On this page you will find some of Gene's other work, mainly in TV. One of the special things about Gene was that he did not lie down and let the world pass by, he was never stuck in a time warp. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he adapted to circumstances and changing trends, and kept working for most of his life. To everything he did, whether it was worthy of his talents or not, he brought the same professionalism and striving after excellence which had characterised his movie work.
Dance Magazine June 1956
ABC’s MGM Parade showed The Pirate, in three installments during April. It is even better than one remembered. It is bad for television dancing to show good cinema dance sequences. The greater polish of the well-rehearsed, carefully produced movie dance makes television’s hurried productions show their slipshodiness.
Toledo Blade. January 26th 1957
Gene Kelly has come back to unpack his trunks and discover to his bewilderment that in the four years he has been headquartering in Europe that the old town has been through an upheaval. “It’s television’s great progress and the tremendous influence on the entertainment field of rock ‘n roll and a fellow named Presley that amazed me most of all,” Gene summed up on the set of Les Girls, his homecoming movie at MGM. “In Europe, television is still an experiment. It is shunned as a career handicap by most of the top stars there…already I find myself getting ready for a TV debut on Monday 3rd,” he said in a voice sounding as if he still didn’t believe it. “What makes it more unique, they didn’t even ask me to dance. I’m just playing a straight dramatic role.”
DANCE MAGAZINE. February 1959
Swamped with TV offers since the success of Dancing is a Man’s Game, Gene Kelly has agreed to do an April spectacular for CBS-TV…
Ottawa Citizen. April 22nd1959
One great from the movie musicals – Gene Kelly – has taken his art to the home screen. He readily admitted that the reason is the collapse of theatre musicals.
“I decided to take on TV because a picture deal fell through,” he explained. “I was going to make a musical with J. Arthur Rank, appearing with Moira Shearer and Robert Morley. But it was called off – I guess the Rank organization is going in more for television.”
So Gene took one of his longstanding offers to write his own ticket on TV. He has been rehearsing for weeks for his extravaganza…Always the perfectionist, he has been taping many of the numbers to get bigger screen quality.
“It isn’t easy, even with the use of tape,” he sighed. “Television isn’t really a dancer’s medium. The limitation in the size of the screen is obvious. The viewer doesn’t want to see a close-up of the ballerina’s face: he wants to see the movement of her whole body, and her relationship to the other dancers."
TV Guide. October 31-November 6, 1959
I am constantly amazed by the quality of the choreography I see on television…It’s tough to turn it out like that, week after week. You often see some poor stuff, sure, but I can forgive that…There’s no time to try out and discard and dream up something better. I think they do a remarkable job.
Jane Ardmore. TV Radio Mirror. November 1962
Gene: "If a singer misses a note on television, the audience thinks it sort of cute. If a dancer slips or slides, the audience says ‘Look at that bum, he can’t stand up.’"
...When I saw him two years ago, he’d been heralded for his direction of Flower Drum Song on Broadway, had just finished creating two spectaculars that made TV history, was just winding up his movie role opposite Spencer Tracy and Fredric March in Inherit The Wind, and was about to take off for Paris to stage an original ballet for the Paris Opera – and to spend Christmas vacation skiing with his daughter Kerry, who was in Switzerland. A true will-o’-the-wisp, restless and volatile.
Hartford Courant. August 23rd 1962
ABC’s dickering Gene Kelly for a ninety-minute musical extravaganza in which Gene would exhaust himself as host, star, director, writer and choreographer
Toledo Blade. February 11th 1966
Gene Kelly’s got quite a revolutionary idea for improving television…Abolish the commercials. ”Only for an hour,” he quickly explained, as he didn’t care to be stabbed with a fork by some Madison Avenue guys who were sitting within earshot in Toots Shor’s.
“The FCC could order that for one hour the three major networks could not sell a product. Why not? We own the air. The networks don’t own it."
“We could have programs,” he dreamed on, and he admitted it was sort of a dream, “from which people could learn something.
“We could do a minority show. Suppose Marlon Brando talked for 15 minutes about the theater…Leonard Bernstein talked about music…I’d like to go on and talk about the dance.”
“What would the viewing public say?” I asked Kelly.
“I imagine they’d scream bloody murder!” he said…
Kelly wasn’t knocking commercial TV, nor sponsors.
“I’m a fellow who makes a lot of money from those shows,” he said…but he’s hell-bent on doing things better than they’re done now…on improving the product.
Los Angeles Times. August 30th 1966
You can see all of us on TV. If I do a one-hour special, why go see me on film? For doing the same things, we get paid well in each medium.
Time Magazine. August 1967
In the past half-dozen years, switching hats like a bargain-basement shopper, he created a jazzy ballet for the Paris Opera, directed, produced or starred in six movies. On TV, he waltzed with Julie Andrews (“He made me feel as if I really could dance”,) mugged with Danny Kaye, hosted the Hollywood Palace, narrated documentaries on silent movies and baseball, and starred in four one-hour specials and his own TV series, Going My Way. This year he was awarded an Emmy for the best children’s program, Jack and the Beanstalk, in which he danced with animated characters, a technique he helped pioneer in Anchors Aweigh in 1945. Between times, he emceed the 1965 Arts Festival at the White House and toured West Africa as a cultural ambassador for the State Department.
Radio Times. October 1972
"I enjoy working in television, but you’re doing the smaller kind of thing, doing it faster and doing it to sell soft drinks and beer. You’re not doing it to lure people out of their homes. The challenge isn’t nearly so great, is it?"
At 60 he has the stamina and energy of a much younger man, and he looks it. If he goes too long without doing something, he gets ‘edgy.’
“To combat that I usually do something on television – a little song and dance – I call it mini-dancing – on one of the variety shows – to get into shape."
Ludington Daily News. December 27th 1972
With reruns on TV and guest shots with TV regulars and his own Funny Side two years ago, the actor-dancer has been as visible as he wants to be.
American Film 1979, Gene:
I am amazed that the fellows who do the choreography in television get it done, because they have so little time. The rule seems to be, don’t do it well, do it by Tuesday.
THE LIFE YOU SAVE. March 1st 1957
Gene starred with Agnes Moorhead and Janice Rule, in this 30 minute Schlitz Playhouse Of The Stars production. It was based on a story by American Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor. You can read it by following this link. http://faculty.smu.edu/nschwart/2312/lifeyousave.htm
They changed a few details for the screen. 'Mr Shiftlet' becomes Tom Triplet, Gene's character, a hobo with one arm and a toolbox! They have the TV play advertised for sale in VHS format on www.moviesunlimited.com and on TCM.
Gene's accent in this always reminds me of the grandmother in Living In A big Way. I am told by someone who knows the area where the play is set, that he has the dialect spot-on, although it sounds rather strange to my English ears!
Los Angeles Times. December 3rd 1956
Gene Kelly, one of the real hold-outs against TV, has succumbed and will make his debut in a Schlitz Playhouse of the Stars episode, The Life You Save.
According to documents in the Gotlieb Archivesin Boston, announcement of Gene's TV debut was sent to 900 newspapers, magazines and TV stations.
“It's exciting to do something different...it's fun to move faster.”
“I had read many other scripts but I found this strong dramatic role of backwoods itinerant involved in a highly emotional and decisive, but unexpected affair, extremely interesting. It was off-beat for me.”
Pittsburgh had a special arrangement. It was shown February 28th there – a day before the network showing on March 1st, so they could have their own 'World Premiere' of Gene's work.
DANCING: A MAN'S GAME. Transmitted 19th December 1958.
This was one of Gene's early forays into the new and challenging world of television. It was part of a series called Omnibus, produced by Robert Saudek.
Recently I had the great privilege of seeing the complete programme at the Paley Center in New York. It was all I expected it to be and much more. My friend and I both marvelled at Gene's ingenuity and skill in putting together such a wonderfully entertaining and instructive show. We were taken from the beginnings of dance, to modern American styles, via fencing, English clog and black American tap. Gene demonstrated many of his theories with his own feet, and using other dancers and sportsmen also. One particular highlight, which can be seen on a compilation DVD of Omnibus shows, is the hoofing duet Gene does with Sugar Ray Robinson.
