This page will feature some of the many people whom Gene helped, encouraged and inspired along the way, either on their career path or in their personal lives. He had a great eye for talent and was often willing to go out on a limb to give individuals a chance to further or even start their careers in showbusiness. Many of them are mentioned as part of Gene's life and work elsewhere on the site but I want to highlight just how effective Gene was as a mentor and encourager.
Silver Screen June 1954. He changes their lives
Gene Kelly is more than a star. He’s a starmaker.
Some of the biggest names in Hollywood have found a new lease on life after appearing in a Gene Kelly film – Cyd Charisse, Vera-Ellen and Leslie Caron to name a few. Gene has a knack for seeing a hidden talent or quality in many an actress who had been all but overlooked before. Once she has worked with him her career has spurted to new heights.
American Way. June 1984
...Kelly's most endearing and enduring quality, his extensive and sincere devotion to young, often untried talent. A couple of years ago he presented a group of young ballet dancers at a White House recital, later telecast by PBS...He made brief, unassuming reference to having obtained a job for a young choreographer, guest lectures with the New Zealand Ballet and considered planning a dance workshop in New York City in the near future.
He wanted to be remembered for more personal accomplishments.
He gave opportunity to enter this career for quite a lot of people.
Los Angeles Times. July 25th 1954. Hedda Hopper.
What advice have you for youngsters who want to get into show business?
“Be a teller in a bank or go into the barn business,” he quickly replied. “I always discourage people from entering this business. If they knew about the disappointments, heartbreak and hard work, and realise the slim chance of ever reaching the top and still want to go ahead, that’s okay. You can’t discourage people who really want to do something.”
Movieland. April 1943
The kids Gene taught to dance back in Pittsburgh – like true Kelly phenomena – are making time now. A few of them are starring in Broadway shows. Others are on the road. Several of them are in Hollywood working with him at Metro. Gene sits in the commissary chewing bubble gum while his students “Hi, Gene,” and wave “Hello” which is probably the first time a Hollywood romantic star has been able to grin at a crowd of twenty-year-olds, say “They’re mine, all mine,” and have his studio approve. Well, who said Gene Kelly was orthodox, anyway.
Gene: (Quoted in: Burt Prelutsky, The Secret Of Their Success. 2008).
" I helped persuade MGM to hire a lot of great young dancers, like Tommy Rall, Bobby Van,
the Champions and Bob Fosse."
Modern Screen. August 1944
Gene’s always anxious to see youngsters get a break. When he made Christmas Holiday, he spied talent in his stand-in, Joe Thornton, and promptly staked him to tuition in the Actors Laboratory, a swell dramatic training school in Hollywood, and talked Director Siodmak, too, into giving Joe a bit in the picture.
Going Strong, Pat York. A series of interviews with people over 75
Gene...I am often asked to counsel aspiring dancers and actors. To them, my advice is: ”Whatever you do, be prepared to work,” I can only speak for the arts, but I think it applies to all professions. Whatever the job is, work, work, work, work and learn every aspect of your trade.
I think the first thing you can do for yourself in life is keep from being bored.
If you have exciting work, that’s the best defense. My last words are “Love thy neighbour.”
Saul Chaplin: The Golden Age Of Movie Musicals And Me. 1994
Stanley Donen, who had been a chorus boy in New York, owed his entire career as a director to Gene. As Gene became more influential, many opportunities opened up for him, and when he was given his first picture to direct, On The Town, he insisted that Stanley be his co-director…In every case Gene was the prime mover and Stanley an eager and talented pupil.
Saturday Evening Post July 1950
Donen: "Just calling Gene a dancer with the idea that that label means a lack of virility is a lot of poppycock. I’d like to see any of Hollywood’s so-called he-men or night-club pugilists try to stay with Gene for a week…even a day. My guess is they’d be carted off to a sanatorium to be treated for utter exhaustion."
Los Angeles Times. October 7th 1951
Donen and Kelly work in the same office, and it is of record that they get along most harmoniously, except when they both need a rest from those ‘strenuous musicals’. They used to fight over a davenport that was part of the furniture. But it hasn’t been determined yet when and whether the battle is to be carried over to Kelly’s new contour chair, an anniversary gift from Betsy.
Screen Album. Winter 1952
I first met Gene Kelly in New York while dancing in the chorus of Pal Joey in which Gene was starring. In 1944 I began to work with Gene – as a dance director… Kelly is the most stimulating person to work with I have ever known. When Gene’s on the job there’s no kidding around. He’s a perfectionist in his work. Gene has a creative genius that is never satisfied with a first attempt. He is constantly striving for new heights. He loves to work – and people love to work for him. I guess I was one of the happiest guys in town when An American In Paris won an Academy Award. A lot of people thought the picture had too much ballet – but Kelly proved them wrong. The public loved it. Right now Gene is in Europe working on Invitation To The Dance and Brigadoon. Pier Angeli came back from Germany a little while ago and you should have heard her rave. “He’s wonderful,” she said, “terrific.” She hopes to study dancing very hard for the next couple of years and some day do a musical with Gene. I’m all for it – I feel exactly the same way! He’s the most talented man I’ve ever known.
Gene. Dialogue on Film. Interview 1979. AFI Center For Advanced Film Studies.
When we made Cover Girl at Columbia, I got him a job there. Unfortunately he lost it because he didn’t get along with his first producer – but fortunately for me.
I told MGM to re-hire him because I couldn’t get along without him. I said he must get co-director with me because I’m helpless without him.
If I was in a scene…at the end I would just look at Stanley, and he’d say “Ok”, so I always felt he should get credit as co-director. As a choreographer Stanley actually did not make up any steps. But his value was just as great as if he had made up half the steps.
I thought we were a good team…it was advantageous for both of us – for Stanley because it actually gave him a leg-up on his career, and for me because I knew when he said the shot was in the can, I didn’t have to retake it the next day.
Magazine article 1980, Gene, talking to Iain McAsh
Stanley was a chorus boy. I was the captain, but he had a great faculty for criticising and more. He was not a constructive choreographer, but he could invent. He would always say if he didn’t like something and he was usually right. It was good to have another opinion from a dear friend who was not a ‘yes man’…. I eventually made him a partner. Stanley had a good camera sense and a quick sense of invention. I was very proud when he became so fine a director.
Gene: Guardian Lecture. London 1980
On being asked about his relationship with Stanley Donen, who was ‘captain’?
I was captain, I was the senior. ..He was never a real choreographer in the inventive sense but he had a great faculty for criticising…I would call Stanley and say “Look at this, is there anything wrong with it?” Often he’d say “No”, then we’d talk about how we’d shoot, how fast we’d move the camera. It’s good to have another opinion from a dear friend and a trusted colleague who’s not a yes-man. This kind of partnership exists usually with every film dancer. Fred has Hermes, I had Stanley. If I didn’t have Stanley I would have Carol Haney or Jeannie Coyne. It’s very important to have someone whose critique you can rely on.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. January 18th 1985 When I started to direct my own films, I used Stanley Donen as my mirror…he apprenticed himself to me, and a good working relationship evolved. I would stage the numbers two weeks ahead and he’d be behind the camera while I was in front. He wasn’t a choreographer, but he always knew when a dance was good
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. January 18th 1985
When I started to direct my own films, I used Stanley Donen as my mirror…he apprenticed himself to me, and a good working relationship evolved. I would stage the numbers two weeks ahead and he’d be behind the camera while I was in front. He wasn’t a choreographer, but he always knew when a dance was good
The Disney Channel Magazine. March/April 1988
I knew Stanley from Broadway. He was in Pal Joey. We worked together frequently. He assisted me with choreography. After I returned to MGM, he asked if we could work together. We were very comfortable with one another.
