This page features Gene's non-musical roles. Although, for me, Gene communicates best through the language of the dance, I think he was also a fine 'straight' actor, often not given the credit he deserves. He always gave of his best in whatever role he was playing, whether he thought it was a good movie or not. He made a few 'bad' movies, but never gave a bad performance.
The Entertainers. Magazine. After 1976. Gene Kelly: Dancing Athlete. By Saul Chaplin.
Because Kelly is such a marvelous song-and-dance man, his skill as an actor is often overlooked. He has played straight dramatic roles with excellent critical results in more than a dozen films. He was once asked what acting method he used. His reply was simply, "I pretend to be as much like the character called for in the script as I can."
Picturegoer. July 9th 1949
Critics of Gene Kelly have insisted that Gene is simply a dancer. Now he has proved them wrong.
But I am sure we have yet to see the full extent of his possibilities as a screen performer – I use that word instead of actor or dancer,
because Kelly is quite a bit of both and may prove to be something rather bigger than either.
TV & Movie Screen. August 1975.
Though he loved his efforts on screen as a dancer, Kelly admits that he would have appreciated some praise for his acting ability too. “Oh, sure, I was nominated for an Academy Award in 1946, but that was for my dancing. I knew I wouldn’t win. I was proud to be nominated but Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend was too tough to beat. Besides, everyone knows that if you play either a drunk or a whore you can’t possibly miss winning an Oscar…
I would have loved to have been as good an actor as Spencer Tracy or Marlon Brando. I was a very good stage actor, but in films I never was quite as good, just passable…
You’re typecast when you are a dancer, but I managed to get in pictures like The Three Musketeers which made more money than any musical I ever was in, and then there was The Black Hand which made a fortune around the world.
Christopher Walken TCM tribute to Gene Kelly
When playing a dramatic part Kelly brought the same integrity and professionalism as he did to his musical roles and had acting gifts that often surprised his critics.
Pilot #5 Pressbook
…As to playing a straight role for the first time, Kelly explains:
“I like dancing, and I’m to dance again in Dubarry Was a Lady. When it comes to acting and dancing, there’s no reason at all why the two should be divorced. Both are great mediums of expression. And dancing helps acting. I’m sure I never would have been an actor if I hadn’t first been a dancer.”
Milwaukee Journal. May 7th 1944
Gene Kelly is a pretty good actor, his style as distinctive as his dark, slim appearance.
Alice Canfield. Motion Picture. January 1945
There are many people who say that Gene is the logical successor to Fred Astaire, in itself a crown of recognition. But, for my money, exceptional as Gene’s dancing is, he could wrap it up and throw it away, for all I could care. Because I think Gene is one of the finest dramatic actors ever to hit Hollywood, and I only hope more roles worthy of his intelligent ability come his way.
New York Evening Journal. December 13th 1945. E.V.Durling
What present day actor could handle the parts played by Douglas Fairbanks Sr. in such films as ...Mark of Zorro? Gene Kelly could do it but shouldn't. Gene, a truly great actor when directed intelligently, should stick to dramatic parts such as Christmas Holiday. He's just as good an actor as Spencer Tracy, and in time will be better.
Picturegoer. September 14th 1946. W.H. Mooring.
I do not know what kind of stories MGM people have ready for him, except that they have quite a few musicals…in my humble opinion, they should not neglect Gene’s amazing ability for natural dramatic acting. The two can surely be combined, and then we will not only prove that Astaire was right when he said of Kelly’s dancing: “Gene Kelly has all that I ever had and more,” but he will hit the heights as a serious actor.
Movie Teen. October 1947
He came to the movies as a dancing man, but proved himself a powerful dramatic actor too – and a nice guy… his amazing talents do not stop with his feet by any means. He’s played a heel, a heartbreaker and a ne’er-do-well, with exciting dramatic prowess…
Pittsburgh Press. April 1949
By Harold V. Cohen
If the emphasis here seems to be on Mr. Kelly's footwork, don't get the idea that is his only long suit. He also is something else most dancers are not, an excellent actor. The movies haven't given him too much of an opportunity to practice his gifts...but anybody who had the good fortune to see him on Broadway...knows that Mr. And Mrs. Kelly's boy can hang up his dancing shoes any time he likes and still remain steadily employed in Hollywood.
Let's hope however, that day doesn't come in a hurry. Good actors are abundant. Great dancers are not.
Los Angeles Times. October 9th 1949. Hedda Hopper.
“The years catch up with a prize-fighter and they will catch up with me. So I want to be able to handle straight dramatic roles. In The Knife, for instance, I don’t do a single dance.”
Los Angeles Times. March 27th 1950
Gene Kelly’s emergence as a dramatic actor is hailed by the critics as they review Black Hand.
Newsweek. March 1950
Even in high school in Pittsburgh, Kelly’s straight roles proved disastrous. His youthful interpretation of Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream was rudely interrupted when his pants fell down in full view of the audience...
Kelly’s interest in serious roles is undoubtedly symptomatic of his fear of getting tagged as a specialist in any one line. “If you mix up your fields, it keeps you from getting conceited”, he says.
Saturday Evening Post July 1950
The ripples sent out by Gene’s plop in the Hollywood pool began to lap back to Pittsburgh with the result that so far as his [parents] were concerned, their telephone became a constant source of botheration to them. When Gene played a Jewish taxi driver in …Cross Of Lorraine, confused people telephoned the Kellys to ask them which side of the family had given Gene his Jewish background. Eight years later this chuckleheaded manifestation of fan frenzy is still going on. In Gene’s latest picture, Black Hand, he plays a young Italian who helped mop up the Mafia in New York’s Little Italy. Since its appearance on the country’s screens, a number of folk have phoned the Pittsburgh Kellys to say, “I didn’t know that your family was Italian.”...
When it comes to using his body to supplement his face in portraying a character, Kelly’s background of dancing gives him an edge on most actors. His muscles, trained by thousands of dance hours to precise obedience, help him do things that other stars insist stunt men do for them.
…In one of the scenes in Black Hand, a bomb explosion wrecked a butcher-shop and buried Kelly in debris. When the smoke cleared, he freed himself from the wreckage and, although the villains had tied his hands behind his back, he wriggled across the room to a meat saw. Rubbing his wrists against the saw’s teeth, he cut the rope. The stunt demonstrated his ability. It also highlighted his sensitiveness to the belabouring the critics had given his performances in such pictures as The Pirate, The Three Musketeers, Take Me Out To The Ball Game. After seeing them, more than one reviewer had slugged him over the ego with such words as “mugging,” “overacting,” “posing.”
