Gene did a great deal of charity work and gave money and other assistance to many individuals and causes in which he believed. Most of this area of Gene's life remains private, as he would have wished, but I get quite annoyed when it is said and repeated that Gene was 'tightfisted'. The fact that he did not spend money on fast cars and other 'movie star' extravagances, is rather to his credit. I think so anyway. He also did lots of 'benefit' performances in aid of all kinds of people and charities.
Movie Fan. April 1948
The stories they tell in Hollywood of his helpfulness, sincerity and unaffected good heart are endless. Like his friend Frank Sinatra, he hasn’t let his own good luck blind him to the shortcomings and unhappiness in the lives of others, and in his quiet way he tries to do something about it, whether it’s by a tour of vets’ hospitals, by working night and day in behalf of an actors’ organization or giving a behind-the-scenes lift to some aspiring young hoofer. It’s for these reasons, and a lot more like them, that the population of Hollywood and several million fans put in a lot of heartfelt hoping for the best when Gene Kelly has a bad break.
Betsy Blair. The Memory Of All That. 2003.
For quite a few years…Gene helped several of the blacklisted writers, giving money for their families and trying to get them jobs under the table.
Lois McClelland, (Gene's lifelong friend and secretary). Motion Picture magazine 1950
While Gene is not exactly a pushover for a touch, he finds it hard to turn down legitimate requests for loans and outright gifts. Look how he is about free room and board for anyone who needs it.
Friends of Gene’s from New York or Pittsburgh or the Navy? New in Hollywood with no place to live? Well, head straight for the Kelly place. They’ll put you up. The neighbours are talking now about their house which is already full to bursting with short-term and long-staying victims of the housing shortage. But there’s always room for a few others.
Mr. America. March 1953
Kelly absolutely refuses to tip lavishly, but always comes well within the accepted mark.
“When I didn’t have two quarters to rub together, I used to see guys who were doing very well over-tip waiters and such.
That made it hard for guys like me, so I decided not to do it if I ever got the money.”
His modest tipping is done for just that reason, as his charities and beneficence to down-and-out actors and acquaintances is almost unlimited.
New York Times. March 12th 1941
The list of entertainers who will appear at the benefit show for the Greek Festival For Freedom, to be given at midnight, March 28th in Radio City Music Hall, will include…Gene Kelly…
December 12, 1943 – Attended a fund raiser held at the Mocambo in Hollywood to benefit the Sleepy Lagoon Defense Fund. Formerly the Citizen's Committee for the Defense of Mexican American Youth, it formed in 1942 in reaction to the indictment of 22 young men for murder with 12 convicted. The Sleepy Lagoon Defense Committee raised funds to appeal the case and rouse public opinion through education and publicity programs.
Hollywood Off Guard. Nat Dallinger. December 24th 1946
Helping 'The Helpers'...Once again, leading screen stars helped make a successful evening of the annual dinner-dance given by The Helpers, a welfare organization composed of Hollywood personalities. During the war this organization raised money to supply gifts to members of the armed forces in hospitals. The Helpers plan to continue their welfare work. Max Arnow confers with Gene and his wife, Betsy, on the program of entertainment which included some of Gene's dance routines.
Silver Screen July 1947
Hollywood’s biggest stars honor the memory of Damon Runyon, famous newspaperman and columnist, by giving freely of their talents at a benefit in Los Angeles for Damon Runyon Memorial Fund for Cancer Research…Gene Kelly scored a big hit with his soft shoe number.
1947. Appeared at 6th Annual Guest Ball, Benefit Emergency Fund, Newspaper Guild of New York.
Benefit baseball game August 15th 1948. Sawtelle Hospital, American Legion.
There is a letter in The Gotlieb Archives in Boston, thanking Gene for playing in a charity baseball game on his birthday, 23rd August 1948. (He was in Frank Sinatra's team.) The letter says, "Trophy on the way."
Newspaper clipping. Source unknown ?1949 (Gene and Frank Sinatra performed in their striped suits from Take Me Out To The Ball Game)
Ciro's, where the ball was held, books some pretty high-class and expensive entertainment, but no night club could afford the talent that performed, for free, for the cameramen and their guests. Song-and-dance team Sinatra and Kelly brought down the house with their getups, even before they began their act.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. April 11th 1949
Gene Kelly plays a girl in the Trixie number for the big Friars Frolic on Saturday. The show shapes up as a riot.
St. Petersburg Times. April 18th 1949
For a change, the movie industry gave a benefit for itself Saturday night and raised $301,000 with the most star-filled show within memory.
The all-male Friars Frolic, given by the Actors’ Society, the Friars Club, played before a packed and glamorous house at the Shrine Auditorium. The audience paid up to $100 a seat to benefit the motion picture relief fund, which cares for the industry’s needy.