Surely this show would be an ideal candidate for issue on DVD for Gene's centenery celebrations as it encompasses all that he believed passionately about the relationship between dance and sport.
Jack Wintz. St. Anthony Messenger. Catholic magazine. August 1980
Kelly…has always insisted on a connection between athletics and dance. “I see much grace in Lynn Swann,” he says of the football star of the Pittsburgh Steelers. “And Lynn Swann and Swan Lake have a lot of moves in common. Sometimes in competitive sports you forget that you are seeing beauty in motion because you just see big powerful men slugging away in the middle of a football line. But if you look past the line and watch the sweeps and the end runs, it’s beautiful! When that is frozen by still photography, you see something as pretty as classic or modern ballet.
“Ive used a lot of athletics movements in dancing…When I tried to teach my students a certain kind of pivot, I used to tell them, ‘This is the Cousy turn.’”
Gene: (from hand-written notes in the Gotlieb archives, Boston.)
My two loves are dancing and sports. I love to watch and participate. I know that the foundation of my dance style is a 50-50 mixture of ballet and athletic training, and where one leaves off and the other begins, I am never quite sure.
What makes a man adopt the Dance as a profession? What are his drives?
The same reason that drives the painter, the sculptor or the musician to follow his particular craft. He wants to express himself as an artist.
UCLA Film and TV Archive.
The entire hour, as described by Variety, was a “stunning production, expertly directed and executed…which fused and counterpointed the physical movement and rhythm of athletes with today’s dance…as high on entertainment value as it was informative.” Hailed a masterpiece by viewers and television critics nationwide, the program certainly contributed to Omnibus being awarded an Emmy statuette as “Best Public Service Program or Series” for 1958. Kelly himself received an Emmy nomination for “Best Choreography for Television” and the broadcast’s success encouraged him to continue his video explorations of dance on television;
From all this, Mr. Kelly emerges with a tremendous new dimension, as a brilliant new star on what was for him a new medium. We now have another name on the small precious list of stars who understand TV and can hold us in thrall for an hour or more.
This was one of the most delightful of Omnibus programmes, original in concept and exciting in its execution.
Gene Kelly's blithe and beautifully simple treatise on the manly art of ballet dancing was pure delight.
It was the stamp of the Kelly personality that distinguished the show. He has style, he has flair, he has eagerness, nip and nice-guyness about him and yesterday he laced all these through his hour. I am in favor of inviting him back again – and again – and again...
Dancer from the dance: Gene Kelly, television, and the beauty of movement. Velvet Light Trap. 2002.
By 1958, both the film industry and Kelly's career had undergone significant changes. ...a good deal of Kelly's creative work in the cinema was shifted to the realm of its other competing media - television and theater.
Since Kelly wrote and directed the program, the cinematic style imported here from his work in the film studio - particularly his interest in camera movement - was central to what Kelly referred to as his "thesis" of choreography and masculinity that inextricably underscored the very purpose of the program.
...not only did Kelly overcome his "old hobby horse"..of the stigma of effeminacy associated with dance, Kellys's self-revered body in this "one hour of riveting television" appeared to overcome the spatial limitations of the body.
Michael Ritchie, Omnibus staff.
'I think it was one of Bob's favourites. He and Gene grew up together in Pittsburgh and he always wanted Gene to do something on Omnibus. This relationship of dancing to athletics was something that immediately clicked with Gene.'
Gene, AFI Booklet 1985
"A good dancer simply takes the physical movements of sport, exaggerates them, extends them and distorts them in order to show what he wants to say more clearly and strongly. There's very little difference between a footballer warming up for the game and a modern dancer going through his paces before the show. It's only a matter of intention."
St. Petersburg Times. December 24th 1958
…Gene Kelly seemed determined to expunge any lingering suspicions of effeminacy that might have gathered around the profession that catapulted him to movie stardom…Kelly went on to explain how the original ballet movements go back to such male occupations as duelling, and demonstrated how the classic movement of feet is strictly a utilitarian bit borrowed from the duel. There was a marvellous bit cutting back and forth between Dick Button, the world champion figure-skater, and a ballet dancer, demonstrating how close these two arts are to each other.
Again and again Kelly returned to his thesis that the dance was the property and prerogative of men, not women, illustrating with the tremendously masculine and virile dances of Spain and Russia. In one of the best bits, Kelly demonstrated how our American dance developed out of the Irish jigs and reels. Later Kelly joined up with Patrick Adiarte, an enormously talented young dancer from Flower Drum Song, and the pair showed the extension of tap movements to the modern generation of young dancers. And the essay – for that’s what it was – closed with a vignette of some street corner idlers, fighting and loafing. It was a wonderful mixture of education and sheer visual fun, showing what TV can do in this line when it half tries.
DANCE MAGAZINE. February 1959
December included two of the most important dance shows of the year, Gene Kelly’s 60-minute Omnibus program, and New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker…
Kelly’s opus hit an all-time high. Nutcracker was a big bore…
Dance magazine. March 1959
Gene Kelly’s recent presentation of Dancing Is A Man’s Game was cogent and particularly well-timed in its message. Behind it was all the weight Kelly bears as an internationally famed film and dance personality. We believe this program is destined for great effect on aspiring young male dancers of the nation, and their parents . x
THE PONTIAC SPECIALS 1959
I understand that Gene was meant to do three of these TV shows, but I know details of only two. The first one aired in April 1959. I had the privilege of watching this show - twice - at the Paley Center in New York City, the museum of TV and Radio. It is all I thought it would be and more. I would highly recommend a visit if you are in New York. The people there are helpful and friendly and they have some real treasures in their vaults.
I will try to remember as much of it as I can:
It opens with Gene singing Les Girls, with three ballerinas, Claude Bessy, Gerd Anderson and Judith Dornys, dancing. I liked this version better than the original in the film.
There follows a completely delightful piece, where Gene sings and dances with five-year-old cutie pie Cherylene. His tenderness and rapport with the little girl are very touching. They sing I'm following you...You're part of my heart…
Then comes a section written by Henry Mancini for the occasion, Coffeehouse Ballet. It is great fun, almost a send-up of Slaughter on 10th Avenue, with humour and irony injected. Gene is a private eye on the trail of a female murderer in a trench coat. The choreography is novel and innovative, there is a fantastic part where he and the seductress dance over the furniture, very cleverly done, and athletically danced, and the end is funny and unexpected. Gene is unshaven in casual gear and looks very, very, very good, his facial expressions are a joy to behold.
In contrast he then does an old soft shoe, reminiscing about the old Vaudeville days. He does lots of singing throughout the show and his voice is on top form.
There is then a section featuring the dancers – Every Little Move.
After that comes an unforgettable part where Gene talks, argues, and dances with his alter ego, resurrected from Cover Girl. It is extremely well constructed and filmed, you really believe there are two Gene Kellys on stage. They have a challenge as to who is the better dancer. Gene won!! Wonderful stuff.
After that we see a tender, gentle piece about unrequited love, beautifully and softly danced with the ballerinas.
Next comes another highlight. Gene dances to a poem written for him by Carl Sandberg. He becomes childlike as he does what Sandberg tells him to do, it is beautiful and most unusual to watch. It is stunningly original.
After that is a jazz ballet choreographed by Gene but performed by male and female dancers, very modern, again demonstrating Gene's ability to change with the times.
Gene then reminisces about his past work, singing snatches from some of his well known works, including I Could Write a Book from Pal Joey.
He then brings on Liza Minnelli, aged thirteen, to dance For Me & my Gal with him, a sweet moment, followed by You Wonderful You, which he says is for Judy.
The ending, which comes far too soon, has Gene soaked and smiling as he reprises Singin In The Rain. The whole show is amazingly varied and imaginative. I love the second Pontiac show, but I think this one is even better. Gene also looks just wonderful, nowhere near his age of 46.
You can read the poem which was written for Gene to dance to, on the World is in rhyme page.
TV Guide. Friday April 24th 1959. 60 minute colour special.