Kelly refuses to hold still for this kind of blackjacking. He defends his characterizations in those films by saying: “I was supposed to play a rowdy-dow extrovert in Ball Game, and everybody knows D’Artagnan wasn’t inhibited. The guy I played in The Pirate was supposed to be an acrobatic-tightrope-walker type, and you can’t play a tightrope walker by mousing along the ground.
When the butchershop scene was completed, Kelly noticed that his wriggling had placed him next to a large Italian ham. The close-up of his face when the saw severed his bonds hadn’t been a close-up of him at all. It had been a two-shot of Kelly and a ham. The flm’s director, Dick Thorpe, had noticed this coupling of Kelly and pork product before Gene was aware of it. But prior to reshooting the scene minus ham, he decided to have a little fun with his star. “That was fine,” he said, dead-pan; “we’ll print it.”
Gene’s reaction was immediate. “No, you don’t!”, he said. “I’m not going to give the critics an opening like that. They’ll write: ‘With the assistance of another ham, Gene Kelly made the explosion scene in Black Hand an outstanding one.”
Hollywood Album 1950. Gene:
Screen close-ups awed me at first. Nothing in the whole field of drama offers greater psychological possibilities and effects.
An American In Paris Pressbook
There are times when Gene Kelly would like to hang up his dancing shoes and stick to straight acting. Particularly when he contrasts his last straight acting role in Black Hand with his current assignment in An American In Paris…
Black Hand was completed in six weeks. An American in Paris required six months of planning, rehearsals and filming.
Picturegoer August 1953. Gene:
Every time I play a straight role, someone comes up with the news that this is Kelly’s first dramatic part. I’ve played many of them.
Photoplay Peter Hammond, October 1953
Kelly has been strongly criticised for making “straight” pictures. The cry has been that he should concentrate on one film formula – in his case the musical. For it is through them that he has made his name.
This is a short-sighted view. I believe that Gene is right in his policy of making only two in three of his films musicals. Even a man of his capabilities can’t continually turn out good musicals without some sort of a change.
“You can’t make dancing films one after the other,” says Gene. “Dancing is like boxing without getting hit – it puts years on you. Just look at me!”
Michael Burrows. Gene Kelly. Versatility Personified 1971
Gene Kelly was among actors of major competence.
Ludington Daily News. December 27th 1972
“Actors take roles in movies for funny reasons,” Gene Kelly mused the other day at the Burbank studios. “I remember I was vacationing in the Greek Islands with my daughter when a telephone call came from Hollywood asking me if I’d play a straight dramatic role in Inherit The Wind. It wasn’t the biggest part in the picture but it was an opportunity to work with Spencer Tracy for the first time in my life. Naturally I got back to Hollywood as soon as I could.
“I’m at an age now when I’m willing to work only when something unusual comes along.”
Dance magazine July 1976
Norma McLain Stoop
“I know that some wonderful actors on the stage are just second-rate on film. I know that happened to me. On the stage, I think, I was a very good actor but in film, I was a big cut below. Of course, a lot of my time here was spent probing dance and musicals – and they’re not exactly written by Tennessee Williams”
Current Biography. February 1977
Despite the reasonably good notices he received as a dramatic actor, Kelly lost several substantial roles because of his growing reputation as a dancer. “When you’re a dancer, it’s like having Campbell’s Soup stencilled across your chest,” he complained to Bob Lardine in an interview for the New York Sunday News (May 2, 1976). “Everyone takes it for granted that you’re a dancer and nothing more.”
Gene: "I don’t watch my films too much, because when I do, I do a lot of wincing. And you find most actors as they mature have the same reaction. They look at themselves 20 years ago, and say, ‘Did I look like that?!’”
The reaction may be common to actors, yet Kelly appears to be rougher on himself than even his harshest critics. Some film commentators, including the respected critic Andrew Sarris, have complained Kelly’s talents as a straight actor have never been fully used. But Kelly dismissed the cavils.
“When I see myself often in a big close-up, I do one of those big winces. The reason is, I never paid enough attention to acting on the screen. When there was a Clark Gable or a Robert Taylor reject, I often stepped in and said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it’ if I wasn’t doing anything. I did honestly want to learn about screen acting.”
Gene, Reflections TV interview 1994:
I did a lot of straight parts for MGM but they were mostly Clark Gable or Robert Taylor rejects.
I never preferred acting. I’m not crazy about performing, even as a dancer. I like to create the stuff, I like to direct and choreograph, and performing, I never worked at it. I had to work at the dancing because you couldn’t fly through the air and come down and hit a mark unless you trained yourself very hard.
Interview Magazine 1994
He danced, and sang, choreographed, directed, and acted – giving underrated performances in Christmas Holiday, Marjorie Morningstar, and Inherit The Wind.
Projections 4. Ed. John Boorman, Tom Luddy, David Thomson, Walter Donohue. 1995.
Graham Fuller, from an interview with Gene, 1994.
Gene: …I guess Inherit The Wind was as good a job as I ever did, although maybe I acted better in The Black Hand, which was a programme picture that made a lot of money. In some scenes in Inherit The Wind, I reverted to over-acting, which I’d never gotten over from my days on Broadway. But I think I held enough back beside Freddie and Spence to be plausible. There are scenes in Christmas Holiday and Marjorie Morningstar that I think are tip-top, and one in particular in Marjorie Morningstar that I’d be proud to look at with someone.
PILOT #5, 1943
Michael Burrows Gene Kelly. Versatility Personified. 1971
In this anti-fascist war drama the cynicism that was to characterise so many of his portrayals was seen to very good effect.
Evening Independent. August 11th 1942
For a week, Franchot Tone, Gene Kelly, Alan Baxter, Van Johnson and Dick Simmons did womanless scenes for Skyway To Glory at MGM. They let their beards grow, went without ties or even shirts. They ran the gamut of practical jokes upon each other between scenes.
Recently, eight glamour girls, headed by Marsha Hunt, began work on the film. Ties and coats blossomed like magic. An unshaved face was looked on as a disgrace. And woe betide the practical joker who attempted to spoil an actor’s dignity.
