and in front of the cameras very worthwhile."
MADAME TUSSAUD'S WAXWORKS FIGURE 1963
Chicago Tribune. April 1st 1963
Gene Kelly gets waxed by Madame Tussaud’s factory, and if he can make it, will be in London for the August unveiling.
MOVIELAND WAX MUSEUM FIGURE 1965
Los Angeles Times. February 7th 1965
A Singin’ In The Rain setting, with a wax likeness of Gene Kelly, is one of the exhibits at Movieland Wax Museum, Buena Park
[Gene visited on 30th January.]
BEST DRESSED AWARD. 1967
Los Angeles Times. January 20th 1967
CALMAC, mens and boys Apparel Club of California, presents the annual ‘best-dressed’ award to actor-dancer Gene Kelly.
So, not everyone agreed with Gene's self-assessmant as a 'walking slum'!
GOLD MEDAL OF THE PENNSYLVANIA ASSOCIATION OF BROADCASTERS. MARCH 1967
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. March 17th 1967
Mr. Kelly had come to Washington at the invitation of the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters…to accept their second annual gold Medal (the first one went to the late Ed Wynn, of Philadelphia) to the Pennsylvanian who down through the years has made a major contribution to the arts.
Gene Kelly was pleased, and looked it. He must have been, to shelve temporarily the final editing of …A Guide For The Married Man…in order to fly here and receive the Gold Medal in person.
At his side was the former Jeanne Coyne, of East Liberty. Back when Mr. Kelly was teaching at his Squirrel Hill dancing school, little did he suspect that one day Miss Coyne, his prize pupil, would be Mrs. Gene Kelly and the mother of his two small children…
It was a busy 12 hours or so for Mr. Kelly; interviews, a luncheon in the Senate Building hosted by Congressman Robert Corbett…a television taping session, a reception, the dinner itself…Mr Kelly never stopped answering questions…
TRIBUTE ENTERED INTO THE CONGRESSIONAL RECORD NOVEMBER 1969
The Films Of Gene Kelly 1974
Gene Kelly was honored on
November 18 1969 when a tribute to him…was entered in the Congressional Record. It saluted his contribution to the entertainment industry but also mentioned that he had been cited by the Government for services rendered and that he had travelled as a goodwill ambassador for the State Department in 1964.
Nova Magazine. July 1972
The Congressional Record, in its issue of November 18, 1969, contains a speech by the Honourable Thomas M. Rees, Congressman for California, addressed to the House of Representatives: ‘Mr. Speaker. I can think of no better time than now for us to pay official tribute to an American whose great contribution to American art, culture and entertainment is matched by his record of public service. I refer to Gene Kelly, who is known around the world as an internationally acclaimed actor, dancer, singer, choreographer and director. I consider this the appropriate time for my remarks because Gene Kelly’s working community of Hollywood has now chosen him for one of its highest honours, the historic ritual of cementing his footprints in the forecourt of the famed Graumann’s Chinese Theatre…’
This type of testimonial is offered to Congress from time to time when some worthy U.S. citizen has distinguished himself particularly and is inserted into The Congressional Record for posterity to consider if it so chooses. History may therefore note Gene Kelly’s helpful consciousness of America’s foreign-relations problems and his fine efforts to further goodwill abroad; his Legion d’Honneur from the French Government, his silver medal from the City of Paris and the ‘homage’ paid to him by the City’s Municipal Council. His Oscars and honours and achievements are so closely detailed that there is even a short but flattering critique of Hello Dolly enshrined in the Record since Gene Kelly set his name to that movie as its director.
FORECOURT OF THE STARS. NOVEMBER 1969
On November 24th 1969 Gene was invited to immortalise his hand and footprints on the ground in front of Graumann’s Chinese Theatre
Nova Magazine. July 1972
Somehow what seems exactly right, amid a résumé of such magniloquence that it could serve as a funeral oration, are those footprints in the forecourt of Graumann’s Chinese Theatre. Graumann’s is no more than a cinema on Hollywood Boulevard which happens to have been constructed…according to the local notion of a mandarin’s palace but, as a setting for a memento of Gene Kelly, it has enormous advantages. Such a bold and generous piece of imagination as a picture house built like a Chinese mansion echoes much of Kelly’s catholic view of creativity, seen in his exuberant willingness to sing and dance and act with such verve and originality. Hollywood has always been his true atelier so the location is appropriate as well and anchoring an impression of his eloquent feet in the forecourt cement is obviously sensible, a stroke as apt as his own decision, long ago, to do some of his singing and dancing in the rain.
AWARD FOR DIRECTING. October 1972
October 1972. Gene awarded a Silver Clock for directing Hello Dolly. At the festival International de Musique De Besancon in France.
ARTHUR FREED AWARD. May 1972
Songwriters Hall of Fame. Arthur Freed Award. Presented to Gene for his outstanding contribution to the movie musical. May 26th 1972
THALIANS 'MR. WONDERFUL' TRIBUTE. OCTOBER 1972
Gene was presented with the Thalian's award, a great statue of Goofy, which can be seen in the Gotlieb Archives in Boston.
Los Angeles Times. September 11th 1972
The Thalians have set publication of a Gene Kelly souvenir book…as part of their tribute to Kelly at the Century Plaza.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. October 30th 1972
People behind the scenes at the Thalian Dinner in Hollywood, honouring Gene Kelly, got the distinct impression that Ginger Rogers was miffed because of Fred Astaire’s presence. She had been slated to speak and backed out at the last minute.
St. Petersburg Times. October 6th 1972
Ann Miller has promised to be on hand at Saturday’s Thalian’s Ball honouring former screen partner Gene Kelly. “Even if someone has to carry me across the stage.” Ann is still unable to walk alone as the result of an accident…
Gene: "I had a speech prepared but by now I'm too smashed to give it..."
Ha! Not only a genius but a saint too!!