Usually a musical requires more cooperation and cohesion than other pictures. There is a plethora of things to do. I didn’t want to handle all the chores myself. I needed somebody behind the camera who could provide insight.
Gene. 1994 interview.
He came to me for a job and I said I needed someone. I had taken over the choreography on Cover Girl. I was doing a number called the Alter Ego, dancing against myself, and I needed someone to count for the camera while the ‘other’ fella was dancing….none of this had ever been done before. So Stanley grasped the idea and…you needed someone not only adequate but who was trained in your style…I said, “Stanley, if you stay with that, you’ll be on every show that I do, I’ll give you equal billing. It’ll be ‘choreographed and directed’ by the two of us”. Well, he was on air. The next picture we did, we did together, we were fast friends – you have to be, to work like that. Then we got Stanley a picture of his own, which we all wanted to do. Then he came back to me in Singin’ In The Rain and It’s Always Fair Weather, and that’s how we worked so well together.
Interview Magazine 1994
Stanley was a chorus boy in two of my Broadway shows and came out here as a chorus boy for MGM. When they fired him I said, “Come on down to Columbia and work as my assistant on Cover Girl.” He was like a son to me. He…practically lived here at my house.
Michael Singer. A Cut Above. 50 film directors talk about their craft. 1998
I’ve often had someone to work with me behind the camera, and it just happened that I was lucky enough to have Stanley working with me on our first picture as co-directors…Stanley had been in Pal Joey with me on Broadway and also worked with me in Best Foot Forward. He turned out to be one of the best things that happened to me professionally…We finally got Stanley to do his own pictures, which was a blessing, I think, for the cinema in general.”
Betsy Blair. The Memory Of All That. 2002.
He was a very attractive figure, eager to learn, ambitious and funny. And he had become our close and dear friend, an intimate in our household. Although he had an apartment he practically lived with us.
Stanley had been put under contract by Metro as a dancer…when the studio tried to use him as an extra he refused. He was suspended, but he couldn’t work anywhere else.
So when Gene asked Stanley to be his assistant choreographer, it wasn’t only a friendly gesture. The main reason was that Gene knew and liked him, he considered Stanley bright and talented. Of course Gene was the central creative force in this initial collaboration, but he was always generous about Stanley’s contribution.
…Unfortunately and mysteriously for me, Stanley, over the years, has been less than generous about Gene. As someone who was there during the early period, and as a fellow student at the ‘Kelly university’, I find myself surprised and bemused.
Barry Monush. The Encyclopedia of Hollywood Film Actors. 2003
Following his death, Donen was quick to paint Kelly as an egotist and difficult collaborator, an assessment that was irrelevant in light of all the high spirits he brought to the screen and the even higher spirits he left audiences in as a result.
THE NICHOLAS BROTHERS
American Film Institute tribute to Gene. 1985
Harold Nicholas: “It was a pleasure to work with Mr Kelly in The Pirate, and I must say that wonderful and exciting things happened to us since that film, and I must say that this gentleman had a lot to do with it, Gene Kelly.”
Fayard: “Gregory Hines, don’t worry about stealing Gene Kelly’s steps, because he stole them from us!”
Fayard was born in 1914 in Alabama, Harold in 1921 in Philadelphia.. They were sons of Vaudeville performers so they started very young. They were popular in nightclubs and on radio, and at the Cotton Club in New York. They appeared on Broadway and in film musicals working for 20th Century Fox. But their speciality act was always done so that it could be easily cut from the movie, for showing in the Southern States.
Their contracts were allowed to lapse after the war, then they went to MGM to work with Gene. It was almost unheard of for a white man to work so closely in performance with African Americans. And of course the scene was cut in some places in the South.
Gene, on dancing with the Nicholas Brothers
I was instructed not to do it by the studio. They told me the number would be cut from the film in the South. I insisted, we did the number, and it was cut out in a lot of Southern cities.
Gene. Reflections On The Silver Screen. TV interview 1994. With Professor Richard Brown
The reason I got the Nicholas Brothers on the movie – L.B. Mayer didn’t want any blacks in the troupe – Minnelli and I said look, this is a Caribbean island, mostly black, and also no two other dancers working now can do all the things Fayard and Harold can do. So they became part of my troupe and I eased them into a number.
The mistake we made, was that they were so good the three of us decided we should use up every flash ending that was in the book. So we got the number a little bit too long. But we had such fun and enough bravura endings for fifty numbers.
Gene; (Prelutsky, 2008. The Secret Of Their Success). "You can't believe how hard it was for me to get them in the movie. MGM just hated the idea of my dancing with two black men. It was strictly taboo in those days. LB Mayer was really upset about it."
Lisa Minnelli. The Pirate DVD 2007.
The Nicholas Brothers could do anything, and the great thing about them was that they didn’t dance exactly alike. They complimented each other.
Fayard Nicholas. The Pirate DVD 2007.
Gene said “Harold, what are you doing? Your brother and I are rehearsing like mad and you are just there moping around.” My brother would say “Oh, I already got it.” And Gene would say “Alright Harold, let me see you do it.” And so my brother went through the entire routine without one mistake, and would say “Howzat!” And Gene was so mad. He’d say “Stop everything, let’s go to lunch.”
Terry Monaghan. Obituary for Fayard. The Guardian. 2006
... Incorporating progressively more complicated acrobatic leaps set among their superbly stylish "freeze and melt" poses laced with intricate footwork and lyrical arm movements, the brothers' claim to be "classical" tap dancers found major expression...
After this series of easily excisable performance clips - they could be removed from the films to avoid offending southern racist sensibilities - the brothers got to appear alongside a stunning array of black artistry. Their tour-de-force finale in Stormy Weather (1943) reduced even Cab Calloway to the status of a mere band leader. They turned the lid of a grand piano into a drum, and their sequence of flying leapfrogs down a staircase, each one ending in the splits, has become an iconic film image...
Fayard recalled being refused admission to the segregated studio restaurant - until director David Selznick got on the phone and told the maitre d' that the brothers' art had effectively paid for the studio....
The 1970s saw a revival of interest in tap dance. The 1985 BBC production Cotton Club Comes to the Ritz and the Channel 4 documentary We Sing and We Dance: The Nicholas Brothers in 1989, plus a Tony award that same year for Fayard's choreography in the hit Broadway revue Black and Blue, marked the long overdue recognition of their talents. They continued to dance until the early 1990s. In 1998, a concert was staged in their honour at Carnegie Hall.
This new recognition did not, though, bring financial security. The brothers had never received any film residuals and their constant travelling meant that they had not even invested in a house. In 2000 , Harold died, and Fayard was rescued from an artists' home by what was to be a happy third marriage, to Katherine Hopkins, 30 years his junior. Last summer, as dance consultant for the BBC1 production Bruce Goes Dancing, I visited them in Los Angeles to discuss Fayard's participation.