As Franchot Tone paraphrased: “Vanity, thy name is man when watched by a woman.”
Pilot #5 Pressbook
Movie Magic has acquainted Gene Kelly with breakaway bottles, chairs and blackjacks, but for the first time he has encountered a breakaway airplane.
The former stage actor…was inspecting the cockpit of the replica of a Republic fighter featured in the film.
“What’s this lever for?” he inquired.
When no one answered, he pulled the mysterious handle – and found himself suspended momentarily in mid-air and the plane in several different pieces!
Franchot Tone chidingly commented: “Gene, you broke the first law of any pilot, ‘When in doubt – don’t!’”
…An authentic background for many scenes in Pilot #5…was provided by the Cal-Aero army air corps training school near Pomona, California.
Franchot Tone, Gene Kelly and other male members of the cast spent several days…filming scenes from the timely movie. During that time they carefully inspected the camp and gained an insight into the rigid training air corps cadets receive…
“I’m very thrilled,” he owns up, that MGM should think me good enough to give me this swell part in Pilot #5.”
CROSS OF LORRAINE 1943
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 18th December 1943
The acting’s everything it should be. Mr. Gene Kelly turns in a pungent performance as the belligerent cabbie and it’s no fault of his that the role jumps the track near the finish line.
The Times April 1944
Gene Kelly acts very well as a fighting taxi driver whose spirit for a time is broken by nicely calculated ill treatment.
Screenland magazine 1947
Gene thinks one of the best things he has done in Hollywood is a picture in which there was no dancing. It was a serious film entitled Cross Of Lorraine, which dealt with France at the time of the occupation. “About three people saw it”, he said jokingly, “but I really liked working in that film”.
That Old Black Magic
I remembered interviewing Gene a number of years ago. Before that time, I had associated him solely with light, bright dancing roles. Then I had seen a remarkable bit of acting in Cross Of Lorraine. So convincing was this portrayal of a patriot whose spirit was broken, that I didn’t realize that the actor who was playing the part was Gene Kelly. When a star can so completely submerge his personality in a role – that’s acting. It was then I first realized the talent of Gene Kelly.
Jeanine Basinger 1973
In the prison torture scenes in particular Kelly’s close ups revealed his brooding intensity and he conveyed realistic internal suffering by the subtlest of changes in his face.
Chicago Tribune. March 30th 1974
An exceptionally piercing anti-Nazi film.
CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY 1944
Jeanine Basinger. On Christmas Holiday, 1943
Kelly was the Jekyll and Hyde of musical comedy, a hoofer who could also play a murderer and be believed.
www.modernentertainment.com In the unfairly neglected Christmas Holiday, Kelly plays a murderer. He’s pitch-perfect, offering a multi-layered performance.
Screen Guide May 1944.
Like Ginger Rogers and many other young stars who have danced their way to the top, then turned dramatic, Gene is bursting with ambition to do this intensely emotional role to show that he is Actor first, Dancer second. Since his first hit in Pal Joey, Gene Kelly has been hopping through a series of roles all semi-dramatic, semi-dancing. But in Christmas Holiday it’s to be pure, unadulterated drama.
Evening Independent. July 20th 1944
Gene Kelly, who has the leading male role, plays naturally and with sincerity.
Keeping Up With Kelly. Photoplay magazine 1945
More than anything else Gene would like to gain still more recognition as an actor and get more dramatic roles such as he had in…Christmas Holiday. That is, the last part of Christmas Holiday. Being very self-critical, Gene can’t see himself in light love scenes, although Betsy thought his love scenes with Deanna Durbin were swell. “He thinks he was too coy” teases Betsy, “but I thought he was really cute in them.” Gene winces. “That’s what I mean,” he says, “I can’t do that light love stuff without looking – cute!”
Tap Happy. Motion Picture 1950
His straight acting as a sinister weakling was amazingly good.
John Cutts. Films & Filming 1964
Kelly played his part well, bringing an edge of sullen charm to the characterisation.
THE THREE MUSKETEERS 1948
Movieland 1948. Alyce Canfield. That Old Black Magic
Gene has always wanted to be Douglas Fairbanks….Today he is playing D’artagnan, the role made famous by DF. “And if I’m half as good as he was, I’ll be satisfied”, says Gene. It’s a pretty wonderful thing to hero worship a star and grow up to play the same role. And it gives you a warm, it can happen here, feeling in your heart. There are a lot of things about Gene Kelly that give you a warm feeling in your heart.
Screen Album. Autumn 1948
…The script described the leading man as a “young, handsome, swashbuckling nobleman.” Since no one can ‘swashbuckle’ better than Gene, in he stepped…Twinkletoes Gene has lost none of his agility. His very walk is almost a dance…you’ll notice that those famous duels are as graceful as any dance. It’s the perfect role for him…straight acting with a touch of the ballet, and is he happy about it! It’s not only the type of picture that thrills him. It’s the picture itself. It’s very name is a good omen.
For years he and his wife Betsy have considered themselves the Kelly troupers. When baby Kerry came along, they decided to change the name…came up with – of all things – The Three Musketeers.
Jympson Harman. (London Evening News critic) ...Gene...never lets up on his highly intelligent intention to make a dashing comedy out of the old tale...It was no doubt an excellent thing to have a dancing expert as a musketeer...no doubt old Dumas would have liked this acrobatic young musketeer.
Jympson Harman. (London Evening News critic)
...Gene...never lets up on his highly intelligent intention to make a dashing comedy out of the old tale...It was no doubt an excellent thing to have a dancing expert as a musketeer...no doubt old Dumas would have liked this acrobatic young musketeer.
Evening Independent. December 22nd 1947.
Gene Kelly is now walking on his broken right ankle without a cane and reported for wardrobe fittings for Three Musketeers.
Times Daily. 5th January 1948
Gene Kelly is getting around on his broken leg quite handily now, and even did some dancing – ballroom with his wife – the other night. But for safety’s sake, his fencing scene in The Three Musketeers will be saved until the final shooting of the picture.
Toledo Blade. January 21st 1948
Sights and sounds on the Hollywood beat…Gene Kelly and Van Heflin rehearsing their fencing for Three Musketeers – without costumes or toupees.
Toledo Blade. January 28th 1948
It may be quite a long time before Gene Kelly dances again. The leg he broke last year is still so weak that fight and duelling sequences in Three Musketeers have been pushed back until the last days of the picture – at least three months from now, to give it more time for mending. Doctors fear it will never be the same.