ST. GENESIUS AWARD. MAY 1973
Los Angeles Times. May 2nd 1973
Gene Kelly has been voted the St. Genesius Award by the board of directors at St. Genesius College, for his outstanding service to humanity…
DISTINGUISHED CONTRIBUTION TO THE PERFORMING ARTS. MAY 1973
Daily Collegiate. Penn State University. May 3rd 1973
To celebrate their 75th anniversary, the Penn State Thespians will present nine alumni and one former faculty member with awards acknowledging their achievements as former Thespians or as outstanding personalities in show business. The presentations will be made on May 12th…
The first awards for Distinguished Contribution to the Performing Arts will be presented to…Gene Kelly…though Gene Kelly attended Penn State for only one year, 1929-30, he danced in three Thespian shows.
ARTHUR FREED AWARD. MAY 1973
Los Angeles Times. May 29th 1973
A superb series of film clips from the golden musicals era, most of them featuring Gene Kelly, led to Jack Benny’s presentation to Kelly of the Arthur Freed Award.
MR. SHOWMANSHIP. JANUARY 1974
Los Angeles Times. January 4th 1974
Gene Kelly has been nominated Mr. Showmanship for his contribution to motion picture over the years, by the Common-wealth Theaters.
CALIFORNIA CENTER OF FILM FOR CHILDREN. GOLD STAR AWARD. February/March 1975
“Gene has manifested in both his personal and private life a marked concern for enriching the lives of children by means of quality film and TV entertainment."
FATHER OF THE YEAR 1975
In the Gotlieb Archives in Boston can be seen a certificate presented to Gene By Tim and Bridget on Father's Day, 1975, naming him Father Of The Year.
LA SALLIAN AMBASSADOR AWARD. 1975
Gene was the recipient of the La Sallian Ambassador Award 1975
For his devotion to his children Timothy, 13, and Bridget,11, combined with the great moral integrity in life and devotion to Catholic principles, the La Sallian Ambassadors are proud to salute Gene Kelly as the compleat Artist and recipient of their award for 1975.
FELLOW OF BOSTON UNIVERSITY LIBRARIES. November 1975
Boston Sunday Globe. November 30th 1975
Boston University's Mugar Library will benefit from the American In Paris Ball held at the George Sherman Union...Once a year Boston University honors outstanding donors to its 20th century archives. They are chosen from more than 800 national and international figures in public affairs, literature, film, poetry and journalism...A special tribute this year went to Gene Kelly of Hollywood...he was installed as the 26th Fellow of the university libraries. Dr Howard Gotlieb was MC.
...Gene Kelly must have had writers cramp...guests surrounded his table in the Roberts-Waterfall Room...
Patriot Ledger. November 1975
Kelly was asked why he gave his papers to BU rather than to Pittsburgh - “Because they asked me”
Gotlieb, working with Gene's secretary, Lois, unearthed some memos pertaining to An American In Paris. “I had donated most of my notes to The Louvre. But there was a fire and all were lost. Somehow these two managed to find other memos I had made, and they're here now."
FRIARS CLUB TRIBUTE January 1976
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. January 7th 1976
“One of the reasons I became a star is because of Gene Kelly,” Frank Sinatra remarked in tribute to his costar in MGM musicals of the 1940s.
Sinatra was emcee at a stellar dinner in honor of Kelly given by the Friars Club at the Beverley Hilton Hotel. The charity event saw the dancer roasted and toasted by Cary Grant, Milton Berle, Don Rickles, Jack Carter and George Burns. Fellow song-and-dance men Donald O’Connor, Bobby Van and the Nicholas Brothers performed, as did singers Tony Bennett, Eydie Gorme and Steve Lawrence and Helen Reddy.
In his response, Kelly told of his pleasure in “trying to create joy and happiness, or at least diversion for millions of people.
The Enquirer January 1976
A spectacular tribute to Gene Kelly brought out a shimmering galaxy of top celebs for a gala-studded evening that set Hollywood jumping.
Ol’ Blue Eyes himself emceed the affair, which was sponsored by the Friars Club….Tony Bennett stunned the audience with a magnificent rendition of torch songs…Helen Reddy followed Tony to the stage and dazzled the audience…Donald O’Connor hit the floorboards – and floored the audience – with several of his snappy numbers. But the highlight of the evening came when George Burns praised Kelly – and then left the audience in stitches with his hilarious comments…
Among the other luminaries who helped make the evening a smashing success were Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, Don Rickles, Milton Berle, Tony Orlando, Cary Grant, Telly Savalas, Fred Astaire, Jack Oakie and Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.
Ocala Star Banner. November 14th 1985
Frank Sinatra acted as toastmaster, Joan Collins left her new husband at home, and Buddy Ebsen slipped into a tap dance. What was the gig all about? It was the Friars Club of California honoring Gene Kelly with its annual Lifetime Achievement award banquet.
Among the celebrities showing up were Robert Wagner and Jill St. John; June Allyson; Debbie Allen, who danced to Tina Turner’s Private Dancer; Shirley Jones; Tom Bosley; Michelle Lee; Red Buttons; Cesar Romero; Roger Moore; Gregory Peck; Richard Crenna; and Barbi Benton…
Most of the attention, of course, was focused on Gene Kelly. “He’s the greatest thing that ever happened to rain.” Quipped Red Buttons about Kelly…What did Gene think about all this?
“Sometimes I think that if I hear one more chorus of Singin’ In The Rain I’ll scream.”
WORLD FILM DIRECTORS AWARD. June 12th 1976
Gene was presented with the Entertainment Hall of Fame Award, World Film Directors 1895-1980
WOMEN'S AUXILIARY OF THE PERMANENT CHARITIES April 1977
Fundraiser for the Women's Auxiliary of the Permanent Charities...
Annual Merit Award presented to Gene.
AFI TRIBUTE. DECEMBER 1977
Christian Science Monitor. December 5th 1977. Louise Sweeney
…It seemed appropriate that it teemed gray rain the night the American Film Institute paid tribute to Gene Kelly, with a screening of that classical musical to mark his appearance. Afterward, Himself strolled out on stage under a red and blue umbrella, did a brisk tap or two, teed off with the bumbershoot as a golf club, and sat down in a director’s chair. When the applause died down, he answered questions from a rapt audience of nearly 2000, much of it film-hip and young, who knew every one of his movies…it was a real love-in. The warmth in the big, red velvet Eisenhower Tower was enough to dry every drenched trenchcoat in the room.