Guests: Carl Sandburg, Claude Bessy, Judith Dornys,
Gerd Anderson, Liza Minnelli, Cherylene Lee, aged 5.
I Got Rhythm…Kelly
Les Girls…Kelly, Ballerinas
I’m Following You…Kelly, Cherylene Lee
Every Little Movement…Kelly, Ballerinas
Anything You Can Do…Kelly
Turkey In The Straw…Sandburg, Kelly
Medley Of Career Songs…Kelly
Pontiac Star Parade. 24th April 1959. CBS. Details from the Paley Center website.
Broadcast live from Hollywood, it opens with Gene singing and dancing. Kelly and the dancers perform Henry Mancini’s Jazz Ballet Coffee House, composed for this programme. Kelly dances The Old Soft Shoe and then dances with ballerinas. Carl Sandburg reads a poem written for dancing, while Kelly performs. It continues with Jam Session composed by Nelson Riddle. Liza Minnelli joins Kelly in For Me And My Gal. The programme closes with excerpts from Singin’ In The Rain.
Saul Chaplin was the producer.
Saturday Review. May 16th 1959. Robert Lewis Shayon.
As a TV viewer who likes to think that he possesses some independence of mind, I would resist the temptation to switch to Pontiac the next time I purchase a car simply because I enjoyed the one-shot Gene Kelly show…I am sure, however, that I would undertake to watch the dancing star regularly if Pontiac elected to present Mr. Kelly in a weekly program, which he produced and hosted, and on which he danced. The program would have to be in prime evening time on a weekday night…
Gene Kelly…suggested the possibility that a regular dance show with a head in its toes might have a welcome aesthetic, if not a sociological impact which could successfully pass the big audience test.
Ever since Max Liebman produced the vintage Show of Shows with Sid Caesar on early TV, the medium’s chorus boys and girls have gyrated frantically and with utter futility on myriad variety programs. Fred Astaire graced a special show, this season, with his marvellous, feathery feet, but the Astaire style is all charm and aspires to no substance…
Mr. Kelly is a dancer who dares to have an idea. His verbal commentary is intelligent. He comments in his precise, intense dancing style, too. He is an artful satirist with taste and distinction. His company of dancers and musicians performed in a spirited, imaginative jazz ballet, evocatively and fluidly staged in light and space. He imported three European ballerinas and employed them on his show with appeal for a wide audience and without loss in their artistry. He and Carl Sandberg collaborated in a dance-to-a-poem experiment that was novel and effective. Gene Kelly is a gifted triple-threat man in films – dancer, director, actor. He may not be interested, but if he and Pontiac chose to be partners in a weekly dance show that sustained the qualities exhibited in their first TV waltz together – they could make some very significant contributions to this nation’s understanding of the mind behind the dance.
B.H. Times 1959
The show is marked by simplicity and good taste...not one jarring note in this unusually entertaining hour.
What made it particularly appealing was its atmosphere of intimacy, and no one can accomplish this better than Gene Kelly...
The realistic looking beard was thoroughly genuine...Gene spent three weeks growing it – as seen in the Coffee House Ballet. As soon as the scene was completed, Gene shaved it off, appearing clean-shaven in the rest of the show...
Most of the show was taped, except the part with Liza. He said they were having a ball...
Watching him, you saw the perfectionist at work, the superb technician.
The second Pontiac show, aired in colour in November 1959, is a gem. It stars Donald O'Connor and Carol Lawrence. It is a delight, containing much humour, camaraderie and of course, stunning dance numbers. There is a romantic dance with Carol, Shall We Dance, and a Spanish dance followed by a sensual duet with Carol which ends with Gene being shot! And a long, very funny, Vaudeville sketch. My favourite part is just Gene, interpreting Ballin' The Jack. Makes my heart smile every time. It ends with Gene and Donald dancing sitting down, though not for long!
From a note in the Gotlieb Archives, Boston:
The Pontiac dance rehearsals took place between July 17th – 31st.
Ballin' The Jack was originally set to be done in several national styles: Russian, Viennese, Siamese, Latin American and Dixieland.
TV Guide. 21st November 1959
Says Gene Kelly of his Saturday Special on NBC: “I’ll introduce the guy who steals the show, Donald O’Connor, and a girl who has everything, Carol Lawrence; then the sponsor will say a few words.” Modest Kelly forgot to add that he’ll do some entertaining too.
TV Radio Mirror November 1959
Light-hearted, light-footed magic…Kelly, his co-stars and the dance chorus worked day after day for a month before the whole run of numbers was perfect.
TV Radio Mirror. December 1959
On July 2 last, Miss Carol Lawrence packed up her dancing shoes, said goodbye to fellow cast members of the Broadway hit, West Side Story, and took a plane for Hollywood. There she began rehearsals with Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor for the spectacular color dance extravaganza which is to be Kelly’s first production for Pontiac Star Parade. The producer-dancer is also to do two subsequent hour-shows for Pontiac later in the season. For this first brilliant production, Kelly, his co-stars and the dance chorus worked day after day for a month before the whole run of numbers was perfect. Taping was undertaken in early August, and the job was finally done…a delightful program…
AN AMERICAN IN PARIS. PILOT FOR TV SERIES. MAY 1960
Eugene Register-Guard. March 2nd 1960
Pilot film of An American In Paris which Gene Kelly is producing in France for a Fall series, will be shown on CBS GE Theater within the next couple of months.
Milwaukee Sentinel. May 23rd 1960
Van Johnson: “Gene Kelly directed this pilot film in Paris, of me playing a troubleshooter for a Paris travel agency. It looks like it’s sold for next year. It’s called An American In Paris, and he’ll be in it occasionally. Jan Sterling’s the woman and Judi Meredith plays her daughter.”
GOING MY WAY. 1962
I am now the proud owner of the complete series, which was released on DVD recently (2012) I will therefore be filling in all the gaps of this page very soon, no doubt with more screenshots of the fabulous Father O'Malley. It will be a real chore to watch every 'new' episode several times, but hey, I can make sacrifices. ;-))
This was the only TV series which Gene starred in. The thirty episodes were made at Revue studios in Los Angeles for ABC TV in 1962. Gene's company, Kerry Productions, was partly responsible for production. It was based on the successful 1944 film of the same name, which starred Bing Crosby in the role of Father Chuck O'Malley.
Leo G Carroll, from my side of the pond, is the grumpy Father Fitzgibbon. ( I knew him from my teenage years drooling over Ilya Kuryakin in The Man From Uncle). He and Gene seemed to have great warmth and rapport together, their interaction provides some of the most amusing moments. Dick York plays the other lead, Tom Colwell, Chuck's boyhood friend and the director of the boy's center nearby. He is a Protestant, and the role was possibly created to enable some romantic interest to be included, though in the episodes I have seen there is not much of that going on. Nydia Westman plays the role of Mrs Featherstone, the rotund and fussy housekeeper.
According to one of Gene's biographers, Clive Hirschorn, Gene agreed to take the part because Jeannie was pregnant with their first child, Tim, and it meant that Gene could be close to home. He was also paid a large amount of money! But he felt weighed down by the working methods used for weekly TV shows - each story had to be completed in four days, the fifth for reading the next script, and the weekend for learning it. He was also unhappy about the 'passive' nature of the part. Typically, Gene wanted to make the role more relevant, dealing with controversial subjects and including social comment, but the restrictions placed on him by the Church and the censors made for a 'watered down' version of what the programme could have been. Nevertheless the episodes I have seen are mostly unexpectedly good to watch - well, it is Kelly! He managed to infuse the role with his own personality and inject some gentle humour.
Ocala Star banner. October 4th 1962
This promises to be a sentimental, warm program – and have a little message too. And I hope it will occasionally show Gene Kelly dancing.Hirschorn: "It was extremely popular in Catholic countries abroad, and although not the success Gene had hoped it would be in the States, it was an interesting experience he does not regret having undertaken."