Evening Independent. May 1st 1948
Two budding film feuds which promised to enliven the Hollywood scene, have died a-borning. The first was between Gene Kelly and Van Heflin who heckled each other through The Three Musketeers. To their disappointment no one would take their verbal tussles seriously.
Toledo Blade 9th June 1948
Day’s Best Hollywood Story:
Gene Kelly and June Allyson were filming a scene from The Three Musketeers in which they – as lovers – had what is known as a lovers quarrel.
After the scene, Gene said playfully, “Junie, let’s kiss and make up.” June came back quick like, “If you’re careful, I won’t have to.”
Motion Picture. July 1948
Well, look who’s Hollywood’s new man of the hour – our old friend Gene (Nimble-foot) Kelly. Mr. Kelly has not been much as a red hot movie star in some ways because he does not get in the wife-divorcing news, but most stars whose muscles are mainly in their heads and in their shoulder pads could not do what Mr. Kelly has just accomplished in The Three Musketeers.
For instance there is a scene in which a toughie is going to stick something serious like a sword into the belly of Gig Young. Kelly sees this, takes a running jump across the room, hits a table, slides the length of it and runs the coward through. Such things are hard on a stomach which has sat too many nights at Mocambo. Also it is well known that most actors do not engage in such acrobatics as leaping up balconies and so on, which Kelly does with fewer doubles than even the late Douglas Fairbanks. In fact, Kelly had two stunt men doubling for him, but all they did was to rehearse scenes, so he could study the timing. Then Kelly turned in the performance.
Liberty magazine. September 1948
When Gene Kelly says, “The thing I like to do most is work,” he’s not kidding. For six weeks before he began work on The Three Musketeers, he went into training with the zeal of a prizefighter. The day began with an hour on the bridle path. Gene has known how to ride for years, but as D’Artagnan he has to take difficult jumps. Next came a two-hour session with Jean Heremans, five times national fencing champion of Belgium. Then came hours of acrobatic work in the studio gym so that he’d be in trim to scale walls, climb revolving mill-wheels, and leap from trees and balconies. He refuses to use a double. “I think up a lot of those stunts,” he says, “and I feel responsible.”
Liberty magazine. September 1948
“The prettiest pair of actor’s legs in Hollywood belong to Gene Kelly”, says director George Sidney. “Spindle-shanks are what most other actors use for circumambulation.”
Schenectody Gazette. 14th September 1948
(Dorothy Kilgallen is on vacation. Her guest today is screen star Gene Kelly.)
For most of the year past I’ve been busy playing a guy named D’Artagnan…That was a lot of fun too. But mostly it helped to emphasize something I’ve known all along, that anyone allergic to work should never become a movie actor…
This D’Artagnan was quite a guy, you know. He wasn’t the type to do anything the easy way….He wasn’t really happy unless he was jumping through a window to rescue a lady in distress or crossing a rain-swept channel on a secret mission.
He was no slouch when it came to the ladies either, managing to keep several lovelies on the string at the same time. Yep, quite a guy that D’Artagnan.
Anyway, in order to play him on the screen I had to go into training just like a prizefighter. For three months…we followed a daily schedule that went something like this:
One hour on the bridle path. Two hours with Jean Heremans…By the time he finished with me I could fight with one hand tied behind me.
Finally there was a daily acrobatic workout in the studio gym. I’ve always prided myself I’ve kept in pretty fair physical trim. I thought the gym was superfluous. But when I read in the script that D’Artagnan would scale walls, climb mill wheels, leap from the limb of a tree to a far away balcony and perform other feats of athletic dexterity, I kept my mouth shut. I went to the gymnasium dutifully each day.
Well, I lost 12 pounds getting ready for the picture and I’d just like to see the guy who says acting isn’t strenuous work.
But wait, that isn’t all we had to do…We had to go to school to learn to eat - with our hands!
Seems the research department…had discovered it was just as easy to recognise a gentleman then by observing his table manners as it is today…
For instance, we learned that when food was lifted from the serving dish to the plate, it had to be accomplished by using three fingers only…and nor should he dig the egg out of its shell with his fingers or lick the inside clean with his tongue. He had to learn to use a sippet of bread for this function…It was the custom to have one community knife chained to the center of the table.
Lana Turner, June Allyson, Angela Lansbury and the other ladies didn’t have to be pictured while eating…It’s a shame, too, because Lana, June or Angela lifting a hefty hunk of beef with one hand, the little finger being carefully extended, is something I’d really like to see.
World Telegram. October 20 1948
One great surprise is Gene Kelly himself, endlessly animated, acrobatic and ingratiating. His grace as a dancer flashes through his vigorous swordplay and so does the sly drollery of Kelly, the ingenious comedian. He is a splendid D'Artagnan.
Prescott Evening Courier. October 27th 1948
Gene Kelly plays his D’Artagnan role with tongue in cheek and a rumble wiggle in his fencing. He’s as agile and gay at times as Douglas Fairbanks Sr. when he played the role in 1921 on the silent screen
Pittsburgh Press. 26th November 1948
As a bounding, leaping, swaggering D’Artagnan, Pittsburgh’s Gene Kelly evokes a vivid memory of the elder Fairbanks in his prime. And, if anything, in the field of sheer gymnastics Gene tops the exploits of Fairbanks in the latest remake of The Three Musketeers.
Old timers with long memories may challenge that statement, but a trip to the Penn, I think, will bear me out. Certainly, among the latter day aspirants to swashbuckling laurels, our home town gazelle is the champion.
He’s an India rubber ball, a human pinwheel, a one-man army as he careers madly through all the duellings, plottings, blood and thunder of this bravura yarn.
Never on stage or screen has there been such a bold and bouncing Gascon – this D’Artagnan, the country jake, who becomes the most reckless and most romantic Musketeer of them all…
The Sunday Morning Star. 18th February 1949
Gene Kelly has made the discovery that a role in a non-musical film…can require as much creation and rehearsing as do the dance numbers of his musicals.
…Kelly fights eight duels. Each duel had to be worked out in advance in such detail that a total of ten days rehearsal was required to perfect the footwork for each fight. That’s as much time as Gene ordinarily spends on one of his intricate dance routines.