ST. GENESIUS AWARD. NOVEMBER 1978
BEST CATHOLIC ACTOR OF 1978
Los Angeles Times. October 28th 1978
Gene Kelly will be awarded the St. Genesius Award from the Catholic Actors Guild at a dinner in New York, November 11th.
Los Angeles Times. November 14th 1978.
Gene Kelly escorted long-time friend Ethel Kennedy to a banquet attended by 1200 of his fans in New York City when he was presented with the St. Genesius Award.
Twin Circle Weekly. Catholic magazine. January 7th 1979
On Gene being awarded the Best Catholic Actor of 1978, in the ballroom of the New York Hilton, by the Catholic Actor's Guild of America.
“A personality who has been of special service to the Guild, the Profession, and the Church”
Gene said he was honored and delighted. “God has played a very important role in my life. When you're raised in an Irish Catholic family as I was, there's no thought to the contrary.
“There's an old story about a priest and a prizefighter. When the fellow kneels down to bless himself at the beginning of the first round, he turns to the priest and says, 'Will that help, Father?' The priest answered, 'Not if you can't fight.'”
Combining inspiration with perspiration in his lifetime, Kelly has already planted his feet in the rich soil of the entertainment industry, covering a broad scope.
Many tributes were paid to Gene on this occasion, from:
Rosemarie and Danny Thomas:
Dear Gene may your Singin' In The Rain continue to bring sunshine into our lives.
Comden & Green:
...We want to state praise of Gene as an artist first because he has been our dear and close friend since the dawn of time...he literally opened his home to us. We actually lived in it for a time...It was easy, Gene made it easy.
We have been privileged to know him as a friend, full of generosity, love and wit, a loving and entertaining father to his children, a concerned citizen, and a restless intellect informed and interested in everything...our relatonship with Gene...has been one of the great joys of our lives.
Gene had, and has, a mad vitality about him...
During the making of a film, various visitors gain entree to the set...This makes it difficult for a director or star to hide any peccadiloes in these luminaries, so they can relay them to their eagerly awaiting employees...Kelly came out of it all with a lily-white escutcheon...Gleason sums up Kelly's character in one sentence: “Kelly is a gentleman.”...In Hollywood circles Gene Kelly is well known as an exemplary father Frank Capra: Hail Gene Kelly. Dancer, actor, teacher, choreographer. Ambassador to the court of optimism Rita Hayworth: A warm and generous friend Donald O'Connor: He was fantastic, charming, patient, and a joy to watch. He is a master, a genius. Lord Grade Helen Hayes Frank Sinatra Fred Astaire Irving Berlin Felicia and Jack Lemmon Fred Kelly Sardi's Ira Gershwin
Sylvia and Danny Kaye
Hail Gene Kelly. Dancer, actor, teacher, choreographer. Ambassador to the court of optimism
A warm and generous friend
He was fantastic, charming, patient, and a joy to watch. He is a master, a genius.
Felicia and Jack Lemmon
GENE KELLY RETROSPECTIVE. 1979
Newspaper article by Joe Leydon, around 1979
Friday was the opening night of the Gene Kelly retrospective at SMU’s Meadow School of the Arts, so of course the honoree was on hand, decked out in his bestbib and tucker.
Somehow it was odd to see Kelly – the epitome of virile grace and informal panache – confined in a tuxedo…one expected shirtsleeves and dungarees from the man who seemed to throw himself through the dances of Singin’ In The Rain and Anchors Aweigh.
But Kelly – ludicrously youthful-looking at 67, capable of passing for a man 15 years younger – didn’t mind the formality of the situation. He’s used to the reverence and the retrospectives. Even though he takes it all with a grain of salt.
VARIETY CLUB TRIBUTE. London. May 27th 1980
Magazine clipping, source unknown
Gene Kelly, one of the most influential stars in cinema history, was feted at a luncheon held in his honour by the Variety Club of Great Britain at the end of May – as you’ll doubtless know from the TV coverage of the event.
Following a showing of British comedians Morecambe and Wise performing their famous version of Singin' In The Rain, Gene said “Probably the most entertaining thing I've ever seen.”
He met Hot Gossip, a sexy female dance group. “...I like the company of women. I understand that Hot Gossip have sex in their dancing and I had it in mine when I was young, only – and this is the difference – it was in a dark corner...
British newspaper article.
As Gene Kelly confessed, he’s had to sit through so many reruns of ‘that number’ that “I can’t enjoy it anymore – but I enjoyed it today.” Which was 27th May, the occasion being a tribute luncheon to the star by Variety Club Tent 36…the showbiz turnout drenched him with extravagant affection and a climactic standup ovation.
Clambake also climaxed a London sojourn for Kelly that began the previous Saturday with a media reception at which a flock of young dancers from local shows and schools quizzed him on choreographic technique, followed on Sunday by an appearance at the jampacked National Film Theatre in connection with the British Film Institute’s MGM retrospective…
As for the VC shindig at the Hilton, with BBC-TV cameras covering for nationwide tape replay that night, Kelly was also drenched with local ‘in’ gags by dais speakers…Other salutes came from Bryan Forbes, Anna Neagle, Alfred Marks and fellow dancer Anton Dolin. Other dancers were also in the audience, including Dame Alicia Markova.
USA FILM FESTIVAL JUNE 1980. A SALUTE TO GENE KELLY
Dallas newspaper reports
Kelly will appear in person at the Bob Hope Theater for the opening night.
The series begins Friday and continues throughout July with a different MGM Kelly musical every weekend…
It should be a fitting tribute to a man who took ballet, tap, modern dance and athletics and put them all into an ‘ordinary Joe’ framework – a concept with which the ordinary moviegoer could identify. He delighted audiences unaccustomed to ‘virile’ choreography
Somehow it was odd to see Kelly – the epitome of virile grace and informal panache – confined in a tuxedo. ..But Kelly – ludicrously youthful-looking at 67, capable of passing for a man 15 years younger – didn’t mind the formality of the situation. He’s used to the reverence and the retrospectives. Even though he takes it all with a grain of salt.