In his last week, his two granddaughters, calling themselves the Nicholas Sisters, performed for him. As Harold once said of his older brother's dancing: "He was like a poet ... talking to you with his hands and feet." He is survived by his wife and two sons.
· Fayard Nicholas, dancer, born October 20 1914; died January 24 2006.
Gene never could keep his hats on straight!
Gene never could keep his hats on straight!
Note: Gene was a board member of the Screen Actors Guild in 1946 when Betsy proposed a motion which resulted in the Guild resolving ‘to use all of its power to oppose discrimination among Negroes in the motion picture industry.’
Gene was a board member of the Screen Actors Guild in 1946 when Betsy proposed a motion which resulted in the Guild resolving ‘to use all of its power to oppose discrimination among Negroes in the motion picture industry.’
Gene has stated to several writers that he considered Vera Ellen to be among his very best dancing partners.
Gene on Vera:
She acts a dance number as well as she dances it, and I look for her to be one of the best little emoters on the screen, as well as one of the best ballet artists.
Some of the following quotes are taken from: David Soren. Vera Ellen, The Magic And The Mystery. 2003.
Panama Hattie, in which she appeared with Betsy Blair, produced another stroke of luck for Vera: Luck was on Vera Ellen’s side during those days when Kelly watched her extraordinary dancing ability, and would remember it years later when he was looking for a dancing partner for his role in Words & Music for MGM.
Vera Ellen possessed the ability to be a total dancer but still lacked the ability to create a dramatic dance moment. This she would learn from Gene Kelly.
The image of the girl next door wouldn’t do. Gene Kelly sought to revamp her look and image and contributed to her education by teaching her to exemplify what she called “A sort of earthy, sexy quality – toward modern.”
Vera: From Gene Kelly I got the modern knee drops, slides, and the earthy, almost brutal, approach to rhythm. It was a big change for me. At the moment I think dancing with him did the most to advance my career.
Until I got the part in the number with Gene Kelly, I had just danced in a thoughtless, easy-going way, but my acting coach made me think about my dancing and Gene made me take it seriously. I spent six weeks rehearsing and three more weeks with Gene shooting it – all for seven minutes on the screen. It was worth it though. I got a seven year contract from my studio, an offer from England and a number of proposals.
TV Radio Mirror 1962
For one dream sequence in On The Town Vera Ellen spent weeks during the hottest days of summer on a turntable with Gene, rehearsing strenuous movements which later translated on the screen as the gauziest of fantasies.
Silver Screen June 1954
As for Vera-Ellen, Gene had seen her in New York and was impressed enough to want to work with her. When he was preparing to do the memorable “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue” number he thought of her at once and insisted on testing her for the role.
On the face of it, this was quite a radical move because Vera-Ellen, up to that time, had only done innocuous ingénues. She was so thoroughly in a rut of the “nice little girl” that she even dressed the part.
“This dance not only changed my career, it changed me ,” Vera remarked recently. “I had been doing sweet young things for so long and it looked as though nothing different would ever come my way. SuddenlyI had to be uninhibited, to throw myself around for the dance. Gene and I worked ten weeks on the number and when I was through with it I was also a different person. I suddenly began to buy new clothes and more glamorous ones; my walk changed, and I even switched from a flower-scented perfume to something called ‘Shameless’. Gene really influenced my life. For my money he is just about the greatest in the business.”
At the University of Arizona, once a year there is a Vera Ellen day, in their ‘art history of the cinema’ class…right next to Hitchcock, Fred Astaire, and Gene Kelly.
Gene: Cover of Saul Chaplin’s autobiography:
“Saul Chaplin really knows the score...He's one of those fellows behind the scenes that has made so many fine musicals work.”
Saul Kaplan was born in the same year as Gene, 1912, and after collaborating with Sammy Cahn in New York they moved to Hollywood in 1941. Working for Columbia, he was an uncredited composer on Cover Girl.
He credits Gene with bringing him to MGM in 1949, when Gene wanted him to work on On The Town. (Gene said on the Mike Douglas show, 1976, “It was the best move I ever made”.) He was responsible for the vocal arrangements.
They became very close friends, and according to Saul it was Gene who had him work on Summer Stock and An American In Paris. For Summer Stock he wrote All For You, and You Wonderful You, specifically for Judy and Gene. So thank you Mr Chaplin!
For An American In Paris he won an Oscar for best scoring of a musical picture. He also won Oscars for musical scoring on Seven Brides For Seven Brothers and West Side Story.
He was a very talented pianist, composer, arranger, musical director, writer and producer. He co-produced That’s Entertainment Part Two, and was associate producer of Les Girls, so his life is intertwined with Gene’s in many areas. He also seems to have been a gentle, modest man. He wrote the lyrics to the famous Anniversary Song
According to Hirschorn, Gene's 1974 biographer, Gene arranged for Lois to live with the Chaplins when she first came out to Hollywood to work as his secretary, and also Gene moved in with them briefly during the difficult period before he and Betsy divorced.
So the career lift which Gene gave to Saul was amply repaid in the ensuing years in friendship and kindness.
During the making of Cover Girl, Saul had been given the chance to write what turned out to be Put Me To The Test, the comic version done by Gene and Phil, and describes his first meeting with Gene: “ I had become accustomed to reading a few pages of script and then writing the required material. No way with Gene. He laid out everything he thought might affect the number…everything. I recall thinking to myself, ‘This is impossible. I can’t write anything that has to take all those elements into consideration.’ I…was getting more and more concerned when Gene suddenly said: “Look – make Phil as funny as you can and don’t worry about me. I’ll take care of myself.” I was amazed. I had never met such an unselfish actor He…was interested in the picture as a whole. I’ve worked with Gene many times since then, and his attitude has never changed."...
"At my very first meeting with Gene, he invited me and my wife to a party at his home in Beverley Hills the following Saturday night.
"The night before Gene left for the navy, of course there was a party. Phil and I improvised a forty-five minute cantata tracing Gene’s life from his birth to his triumphant return from the navy. It was followed by everyone singing Auld Lang Syne. It was very touching."
Gene slept in Saul’s spare room when on leave from the Navy.
American Filming 1985. Interview with Gene and Saul
Gene: "At MGM, there were these great Rocks of Gibraltar who were sitting up at the top of the studio who had had millions of dollars of success with the musicals that they’d made…I begged MGM for six months to get Saul Chaplin and his wisdom before they would bring him in there. And the reason I did that was not just because I had gotten to know and love Saul as a friend and adviser on Cover Girl, but that there wasn’t enough of that particular kind of talent, the fellows who could transliterate music for dancers or singers. Saul was a landmark at MGM, you know. He still is, and every actor there who ever got near him will tell you that."
Saul: "When I was hired it was as a vocal arranger for On The Town, but from the first day I arrived, I was on the rehearsal stage with Gene, adapting Leonard Bernstein’s music primarily for the ballets…that was the least part of my job. I adapted all the music you hear, besides doing the vocal arranging…"
Gene: "There was a simple reason for my pressuring Saul into doing all that. Nowadays if a guy comes under contract, he probably would have said “No, renegotiate my contract.” He was not only a friend of mine and of Comden and Green…he understood Lenny Bernstein’s music as well as anybody in the world, and so the main thing was to get him in there, whether under the title vocal arranger or wardrobe lady. I could have cared less."