Here is what the patrons saw: Alan Ladd and Humphrey Bogart in a blackout skit…
A fast-stepping chorus line consisting of Peter Lawford, Ray Milland, James Stewart, Walter Pidgeon, Fred MacMurray, Van Johnson, George Murphy and Robert Taylor in “this is our night with Trixie.” Trixie turned out to be Gene Kelly, in a wig and falsies… A soliloquy from Carousel, by Frank Sinatra. Spencer Tracy acting as straight man for Harpo Marx…Monologues by Bob Hope, Danny Thomas, George Jessel…Soft shoe dancing by Dan Dailey.
A comic ballet by…Dennis O’Keefe, Cesar Romero, Mickey Rooney…and Buster Keaton.
Jack Benny as leader of a hillbilly band and then as Gracie Allen… James Cagney…
Hollywood agreed there never was a show like it.
New York Times. May 6th 1949
St Mark’s Restoration Fund.
The 150th anniversary will be observed with a campaign for $225,000 to maintain and restore one of the few remaining 18th century landmarks. On the committee are movie actors John Huston, Gene Kelly and his wife Betsy Blair and members of many prominent old New York families.
Newspaper clipping, source unknown
Gene Kelly, MGM film star, is one of the most ardent boosters of the Los Angeles Police Department campaign for traffic education. Here Kelly expresses his approval...New state law makes traffic education compulsory for all 10th graders.
The Independent. September 22nd 1949
Actor Gene Kelly opened fall series at local NP hospital.
The fall and winter lecture season for patients of the VA's Brentwood Hospital got off to a good start Tuesday afternoon when screen star Gene Kelly talked to more than 100 neuro-psychiatric patients as one of the features of the Educational Therapy program there. This particular series is sponsored by the greater Los Angeles Press Club and their volunteer worker, Lois Moran Young, herself a former star of stage and screen, who introduced the speaker of the occasion...
The purpose of the lecture series is to bring to the hospital men and women who are leaders in their various fields of activity so that patients may have authentic information about all types of careers and following the talks, ask questions which will help them make plans for the work which they will do in the future.
Kelly, in discussing his profession, emphasized the fact that contrary to popular opinion, a move actor has problems which are much the same as those which face all of us and in addition, the disadvantages which come from always being in the public eye.
“If I get home late from the studio, my wife is just as burned up as yours...”
Milwaukee Sentinel. June 13th 1953
Gene Kelly will dance a single performance with the ballet of the Paris Opera in July – for sweet charity.
Screen Album 1954
Kerry’s school needed dough for the PTA. In the midst of other chores, Pop took over. Blending professionals like himself, Cornel Wilde and Bob Cummings with fathers you never heard of, he cooked up a show that rocked the roof, stuffed the pockets of PTA and brought a nod from Kerry.
New York Times 21st June 1957
Film aids hospital.
Opening of The Happy Road [in New York] helps French Institution…others attending were Gene Kelly, star of the film, and Celeste Holm.
Chicago Tribune. December 23rd 1957
Gene Kelly played Santa Claus for the Hollywood Press club, then planed out for Switzerland to do the same thing for his daughter Kerry, in school there.
Jet. July 25th 1963
An integrated entertainment package, headlined by Johnny Mathis, Ray Charles, Eddie Fisher and Gene Kelly, is set to perform before an integrated audience in Birmingham on August 5. The city’s Civic Auditorium has been donated for the event by the mayor, and proceeds will go to the NAACP, CORE, the Southern Christian Leadership Council, the Urban League, the Negro American Labor Council and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. The show is packaged by the American Guild of Variety Artists.
CONTRIBUTION TO CHARITY RECIPE BOOK 1967
A book of celebrities' favourite recipes, complied by Dinah Shore on behalf of "Women for:" - a volunteer, non-partisan organization
Los Angeles Times. November 13th 1967. And Joyce Haber. November 15th
Andre Courreges, Paris couturier…is in Beverley Hills for his American Debut…
The Courreges party at the Factory caused something close to panic in our populace…Gene Kelly worked wonders with the choreography…it’s a $250 per couple benefit for the Inner City Culture Center.
American Cancer Society ad. 1971
I’m Gene Kelly and I have no predictions about the year 2000. But I do want to express the hope that by then, everyone will have quit cigarettes. Nice things happen when you quit. For example, just being able to quit gives you a great feeling of pride and satisfaction.
November 1972. Benefit in Harlem for New York Harlem Dance Theater. Gene was Guest of Honour.
In the Gotlieb Archives in Boston are the following items:
November 28th 1972
Letter from the Junior League of Daytona, Harry Ebeling:
Thanking Gene for his part in making the film Maybe Tomorrow...”A vehicle for promoting the Adventure In Movement program.”