“As you get older,” he said in his familiar sandpapered voice, beaming a wide Irish grin, “everything happens. They even look at some pictures you did that weren’t so good and say, ‘Oh, weren’t they nice?’”
Dallas Times Herald June 1980
…The years have not dimmed the smiling Irish charm of Kelly, or completely stifled the feet. He did an amusing little side-shuffle leaving the stage of the Bob Hope Theater – after having shared a love-fest with a packed theatre of old and new Kelly fans.
A young woman during an audience question and answer session following a showing of The Pirate: “After tonight, well I just wanted to say that if you ever need a place to stay in Dallas…”
It was like that all night, a love affair between 400 fans and a star.
Movie stars come and go in Dallas these days.. They can be rude, supercilious, bored. They can also be charming and entertaining, like Gene Kelly. Way after midnight, following a press conference, a champagne reception, the film showing and the Q&A session, a reunion with his old friend E.Y.” Yip” Harburg…and a little talk to the students, a stop by the Chi Omega convention (at their urgent request), dozens of autographs, a party and a reunion with his old friend Betty Garrett – even after all that, Kelly was still smiling and chatting with ease, signing tap shoes and apparently as fresh as the acrobatic strolling player in The Pirate
…Several hundred were turned away because there was not enough room for everyone.
…He arrived carrying a Key to the City given to him by Councilman Max Goldblatt
…He remembered names and made jokes with new friends as if they were old friends.
A TRIBUTE TO GENE KELLY. JUNE 1980
This event took place at the Conrad Hilton Estate in Bel Air. It was sponsored by the Diamond Circle for the City of Hope, an organisation which raised funds for the Sunny and Isadore Familian Children's Hospital.
It was billed as 'The last great Hollywood party.'
ARTS DEGREE. University of South California. June 1980
Gene received Honorary Association of Arts degree from USC, June 1980
USC Evening With Gene Kelly. Division of Cinema and Delta Kappa Alpha.
Norris Cinema Theatre.
Hosted by Jack Haley Jr.
A student noted that Jack Haley was more pompous than Gene. Arrived in a Rolls, Gene came in a Mercury.
Notes by Sandi Matthes:
The audience simply loved him and as I scanned the faces they were all lit up like a Christmas tree with adoration for this incredible man and his talents.
Gene was also very very cooperative in obliging the requests for autographs even signing a student's leg cast...It was reminiscent of the Pied Piper as he was totally engulfed by students...
Gene was marvellous with everyone although they were obviously in awe of this gentle giant...
HONORARY LIFETIME MEMBERSHIP, AMERICAN POLICE HALL OF FAME
Possibly 1981. Not sure of correct date as yet.
Newspaper clipping in Gotlieb Archives in Boston, recording this award.
CECIL B DeMILLE AWARD. 1981
Presented by Van Johnson.
They show clips of Gene dancing with Judy, with Cyd, with Fred Astaire etc.
VJ: He turned the art of screen dancing into an exciting visual celebration. But the real talent of Gene Kelly was most evident when he didn’t have a colourful partner. When he was asked to dance with a mop, a mouse or an old piece of newspaper…
They show more clips and give a brief resumé of his career…
VJ: He established himself as a man who could imagine and bring to life some of the most challenging dance sequences ever filmed…He moved on to a directing career…Gene Kelly never stopped looking for ways to exercise his talent…
(He lists many of Gene’s accomplishments)
The list is incredible, and so is the winner – the song and dance man with something extra…
Gene goes up to receive his award, stops the rapturous applause. He looks a little nervous, or maybe emotional.
“I won’t be long because the introduction was more than I could top. But I want to say one thing to all my colleagues here in the room. I’ve always been very proud to be a member of the movie picture industry and this makes me more than proud tonight, to join a very select fraternity who’ve had this award before me. So let me just say thanks to the foreign Press and to all of you, my colleagues over the years."
GENE KELLY DAY. PITTSBURGH June 26th 1981
I proclaim Friday June 26th 1981 Gene Kelly Day in Pittsburgh, and welome home one of this city's internationally acclaimed entertainers and citizens. To express heartfelt greetings to his family. To express the gratitude of the people of Pittsburgh to him for assisting the 1981 CLO season... to express the pride and pleasure of the entire community in having him back home again with the sincere wish that his stay will be pleasant and memorable. The Mayor.
PITTSBURGH HONORS. JUNE 1981
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. March 9th 1981
Gene Kelly will return to Pittsburgh as guest of honor at the Civic Light Opera Guild’s Pink Frolic Ball, June 26th…”It is most appropriate that we recognise and honor Pittsburgher Gene Kelly for his creative achievements to American musicals, providing entertainment, enjoyment and enrichment throughout the world…”
27th June 1981. Gene granted Key to the city, Pittsburgh. And Distinguished Graduate Medal from Pitt.
FRENCH GALA TRIBUTE SEPTEMBER 1981
Daily Mail September 17th 1981
The original American In Paris, Gene Kelly has been back in the French capital showing his daughter Bridget, 16, the sights of the city…the high spot of the stay is the gala tonight, honouring him with appearances by American In Paris co-stars Leslie Caron and Georges Guetary.
The gala benefits the American Centre for Students and Artists, which is why the retiring Gene felt he could not say No.
ONE OF THE TEN SEXIEST MEN IN AMERICA. 1981
Playgirl September 1981
The Ten Sexiest Men in America
Gene Kelly tapped his way into our hearts years ago…His acrobatic movements have influenced a whole generation of film and television dancers. Even at seventy, he is the ever-smooth-and-suave leading man, and is in better shape than most men half his age.
VISION AWARD. MAY 1982
Los Angeles Times. May 31st 1982
The center honors Gene Kelly with its first Vision Award. There is a wonderful caricature of Kelly on the invitation announcing cocktails and dinner.
In the Gotlieb Archives in Boston is a program containing tributes from many friends and colleagues, and a telegram from Ronald Reagan:
"To those who know you and to the many worthy causes you have assisted, you will always be singing in our hearts."