Saul: "I have worked with every dancer in the whole world, with the exception of Astaire, I suppose, and the one thing about working with Gene is hat he, of all dancers, knew exactly what he wanted, which most dancers did not."
Born the son of a Mexican general and politician, Alex lost his father and thirteen of his brothers at the siege of Monterrey before he was born.
The family settled in the US and formed a dance act. Around 1940 he worked for Columbia pictures, then moved to MGM, where he spent 20 years as a choreographer and dance director, creating dances in many famous movies. I cannot say for certain that Gene helped along Alex’s career in any specific way, except that he was employed by Gene as a dance assistant, and was given many opportunities arising from his work with Gene.. He worked with Gene on Anchors Aweigh, and received his first solo choreography credit collaborating on Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. He also worked on Take Me Out To The Ball game, On The Town, where he was a featured dancer in the ballet, and An American In Paris, in which he also danced. An interesting development in his career was choreographing the Jailhouse Rock number for Elvis Presley. I read that Gene was on the set when the scene was shot. He performed a precision tap with Gene and Danny Daniels on Gene’s An American In Pasadena show, where Gene referred to him as “My friend”.
Interview Magazine 1994. Gene speaking of the making of Slaughter On 10th Avenue.
I had a great assistant, Alex Romero, and we took turns lifting Vera-Ellen.According to the Internet Movie Database, he was “Known for his clever, humorous, inventive style, and brilliant use of props…was a humble and gentle man…He inspired many and supported and promoted the careers of young dancers and choreographers throughout his life.” He died in September 2007, aged 94
Gene first saw Leslie Caron in Paris working for the Roland Petit ballet company. She was a fifteen year old dancer in a show called The Sphinx, with Helene Constantine, (the wife of Eddie Constantine) whom Gene had worked with at MGM. When they were casting An American In Paris, Gene remembered her and went to Paris to test her. There are various versions of this event. One is that Gene went to test a different French dancer named Versois, and according to Leslie, 'he snuck me in’, saying he might get into trouble for doing so. Another version is that Arthur Freed specifically asked him to test Leslie as well as the other girl, having remembered a photograph Gene had shown him some time before. Whichever way it happened, she got the job!
Silver Screen June 1954
Then there was Leslie Caron, whom Gene discovered when he was in Paris making “An American In Paris.” He wanted a girl who had a fresh, new quality about her – he’s always looking for something different either in new talent or in already established stars. When he saw Leslie in a ballet her unique personality, her pixie-like face intrigued him and he immediately chose her…He was so impressed with her work that he had a test made of her and sent it to MGM in Hollywood. This brought about her contract – and stardom.
But he had no intention of merely putting her into a picture without giving her every chance to show off her ability… he wanted a new way to introduce her to the public, so he worked out a choreography for her as her first scene. You may remember the exciting dance Leslie did in which she portrayed several different moods. It was the most concentrated introduction of a new star imaginable. Once it was over, Leslie was a solid hit.
Gene: Donald Knox. The Magic Factory 1973
"Leslie was seventeen, but I knew she wouldn’t look that young. So I asked Freed to get permission to go and make a test…I felt that we just couldn’t make the picture without a real French girl…"
Leslie Caron. The Making of An American In Paris DVD 2008
…he was very charming, very respectful…He called me Lester the Pester. He loved me a lot. Gene was my guide…Gene was like big brother.
Leslie arrived in L.A. in June 1950 with her mother, and: "The very next day Gene Kelly invited us for the afternoon on Sunday. We arrived at his house and everybody was terribly nice….Gene’s house was open and inviting and very hospitable….
"My first days were taken up with studying, and then rehearsing with Gene and his two assistants…Carol Haney…and Jeannie Coyne…Gene was very clever as a choreographer…he took advantage of my good points…he called me Lester de Pester.
"…We would be rehearsing all day, and I would say “Listen Gene, we’ve worked four hours. I’m very tired; don’t you think I could go home?” He would explain to me very cleverly, very diplomatically, that in the studio you have to look like you’re working a full day. He said; “We have to fool around for a good part of the day and stay around; otherwise they won’t be pleased.”
"I arrived late one day, and Gene was very stern with me. I said: “I’m sorry, I don’t have a watch or a clock.” And he gave me this very simple answer: “Buy one”. I was so amazed, it hadn’t occurred to me that one could afford to buy a clock….
"In order to keep slim I would just eat nothing. Consequently I was very weak and very much anaemic, but Gene was my defender, he’d say to me: “If you’re too ill just tell me and stand by me, and I’ll say you’re too ill, and we will collect insurance and go off one day, and you can lie in bed all day and rest up."
Leslie Caron. Biography of Gene Kelly, Biography Channel 1996.
It was very difficult but very exciting, and I can remember Gene forever yelling at me “Keep your feet straight, bend your knees”. He was very exacting but I have never known a ballet teacher or choreographer who wasn’t exacting. They have to be.
He was a sort of a father figure, a brother figure in my life.
Leslie: Source unknown
When I came to Hollywood I am more excited and more dumbell. But Gene understand. “Take eet easy baby,” he say. “This ees not matter of life and death. This ees dancing and dancing ees fun.” That make me feel bettair so I dance bettair too.
But sometimes Gene make me very mad to heem...When he make me dance one leetle step ovair and ovair and ovair...
I tell him I am so tired. He only laugh at me. So I sit on floor and stay sat. While I sit Gene dances the step without even one leetle mistake. Then I am more mad. I will show heem... When I do eet good Gene clap his hands and tell me how wonderful dancer I am. Then I forget my mad and we are friends again.
Leslie Caron. Taken from Foreword to: Sheridan Morley & Ruth Leon. Gene Kelly, A Celebration. 1996
There was hardly time before or during a film to correct defects, so he would make the best of his partner’s qualities. He was a leader. Wherever he was, he automatically took command. He was fair and generous when mentioning, in measured tones, his approval. His disapproval was just as straightforward…. He felt responsible for me – my success or failure in the film. He guided me in front of the camera with a good deal of humour…He looked after my health, and when I came down with mononucleosis he defended me against the studio powers …He arranged it so that I should stay in bed one day and work the next…
…We went downtown to see the sneak preview. After the viewing Gene came to me and asked:”Well, kiddo, how did you like it?”. I answered: “Gene, I think I have the flu.” He said: “You haven’t got the flu, you’ve just seen yourself on the screen for the first time.”
We remained friends ever since. My bond of friendship tightened with the years. Very few girls had the luck to meet their Gene Kelly.
About a year ago..  Gene was invited to present me with an honor, during a charity gala. Already very ill, he came nevertheless – to whisper a few words in a voice that had lost all its strength. I followed him backstage, where he said : “Only for you Lester.” …I was never to see him again.
Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen convinced the executives that the pert young starlet could hold her ground
Donald O'Connor 2002:
"Debbie was scared because she had never worked with two guys like Kelly and myself," O’Connor said in a recent interview. "There was a lot of fear there. But Gene was just marvelous to her."
Gene Kelly was a great dancer and a cinematic genius. He made me a star in Singin’ In The Rain. He taught me how to dance and how to work hard, to be dedicated and to be loving – as he was to his family and friends.