The Pittsburgh Press. October 12th 1962
An Altar Boy From St. Raphael’s Is Interviewed. Fred Remington
Gene Kelly was studying a blue-covered script, a khaki sports jacket clashing incongruously with the dark ecclesiastical trousers of Father Charles O’Malley whom Gene would portray in front of the cameras in a moment or two.
A small transistor radio was beside him and he looked at it longingly.
“If I ever get started listening to that ball game, I’m dead. I have six pages of dialogue to memorize.”
Breezy and cordial, Gene talked of his current TV series, Going My Way…The opening show of the series on October 3rd, was a keen disappointment to him, as to many of the ABC network brass.
“The geniuses made a booboo starting with that one,” said Gene. “Did they think it was St. Patrick’s Day?…”I have no idea whether this series will go or not. We want some humor, of course, but we want dignity. We don’t want these priests to be a couple of hokey guys.”
…”Mr. Kelly, you’re wanted on the set,” said an aide.
“I wish I could brush this guy off,” said Gene. “But he’s from my home town.”
The khaki jacket came off. The Roman collar went on. Gene Kelly, song and dance man, became Father O’Malley, priest.
He walked on to a set and flawlessly delivered lines explaining to Richard Conte, guest star…that statues don’t really possess magical powers.
A lot of the old altar boy from St. Raphael’s parish went into the lines.
Free Lance Star July 10th 1964
Each season dozens of letters ask why Neilsen took a favorite program off the air. Last years show Going My Way, which starred Gene Kelly, is a good example. Many people wrote to say that this kind of wholesome TV series deserved to continue – adding that any system that would give a low rating to a fine show like this was absolutely wrong.
It was called El Buen Pastor in Venezuela (we won't argue with that) and St. Dominic und Seine Schafchen in West Germany.(Sorry about the missing umlaut above the 'a'!)
Jane Ardmore TV Radio Mirror November 1962
Gene: "No-one in the world ever thought of my becoming a priest – except my mother."
No doubt about it, Revue must have had a great deal of that mystic quality called faith to cast the noted dancer-actor in the TV role of Father O’Malley….
“Holy father?” exclaimed one man who’s worked with Gene for years. “More like a holy terror!”
Gene: "I study to be a priest on TV by remembering the young parish priests who had such an influence on us when we were kids in Pittsburgh. Father Tynan for example – a handsome tough, well-educated fellow, virile and energetic, who played third base like crazy and had a way with kids, tough or otherwise.
He was probably in the back of my mind – along with Father Gallagher at St Raphael’s and Father Coakley at Sacred Heart – when I dreamed of being a priest myself."
...When young Timothy was baptised...Pat (Mrs Peter) Lawford acted as godmother, Joe Connolly (producer of Going My Way), was godfather, Jeanne and Kerry were radiant – but you should have seen Gene! He was positively misty in the midst of all this. Not a holy terror. Not a holy man. A fulfilled man. A man who has the derring-do to live big.
From www.bewitched.net A Dick York tribute.
Going My Way lasted only one season, but York attributes its failure to being up against the highly popular Beverley Hillbillies for its first half hour. “In the summer when the reruns began, the ratings went through the roof, but they had already released everybody.”
I have seen only 16 of the 30 episodes so far, but here is a small precis of the 16 if anyone is interested. A full list can be found at www.imdb.com
The first episode, Back To Ballymora, aired on 3rd October 1962. The parishioners start a fund to send Father Fitz back to his home town of Ballymora (trying to get rid of him for a while???). He never did get there but it gave the excuse for a farewell dinner and for Chuck to do a little singing and a tidy Irish jig! (Sorry, that should be clog!) One member of the party is called Jim Kelly! Don't watch this episode if you do not want your heart strings tugged by Gene's singing! Listening to his voice as he sings Take Me Back To Ballymora is like bathing in soft warm velvet! Just beautiful. We also see him talking to a parrot in Italian. Lots of Gene in this.
The Crooked Angel. 10/10/62
The Parish Car. 17/10/62. Focuses more on Father Fitz as he stubbornly decides he knows more about buying a new car than does Chuck, and ends up with a stolen one!There is some banter between them and even a small bet with a prize of tickets for a ball game. Right at the end, Father Fitz is taking Chuck and Tom for a spin in his new car. He turns on the windscreen washers by mistake. Chuck says:" Now that we have officially baptised the car Father, shall we go?" Ok, it sounded funnier when Gene delivered the line!!
The Father. 24/10/62. (Rerun 15/5/63)
A Man For Mary. 31/10/62
Like My Own Brother. 7/11/62
Not Good Enough For My Sister. 14/11/62. (Rerun 5/5/63)
A Matter Of Principle. 21/11/62. Chuck is organising an inter-church basketball tournament. They have a star player but he thinks he is too good to train with the others, so Chuck bans him from the team. It all ends happily, though St. Dominic's loses the match, and we get an opportunity to see Chuck out of 'uniform', training the team. Delicious!
Mr Second Chance. 28/11/62. This is a good one, with Gene exhibiting his considerable acting abilities right through the episode. A rich ex-gangster wants to reform and be reunited with his wife and daughter, at the daughter's wedding. Chuck finds a way to encourage him to do good not just for effect. He wears his priestly regalia as he marries the young couple. Thank goodness he never became a real priest. Every woman would have had a dreadful dilemma - would you go to St Dominic's to confess TO him or ABOUT him. lol. He also briefly plays the piano and sings a few bars of Ballymora.
Ask Me No Questions. 5/12/62. (Rerun 26/6/63.)
Keep An Eye On Santa Claus. 12/12/62. In case you didn't realise, this is a Christmas story! Quite funny in parts, it has Chuck and his cohorts trying to 'save' an old jailbird and set him on the right track. The bishop would not have approved of their methods! There are some great moments as Chuck auditions kids for the Christmas choir, funny and sweet and displaying again Gene's love for kids and his rapport with them. You can't fake that. I think he does some of his finest acting in this episode as he tries to convince the old con not to let everyone down by returning to crime.
A Dog For Father Fitz. 19/12/62
A Saint For Momma. 26/12/62. An Italian ex-mobster steals a statue of St Anthony from St. Dominics because his momma is sick and Anthony is her hero. He 'kidnaps' Chuck and tries to make him make Anthony make his momma better. With me so far?? Thought not! She wasn't really sick anyway, just sulking because Tony wouldn't give up his womanising and marry the sweet Catholic girl Rosa. It gives Gene an opportunity to do some stronger acting, he is very persuasive.
Tell Me When You Get To Heaven. 2/1/63. The story of an agnostic doctor who seemingly hates everyone, especially kids and priests. He diagnoses a brain tumour in one of Chuck's basketball boys, but the father won't give permission to operate. But thanks to Chuck's wisdom and ability to handle people, it all comes out right. Lots of excellent Gene in this one.
My Son The Social Worker. 9/1/62. One of my favourites, in which Chuck teaches one of his boys to dance - or attempts to. They get as far as 'back, side, together..' He even manages to squeeze in some propaganda for his hobby-horse of connecting dancing with sport. A couple of great one-liners in this. Tom's larger-than-life dad comes to town, much to Tom's chagrin. Dad is a natural organiser which eventually makes Tom throw a wobbly. Chuck has to give Tom a serious talking to, and all ends well.
Memorial For Finnegan. 16/1/63. Another good one. Finnegan is a rich Irish-American who pledged $5000 to St Dominic's and owed the maker of a family stained glass window $1800, but had paid neither bill. Chuck takes it on himself to get the money from Finnegan but it doesn't work out quite how Father Fitz, waiting with his suitcase ready for a trip to Rome, expected. There is a great moment when Chuck 'hangs up', literally, a bodyguard who is trying to prevent him from seeing Finnegan. I could just see Gene doing the exact same thing! There are a few very funny moments, when Tom gives Chuck a lift in a sports car. You have to see it. As Gene reads through church membership cards he comes across one with the children's names being James, Louise, Eugene, Harriet and Fred. Now there's a coincidence!
Don't forget To Say Goodbye. 23/1/63
Shoemaker's Child. 30/1/63. (Rerun 31/7/63.)