KENNEDY CENTER HONORS. 25th December 1982
The John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington. 25th December 1982
“I look forward to an America which will not be afraid of grace and beauty.
"…I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we too will be remembered, not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” JFK.
A celebration of the performing arts honoring George Abbott, Lillian Gish, Benny Goodman, Gene Kelly and Eugene Ormandy.
New York Times December 1982
Gene: It seems to us natives out in the Golden West that this evening is very special; I am honoured and pleased.
Earlier in the day the Honorees were welcomed at the White House by Ronald Reagan:
“The famous clergyman Thomas Ward Beecher once said that every artist dipped his brush in his own soul and painted his own nature into his pictures. The artists we have here tonight have painted a panorama with their lives, a spectacular display of talent, achievement, personal integrity that challenges all of us to be the best that we can be. They reward our spirit by allowing us from time to time to mingle our everyday world with their world of pageantry and dreams, and how lucky we are that they are Americans. They have enriched us all.”
Host Walter Cronkite:
“We are here tonight to recognise and pay homage to some of our most valued citizens.
Consider a self-styled Irish Mick from Pittsburgh who heard America calling and transformed our conception of the dance….”
“Gene Kelly has given the world something nobody can forget. He put the dance on the street. For the first time we saw a classical dancer in trousers, short-sleeve shirt and loafers, but still elegant, dancing in the streets and making us all feel we can dance like him. He is absolutely American. He could be nothing else. But when an artist is as good as Gene Kelly it makes us forget about language. He shows how to find the road to joy in your hearts and that is international. Gene will always be our American in Paris and much more. He is in people’s hearts everywhere, an American for the whole world.”
Montand then told Gene’s story, accompanied by stills from his early life and work:
“In the tough steel town of Pittsburgh it wasn’t easy for eight year-old Gene and his brother to accept their mother’s announcement. They were going to dance classes with their sisters. They were afraid of being called cissies. Gene turned to the acceptable world of athletics, starring in three varsity sports, but the dance had started to intrigue him. He got his BA in Economics but became preoccupied with the dance, experimenting and searching for new forms away from the classics. He staged local productions but wanted to move on in search of something different. By now he was sure what it was. ‘When I got to New York’, he said, ‘I knew I wanted to dance to American music, to find a style that could truly be called American’. To pay the rent he took bit parts and bided his time. George Abbott provided the springboard. He had a new production and offered Gene the lead. [Stills from Pal Joey shown]. If you are big on Broadway they say, can Hollywood be far behind? It wasn’t. He launched a career that would eventually revolutionise the movie musical as an art form. [Clips from various movies followed].
“Using film’s full potential Kelly created cinematic numbers in which the dancer did with his body what the actor did with words. To capture the essence of a character by movement. [More clips followed].
"A sensitive and skilled director, an actor who could hold his own in any company, a new kind of choreographer, and above all, a dancer – the consummate song and dance man.” [The rain dance followed].
There was then a standing ovation, including Reagan and his wife. Gene looked proud, dignified, then gestured that was enough adulation.
“Like many other dancers of my generation I was raised on Gene’s films. They inspired me, and I always wanted to meet him because if and when I did, he would teach me things about dancing and singing and acting. Then I did meet him and he did teach me those things. So this is for you Gene Kelly.”
He then did an excellent song and dance number, and got a ‘thumbs-up’ from Gene at the end.
Then SITR started playing and a chorus of dancers appeared, along with Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, and Comden and Green, who sang:
“We’re singin’ in the rain, we’re singin’ of Gene Kelly, it’s a happy refrain. He dances on clouds, he’s way up above. A showman, an artist, he brings the world love. Who could take Kelly’s place, he has style, he has grace. What fabulous eyes, what a smile, what a face. His fame will remain, a star with a brain, he’s dancing and acting, and directing, and choreographing, and making love, and singin’ in the rain.”
Gene was visibly moved, and laughed and wiped his eyes and shook his head.
Then one of the chorus line stepped forward and said in a loud voice:
“Mr Kelly, on behalf of all the gypsies everywhere, we thank you.”
At that, Gene’s face crumpled with emotion, he could no longer hold it back. I guess those few words meant as much to him as all the other plaudits.
The host, to all the Honorees:
“You’ve graced our stages, you’ve graced our lives, you’ve graced our history. Now it is time for you to take another bow and for us to show our gratitude.”
And that is what they did.
Irish America magazine December 1990
Forty five million of us watched on television the night Gene Kelly was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award in the Performing Arts and we saw how the audience at Kennedy Center in Washington gave him the biggest ovation of the evening. Each time he sat down the audience roared him to his feet time and again. It was the nation's outpouring of appreciation for all the great moments he has given us over the course of his more than fifty years in show business.
HONORARY LAW SCHOOL DEGREE. September 1983
Gene was presented with an Honorary Degree from Dickinson School of Law. September 10th 1983
GARDEN STATE BALLET ARTS AWARD 1985
Awarded to Gene for his outstanding contribution to the development of Dance throughout the world.
YOUNG AMERICAN'S ROLE MODEL 1985
Citation from Girl Scout Council of Bergen County New Jersey, naming Gene Kelly as
Young American's Role Model for 1985.
AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 1985
From the booklet which accompanied the AFI Tribute 1985:
Kelly is an artist constantly searching and reaching…perhaps the phrase “American Dreams” is too limiting, as Gene Kelly’s emotional and artistic appeal is truly universal. In accepting last year’s Life Achievement Award, Lilian Gish spoke of an actor’s desire to ‘please the world’, of a language of film that spoke to every individual in every country on earth. She might very easily have been speaking of Gene Kelly, a man who recognised the simplest and grandest of the world’s dreams, added a little color, song and movement, and gave them back to us to carry away into our lives. For this gift and for his great artistry, the Trustees of the American Film Institute have voted the thirteenth Life Achievement Award to this American Dreamer Gene Kelly.
Gene was the 13th person to be honoured by the AFI. Many faces in the audience were familiar.