Picturegoer. July 9th 1949
[The Pirate] pointed towards a new direction for his career to take. It was obvious that physically, with his magnificent sense of rhythm, his grace of movement and his fine air of braggadocio that he was perfectly capable, if he omitted the satiric emphasis, of playing the romantic buccaneer as straight as the straightest of straight actors.
It was no surprise to those who appreciated this fact that he was given the role of d’Artagnan in The three Musketeers. Certainly he has all the dashing manners of the immortal Gascon; whether he has the voice is a matter for the individual to decide for himself.
In any event, the picture is played for its action, romantic vigour and visual excitement. Kelly provides a full share of all that. He wears the resplendent clothes as if born to them, and moves with the lithe grace you would expect of Dumas’s hero.
It is reported that he worked out the duel scenes step by step and thrust by thrust, as he would work out a dance routine and as – incidentally – Sir Laurence Olivier worked out the duel scene for Hamlet. There his dancer’s training and imagination has served him splendidly.
Picture Show. October 1st 1949
Rollicking adventure romance…Colorful, high-spirited, spectacular, it moves at a breathless pace…Sumptuously set…the Technicolor photography makes the most of the colourful period. Gene Kelly romps through the film in grand style…
Hollywood Album 1950. Gene: Every time I think about The Three Musketeers I want to groan…ouch! I feel sore and stiff at just the thought of it. Never become a film actor if you are allergic to work. D’Artagnan was quite a guy, but I wish he had taken things more calmly. I had to go into training for that picture just like a prize fighter before a fight. …We studied two hours a day with Jean Heremans, the national fencing champion of Belgium, to learn how to fence. What a genius he was. When he had finished with us we, who were greenhorns, were able to fight with one hand tied behind. . It was gruelling work. The payoff was when we went to school to learn how to eat – with our fingers! Oh, yes, it’s an art. Lana Turner, June Allyson, Angela Lansbury and the other fine ladies were all grateful they did not have to make ‘eating’ scenes.
Hollywood Album 1950. Gene:
Every time I think about The Three Musketeers I want to groan…ouch! I feel sore and stiff at just the thought of it. Never become a film actor if you are allergic to work. D’Artagnan was quite a guy, but I wish he had taken things more calmly. I had to go into training for that picture just like a prize fighter before a fight. …We studied two hours a day with Jean Heremans, the national fencing champion of Belgium, to learn how to fence. What a genius he was. When he had finished with us we, who were greenhorns, were able to fight with one hand tied behind. . It was gruelling work. The payoff was when we went to school to learn how to eat – with our fingers! Oh, yes, it’s an art. Lana Turner, June Allyson, Angela Lansbury and the other fine ladies were all grateful they did not have to make ‘eating’ scenes.
Michael Burrows 1971
Two months before production started he went into training; consequently, instead of creating a romantic costume melodrama, he managed to inject his part with all the athleticism, all the verve and dynamism that was possible.
Tony Thomas The Films Of Gene Kelly 1974
Three Musketeers is Gene Kelly’s picture, and without his dashing D’Artagnan it would be much poorer…no other actor had ever come this close to matching the performances of Fairbanks Sr. at his swashbuckling best.
American Film 1979. Gene:
A lot of stunts I wouldn’t touch. I wouldn’t ride a horse: I just wouldn’t do it. There would be dialogue scenes in which of course I had to ride, so I would go to the wrangler and say, “Look, I can’t ride a horse very well. I’m a city boy. I worked on a farm, but it was with plow horses. Can you get me a horse that will make me look good?” He’d say, “Shore.” I’d get a horse that bounced well.
You see, the horse is the dumbest animal in the world., and you don’t know what he’s going to do. He can be standing still, and a fly will go by, and he’ll go “ble-eh-le-eh,” and you’ll be on your derriere, and the horse may be on his too, on top of you.
Films In Review. 1983. George Sidney.
Gene had his swordfights choreographed to the beat of a metronome. We shot on the backlot and in Griffith Park, and the overall mood was one of having fun.
Gene Kelly, the Dancing Cavalier. Hollywood Then And Now. August 1991
Gene turned to one of the most famous roles of his boyhood idol Douglas Fairbanks – that of D’Artagnan. He proved himself a most able successor…Gene seems to dance his way through the film, adding his own personal excitement to the swordplay. His skill with the steel is remarkable. Look closely and you notice there are few possibilities for doubling; Gene rarely has his back to the camera.
Gene, Reflections TV interview 1994:
In Three Musketeers I did practically every one of my stunts, but I never rode the horses. I’m a bad rider. The horses threw a lot of the riders. I was chicken to get on a horse, so I used a double.
Columbia Tribune 1998
On Martin Campbell directing The Mask Of Zorro:
Campbell consulted the 1948 version of The Three Musketeers starring Gene Kelly, to perfect the sword fighting scenes.
THE BLACK HAND 1950.
Kentucky New Era. 13th September 1949
He’s now playing a straight dramatic part as a New York Italian in The Knife. It’s his first non-dancing role since The Three Musketeers. He was rattling off Italian dialogue when I entered the set. The skill is an unexpected benefit of the Italian language course he took in his senior year at the University of Pittsburgh “for an easy credit.”
Magazine clipping 1950
Let no one say that Gene Kelly lacks versatility. In his thirty eight crowded years he has been bricklayer, concrete mixer, drugstore attendant, dance-instructor…and film star.
As film star, most of us know him by his dancing. Yet here, in The Black Hand, he pops up as a straight dramatic actor of considerable talent…worth paying good money to see.
The Dancing Irishman. Magazine article. 1950
...Just so as you'll remember that the talented Gene is an actor as well as a singer, don't overlook his straight dramatic performance in Black Hand. Gene plays the part with an intensity of feeling that will leave you gasping.
Newsweek. March 1950
Until the advent of Black Hand, few of the dark, Italian-looking Irishman’s admirers gave him much serious thought as an actor who could command attention without dancing…In Black Hand Kelly, as graceful when throwing a knife as when hoofing, combines for the first time the catlike agility that has served him so well in such musicals as On The Town, with a dramatic restraint and facial vocabulary that exceed the requirements of either dancer or comedian.
John Cutts. Films & Filming 1964
His performance in this…remains about his most able straight piece of acting yet.