TV Radio Mirror. 1962
Debbie Reynolds. "I couldn’t dance around my own big toe – and only two months to learn. He had me on sound stages day after day, studying modern dancing with Carol Haney and tap and ballet with Ernie Platt…but when Gene would come…to see what progress I was making, I was scared to death of him! I couldn’t dance a step, and he’d just smile and say ‘I guess we’ll have to work a little harder’…I owe more to him than I can ever repay. He literally willed me to dance."
"The wonderful thing about Gene Kelly was that he made you feel you were capable of more than you had ever done."
Debbie Reynolds was perfect as Kelly’s love interest. No matter that she could hardly dance, Gene would teach her.
Neal Gabler: "I know that she said that this is something which held her in good stead the rest of her career. If you could make it with Gene Kelly you could make it with anyone."
Los Angeles Times. October 21st 1975
Debbie Reynolds was honored as Ms. Wonderful. Presented by Gene Kelly.
To hear Michael's own words describing his first meeting with Gene, listen to the background track on the 'It'll be work...' page.
Michael Crawford. Autobiography.
Gene believed in a lot of rehearsal, more than I’d ever experienced before, but I knew right away that I loved it, and it’s the way I’ve worked ever since.
Roger Edens arranged for me to audition with Dolly director Gene Kelly, which completely changed my life….the words look so matter of fact…Gene Kelly. But let me tell you, just the anticipation of meeting that great American dancer was enough to tie me in knots.
The romantic ‘It only takes a moment’, was my big song in Dolly…. I looked up at Gene when I finished and saw he was in tears. He came over and put his arm around me. “That’s my boy”, he said.
While we were filming in New York, Robert Kennedy was assassinated in LA….Gene was crushed; he had been a friend of the Kennedy family. …The set was closed down the day after the tragedy….When production started up again…the mood was bleak for cast and crew. Yet Gene Kelly was able to handle it all with great equanimity. He was enormously understanding and empathetic to his artists.
Los Angeles Times. June 9th 1989
Hello Dolly in 1969 was his first singing and dancing role. He had to play an American, which he wasn’t. But legendary dancer Gene Kelly worked with the young actor and got him into shape for the role. Which is why, for his LA debut, Crawford made a special point of inviting Gene Kelly as his special guest. “I wouldn’t be doing what I am today, or have done since, without his help,” Crawford notes. “because I was very introverted in a way, and he gave me the belief in myself that I needed to become a performer.”
Los Angeles Times. April 11th 1990
Michael Crawford says he owes his success to Gene Kelly who once scolded him on set for not being expressive enough. He also says Kelly taught him to be brave.
Kelly came to the opening night of the L.A. run of Phantom.
Frank: He taught me everything I know. I couldn’t walk, no less dance. He is one of the reasons I became a star.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. January 7th 1976
“One of the reasons I became a star is because of Gene Kelly,” Frank Sinatra remarked in tribute to his costar in MGM musicals of the 1940s.
Frank: Not even a major sociological earthquake could dislodge me from my position as Gene Kelly's number one fan.
Foreward to Hirschorn 1974.
...when Gene volunteered to be my dance instructor, I accepted - with humble gratitude yet! Cut to eight weeks later, I've got seven hundred torn ligaments, compound fractures in every bone in my body,,,I'm down to 116.5 ounces. But my wild Irish slavedriver paid me the ultimate compliment.
'Francis', he said, 'you've worked your way up from lousy to adequate - I'm ready to dance on camera with you.'
Tom Santopietro. Sinatra In Hollywood. 2008
…Gene Kelly utilized dance exactly as Frank Sinatra used song; they were actors who dramatized and conveyed emotion through their respective art forms, constructing dances and songs as three-act plays wherein they set the scene, introduced the conflict, heightened emotion to a climax, and finally arrived at a resolution.
St. Petersburg Times. August 13th 1944
Frank Sinatra has just danced for the first time…and he was adjudged “very good,” by one of today’s dance masters, Gene Kelly. In as much as it was he who devised the dance routine and then coached Sinatra in the intricate steps, Kelly should know.
…It took a number of tries before the scene was completed to director George Sidney’s satisfaction. “You can’t expect otherwise. Frank has never danced like this before, and those aren’t easy steps he’s doing,” says Gene.
…Keeping up with Kelly in such a routine is tantamount to matching strides with War Admiral or Seabiscuit in their prime.
…When Sinatra is present, Kelly isn’t so free with his praise. The two stars…delight in ribbing each other. “Say, you ought to see this boy dance, he’s really, well, he’s…he’s fair!”
To which Sinatra cracks back, “Wait’ll you hear Gene sing. His voice is…well, it’ll get by I guess!”
Frank will tell you that ‘Teacher Kelly’ is plenty okay. “He has one of the greatest talents in the country. Nobody can match him. And he’s so patient.”
Pittsburgh Press. 6th August 1946
Guess who’s Gene’s pal? Frank Sinatra. What a slant he gave me on THAT young man! Told me what a perfectly swell guy he is, modest, serious, humble about learning from others; a good sport, too.
“I taught him the dance routines in Anchors Aweigh, and he taught me lots of things too; and we worked like a house afire all through that picture.”
…Frank was listening to a Beethoven symphony…He talked much about Gene – said he’s met many geniuses, he guessed: but he never so instantly recognised one as when he went into that picture with Gene.
Seventeen magazine. September 1946
"Most people under twenty are reasonable. That’s why Sinatra is so popular. He’s reasonable too and knows that the kids are. He’s doing a great job. Please believe me, Frankie’s great.”…
Experts say that although Kelly is already one of the biggest motion picture stars and that the Sinatra-Kelly teaming has immense possibilities rivalling the Hope-Crosby combine, the dancer is only beginning. Sinatra, by the way, wants very badly to make a picture with Gene for which the dancer not only does the choreography and performs, but also directs the whole show. A great believer in the Kelly brain, Frank agrees with the people who keep saying that Gene’s career may turn out to be one of the most fantastically successful in show business.
Evening Independent. May 23rd 1947
Two Hollywood fathers have arranged for their daughters’ professional training. Gene Kelly will teach Frank Sinatra’s Nancy to dance, and Frank will show Gene’s Kerry how to sing.
Gene: “I met Sinatra [when they made Anchors Aweigh together] who became one of my best friends. And if I thought I looked odd in a gob’s uniform, all I had to do was look at Sinatra, and I felt fine again. Just wait till Sinatra sees that in print…But seriously I think he’s a terrific character, especially with all that wonderful tolerance work he’s doing.”
Moviestars. February 1949
Gene on Frank:
I forget exactly how we first met. But you know how a fellow forgets singers – and fair ballplayers. At any rate, I remember distinctly the first time the studio teamed us up for a picture. It was Anchors Aweigh. I was running through a ballet tap for size and a man opened the door and this Sinatra guy came in. He stood in the entrance hardly casting a shadow. “Give that fellow something to eat,” I said. “He looks terrible.” A big husky guy who was holding on to Sinatra let him go for a minute and came over to me. He was, I think, very indignant. “I operate the Bel Air gymnasium,” he said. “I’ve been training Mister Sinatra for three months for this picture and I know he’s in great shape.”
“So there!” I said. “Time-step him over here and we’ll see if he can bend his knees.”