From seating plan:
Guests included: Fred Astaire; Mikhail Baryshnikov; Mrs. Basinger (I assume this is Jeanine Basinger whose book on Gene is featured on this site); Sandi Bennett; Richard Brooks; George Burns; Leslie Caron; Cyd Charisse; Betty Comden; Josh Donen; Mrs. Henry Fonda; Betty Garrett; Ms. Hildy Gottlieb; Cary Grant; Kathryn Grayson; Adolph Green; Hugh Hefner; Gregory Hines; Quincy Jones; Alan Ladd Jr.; Irving Lazar; Arthur Loew Jr.; Jack Lord; Lois McClelland; Madonna; Karl Malden; Steve Martin; Vincente Minnelli; Harold & Fayard Nicholas; Olivia Newton-John; Donald O’Connor; Dale Oleson; Sean Penn; Carl Reiner; Debbie Reynolds; Telly Savalas; William Shatner; Sissy Spacek; Robert Stack; James Stewart; Richard Thomas; Lew Wasserman; Andy Williams; Robert Wise; William Wyler; Michael York.
Gene entered to a standing ovation and walked through the crowds to join his family at a horseshoe shaped table in front of the stage.
Shirley Maclaine was the host for the evening. She told the story of how in 1953 she was in the chorus of The Pyjama Game. Gene came to see it and then made his way, with difficulty, to the dressing room of the chorus girls. He moved her red ponytail aside and whispered in her ear: “Kid, you’ve really got something, keep going.”
Thirty years later she had her own show and Gene came to see her. He said the same words to her again! She asked how long she should keep going. He replied:
“You keep going as long as you find happiness in helping people realise their dreams.”
She told how Gene always credited Judy with helping him through his first terrifying moments on film.
There followed a clip from For Me & My Gal.
Then Shirley said she thought Gene’s scar “The sexiest thing I ever saw”, but his refusal to cover it up meant that he was aware that a dancer could not lie, about the emotion, about the character that he’s dancing, because he is dancing our dreams up there.
There followed clips from I Got Rhythm, The Hat Me Dear Old Father Wore, the ballet from On The Town, the Newspaper dance, the Alter Ego number, and I Like Myself.
Gregory Hines did an impromptu dance and said that Gene had stolen a step thirty years before Gregory invented it! He thanked Gene from his feet and from his heart.
Then came clips from some duets: Put Me To The Test; The Babbitt And The Bromide; Be A Clown; Our Love Is Here To Stay; Slaughter On 10th Avenue; the dance with Jerry mouse; the dance with Shirley from What A Way To Go; and I Begged Her.
There followed a tribute from Fred Astaire:
“You know that Kelly, he’s just terrific. For a good many years I’ve admired this fella. He dances like crazy, directs like crazy, does all these marvellous things and is very serious about the whole thing. I love to have him direct me for instance. Because he can handle me, he’s tough. Every once in a while I’d go to him and I’d say ‘Gene, how about this’…it happened a couple of times, but no more. I let him do the whole thing and it was great. He knows what he’s doing. He’s a tremendous performer, he’s a great guy and that’s all there is to it. I love working with him. He’s a tremendous talent and he has all my respect.”
Shirley: “In 1949 Gene stepped behind the camera for the first time. The film was On The Town and what he did changed the course of musicals forever.”
Then came a tribute from Betty Comden and Adolph Green.
“We were bowled over to see an unknown young man named Kelly in action. We witnessed a torrent of dance, song and charm that almost splintered the roof of that old country barn. We knew we were seeing a great new talent.
“Our friendship blossomed… to our joy the four of us (Stanley Donen included) were put together by Arthur Freed to do On The Town. Then came Singin’ In The Rain…”
There followed a montage of scenes from SITR, followed by a song by Cyd Charisse, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor and Comden and Green: –
“You are our lucky star, we’re proud you’ve come so far. You started out, just buck & winging, singing, song and dance man. Now your 'reography, fills your biography. Great acting, great direction, goodness knows Gene, you’re perfection, you are our lucky star.”
After some information by Jean Furstenberg on the work of the AFI, Mikhail Baryshnikov gave a tribute.
“I understand that when Gene decided not to pursue a career in classical ballet, he took an easier route – movies. As a dancer, actor, choreographer, director, producer, writer. Like I said, easy route.
“Gene Kelly’s dancing stands as an example to us all. How a performer can produce an unforgettable mix of entertainment and art. We don’t have dancers like Gene Kelly any more.”
He then told of Irving Berlin’s visit to the set of An American In Paris, and his astonishment at the prospect of the Ballet. He said to Gene; “I hope you know what you are doing” He did. "
There followed clips from the AAIP ballet.
Then it was Leslie Caron’s turn. She said she was very moved to be there, and began with “Dear Gene” – She told her story, how Gene had made things easier for her in her new life in America, how he had made her feel welcome, how he worked with her through her screen test and through the movie.
His family were introduced. Sister Louise and husband; brother Fred and wife Dorothy; nephew Michael and wife Diane; Kerry, Jack and granddaughter Rebecca Novick, and Bridget and Tim.
There followed tributes from Betty Garratt; the Nicholas Brothers who said that many wonderful things had happened to them because of their work with Gene on The Pirate; Kathryn Grayson; Carl Reiner who honoured Gene, tongue-in-cheek, for being “one of the great stuntmen actors of all time”; Olivia Newton John who thanked him for all his support and for being a magician who disguised the fact that she had two left feet.
Then Richard Brant, the chairman of the AFI:
“Your films have an honoured place in the repertory of American cinema. In recognition of your outstanding contribution to our motion picture heritage, this morning the board of the AFI elected you an honorary trustee. Congratulations and thank you, Gene”.
After this came a hilarious and witty piece by Steve Martin. It was followed by Jimmy Stewart: “Gene Kelly and I both worked for MGM – it was …a long time ago. The thing I noticed as I got to know him better, and know his work, he wasn’t satisfied with dancing and choreography…he ended up an excellent actor. Then the biggest surprise of all, Hank Fonda and I were doing a Western, and the guy standing behind the camera – the director – was Gene Kelly. We loved him, he did a wonderful wonderful job as director. So Gene, I don’t know, I just think you’ve touched all the bases. Congratulations”.