A Certificate for Gene's outstanding support of the American Bicentennial.
A Thank You letter for the gift of $650 with purchase of 'Black Water' by Andrew Wyeth. To Brandywine Conservancy.
CEDARS-SINAI BENEFIT. 1974
People magazine. October 1974
22 YEARS LATER IT’S UNCLE GENE AND HIS UMBRELLA
It was positively raining nostalgia in Los Angeles’s 5,200-seat Universal Ampitheater. There on the outdoor stage was Gene Kelly, splashing with gusto through the dance routine that was the hit of the 1952 MGM musical, Singin’ In The Rain. It was the first time in 22 years that he had danced the entire rain sequence. So what if his soft-shoe routine was a touch soggy, his leaps a trifle foreshortened. Kelly is, after all, 62.
“I admit I thought it was an old-hat thing to do,” says Kelly. But he didn’t want to turn down a host like Frank Sinatra, especially for a benefit for a $100 million Cedars-Sinai hospital expansion in L.A. “After all, that dance was a lot of fun – a piece of cake.”
Kelly soon found out differently. The 12 stagehands assembling the set floundered about in their yellow slickers and rain hats. Rehearsal after rehearsal, something went awry…After three frustrating hours, all was ready for the show.
…”In the movie we went down a real street with cobble-stones,” said Kelly. “On this plastic surface I’m still slightly nervous about falling down. I’m holding back a bit.” One hedge against disaster: 15 pairs of shoes with special sole traction.
“Handling the umbrella in the water seems much more difficult,” he conceded. “Twenty-two years later, it’s Uncle Gene and his umbrella.”
The sell-out audience stood and cheered, Sinatra sang, Cary Grant emceed and Jack Benny played the fiddle. With people plunking down from $20 to $5000 per ticket, the estimated take for the evening was well over $2million.
The Victoria Advocate. October 5th 1974
It was the single most exciting group performance that I have ever seen…at Universal’s Ampitheatre. It took in more than $2million for the Cedars-Sinai Medical Building Fund.
Edie (Mrs. Lew) Wasserman was chairman…her husband, who’s the board chairman of MCA-Universal, picked up the tab for the supper for hundreds afterwards….also picked up the tab for the nothing-less-than-sensational Singin’ In The Rain set and special effects that Gene Kelly used.
Sinatra’s friends were Jack Benny, Cary Grant, Helen Reddy, Foster Brooks and Kelly. In $5000 seats were 30 people who attended a super cocktail-dinner party given beforehand…
…The entertainers couldn’t have been bought if every studio in the New Hollywood pooled its money. This was a demonstration of how show business’ top names will rally in support.
Kelly re-created, to rafts of applause, the I Got Rhythm number…Gene sang and danced it as no one else can, or has. How to top that? With Singin’ In The Rain, of course.
A group of stagehands…raised Wasserman’s $40,000 set before your eyes, complete with lamppost and buildings. Kelly really got wet. He looked, and sang, and tapped, as if he were 30 years old. He hopped, in push-up fashion, across the stage.
Johnny Carson was only one among many wholiterally had tears in his eyes. Johnny stood up to lead a spontaneous standing ovation for Kelly: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” he said later.
Los Angeles Times. January 24th 1976
…And Gene Kelly will co-host the 3rd annual radiothon for St. Judge Children’s Research Hospital, February 12th.
Los Angeles Times. March 11th 1976
…Such as Gene Kelly and Ricardo Montalban are supporting the annual Boutique Fantastique and Rummage sale by mothers of Good Shepherd Catholic School Parents Club.
Center Theatre Group Volunteers
Los Angeles Times. May 19th 1977
1st Gala Benefit at the Ahmanson. Gene Kelly the compere (“A fancy way of saying I’m to explain what’s happening”) has been on the CTG Board of Directors for 10 years…Theater with a capital T.
Charity dinner for City of Hope hospital. 1978. [This was the hospital where Jeanne died]
Translated by me (badly!) from a clipping in a French newspaper.
It takes someone like Gene Kelly to do the impossible: invite 250 couples among his friends, to a huge dinner at Bel Air Hotel, and demand 1000 dollars for the privilege. In effect, he raised 250,000 dollars for an association over which he presides, the work of the City of Hope hospital, which specialises in women’s illnesses. Among the first to respond was Rita Hayworth, accompanied by Dr. Mac Krim…
June 12th 1979
Letter from UCLA. Original in the Gotlieb Archives, Boston.
Thank you for...your generous gift to UCLA for the Jules Stein Eye Institute. We are grateful for your support. David Saxon. President UCLA.