The Slasher. 6/2/63. (Rerun 3/7/63)
One Small Unhappy Family. 13/2/63
Has Anybody Here Seen Eddie. 20/2/63. Eddie is a bad lad whom everyone except Tom had given up on. Even Chuck says he is a 'stinker'. It focuses mainly on Tom's efforts to find and 'reclaim' Eddie.
Blessed Are The Meek. 27/2/63. A nice episode. A famous TV priest comes to stay, he was once Father Fitz's curate, as Chuck is now. Mrs Featherstone is so overcome - she has a crush on the TV priest - that she falls off a chair! I think most of us would do the same if Chuck came to stay! The new sexton at the rectory was once almost a priest but left the seminary under a cloud. He was also once the TV priest's best friend and mentor, and is now too ashamed to meet him. It takes all Chuck's powers of persuasion to bring things to a successful conclusion. And Chuck's powers of persuasion are awesome - one killer smile and you would do anything he asked!!!
Cornelius Come Home. 6/3/63
Boss Of The Ward. 13/3/63. Not one of the best from a Gene fan point of view. He is off to an educational conference: The Dance, it's importance in the rhythmic development of the child. I'm sure he could lecture for days on that theme! A popular community figure is ousted as prospective Boss by a younger up-and-coming bloke. Chuck gets back just in time to save the day and to use his 'slugging persuasion' methods on the bad guy.
Run Robin Run. 20/3/63. Not much Gene in this, he is off to another seminar, leaving Father Fitz and Tom to try to find and help an Afro-Caribbean guy with an attitude problem who was wrongly accused of assault. They end up almost getting arrested in a dive.
The Reformation Of Willie. 27/3/63. Another of my favourites, gives us chance to see Gene in leather jacket up a ladder cleaning windows with an ex-con. Willie is a loser, a drunkard who is afraid to confront responsibility. It is Chuck's task, which he goes about in a bizarre way, to persuade him to change his ways. We also get to see Gene on the golf course, in casual attire, which makes a nice change from the cassock and collar.
Custody Of The Child. 3/4/63. (Rerun 21/8/63.)
Florence Come Home. 10/4/63. Quite a funny episode, in which Chuck tries to put back together an ill-assorted couple. The wife has landed on his doorstep having left her moron husband. I think I would have done the same, having seen the husband!
Hear No Evil. 17/4/63. (Rerun 11/9/63.)
A Tough Act To Follow. 24/4/63. The last in the series. Unfortunately (unless you are a Dick York fan) not one of the best in my opinion. Tom decides to leave the Center and go sell insurance. A lady worker is given his job, which leads to all kinds of stereotypical situations. Chuck appears occasionally, to pour oil on troubled waters.
Chuck always seems to lose his appetite when he is worried about a situation. Father Fitz's comment: "Other people's troubles should weigh on your mind, not on your stomach."
Father Fitz to Chuck: "You have a grand way with words m'boy. Why don't you sit down and I'll dictate to you."
Chuck is trying to teach a young boxer the rudiments of dancing. Boy: "I wish I could fight with her instead of dancing." Chuck: "You don't have a license to fight her, you're not married yet."
Father Fitz sees Chuck doing his dancing master bit and is not impressed: "I asked the bishop for a hard worker and he sends me Arthur Murray."
Chuck, trying to boost the boy's confidence: "There was a girl I liked. I used to hang from a tree upside down hoping she would speak to me. One day she did. She said 'Your face is red.'"
Father Fitz: "Among the thorns we must find the perfume of roses yet unopened." Chuck tells us it was a saying of Catherine of Sienna.
Chuck and Father Fitz are strolling in the garden. Gene is throwing his hat in the air and whistling and almost dancing. Father Fitz says: "Try to remember you're a priest, not a Vaudeville act."
Chuck: "I didn't know you spoke French". Undertaker: "Father, when you've buried as many as I have, you meet all kinds."
Chuck: "Along with Ballymora Father, perhaps you could take a trip to England." Father Fitz: "England Chuck?! It's supposed to be a pleasure trip". (I could take exception to that comment, but I won't!)
HOLLYWOOD PALACE 1964
This was a one-hour TV programme taped on 15th February 1964 and broadcast by ABC on 22nd February. It is a rare chance to see Gene perform and MC in front of a live audience, and he is superb. He comes across as so relaxed and at ease that it makes you feel like you are being entertained in his home!
He comes on stage to the strains of Singin’ In The Rain, a little off key for the first note! But he makes up for it in enthusiasm. He says: “The producers of the Hollywood Palace have asked me if I would try to reproduce some of the fun, excitement and charm of those Vaudeville days.” Then one or two of the audience members shout out, asking if he is going to dance. He reassures them, then introduces The Tangier Troupe from Morocco, a group of tumblers who do balancing and jumping about a lot.
Gene returns to sing and dance Shine On Harvest Moon, with Joey Heatherton. This is delightful, the song suits Gene’s voice perfectly and he is charm itself. He has magnetism, sheer magnetism…
After some VERY high kicks from Joey – they would knock your hat off – Gene ‘interviews’ an important politician, who turns out to be Bill Dana, who comes on as LBJ – Lyndon B Jiminez! This is a hilarious sketch, I laughed so loud the neighbours must have wondered what on earth I was doing! Gene has a hard time keeping a straight face, and many times that glorious smile flashes involuntarily. He sticks his finger in his ear in a characteristic gesture, and rubs his nose to try to control himself. He has great rapport with the audience too.
Gene then introduces a man and a woman in a sticky-out frock (the woman was in the frock) with oodles of poodles. Not my idea of fun but hey, everyone to their own taste!
Gene returns dressed in black trousers and open-necked t-shirt similar to the outfit he wore for the American In Paris ballet. Oh boy. Two other dancers, Bill Humphries and Alex Plaichard (?spelling) join him for a wonderful precision tap. If you have seen An American In Pasadena the dance is very similar in structure to the one he did there with Alex Romero and Danny Daniels. The audience loved it. So did I.
He introduces Della Reece, singer. She belts out three good songs.
There follows a great novelty dance. Gene and the two dancers do a ‘chain dance’, which was popular in the Vaudeville heyday. They manacle themselves to each other, attached at one ankle. To see Gene chaining himself up is more than a girl can stand. Lol. While getting attached, he says that the original acts were dressed in prison suits and striped hats, but he and his friends had no suits, they were on parole. Then he asks them if they are ready as he has run out of jokes. The routine is clever and great fun to watch, and they look like they are enjoying themselves too.
Next comes Roger Ray, who is supposed to play the xylophone, but spends most of the time talking and being mildly funny. He is followed by Phil Ford and Mimi Hines, a double act in the same vein as Burns & Allen.
The final feature is ‘The Five Kellys’. No, Gene hasn’t assembled his brothers and sisters for a reprise of their childhood act. He has Mimi Hines as his wife, Joey Heatherton as his daughter and a boy and girl to complete the ‘family’. He looks delicious in a light coloured suit in the style of an original vaudeville act. They sing about the ‘grandest name’ – Kelly. “What’s the name that stands for fame…’tis the grandest name that ever came from the dear old Emerald shore…" etc etc. Then they do a simple but engaging dance together, and Joey once again gets her leg up so high she almost dislodges the lighting technicians!!! Gene recreates part of the act he did with his siblings, as described below by Fred Kelly.
Fred Kelly, quoted in Rusty E. Frank. Tap! 1994
…we started a little act and called ourselves the Five Kellys. We worked in every benefit show, every church and hospital show in the city. Our act was fashioned around the Seven Little Foys. I was the baby, and we sang the song “K-E-L-L-…” And the only thing I had to sing was Y….I came in with the Y whenever I felt like it, I wasn’t at all with the music..