Tony Thomas The Films Of Gene Kelly 1974
Gene Kelly pleased his public and surprised a few critics with the intensity of his tough ambitious Columbo. Kelly, a black Celt, thereafter had some problem persuading people he was not really an Italian
From sleeve notes, Totem Records, On The Air. Greg Gormick. September 1980
Among Kelly’s most notable non-musical roles was that of Johnny Columbo in the MGM 1950 production, The Black Hand, directed by veteran Richard Thorpe. Pre-dating The Godfather by some 22 years, the film was a brusque swipe at the Mafia, shown in the film as a group of terrorists called The Black Hand. With deft and craftsman-like skill, Kelly played the part of a New York-born Italian boy who seeks vengeance for the murder of his father. He won wide acclaim for the role – a role he had asked for after completing the musical, On The Town.
Gene, Reflections TV interview 1994:
I thought we did a good programme picture in Black Hand. It was made in two weeks and it made a fortune all over the world.
John Reid. Popular Pictures of the 1940s. 2004
Sandwiched between On The Town and Summer Stock, this film represented a radical change of vehicle for Gene Kelly. According to MGM’s publicity, he requested the role himself. As it turned out, it did his career no harm. In fact, it boosted his macho image and was surprisingly successful at the box office, returning a handsome dividend for a modest investment.
…The action footage is brilliant in every way. The script is exciting too…Kelly is capable enough in a fight and reasonably convincing as an Italian….Suspenseful, well-produced entertainment. (Even Bosley Crowther agrees with us.)
LOVE IS BETTER THAN EVER. 1951
Gene did this as a favour to Stanley Donen, who was directing. It was a walk-on part, just a few seconds, playing himself being introduced to a starstruck Elizabeth Taylor.
Deseret News. January 30th 1951
Gene Kelly is doing double duty in Love Is Better Than Ever, in which he is co-starred with Elizabeth Taylor and Larry Parks. Besides acting he is serving as technical advisor for dancing school sequences…
CREST OF THE WAVE 1954
Ray Boulting, Director
He’s probably the most accomplished player I’ve worked with. He’s absolutely sure of what he’s doing.
And it isn’t just the Hollywood slickness. He is a man of profound intelligence who is terribly well grounded in all the fundamentals. Also, and this is very important, he loves to work.
Hirschorn 1974: The experience was not unpleasant, but whatever enjoyment he had during the shoot, came from his fellow actors whom he liked and admired.
Time. November 15th 1954
When he chooses to give his feet a rest, his histrionic head makes pretty good sense too.
Stage & Screen. December 9th 1954
...proves beyond doubt that Kelly could emote as well as he could hoof, As far as this critic is concerned, I've yet to see Kelly give a bad performance...the actor has scored again.
THE DEVIL MAKES THREE 1952
Time Magazine September 1952
Gene Kelly without his dancing shoes, turns out to be a relaxed, likeable actor.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. September 20th 1952
In The Devil Makes Three, Mr. Gene Kelly sets aside his dancing shoes and gives proof once again that he is indeed an extremely versatile young man…Mr. Kelly and Miss Angeli give splendid performances, assisted by…mature dialogue and a reasonably plausible plot.
He’s wonderful. When I did any scenes with him for the first time I was scared. But he would wink at me with the eye away from the camera. Several times he even stopped everything so that my face, not his, got the better camera angle. He’s the most considerate man I ever met.
Magazine article 1953
Between scenes it was a common thing to see GIs practising dance steps Gene had shown them. Their loyalty to him was not to a star…but to a regular guy.
Jeanne Sakol. Magazine article 1953
The crew on the picture had respect for Gene because often he insisted on re-shooting a scene a dozen times, even two dozen times, to overcome a technical fault.
Travelling Man magazine article 1952
Gene…brought to Europe a spirit of friendliness and camaraderie that surrounded his sets…Gene making a game of his limited knowledge of German, developed an original version of ‘Kellified German.’
New York Times March 15th 1952
Both Gene Kelly and Pier Angeli have been stricken by the ‘flu, causing a halt in the filming of Devil Makes Three.
Sydney Morning Herald. March 30th 1952
Demolition of the Berghof in the Bavarian Alps, has been delayed for a week to enable Gene Kelly to round up a new Nazi party.
All for a film of course.
The only trouble is the snow. We are not prepared for it, and Spring clothes are little use in snowdrifts 5ft deep.
The Army is ready to get us out if we are snowed in, and Pier Angeli huddles in a hut below the old S.S. barracks, waiting for Kelly to finish off the Nazis.
The only protection is a sunshade for the camera. Plus an electric blanket – also for the camera.
Says Gene Kelly: “After all, there is only one camera. You can always replace actors…”
…Everyone from the American State Department to the German government has approved the script. (The love story no one has to authorise.)
A conference is called to discuss the snow. It can be written into the story without difficulty, but there are matching shots to be taken just over the border in Salzburg – and there the snow is disappearing fast.
Sergei Petschnikoff, who fixes details like this, is called in, and he arranges to manufacture a cartload of artificial snow and take it into Austria…
Pier Angeli…is ready for a scene with Gene Kelly. She has done an hour’s practise on a trapeze – a performance she goes through every day to shake off the worries of her emotional part. Now (for the film) she has to cry…
In front of the camera she moves in for a close-up. But her tears fall down her face in different lines from the pattern made in the previous day’s shooting. So the real tears are dried and glycerine ones put on, and everything runs according to plan.
When the shot is over, little Anna Maria is still crying It takes minutes for her to calm down…
In the film Gene Kelly has to call her skinny. Off-set she says; “I’m not. I have little bones but much meat….
At night we come down from the mountain and defrost. Kelly sits down to dinner and considers his weight. He has put on 12 lb through not dancing. “I’ll get in trim again as soon as I start practising. Dancing is like boxing. Only you don’t get hit.”
THE HAPPY ROAD 1957
Gene: I get a bigger kick out of hearing the laughter of audiences viewing it than I have over anything for a long time, in view of the fact that it is my first production effort.
From a letter to Maurice Chevalier from Gene’s production company, Kerry Productions Inc., dated November 1956. Concerning his recording of the title song for the film.
…We agree to pay you the sum of $1 and we acknowledge that you are rendering your services primarily by reason of your friendship for Mr Kelly rather than for financial gain…
Movieland. October 1956
…Kelly came to Paris several months ago to set up production and to hunt for a ten-year-old girl. When he saw Rene Clair’s Forbidden Games, he knew young Brigitte was just exactly the little girl he was searching for. But Brigitte’s parents, a prosperous French business couple, did not want their daughter to become a movie star. They had already turned down movie offer after movie offer. But Kelly refused to take no for an answer – particularly since he had scouted all of France and could not find anyone who suited the role as well as little Brigitte.