You know – he could. And did. And not bad. And by the time the picture was finished he was in better shape than I was. During the making of that first picture I got to know a lot of things about Frank Sinatra. Not the things you read in the newspapers about celebrities, but honest little things – like how he feels about underprivileged kids, and about the crew we worked with. I learned how he thinks about Sinatra. That he never forgot that he was from Jersey with something to sell – and how he never stopped being grateful to the people, you people, who bought it.
Kidding aside, Frank Sinatra is a great guy. When you work with another actor as closely as we’ve had to work in the movies we’ve made together, you either don’t speak to him except when paid for it – or you develop a respect and admiration that is solid and lasting. That’s the way it is with Frank and me – and I think it always will be…
He tells me that it’s easy working with me, and I can say the same where he is concerned…And he’s a good dancer too, and the hardest worker I’ve ever known…Frankie has kept his head as level as a table top. Nothing is more important to him than Nancy and the kids…
It’s rather strange that the picture Frank and I just wound up is a baseball picture., because there is one activity at which I can really top the boy. I happen to be quite a ballplayer, while Frank is, well, passable…
But baseball is beside the point…A man’s sense of values is developed by his associations, by his interests and by the thoughtful gifts of themselves that other people give to him, and I’ve gotten a lot from Frank Sinatra. He’s a good guy.
Moviestars. February 1949
Frank on Gene:
I guess it was about eight years ago that I first met Gene. I was singing the songs of the time and hoping someday to have somebody listen to them. Gene was beating hardwood floors all over Manhattan with those talented peds, and hoping someday
somebody would take a good look. I’d like to tell you that we became great buddies…But it wasn’t quite that way. Maybe it was because we were both so busy reaching for the next rung on the ladder, but we met, had a chat, and he went off to dance for an agent and I went off to sing for a band leader…
I don’t care who the performer is, or how many times he’s done it, the first day he starts a new show and meets the people he’s going to work with, he’s got to have a flock of sparrows where his stomach is supposed to be. I’m no different. But from the first moment I walked on a sound stage with Gene Kelly and we took off our coats and started to work, I’ve felt at home. And I know he has too.
I like to think that this shows up in our work. At least a lot of people have said it does. It’s a comradeship that’s as rare in show business as it is in your line of work... And from this comradeship has come a friendship that I value very much – one that I hope will last as long as both of us are around.
I won’t say that Gene is paternal, but to a single-o kid like me he’s a big brother. Singing is my business, but his is acting, dancing, modelling moods and practicing the subtle arts of mimicry that make artists out of performers – and if I’m any good at it when I work with Kelly, he’s got a piece of me.
There have been times when I’ve wanted to blow. When it has seemed that one more take and they’d have to shoot me on the ceiling. All it took to bring me down was a nudge in the ribs and a smile from Gene. An Irish grin that would say, “Simmer down, son – we’re working, you and I. We’ve got a show to do.” I’d come down and the rest of the day would be golden time…
I’ve had days when I thought I was doing all right…Then I’d work eight hours with Kelly. The guy is a perfectionist. He wants the number right, or the scene as good as it can be. Pretty soon I’d find myself sweating on a dramatic theme. I’d know there was
something more than just saying words for a salary to this business of acting, and this guy Kelly would have me snowed into doing a scene that sparkled instead of just getting across.
Whatever I know of dancing…I owe to Gene Kelly…When I first started working with Gene, he used to come in in the morning and say, “I thought of a honey last night,” and run through something with his feet that Houdini couldn’t do with his fingers. “Get Astaire,” I’d say. “Me and two gazelles couldn’t do that!” He’d clap me on my brawny back and say, “Watch it again.” And so help me, a couple of days later I’d show it to my wife – solo.
When we’d rehearse routines that would tax the wind of a kangaroo with a Melbourne stockbroker after him in a jeep and a carbine on his shoulder, and I’d be sucking air like I wanted it all, Kelly would stop, complain that he was out of breath, and lie down until I revived – and pretend that it was all his own fault that we were slowed down…
How about Kelly the man? He’s a card. He’s more fun to play with than a circus clown. He’s got a sense of humor that tops them all…In the picture we just finished, Take Me Out To The Ball Game, I was never sure whether I was working for a horsey ball club or MGM..
Naturally I’m a much better baseball player than Gene…You can bet we’ll make another picture together though. It’s an experience we both look forward to with pleasant anticipation…
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. May 13th 1950
On the set of It’s Only Money, Frank Sinatra received the following postcard from his friend Gene Kelly in Paris: “Dear Frank. Love this place. They think Sinatra is some kind of American food.”
Eugene Register-Guard. April 25th 1954
I hope to do a musical with Gene Kelly, I’d love to work with that man again; he’s such a great talent.
Toledo Blade. February 11th 1966
He believes he might prefer directing to acting…bringing out talent in somebody is most satisfying. “Did any actor ever acknowledge or appreciate what you did for them?” I asked.
“Yes! Frank Sinatra. Many times he has introduced me and said, ‘This is the guy who taught me to get my hands off the mike and to move.’”
From a wire sent to Gene for his opening night in Las Vegas. 24th February 1970. (Original in the Gotlieb Archives, Boston.)
Dear Shanty. If you'd rather work with pretty girls instead of me, you go ahead. You will be great. Love and kisses. Francis
Dear Francis. Your opening night wire meant a million bucks to me – I love you. Shanty.
Dallas Times Herald. June 1980
Speaking of On The Town: It also changed the way people looked at one of his co-stars, Frank Sinatra…
“Frank worked very hard on his dancing," said Gene. "He had had two bad pictures at RKO before he came over to work with us. We worked very hard. I guess he has the best sense of rhythm of anyone in the world. He’s a fighter…We built numbers around him. It worked out very well."
Daily News. December 10th 1995
Gene: "I always ribbed Frank about his strange effect on the female sex. Then one night my infant daughter started to bawl blue murder. As a last resort Frank took her in his arms and started to sing to her. At the end of a chorus and a half, she was blissfully asleep. I never kidded him again!”
Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post November 2008.
On Sinatra in Hollywood.
He made 10 movies between 1935 and 1945, but did not distinguish himself until the release that same year of Anchors Aweigh, a good-natured wartime diversion in which he had the good fortune to be paired with Gene Kelly, who taught him a great deal about movie acting generally and dancing specifically. Interestingly, Sinatra is nowhere to be found in the movie's most famous and durable scene, a four-minute sequence in which Kelly dances with the cartoon mouse, Jerry; the scene was re-introduced to moviegoers 30 years later in That’s Entertainment! And proved to have lost none of its luster.
Sinatra made two other notable musicals, Take Me Out To The Ball Game, and On The Town, both of which were released in 1949 and in both of which Kelly also appeared. Then Sinatra went into what appeared to be terminal decline…
Vincente Minnelli, I Remember It Well 1974
Minnelli describes how he took Liza to a party at Lee Gershwin’s house. She sang at the piano with Roger Edens.
Gene: “Until that time I thought Liza was a sweet, gawky kid with big eyes just like her father’s. But she had something”.
This was when Gene had the idea to use Liza in his Pontiac TV Special. (Featured on another part of the site.)
Minnelli: “I accompanied Liza to the rehearsal hall. Saul Chaplin was at the piano. Gene blocked out the steps for Liza then sat on the piano bench with Saul as she went through her paces. She picked up the steps immediately. Saul yelled with delight, falling off the piano bench and pounding the floor."