Efrem Zimbalist Jr then appears to say that he is the host for the next show (I used to adore 77 Sunset Strip,) and hands Gene a cup of sand. Gene sprinkles it on the floor and ends the show with a soft shoe routine. He says several things to the audience but it is impossible to distinguish the words. They seem to be amused and delighted anyway. The tune is Goodnight Sweetheart, very apt as Gene gently strolls off stage.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK 1966
I was lucky enough to see this at the Paley Center in New York City. It is an entertaining show, fast-moving, has Gene and company literally dancing through the streets of New York. There is a long section filmed in Greenwich Village. Like most things Gene did, it is new and fresh and different. The only 'downside' for me is the amount of time given to Woody Allen! Sorry to those who are fans, I am not. Gene sang and danced with Tommy Steele, trying to 'get' the English accent, then with Gower Champion in the United Nations building. Once or twice Gene made me feel dizzy and nervous when he stood on top of tall buildings or statues. He danced, in clothes similar to those he wore in the American In Paris ballet, in the sculpture gardens of the Museum of Modern Art. I am not sure just how he obtained permission to work in many of these places, but we all know he could be very persuasive! If you like New York and you like to see Gene dance in the streets, you will enjoy this.
The New Yorker. October 23rd 1965
Someone yelled “Kill ‘em!” and six huge, smoking arc lights, standing ten feet above the street, were turned off.
“We’re going to go up and get the girls warm,” announced Gene Kelly, marching down the middle of Macdougal Street, followed by eight shivering girl dancers who were dressed as schoolgirls in red caps, red coats and short white skirts. They moved briskly…through a crowd of onlookers – perhaps three hundred in all – that jammed the end of the block, and then vanished into the Granados Restaurant on the corner of Third Street…
Previous sequences had been shot in the sculpture garden of the Museum of Modern Art, inside a Village coffeehouse, and around Washington Arch…
Nearby a makeup man added a gold earring to a beatnik-type extra. All around were Village types, in pinkish makeup…”The lights wash away the normal color, so we have to add skin tone,” the makeup man said…
The crowd was moved back, and Kelly and the girls returned to their places…the loudspeakers began to blare…the song “Christopher Street” which had been pre-recorded by Kelly and a chorus of girls…
They shot the scene several more times, and finally Dubin and Kelly agreed that one version was satisfactory. Kelly and the dancers began rehearsing the next shot. A child in the crowd let out a whining cry, and Kelly, without turning, intoned loudly, “Who hit that child?”
A few minutes later the next shot was set up. It was a very tricky shot…it followed Kelly and the girls running up onto the sidewalk, then pulled back, then began moving parallel with them while they danced at a fast pace. Three men, crouching low, helped push the camera dolly but something kept going wrong with the shot. The dancers’ feet apparently did not show.
“Thirty-five thousand dollars for the first man to get the camera placed for this shot!” Kelly announced…
A few moments later, Kelly, down on his knees watching the playback, cried out exuberantly, “The feet show!” Everyone cheered, the dancers clapped and jumped up and down, and Kelly, leaping to his feet, yelled jubilantly, “Hey, McCormick!” As the cameraman trotted over,beaming modestly, Kelly gave him a flamboyant hug.
Dance Magazine Dec. 65
Gene Kelly has a reputation for being a perfectionist. That it is well deserved was borne out by the saga of the museum sculpture garden, in which almost everyone concerned stayed up all night to tape a 5 minute dance number…During the taping Gene frequently demanded that a bit of business be filmed again and again. Once, the cameraman was assigned a special assistant to cue him in. Her name, Mrs Gene Kelly.
Chicago Tribune. February 1966
…New York City will never be more exciting than when Gene Kelly takes TV viewers on a musical tour in New York, New York…
The coming special, taped against a background of exciting places in the city, will attempt to capture the glitter, glamor and excitement of the famous metropolis. Gene and Gower Champion make their first appearance together in any medium, along with Woody Allen and British dancer Tommy Steele.
Some of the show was filmed at night, in the garden of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. There, Kelly and the girl-dancers breathe life into the vast, handsomely shaped, sculpture adorned garden…
Another sequence was shot in Sardi’s bus, an aged English vehicle used to transport diners between the restaurant and the theatre district. Champion dances…with Kelly in the magnificent foyer of the United Nations building
Other parts were filmed in Greenwich Village, The Statue Of Liberty, Washington Square, Grant’s Tomb, and the Empire State Building.
Broadcast on CBS 14th February 1966
Information from the Paley Center website
The show opens at Kennedy airport and onto Greenwich Village, where Woody Allen performs. Then onto Broadway where Tommy Steele performs in Half A Sixpence. On to Sardi’s bus with Woody Allen and Gene, then to a nightclub. They go on to the United Nations building where Gene and Gower Champion dance, and the Museum of Modern Art where Kelly dances, then finally on to 42nd Street.
Chicago Tribune. February 16th 1966
It was Gene Kelly who dominated this Special in a thoroughly pleasurable way...unlike some of today's top TV entertainers who sneer at viewers and perform with a 'take it or leave it' attitude, Kelly was trying every moment he was on camera to please his audience – and he did, too...When the Special ended we couldn't believe for a moment that a whole hour had gone by...
Detroit News 15th February 1966
Gene Kelly shows TV how to do a musical.
There are dozens of letters in a folder at the Gotlieb Archive in Boston, from viewers who enjoyed the show enough to take the trouble to write in to the TV company or to Gene.
Chicago Tribune. 15th February 1966
Gene Kelly delivered his own valentine to Manhattan last night in the Columbia Broadcasting System colour special Gene Kelly in New York New York. It was a sparkling hour-sized tribute which the whole nation could enjoy.
Ocala Star-Banner. February 15th 1966
CBS had a pleasant Valentine for the nation – Monday night’s Gene Kelly in New York, New York, a singing, dancing love note about a big city.
The hour show spun all over town like a crazy guided tour…altogether it was a refreshing, gay hour.
Hartford Courant. February 14th 1966
A delightful musical, funny and heartwarming hour of dancing and singing.
Newspaper article, source unknown
If, on a clear day you can really see forever, then you can also see the last time Gower Champion was a performer.. The talented dancer-turned-director… has polished up his dancing shoes to do a turn with Gene Kelly…
“This is my first performance since forever. Gene Kelly called me up and asked me if I wanted to do the show for kicks, and I said no at first. Then I told my wife Marge about it and she said, 'Why don’t you do it?'. So I called Gene back and said, 'Make sure it’s an easy number.'…
“It was very interesting. I didn’t have all those worries about orchestration and costumes and lighting and all those other things that go with directing….I would arrive and a group would be in one of those terrible, what-do-we-do-now meetings, and I didn’t have to be involved."
Tommy Steele relates in his autobiography that Gene saw him perform and asked him if he wanted to do a show. Tommy said that, for him, it was like meeting the King of England. They started rehearsing and Gene said he would show Tommy the first twelve bars of a tap routine. Tommy then confessed he could not tap dance.
He said Gene grabbed him by the collar and and took him across Times Square to Capezio’s. He asked the shop to ‘make the Limey some shoes’. He then taught Tommy to tap over a six week period.
JACK & THE BEANSTALK. 1967
Gene directed and produced this children's fantasy, with Hanna-Barbera being Executive Producers. It is a mix of animation and live-action, the familiar story of Jack being given a few twists along the way. Gene plays Jeremy Keen, a pedlar with a persuasive sales technique. (I would have swopped the cow for one of his killer smiles. Who needs beans anyway). Jeremy accompanies Jack on his adventure, meeting the giant, falling down cracks in paving stones, wogging with woggle birds, and promising to rescue a beautiful princess, Serena, who is bizarrely tied to a harp in the giant's private apartment! The giant is just stringing her along, but loves her singing so much that he falls asleep. I have the same problem with lots of singers - never with Gene though! They organise an army of mice - Jerry mouse had passed the word along that this Kelly bloke was kosher - and manage to rescue not only the princess, (he melted the gold ropes off her with a kiss - no comment ), but also Lucy the goose who lays golden eggs. They hitch a lift with Lucy who doesn't even have the decency to lay one for them. Serena is very sad to leave Jeremy - who wouldn't be - and flies back to her kingdom, where the goose promptly gets shot down as a UFO, and everyone has forgotten who Serena was. She spends the rest of her life recounting her adventure on chat shows, and wishing that she had stuck with the giant. Jeremy and Jack fare much better. They arrive at Jack's house where Jeremy discovers that Jack's mom is a dead ringer for Serena, even has the same name. Now there's a coincidence. The giant tries to get down the beanstalk to wreak a dreadful revenge, but it has to be a happy ending, so the boys chop down the tree in the nick of time, and because children should be shielded from anything unpleasant we do not see the mangled remains of the giant looking like an enormous chop suey, with ten tons of beanstalk on top of him. It really has been a humdinger of a day for Jeremy. Who says that conning an innocent child out of his last cow doesn't pay? Not only does he find a 'good woman', and an adoring child to dance with, he also gets pelted on the head with gold pieces from the giant's hoard. Jeremy sends Jack off to milk the cow, while he and Serena go hand in hand into the house to drink tea. And if you believe that then you certainly do believe in fairy tales!