Reluctantly, Brigitte’s parents gave in but they were soon faced with another crisis – Gene insisted Brigitte’s long, golden hair be cut for her role. Again, that old Kelly magic smoothed the way when he decided to make the blow less painful by arranging to have Brigitte’s hair cut on her tenth birthday. So, with Movieland and her little friends on hand to give her moral support, Brigitte had her hair cut and then, in typical ten-year-old fashion, dug right into her birthday cake.
The Age. January 22nd 1957
Why was Gene Kelly’s The Happy Road – a happy little film if ever I saw one – allowed only three days at the Metro, Bourke Street? Why, if this was considered the ‘wrong’ theatre for an MGM ‘prestige’ picture, was it not sent down to Collins Street where it could have run well?
What hope has Mr. Kelly of being allowed to continue with his own works if this is the sort of chance they receive at the box office?…
Mr. Kelly’s is a world where everyone badly needs each other…It is a world of irony , in which the forces of law fluster and blunder and disorganise so fast that only an army of children are left to co-operate to a common humanitarian goal, reached with the secret signs and passwords and the bright companionship of innocence.
Amidst all this, the film skates round the borders of sentimentality, hovers on the edge of whimsy, toys with fairy tale, rides through burlesque and satire, passes smack into the ranks of high comedy…from the moment Maurice Chevalier’s voice hits the screen…The Happy Road takes a happy turning. All the time, I was scared Mr. Kelly would go too far and consistently he managed to avoid doing so.
Throughout the film and especially in his handling of the children you get the warmth, the genuineness, the humor of Kelly himself.
Film 14. November/December 1957
…Patrons are becoming more critical of the fare offered. It now takes a good film to draw them in.
And what do they mean by good films?…among recent film s most prized: …The Happy Road…
Toledo Blade. April 12th 1958
The Happy Road has won many awards and I had my first editorial from it in the Christian Science Monitor. They loved the picture in England and France, and I was very pleased when the critics compared it to those wonderful early pictures of Rene Clair. I also think it will make money.
Gene, Film Show Annual 1959
I particularly enjoyed the making of The Happy Road. I liked being on location in the French countryside and meeting the people.
Observer. November 10th 1968. Peter Evans
…perhaps he is most proud of The Happy Road, which he produced, directed and starred in.
“It was a very little picture. I made it for less than $500,000. It won all kinds of awards. It was hailed as a sweet family picture – but nobody came to see it.”
Michael Singer. A Cut Above. 50 film directors talk about their craft. 1998
Gene: The whole idea of making The Happy Road was that television had just come in and everybody was worried. They were saying they couldn’t make huge pictures any more, and it was true. …So my determination was to show everyone in the business that I could do a nice, small-budget picture in Europe. And we did….The year we made The Happy Road was a very tough one for me – I was going through a divorce and my father had died – and without Noël Howard’s help I don’t think that picture would have any quality. It’s a sweet little picture.
MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR 1958
Screen Album. May-July 1958
When it was announced that Gene would play Noel Airman, there was begrudging acceptance from some quarters;
he was too old, too dark, too much the dancing man.
But he’s Gene Kelly, too, and the acceptance has changed to approval. Not that Gene was worried; he kept on with his plans to direct Tunnel of Love at MGM, toyed with the idea of West Side Story as a film musical, dated numerous girls, and enjoyed the pool it’s taken him years to acquire.
Mishel Green, Apology To Gene Kelly. Photoplayer 1957
Day of our interview. Gene Kelly was up to his elbows in lovemaking…the scene was a difficult one and director Irving Rapper made Natalie and Gene do it over and over again. All three of them were getting more and more nervous...
Los Angeles Times. October 9th 1957
Gene Kelly is bedded down with ‘flu and out of Marjorie Morningstar for a few days. Director Irving Rapper is shooting around Kelly.
New York Times. October 9th 1957
Gene Kelly is temporarily out of Marjorie Morningstar as a ‘flu casualty. Last week the actor injured his leg and was hobbling around the set…
Toledo Blade. April 12th 1958
Gene…is somewhat apprehensive of public acceptance of his Noel Airman role… “It’s hard to play a fellow of charm who falls apart. I don’t know whether people will dig me as Noel Airman. Don't get me wrong. I'm not kicking - they paid me," said Gene, who was paid $250,000 for the assignment.
Time Magazine 1958
Even with its too-glib identification of mental maturity with success and conformity, the movie is as good as the novel. Gene Kelly sings and dances too well to be a convincing second-rater, but he gives an agile performance as the camp’s entertainment director.
Milwaukee Sentinel. April 13th 1958. Gene Kelly seems to live his role of the rake-with-limitations.
Screen Stories April 1958
During the three-week location at Scaroon Lake in Upper New York, the Morningstar company stayed at the Scaroon Manor, a lovely but rather regimented resort spot. A place at table was assigned to each person and he was expected to eat every meal at the same place….When Gene Kelly’s birthday rolled around, the movie group celebrated at lunch with champagne. Carolyn Jones, who hates regimentation, popped from table to table. Gene said to her, “I notice you move around from table to table. Why?” When Carolyn explained, Gene suggested that that evening they all move around. When dinnertime came, Gene slipped into a chair next to a sweet elderly lady. He started the conversation with: “Pardon me, but have you seen any of those movie stars around?” The lady, immediately interested, replied, “No, I’ve not, have you?”…There was a ping-pong table on the upper level of the open-air theatre near the hotel. Natalie Wood, Bob Wagner, Jack Baker, Carolyn and Gene had seen most of the movies shown in the theatre, so they started a ping-pong tournament. At first, theatre patrons complained about the noise made by the plunk plunk of the balls. When they heard who the players were, many in the audience came to watch the ping-pong games in lieu of the movies…Hotel guests were recruited as extras for the picture.
Picture Show. June 1958
Natalie Wood and Gene Kelly do well in this drama, which is attractively photographed in colour.
Gene, on Natalie Wood
“She’s a wonder. Natalie is a real talent. I think she’ll be a real sensation in this film. I could talk about her indefinitely."