Gene: “We were in front of a big audience and I was very scared for Liza. I kept thinking she was going to blow it. I was so concerned that, in fact, I almost blew it. But Liza was cool and calm as if this was her 54th show. I don’t know where it came from. It had only been a couple of years since she’s come and played in our back yard. I’d come out and do a couple of steps with her, but I didn’t see that she had any greater flair for it than most kids did."
Time Magazine February 1972
Gene: Every once in a while you see flashes of Judy that you can’t escape. But she had more of Judy earlier in her career. Now she’s more her own person….I don’t think it harmed her having two talented parents, but I don’t think you can say it gave her her talent.
Liza: What really interested me was watching people dance. I used to go over to rehearsal hall B or C and watch Cyd Charisse, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, and I’d learn all their numbers. Then I’d go home and practice for hours in front of the mirror.
On a previous Halloween I’d had a witch costume designed for Liza…This was during her serious period, when she wouldn’t be laughed at. I took her round the neighbourhood. “Will I scare the people?” she asked. “You’ll frighten them to death,” I assured her.. She’d ring the door of house after house, as I stood on the sidewalk. Whoever answered the door would look at this tiny little girl and had to laugh. Liza was getting more and more upset…Finally we stopped at Gene Kelly’s. His was an award-winning performance. “A witch! A terrible witch! Save me!” Liza walked home with her pointed witch’s chin held high.
On Liza winning an Oscar for her performance in Cabaret.
One of the earliest calls was among the most heartwarming. It was Gene Kelly, who’d been a part of Liza’s life for such a long time. He was recovering from a cataract operation…but his cheery voice gave no indication he’s been under the weather. “Wonderful! Judy would have been thrilled!” he said. “But you’re wasting all this on me, Gene,” I laughed. “Liza won’t be here until late this afternoon.” Sure enough, his was one of the many phone calls…
Liza, speaking of her childhood: "I went to the studios every day, and I loved to dance, so I used to hang out in the dance rehearsal halls. By doing that I learned everybody's number. Gene Kelly, he knew that I loved dance so much. Sometimes during the breaks he's say 'C'm 'ere, I'll teach you a step', and he would teach me something."
Movie Show. October 1947
My Pal Gene, by Van Johnson
It was about eight years ago. I was sitting in the lobby of the Hotel Woodward in New York…I was between shows, nearly broke and thinking life was not exactly a bowl of strawberries with cream on top, when in breezed Gene Kelly.
He lived at the Woodward too. We had one of those lobby “Hello, what goes?” friendships, nothing more. He came over, we talked a little shop, then he surprisingly asked, “How would you like to take a trip to Mexico with me in my flivver? Not long. I have to be back in a few weeks to start rehearsing for Pal Joey.”
I was as flattered by the invitation as if I’d been asked to give a command performance. Our acquaintanceship was so slight. Furthermore, Gene was a star. I was still a chorus boy. I had seen him starred in One For The Money and Time Of Your Life and thought then, as I do now, that he was one of the greatest entertainers of our times…But I declined with some lame excuse. The truth was I couldn’t afford it, which I didn’t admit.
That was my introduction to the Gene Kelly who is always holding out a hand of friendship to some little guy. I’ve never known exactly what prompted his impulsive invitation, but since then I’ve seen him do many other similar things…
I got a job in the chorus of Pal Joey. Later, thanks to Gene, in that same production I had a break that led to Hollywood…
Despite our hotel lobby acquaintance, I purposely stayed away from Gene at rehearsals, not wanting to seem presumptuous. I needn’t have worried; he’s one of the most democratic and generous men I know.
It was Gene who suggested me for a short song and dance number that took me out of the chorus for a few minutes – my first real break. He had two numbers so close together that there was an almost impossibly fast costume change. He could have done it, but suggested to the producer that maybe I could do the second one. So I had that specialty with June Havoc. That number led to a movie offer.
Gene still had me a little awed when we opened in Philadelphia…I went to Gene’s dressing room; he was putting on make-up, outwardly calm however he might have felt. All I could think of to say was, “You know what I’m wishing for you.” He grinned that wonderful Irish grin of his, wished me the same and I thought a rainbow had landed on my shoulders.
Producer George Abbott, meantime, had offered to let me understudy Gene, probably at the latter’s suggestion, but that I turned down. As compared with dancer Kelly, I can’t even raise a foot….
Gene continued to put out the helping hand. After we opened at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre in New York, he introduced me to many of the celebrities who came backstage to visit him. One time I asked why he bothered. “Oh, they ask me who that big redhead is in the chorus who smiles so much,” he assured me noncommittally.
It was during the run of Pal Joey that we became real friends…We began having double dates, Gene with Betsy Blair…I with June Havoc. After the show, the four of us would take in midnight movies, eat chilli, sometimes in good weather take a ride in Gene’s flivver with the top down, when he’s always wear a sailor hat jammed down on his head…
Gene was only four years older than I, but when he gave advice to one V. Johnson, I listened. Not only had he achieved stardom, but he was an inspiration in his honesty; it’s easier to take advice from someone who practices what he preaches. Gene used to tell me, “Study. Practice. Rehearse. Use your days to advantage and don’t waste time.” I began taking all kinds of lessons, as he suggested…
There are other memories, as sharp as a new razor blade. Gene’s magnificent tango in the show, for example. He doesn’t know it, but I never missed one performance of watching that dance from the wings. There was the night we did a British War Benefit at La Guardia Field. Gertrude Lawrence ran it and Gene was one of the stars. He took June Havoc and me along to do our turn. It was the first time I’d been invited to do a benefit…
When I was signed at MGM, Gene was making For Me And My Gal. I heard one day that he was doing a song-and-dance scene on the big theatre set and went in to watch, still keeping a distance, for here again, Gene was the star, I just another new contract player. But Gene saw me, came over with the Big Hello, introduced me to Judy Garland and insisted we all have lunch together.
Through another long wait, during which my only role was in a crime short with me disguised in black hair and mustache, Gene kept boosting my morale. “Study,” he’d tell me. “watch other actors work. Use your days to advantage because your chance will come. Be ready for it.”…
I was assigned to Pilot #5. That was the only picture I’ve made with Gene. As always, he was helpful; he’s go over lines with me for our scenes together, making suggestions. I remember one of the first days of shooting I got giggly. It was sheer nervousness, but no one else could guess that.. Gene called me to one side and gave me a verbal kick in the pants.
“This is your living. Don’t kid around at it,” he told me sternly. It was just what I needed; I’ve tried to remember.
Gene learned I had done a bit – a very small bit – with Lucille Ball in “Too many Girls.” He had missed the picture, tracked it down in a fourth-run neighbourhood house in Glendale and insisted that he, Betsy and I drive over there to see it. We paid twenty cents each to get in and satin the fourth row!
For my birthday during that year, he gave me a wristwatch. I’ve had others since, but I always wear it for the first days’ shooting on a picture or a benefit. I really believe it brings me luck. Gene came to my rescue in Washingtom when I was one of the group that went back for a Birthday Ball show. I assumed, of course, that the studio had an act written for me to work in; on the train I learned they hadn’t, it being taken for granted I could ad-lib something, maybe tell a few stories. That I cannot do. I was in a lather at rehearsal when in walked Kelly; he was in the Navy, atationed in Washington, and had been recruited for the show, too. He asked what I was going to do. I admitted I didn’t know.