Then the presentation by George Stevens Jr:
“Tonight the AFI awards its highest honour to the former manager of the Pittsburgh Yellowjackets semi-pro ice hockey team who, hoping to become a lawyer, entered Penn State University as an Economics major. Clearly, as a youth, Gene Kelly was in need of career counselling. Happily for moviegoers around the world, he got it, and the rest is history.
“It is for that contribution to film history that we honour him tonight. Mr Kelly has often quoted Plato’s words: ‘Dancing is the art which most influences men’s souls’. Gene combined dancing with movies and built a legacy that has stood the test of time. He has done what great artists do – created a signature that will live forever.
“So before we present him with this Lifetime Achievement Award, let us relive the joy of that Gene Kelly signature, and recall the words of the poet: ‘This is the particular crown and triumph of the artist – not to be true merely, but to be lovable; not simply to convince – but to enchant’.”
Then came Singin’ In The Rain. And everyone stood to their feet and cheered and clapped as Gene made his way to the stage:
"I am pleased to be here tonight and very proud. I hope I can be humble, but I’m working on that. …In truth I never wanted to be a dancer. My whole ambition was to play short-stop for the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, I did discover girls, and that the girls liked the fellas who were good dancers…the only way you could get your arm round a girl was to ask her to dance…
“You need a lot of talent around you. There are no auteurs in musical movies…I’d like to say a quick word about the people that the public never see, not only the photographers, art directors, costume designers, but the Minnellis, the Donens, the Freeds, the Pasternaks, the Comdens and Greens, the Haneys, Coynes, Bakers, Romeros, Edens, Chaplins. All these people who knocked themselves out so that we could look good. The men who arranged the music… no-one knows their names, they don’t get enough credit.
“The other thing these people did, they made us strive to do better. Now perhaps I’m making this sound like hard work, well it was, but we had fun, we had the best of times. And I think it was because we all thought we were trying to create some kind of magic and joy. And you know, that’s what you do up there. You dance love, you dance joy and you dance dreams. And I know if I can make you smile by jumping over a couple of couches or by running through a rainstorm, then I’ll be very glad to be a song and dance man, and I won’t worry that the Pittsburgh Pirates lost one hell of a short-stop.”
As a finale Shirley asked that everyone would join in a song which should have been dedicated to gene Kelly’s face: It was sung with great gusto by everyone, including Gene who had to wipe tears from his beautiful ‘Irish eyes’.
When Irish eyes are smiling
Sure it’s like a morn in Spring
In the lilt of Irish laughter
You can hear the angels sing
When Irish hearts are happy
All the world seems bright and gay
And when Irish eyes are smiling
Sure they steal your heart away.
HONORARY DOCTOR OF LETTERS DEGREE. PARIS 1986
Gene received an honorary degree from the American College in Paris, at the same time that Bridget received her degree.
PITTSBURGH UNIVERSITY HONOR. 1987
Ocala Star Banner. June 24th 1987
Gene Kelly says the four years he spent in college before becoming famous dancing on film “made me more of a person.”
The 74-year-old Pittsburgh native was honoured Tuesday by the University of Pittsburgh which is celebrating its bicentennial…President Wesley W. Posvar presented Kelly with a medallion and unveiled a bronze star on campus honouring him as an outstanding alumnus and “a great artist.”
Posvar and Kelly also screened rare movie footage, recently found in university archives, of Kelly performing in undergraduate productions.
Asked at a news conference why he spent the “four best years of a dancer’s life” in college, Kelly replied, “It made me more of a person, aided me as a creative artist and to any young person I would say, ‘Get an education. Never stop learning.’”
SCREEN ACTORS GUILD ACHIEVEMENT AWARD 1988
Free Lance Star. December 15th 1988
Dancer, actor and director Gene Kelly is the 25th recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Annual Achievement Award
…given for “Fostering the finest ideals of the acting profession.”
Screen Actor. Winter 1989
A tribute to Gene Kelly
Presentation of the SAG Achievement Award. December 11th, 1988 by President Gordon
The Screen Actors Guild Achievement Award is given to one Guild member each year for “fostering the finest ideals of the acting profession.” It is given in recognition of both outstanding career achievement and generous contributions to humanitarian concerns. At this moment I can think of no screen artist who better fits that bill than today’s recipient of our highest honor, Mr. Gene Kelly.
Gene’s peerless screen performances are well-known to any fan of American entertainment and are especially cherished by his fellow performers…But Gene’s selfless service to our profession, to this Guild, to the oppressed and disabled are less well-known – largely due to his own modesty. As we honor him, I hope to reveal some aspects that you may not know about this renaissance man of American entertainment…
By 1943 his fellow actors thought so highly of him that they appointed him to the Screen Actors Guild Board of Directors, a position he held for the next six years. In 1947 Gene was elected First Vice-President of the Guild under a new SAG President named Ronald Regan.
The years of Gene’s service between 1943 and 1949 were among the most exciting and difficult in Guild history…There was a tense and violent jurisdictional dispute between technical and craft unions that threatened to shut down the entire industry. Gene Kelly was an instrumental part of the SAG leadership that helped restore labor peace…
Perhaps the most serious threat to the well-being of the entertainment industry was the beginning of the U.S. House Committee on Un-American Activities’ inquisition into alleged Communist influence in Hollywood. Gene Kelly was among the few very brave actors who forcefully spoke out against the blacklist and its destruction of reputations and lives. He put his own highly successful career on the line in order to uphold basic justice and civil rights, as he has done throughout his life and work.
But first and foremost, Gene has been our international ambassador for the dance…he has taught, coached and lectured at the great universities, conservatories, and film festivals around the world…
Everywhere he goes today he takes with him the sheer joy of dancing and the magic of the cinema. Yet throughout his non-stop career…Gene has always made time to raise money and contribute his name and services to charity. Like most performers he has a generous heart and has given freely of himself to such diverse organizations as the Motion Picture Relief Fund, the Hollywood Canteen, the War Finance Program, the President’s Citizens Food Committee, the U.S. Advisory Committee on the Arts, the Permanent Charities Committee of the Entertainment Industry, the City of Hope, the Jules Stein Eye Institute, and the organization he chairs today, AIM – Adventures in Movement for the Handicapped…
In an age of instant celebrity…Gene’s vast accomplishments remind us that the greatest talents have always worked the hardest…
He has made the cinema more beautiful, more powerful, and more adventurous than when he started; and all along the way he has spoken out for justice and returned his good fortune to others. What more can possibly be asked of any artist?