INHERIT THE WIND 1960
Gene, Michael Burrows. Gene Kelly, Versatility Personified 1971:
I enjoyed doing it because it had something to say, but in all truth the real reason I accepted the part was because I wanted the great experience of acting with Frederic March and Spencer Tracy.
Gene, Reflections TV interview 1994:
After all these years, these two great friends of mine (Spencer Tracy & Frederic March) ..I had never worked with them. It was a very high class picture – for that reason, not too big a hit – but that was I think the great climax to my career, doing a straight part with these two guys.
Stanley Kramer director/producer
I’ve always thought Gene Kelly was a wonderfully sensitive actor. He had a sharp satirical quality in Pal Joey on the stage and he seemed a natural choice for a character based on Mencken in Inherit The Wind.
Gene, Films Illustrated 1974
I was on holiday in Greece when I was asked to play in Inherit The Wind for Sidney Kramer. When I learned that Spencer Tracy and Frederic March were in it I didn’t even call my agent. I just scooped up my family and flew back there and then.
This book is worth getting, for the chapter on the author’s time spent with Gene during the run of Take Me Along.
Patricia Wilson. Yesterday’s Mashed Potatoes. 2009
…I told David [Patricia’s brother] I’d once complimented Gene on his straight acting in the film, Inherit The Wind.
“So what did he say?”
“He said, ‘I wanted to hide under the seat when I saw that film! I walked like a damn ballet dancer, turn-out and all!’”
“Well,” David said, “there go the man’s credentials as a megalomaniac!”
FORTY CARATS 1973
He projects superbly the intricacies of a showbiz character, an aging gypsy so to speak, whose head and heart are together though his career is erratic. It’s made to order for his mature abilities in both comedy and drama.
Deseret News. July 25th 1972
Gene Kelly, long missed, is coming back to the screen as an actor. He’s going to star with Liv Ullman in Forty Carats…He got the part by attending a screening of Butterflies Are Free at producer Mike Frankovich’s home. Director Milton Katselas and writer Leonard Gersh were there and thought Gene right for the role. Mike gave Gene a script to take home…
Radio Times. October 1972
A major factor in his return to acting, he confesses, is the chance of playing opposite…Liv Ullmann…
“When the producer Mike Frankovich rang I don’t think he expected me to take it. He was quite astonished when I said flatly, ‘Yes, I’ll do it.’ My only condition was that Mike let me meet her now. She was pleased I was doing the film and we had quite a few laughs.. But it’s always awkward when two actors who only know each other from the screen, meet for the first time. To break the ice, I said, ‘Is there anything you want to know about me?’ ‘Yes, which is your good side?’ I told her,’ Any side you like!’ I loved her for that. It was so sweet and honest.”
Ludington Daily News. December 27th 1972
“I’m at an age now when I’m willing to work only when something unusual comes along.” Kelly welcomes the chance to work with Binnie Barnes. They both donned dancing shoes for a wild session of acid rock hoofing. Afterwards the nimble Irishman wasn’t the slightest bit winded. “This kind of dance isn’t serious,” he said. “The director can cut in and out of the footage and get what he wants.” Forty Carats is Kelly’s first picture in eight years.
Toledo Blade. February 17th 1973
"When Mike called me about the part I hesitated – didn’t know whether I wanted to do it or not. I asked whom I would be playing opposite. He said, ‘Liv Ullman and Binnie Barnes.’ That did it. I think Liv is one of the great young actresses of our time and to make a joint comeback with Binnie would be great. ‘You’ve got me!’ I told Mike and I haven’t regretted a minute of the filming. I can almost sense when a picture is going to go well. This one, with those wonderful women and young Edward Albert, has been a great experience from start to finish.”…
As an actor who prefers directing, did it bother him to work under the guidance of Milton Katselas who is guiding Forty Carats to the screen? “No way! No way! My God, it was nice to have someone else shouldering the responsibility. Now and then I thought to myself, ‘How would I handle this scene if I were directing?’ I was pleased when he did it ‘my way’ – and retained a lot of respect for Katselas when it wasn’t.”
Source unknown, possibly Photoplay late 1973.
Article by Barbra Paskin. Living The Life Of Kelly
I asked him whether he had encountered any problems while making the film. [Forty Carats]. It had, after all, been over five years since he made his last picture, The Young Girls of Rochefort.
“It wasn’t difficult because I had a marvellous director, a fine young man named Milton Katselas. He’s a fine director – bright, intelligent, young and energetic. After we’d been shooting a while he asked me how it felt to be back after so long and I said ‘Great – just keep on telling me what to do!’. But it was a very happy picture to make. It was such a pleasure playing with Liv Ullman, she’s a marvellous girl and a marvellous actress. I sound like a fan magazine but she really is a dear…I enjoyed being directed. It was a piece of cake. When you’re the director you have to see the whole thing; whereas when you’re acting it’s just yourself and the person with whom you’re playing the scene that you have to worry about.”
VIVA KNIEVEL! 1977
Magazine clipping 1976. Source unknown
My Kids Talked Me Into the Knievel Movie.
The youngsters [Tim and Bridget] are responsible for Kelly’s return to movies in a co-starring role with motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel in Viva Knievel!
“I turned down th epart when my agent called to ask if I was interested,” said Kelly. “I’d planned to go to Europe for another movie. I told him to ask for a huge Steve McQueen-type salary to discourage the Knievel! producers. But then my kids heard about it.
“Tim has his own trail motorcycle and he pleaded with me to make the picture. He said Knievel is a folk hero. Baseball player Babe Ruth and Charles Lindbergh were my heroes, but I soon learned that Knievel is the man of the hour these days.
“Bridget gasped when I told her I had refused the part. So I changed my attitude. I sent for the script and liked it.”
…”I play a mechanic pal of Knievel in the film,” said Kelly. “It’s my first real character role. I’m like a child star with a gap in his career between adolescent and adult roles. I don’t look old enough to play characters my own age. And I’m too old to get the young girl in a movie.
“This Knievel picture is a lark,” he said. “I don’t dance, I don’t shave, I don’t wear make-up. And I don’t get the girl. I’m having so much fun that I can hardly wait to go to work in the morning.”
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. January 19th 1977
Evel is not at all humble…A guy like Gene Kelly comes to work quietly – knowing his lines.
Evening Independent. June 4th 1977
Kelly actually is the best thing in the film, sensitively portraying a washed-up former cycle-jumper who finally puts his boy ahead of the bottle