Joking aside, it is an enchanting piece. Gene brings his usual warmth and joy to the plot, and comes across as very easy and relaxed, as he always does when working with children. Bobby Riha, who plays Jack, is very good, able to sing and dance well. There are a couple of pleasant songs, partly written by Sammy Cahn and arranged by Gene's old buddy Lennie Hayton. Serena's song is done by Marni Nixon, who also dubbed Rita Hayworth and many other Hollywood stars.
Personally though, I do not think the animation in some instances is particularly great, especially when compared with the Worry Song from Anchor's Aweigh, done more than twenty years earlier, and Invitation To The Dance, more than ten years earlier. Perhaps they did not have the luxury of unlimited time and personnel when working for television, which they sometimes seemed to have in the golden Hollywood days. Nevertheless it is one more example of Gene's versatility, his urge to do the best possible with the available resources, and his desire to do things which would appeal to a varied audience. A VHS (both PAL and NTSC) is available to buy from the usual sources, but as far as I know there is no DVD yet.
Dance Magazine. February 1967
...Working closely with Kelly was Alex Romero, himself a highly regarded member of Hollywood's choreographic fraternity. He danced-in for Gene, performed as a woggle-bird and cued the camera while Kelly was being filmed in his dances...
Dancing-in for Serena during rehearsals was Western Ballet Association’s principal soloist Karel Shimoff…when the time came for the actual take, she was pulled out. Kelly was left to dance the romantic adagio with only an imaginary partner…
...Though in the live action combined with animation, Kelly's lifts with Serena could be fantastically far out, they had to be rooted in anatomical truth. They could not be carelessly faked...perfect interplay between Kelly and Serena could be attained only through perfect timing, perfect spacing, perfect focus and perfect technical follow-through...
But in the thousands of pictures that go through the process of conversion from storyboard to TV or movie picture screen, there is one personality which leaves its indelible imprimatur for all the public to see. That one, it need hardly be added, is Gene Kelly.
Videoden website review
Gene Kelly stars in this Emmy Award winning production, which excitingly mixes animation with live-action. Colorful dances and music add to the fun.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. February 21st 1967
The father of a son, 4 and a daughter, 2, Kelly discovered most juvenile TV shows either frighten or confuse his children, so He decided to make one tiny tots could enjoy. Star, producer and director Kelly got Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen to write seven cheery tunes, and let Hanna and Barbera do the close work, spending almost a year on the animation segments.
“We haven’t changed the story much,” said Kelly…Jack has been moved up a couple of jumps in time to the Mark Twain era, and he no longer wears tights, or a feather in his cap when he meets peddler Jeremy…
Kelly says he’s taken the fright out of the giant, and has changed the plot slightly so young Jack doesn’t steal coins from the giant, an amoral concept in the dancer’s mind.
“In our version the giant falls down, dropping all his coins which are discovered by Jack,” Gene explained.
To find the right Jack, Kelly auditioned quantities of boys in movieland, and then looked over the talent in New York…Gene picked Riha, a youngster with no extensive drama experience, and he spent six weeks giving Bobby dancing lessons.
The two filmed their scenes in two weeks, then H&B cartoonists went to work drawing around the live actors…
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. March 20th 1967
Now it comes out that young Bobby Riha’s singing wasn’t his own in the Gene Kelly special, Jack and the Beanstalk. It was dubbed in by Dick Beals, who has made a small fortune being heard but not seen, especially as the voice of Speedy Alka-Seltzer.
GENE KELLY’S WONDERFUL WORLD OF GIRLS. NBC January 1970.
L.A. Herald Examiner TV Guide January 1970
Gene Kelly will be beautifully outnumbered by those prodigious pearls of pulchritude from the Folies Bergere – vintage Las Vegas – Wednesday night through the aesthetic auspices of NBC.
Kelly, pied piper of the musical film, will exercise his pipes and speak through his nimble feet amid this plushly upholstered mass onslaught from the green-felted sin bin of America.
…There will be a cast of 50 – count ‘em 50! – fetching femmes for Gene Kelly’s Wonderful World of Girls.
Accompanying Gene as lady first lieutenants will be Ruth Buzzi…and Barbara Feldon…
“The show,” said Kelly, “will reveal the foibles of the American woman. It will be satirical, done with love and affection in song, dance and comedy sketches.”
…Kelly is clambering up the barricades with a bit of a TV revolution…Gene and the girls were filmed without a studio audience and minus laugh track.
“We’re playing straight to the living-room,” Kelly said.
If you hear any laughter, it’ll be strictly because YOU thought it was funny.
Evening Independent. January 14th 1970
Surrounded by chicks like Barbara Feldon and Ruth Buzzi, host Gene Kelly claims this hour will show what women are really like in sketches, songs and blackouts with twist, comic endings. The humorous bits are the most successful – skinny Barbara Heller singing I Gotta Be Me; Vegas drummer Kelly knocking his girl-oriented job; Kelly asking for a divorce; Barbara again kidding in Is That All There Is; and blackouts about the need to translate women’s answers. Kelly holds the show in one piece with How D’ya talk to a girl, Ya Just Listen.
CHILDREN'S LETTERS TO GOD. Broadcast Sunday 16th February 1970.
This was a half-hour colour Special based on the best-selling book by Stuart Hample and Eric Marshall.
It was described as a celebration of the unique qualities of childhood, so Gene was a natural choice for host. It was filmed throughout the US with youngsters varying in age from six to nine, and combined live action with animation.
I was lucky enough to see this programme at the Paley Center for Media in Los Angeles. It is a delightful half-hour show in which Gene interacts with a group of children in his usual ‘Pied Piper’ way, interspersed with the reading of the letters which children have written to God.
It starts with the children themselves reading a variety of the questions asked of God. Then we see Gene running through a pretty wooded area with a number of happy children in tow.
“Kids approach everything, including God, with a fresh new perspective – a glorious innocence that’s full of wonder.”
Most of the programme then focuses on the letters, accompanied by appropriate, often amusing images.
“Dear God, do you have to eat everything? I hate liver.”
“Dear God, you can stop making weeds, we got enough already.”
“Dear God, I’m sorry I was late for Sunday School. I couldn’t find my underwear.”
“Dear God, when you make it dark for the night, do you block out the sun?”
“God, don't forget to blow the sun out tonight so I can go to sleep.”
“Dear God, I’d like to have a tiger. Do you think it’s a good idea?”
“Dear God, do you make small elephants for children who live in apartments?”
“Dear God, where do babies come from? I hope you explain it better than my father.”
“Dear God, are boys better than girls? I know you are one, but try to be fair.”
“Dear God, I was a devil on Halloween. I hope you didn’t mind.”
"Dear God, If you made the rule for children to take out the garbage, please change it."
“Dear God, I'm studying the violin but you shouldn't listen yet because I still squeak a lot.”
“After fish eat, shouldn't they get out of the water so they won't get cramps?”
"Dear God, instead of letting people die and having to make new ones why don't you just keep the ones you got now?"
Some of the children created a 40x6ft mural depictiing their interpretation of Creation.
They also do some singing.
To close the show, Gene himself read part of a letter from a little girl. It was mainly a letter of thanks to God for all the good things. Then she wrote: “P.S. I’d be glad if you could stop all the killing.”
Gene appeared visibly moved as he read it.