AMERICAN SOCIETY OF COMPOSERS, AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS 1989
April 1989 Gene received the Pied Piper Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers for his contribution to the music industry.
THE AMERICAN IRELAND FUND SALUTES GENE KELLY November 8, 1990
You can read more about this event in the 'Make A Wish' interview on the 'I Could Talk About...' page.
Los Angeles Times. November 12th 1990
The gathering at the Regent on Broadway drew the Hollywood contingent…including three or four generations of stars – from John Travolta, to Charles Bronson to Jimmy Stewart and Ruby Keeler as well as behind-the-scenes industry types such as Lili and Richard Zanuck and Lew and Edie Wasserman.
After all kinds of entertainment, including the McGing Irish Dancers and the Young Dubliners rock group, Gene Kelly received a pair of dancing shoes hand-cut by Galway Irish Crystal.
GENE KELLY AWARDS. PITTSBURGH
In 1991 the University of Pittsburgh created the annual Gene Kelly Awards for high school musicals in Allegheny County. They are held at the Benedum Center, close to where Gene attended dance classes as a boy.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD OF THE SCHOOL OF AMERICAN BALLET. 1992
New York Times 10th February 1992 Nadine Brozan
Gene Kelly always wanted to go backstage when he saw Suzanne Farrell, the former principal dancer of the New York City Ballet, perform, but, he recallled the other day, “I only watched her dance from afar. I was too shy to run backstage and say, ‘Hey, I think you’re a real prima ballerina.’”
Tonight he will be able to tell her in person, when she presents him the Lifetime Achievement Award of the School of American Ballet, the official academy of the New York City Ballet and Ms. Farrell’s alma mater. The ceremony will take place during a benefit dinner-dance at the New York State theater, where alumni of the school, including Darci Kistler and Robert la Fosse, will perform.
“Getting this honor is so prestigious,” Mr Kelly said. He added, “I am more than delighted to be getting it from the hands of Suzanne, a little girl from Cincinnati. I am her fan. I am sorry that she had to leave the ballet as suddenly as she did and sorry that I didn’t see her last performance. I would have had tears in my eyes.
Ms Farrell retired as prima ballerina with the New York City Ballet Company, where she had been George Balanchine’s muse, in 1989, because of problems requiring hip surgery.
LEGEND TO LEGEND. 28TH December 1993. Recorded October 1993
This is a different kind of award show, in which one recipient introduces another. It is Debbie Reynolds who honours Gene.
First there is a profile of Debbie, with film clips, then she sings You Made Me Love You – sings it very well, her voice has improved a lot since Singin’ In The Rain when they had to dub it on occasion.
She then introduces Gene:
“The man who embodies the American movie musical…People may not realise that not only did he star in Singin’ In The Rain, he also choreographed and directed it. He does everything well – he always did. As dancer, singer, actor, he enjoyed tremendous success behind the scenes as well. As a director, choreographer, he has always been an innovator. He was the first to mix live action with animation. A true vanguard. It would be truly impossible to measure his contribution to the world of entertainment. But these clips will show you a genius at work.”
There follow clips from several films.
“My favourite leading man; the world’s favourite leading man. The one and only Gene Kelly.”
A screen is lifted and Gene appears, standing behind a podium. I would guess he was having trouble walking at that time, so in order to save him any embarrassment the producers arranged this for him. He received a long standing ovation until he gestured for them to stop. “How nice of you Debbie and how sweet to say all those lovely things about me. You know I appreciate it. About time, we’re doing another show together! “When they first told me about this award, it started me thinking about how many years I’ve been in this business. Thinking back I remembered the first time I considered myself an adult, was when I left the Kelly family home in Pittsburgh and went to New York to seek my fortune in the Broadway theatre. My mother gave me this advice: she said, ‘Eugene' – I was always Eugene to her – 'you will always be known by the company you keep.’ Well, if she were here tonight, and saw the kind of company I’m keeping, I’m sure she would be as proud as I am. Surrounded by a lot of old friends, many of whom I have worked with, makes it a double pleasure to receive. Of course, on these occasions the bottom line is always just ‘thank you’, so that is what I’m gonna say. Thank you very much.” He remained on stage until the cameras shifted from him.
“How nice of you Debbie and how sweet to say all those lovely things about me. You know I appreciate it. About time, we’re doing another show together!
“When they first told me about this award, it started me thinking about how many years I’ve been in this business. Thinking back I remembered the first time I considered myself an adult, was when I left the Kelly family home in Pittsburgh and went to New York to seek my fortune in the Broadway theatre. My mother gave me this advice: she said, ‘Eugene' – I was always Eugene to her – 'you will always be known by the company you keep.’ Well, if she were here tonight, and saw the kind of company I’m keeping, I’m sure she would be as proud as I am. Surrounded by a lot of old friends, many of whom I have worked with, makes it a double pleasure to receive. Of course, on these occasions the bottom line is always just ‘thank you’, so that is what I’m gonna say. Thank you very much.”
He remained on stage until the cameras shifted from him.
PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM. 1994
Presented by President Clinton "For especially meritorious contributions to culture or other significant public or private endeavours."
It is the highest civilian award in America.
A CENTENNIAL TRIBUTE TO GENE KELLY. By the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
May 17th 2012 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater.
The evening included a clip montage with Singin’ in the Rain, The Three Musketeer, For Me and My Gal, It’s Always Fair Weather, An American in Paris, Anchors Aweigh, Cover Girl, The Pirate, Invitation to the Dance, Words and Music, and Brigadoon.
There was a video message from Hugh Jackman on the set of Les Miserables, and remarks from Justin Timberlake, Nastassja Kinski, Kenny Ortega, Penelope Ann Miller, and Harry Shum Jr., all of whom cite Gene as a huge inspiration in their lives.