Rosemary Bradley. Treasury of Favourite Recipes. 1980
"A new collection of favorite celebrity and Arizona family recipes well-seasoned with favorite verse, men's cookery, and a potpourri of bright ideas. Sales help fund a volunteer program for older Arizona citizens." Gene's note to the author above the recipe is "Best wishes for continued success!"
Gene Kelly’s “I’ll be right back” Shrimp.
This is a simple recipe using lots of garlic, shrimp, flavoured with oregano, rosemary, bay leaf and pepper. Cooked in wine and served with rice.
September 1981. Hommage á Gene Kelly.
Benefit for the American Center for Students and Artists.
At the theater du Rond-Point Renaud-Barrault. In the presence of Princess Grace.
Gene: “I am a Francophile. The American Center represents an absolutely wonderful idea, from its inception until now."
1981. The Kelly Circle at the Civic Light Opera – seats for 200 underprivileged children to all of their performances, free. Sponsored by theatregoers. In Gene's name as Honorary Chairman of the Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera.
Dallas Morning News. April 12th 1987
Fairmont Hotel. March 24th. The Mental Health Association of Dallas County hosted the Galaxy Ball…Gene Kelly attended.
Easter Eggs of the Rich and Famous. March 1988
On 23rd March, eggs painted by celebrities were auctioned at the Beverley Hills Hotel. All proceeds went to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, L.A. and Orange County chapters, to help grant the favourite wishes of terminally ill children. One of the highlights was Gene’s ‘Lucky Irish’ egg.
Screen Actor. Winter 1989
A tribute to Gene Kelly
Presentation of the SAG Achievement Award. December 11th, 1988 by President Gordon
...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 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…
...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…
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?
Los Angeles Times. February 2nd 1989
On the auction block at A Vision Of Home were 15 photos taken by Mohammed Ali…Angela Lansbury…Martin Sheen…other celebrities were on hand…Real life photographer Berry Berenson…judged Whoopi Goldberg’s, and Gene Kelly’s to be the best…Gene Kelly’s is a rose on his patio. The stars donated Polaroid shots to raise funds for the Homeless.
St. Paul Pioneer Press. May 6th 1995
Gene Kelly signed a doodle of raindrops and an umbrella…Celebrity watchers can buy a little piece of Hollywood today and help put a roof over someone’s head at the same time. The Green County chapter of Habitat for Humanity is putting more than 60 celebrity doodles, autographs and other items on the auction block.
Below is a list of some of the charities which Gene supported. It is taken from the letter which Gene wrote to the Navy Department in 1954, after he had been accused of contributing to left-wing organisations. He was pointing out that he and Betsy gave money to many many organisations, some of which were diametrically opposed to the ideals of communism.
Permanent Charities Committee Catholic Scholarships for Negroes
Sister Kenny Foundation Cedars of Lebanon Hospital
National Conference of Christians and Jews Children’s Home Society of California
Denver Hospital and Sanatorium Crippled Children’s Soc. of LA County
International Rescue Committee Florence Crittenden League
American Friends Service Committee Disabled Am. Veterans Service Found. .
Negro Actors Guild
Father Flanagans Boys Home
Catholic Actors Guild Freedom House
National Variety Artists Inc. Girls Vacation Fund
Volunteer Service Photographers Girlstown, USA
Boy Scouts of America Gold Star Wives Service Foundation
Foster Parents Plan for War Children Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind
Motion Picture Relief Fund Guild of the Infant Saviour
National Home for Jewish Children Hollywood Bowl Emergency Fund
Christmas Seal Fund Fa. Marchand, Holy Cross Ch. Hawaii
Ballet Theatre Foundation Hospitalised Veterans Music Service
Union Rescue Mission Sister Lus Maria…Mission
Hollywood Studio Club Lavelle School for the Blind
Jewish Nat. Home for Asthmatic Children Nat. Foundation for Infantile Paralysis
American Indian Fund March of Dimes
American Red Cross Mary Macarthur Memorial Fund
American Relief for Korea Meals for Millions
Arthritis and Rheumatism Fund Nat. Ass. For Mental Health
Boy’s Athletic League Nat. Child Labor Committee
Brothers of St. John of God Church of the Good Shepherd
California Inst. For Cancer Research Care Nat. Wildlife Federation
Riverdale Childrens Home Mickey Finn Youth Foundation
Damon Runyan Fund Parent Teachers Association
Salvation Army Sacred Heart High School
Save the Children Federation (Korea) Y.M.C.A
John Tracy Clinic Y.W.C.A
United Jewish Welfare Fund Military Order of the Purple Heart
United Negro College Fund Hollywood Guild Canteen
Catholic Youth Education Fund Mount St. Mary’s College
Boston University Trinity Church Consecration Fund
American Legion India Famine Emergency Committee