I would imagine he - and the kids - had a great time doing this. It once more illustrates the amazing gift he has for interacting with children. It is clear that they adore him and want to be close to him.
Gene: "I cried the night the prayer was read from a small child, and many times tears came to my eyes, I was so moved by what those innocent children said from their hearts."
The reporter who had recorded his words writes: "This sort of attitude seems to be typical of Gene Kelly - a multi-faceted star who is all heart."
Letter to Gene from the TV company. Original in the Gotlieb Archives in Boston.
"We received an overwhelming amount of good critical reviews from across the country for Children's Letters To God.
In fact, the response was greater than anything we have
ever done, including Charlie Brown, Babar or the John Steinbeck shows.
There's an outside chance the show may be nominated for a Peabody and/or an Emmy."
San Fransisco Chronicle. February 18th 1969
It was a bright and beautiful reflection of childhood innocence.
CHANGING SCENE. SEPTEMBER/DECEMBER 1970
Barbara Eden. Jeannie Out of the Bottle. 2011
When Gene Kelly was a guest on one of the shows I hosted, I found out at the last minute that I was scheduled to do a tap dance with him. That was terrifying in the extreme.
I was vastly relieved to find that Gene was a kind and patient teacher who was prepared to rehearse the number over and over with me…I was fairly confident that I’d mastered the routine, and was looking forward to doing it with Gene on the show.
Imagine my dismay, then, when at the final rehearsal he came over to me with a towel around his neck and said, “Hey, kid” (he called everyone he worked with “kid”, no matter how young or old they were), “you know, I think I want to change something in the routine.” I visibly blanched, but I was too much in awe of Gene to protest. So we spent the next few hours learning the new steps, and then I put in a few more hours practicing them alone.
On the night of the show I was step-perfect. Gene, however, was not. Afterward, he took me aside and with a twinkle in his eye said, “You know who the audience is going to think did the routine right, don’t you?”
“I know, Gene,” I said, throwing up my hands in despair. “You, of course.”
Free Lance Star. September 11th 1970
Thursday was the season’s first night of specials…liveliest point came in mid-evening on ABC. Gene Kelly was host on a latter-day minstrel show called Changing Scene, which kept the performers sitting on benches around the stage during the hour show…While everyone tried hard, the finest moments came when Kelly did his one too-short dance number.
Bryan Times. September 11th 1970
Changing Scene. A Gene Kelly revue. A musical comedy revue with host Gene Kelly and guests Barbara Eden, James Garner and Arte Johnson. The cast is on stage for the entire hour and the comedy runs the gamut from movie spoofs to a quick musical version of Hamlet.
Los Angeles Times. December 6th 1970 Gene Kelly host a second edition of a musical variety production, with Barbara Eden, Lee Marvin… Free Lance Star. December 9th 1970 Gene Kelly returns to host a second edition of a variety when all performers remain on camera during the hour – Lee Marvin is a guest.
Los Angeles Times. December 6th 1970
Gene Kelly host a second edition of a musical variety production, with Barbara Eden, Lee Marvin…
Free Lance Star. December 9th 1970
Gene Kelly returns to host a second edition of a variety when all performers remain on camera during the hour – Lee Marvin is a guest.
The Evening Independent. September 10th 1970
The Evening Independent. September 10th 1970
Gene Kelly, the front man for this modern minstrel show, calls for support from James Garner, Barbara Eden, Arte Johnson, and the Mike Curb Congregation. Garner and His host do a spoof on the Butch Cassidy movie, singing Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head; …The cast tries on Hamlet for laughs…Kelly dances to Feelin’ Groovy, and the Congregation take over the old minstrel standards with plunking banjos and tap dancing feet before the final wrapup, a rousing version of Mame.
THE FUNNY SIDE. 1971
Ludington Daily News. January 4th 1971
Gene Kelly will be the principal host of The Funny Side, NBC TV Network’s comedy-variety series which premieres this fall…will feature a permanent cast of ten…through the use of music, comedy and dance, it will bring to television each week a humorous slice of the American way of life. The show will focus on such universal topics as marriage, children, education, youth and women’s lib. Creators and producers of the series are Emmy Award winners Bill Persky and Sam Denoff, who also produced the NBC TV special, The First Nine Months Are The Hardest, hosted by Gene Kelly.
AN AMERICAN IN PASADENA 1978
Magazine article, source unknown
Gene Kelly was more than happy to say ‘yes’ to An American In Pasadena…which was taped before a black-tie audience in December…according to the 65-year-old star, the idea was really special to him because, instead of the typical star tribute, "It would serve as a chance to thank all those who’ve lent a hand to my career."…
Sitting before a blazing fire in the…house he’s called home since 1946, bundled up in a fisherman’s sweater with suede elbow patches, he commented that the extent of his athletics these days usually consists of tennis, badminton, and skateboarding with the kids. “All I had to do to get in shape for the special was cut back a bit on my food and drink and do some exercises – so I wouldn’t be out of wind when I ran around the stage.”
This was a TV show recorded at the Ambassador College, Pasadena, and broadcast on 13th March 1978. It is available on video as a one hour Special. Gene's guests included Frank Sinatra, Lucille Ball, Kathryn Grayson, Cyd Charisse, Danny Daniels, Alex Romero, Betty Garratt, Janet Leigh, Cindy Williams, Gloria DeHaven, Lisa Minnelli, a group of young tap dancers, and his daughter Bridget.
It starts outside the theatre with Jerry Mouse singing - "Everybody agrees that he's the big cheese, both on and off the screen" !!
Gene is piped in through the audience wearing his Irish green hat. He says the show is: "A chance for me to spend an hour with some wonderful friends whom I have admired greatly over the years, and to share with you special moments from a life that has been truly blessed with the luck of the Irish".
I love his introduction of Sinatra: "There are a handful of performers who have earned the name 'Superstar'. The man I am going to introduce is a superstar who hads earned the name 'A Handful'". They then sing a very funny version of If They Ask Me I Could Write A Book, from Pal Joey.
The proceeds of the show went to a charity for homeless children.
There is also a lovely section with Liza Minnelli, in which they reprise the number they did in 1959 on one of the Pontiac shows, itself a reprise of Gene and Judy's number in For Me & My Gal.
Reviewer from Amazon.com:
I've just seen this show on DVD and it's really a joy. Or otherwise, it's a sympathetic tribute to one of the greatest entertainers in show business and movie history. But this show wasn't performed in 1959 but in 1978, with Gene fresh from "That's Entertainment Part II" and still in good shape. He dances softly with Cyd Charisse (splendorous, as usual) and performs two other good tap dance numbers, one still in good shape. He dances softly with Cyd Charisse (splendorous, as usual) and performs two other good tap dance numbers, one with a dozen of kids (his pupils, as he declares) with the music of "Anchors Aweigh", and the other with two old friends (one of them is his life-time assistant Alex Romero)in the mood and time of three great dancers enjoying themselves. And all the show, dialogue, humor, jokes (Kelly and Frank Sinatra remembering their old friendship with the Rodgers and Hart's song "I Could Write a Book") and mood shares the complicity of the audience of Pasadena and the man on the stage: love, admiration, devotion, great fun. Kelly meets Liza Minnelli and both remember a number they made for an old TV show circa 1958, when she was a little girl, just the daughter of Judy and Vincent, with the immortal song "For Me and My Gal". Later, he meets his own daughter Bridget (age 13) and friend and admirer Cindy Williams, but the real joy of it all is the reunion on stage of Kelly with his leading ladies of the past: Lucille Ball, Cyd Charisse, Kathryn Grayson, Betty Garrett, Gloria De Haven and Janet Leigh (whatever happened to Leslie Caron and Debbie Reynolds?). For the admirers of Gene Kelly and the Hollywood Musical this is a must. But remember that he was 66 at that time and don't expect to see him dancing like in "Singin' in the Rain" or "An American in Paris". He's just a veteran who thanks people and collaborators for making him who he is, with great modesty and charm. And that's how we remember him: a song and dance man, who always tried to make our lives better. We'll never forget that, Gene. God bless you!