“Come on back to your hotel and we’ll workout an act,” he offered.
He had me start to sing Night And Day while he heckled on another microphone. Then we went into a dance routine, he taking it straight, I trying to follow, with more heckling from him. In telling it may not seem funny, but the audience didn’t think it was too corny, and my face was saved, thanks to Kelly.
Movie Fan. July 1954
I Knew Him When. By Van Johnson
Gene said to me quite seriously one day, “Van, you should read more.” That’s when I joined the Book of the Month Club…I didn’t shoot to stardom as Gene did. I was signed for some shorts, for bits and parts here and there. Gene would take us ‘lessers’ to lunch and encourage us. “Don’t be discouraged. You’re with the biggest and best studio in Hollywood,” he’d say. “You’ll get going great. It’s a natch. You can’t miss.” I wasn’t so sure.
Motion Picture 1954
Previn is the brilliant young pianist whom MGM, at Gene Kelly’s insistence, has just assigned to compose the musical score for It’s Always Fair Weather. Gene says, “…Our young genius. Young talent is always the best isn’t it? Fresher. They come in bursting with ideas. Keep you on your toes.”
These are some of the many who cite Gene as a positive influence in their life or work.
February 17th 1976
Note from Joe Pasternak to Gene: (Original in the Gotlieb Archives, Boston.)
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the nice things you said about me on the Mike Douglas show. You're the only one amongst the many who remembers yesterday, not only today. Your kindness toward me is appreciated very much. As a full hearted Jew, my best to a full hearted Irishman. You're tops with me, then and now.
JANET LEIGH: On making the radio series ‘Cresta Blanca’s Hollywood Players’. "I was insecure, sweated through every performance, but of all the cast Gene Kelly was always the one to try and help me."
Janet Leigh. There Really Was A Hollywood. 1984
[In It’s A Big Country] I was Gene Kelly’s leading lady. Ironic that I was working with Gene Kelly in a straight role; if only it could have been in the musical. Can’t have everything. It was an honor just to be with him. Good man! He applied the same dedication, the same perfection, to scenes as to dance. (One time at a dinner, I actually danced with him and was so flustered I tripped over my own feet.)
Los Angeles Times. October 8th 1978
Gene Kelly would send dancers to me to learn certain dance movements that only a few black dancers know how to teach. These lessons kept me going many times…
Thanks to Debra from the GK forum for the following: “Marie Bryant was . . . a popular Black exotic dancer of the late 1930s and early 1940s.” And in: Notable Black American Women: Book II by Jessie Carney Smith, I found, “Bryant became the first black to crack the technical side of Hollywood when she began another aspect of her career as a movie dance director . . . It all began when movie star Gene Kelly asked her to come to Metro . . .. According to Ebony in April 1950, Kelly called Bryant ‘one of the finest dancers I‘ve ever seen in my life.’”
I've tried to develop a career for myself as an actor. Gene Kelly told me a long time ago that it was important to build up a credible reputation as an actor for the time when your dance career is over.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. August 17th 1996
I loved Gene Kelly. He was a perfectionist, and I appreciated that part of him.
Chicago Tribune. January 4th 1970
While in New York he went to see his old friend Ann Miller perform as Mame because “She’s bigger than I am. If I didn’t go, she’d hit me. But I feel very old and broken down watching her.”
DONALD O'CONNOR. From TCM
The Make ‘em Laugh sequence was created because Gene Kelly felt that Donald O’Connor needed a solo number. “Every time I got a new idea or remembered something that had worked well in the past, Gene wrote it down, and bit by bit the entire thing was created."
Burt Prelutsky The Secret Of Their Success 2008
Interviewer: I was always very impressed that you allowed Donald O’Connor to do the show-stopping Make ‘Em Laugh dance…You were the star and choreographer! It showed a great deal of character and confidence in a business not widely known for either commodity.
Gene: …I had always felt badly for Donald…nobody before ever seemed to know how to show him off properly. He has always been generous to me, saying that I was the first person who ever told him how to use his arms while dancing…
Rudy Behlmer. Behind The Scenes. 1982
Donald O’Connor: Gene is such an observant guy, while we were working together…I think he tried to incorporate a lot of my personality, outside of his own, into those numbers…he geared it toward that.
Rudy Behlmer. Behind The Scenes. 1982
This was a big number for Donald O’Connor certainly. Because even thought he’d been around for years he’d never had this kind of vehicle, and suddenly he’s in demand for big pictures…now he could strut his stuff.
Los Angeles Times. July 25th 1954. Hedda Hopper.
No-one else in the business could have taken the beating I gave Donald O’Connor in Singin’ In The Rain. Only a crazy dancer would do the things he did. Donald comes from vaudeville – he’s disciplined. When I’d ask if he could do something – anything from dancing on his head to climbing walls – he’s say, “Sure.”. I’ve seen him rehearse a step a thousand times.
Concerning a Singin' In The Rain review by Dick Williams. Letter to Gene. Original in Gotlieb Archives, Boston University
Donald O'Connor was terribly upset due to Dick Williams' interference. He never said anything like that and called Williams to say so.
[Williams said that Gene] “Cut out a couple of choice O'Connor specialities, but there was still enough of him left to steal the show from its nominal star.”
O'Connor was so upset I promised to let you know immediately – he has only the highest regard and appreciation for you.
From Arthur P Jacobs
CYD CHARISSE: Singin’ In The Rain was the justification of my career as a dancer.
Silver Screen June 1954
Cyd…was always thought of as a sedate, dignified, lovely person without too much personality until Gene saw her as a sultry, tempestuous siren type and worked with her in “Singin’ In The Rain.” Few can ever forget that torchy, sexy dance she did with Gene in that picture. The dance quickly catapulted her into the front ranks. People began wondering where she’d been all their lives. And now she is co-starring with Gene in “Brigadoon.”
Cyd naturally is eternally grateful to him for giving her the chance he did. Without it she might now be an actress with a career that wasn’t going much of anywhere…
The dances Gene and Cyd do in “Brigadoon” will further establish her as a top-flight star. They are romantic numbers and somewhat sexy but not as suggestive in type as was the dance in “Singin’ In The Rain.”
Los Angeles Times. October 7th 1951
In Singin’ In The Rain he is for the first time dancing with Cyd Charisse in a big culminating number. That almost amounts to the rediscovery of Miss Charisse as a dancing star, because she has lately played a succession of straight roles.
Michael A. Lipton. Entertaining Rita. People Magazine. 21st September 1998
“Only two things ever made me wet my knickers – Working with Gene Kelly and meeting Clark Gable.”
Kelly took her under his wing on the set of Singin’ In The Rain where she tangoed in a bit part.
CLAIRE SOMBERT AND CLAUDE BESSY
Los Angeles Times. September 28th 1952
Gene Kelly has discovered two new dancers in Paris. Their names are Claire Sombert and Claude Bessy. They will appear with him in Invitation to the Dance.
I found working with Gene Kelly tremendously inspiring because he is an expert in his field. He has given me a new knowledge of motion pictures... To him...I owe a great debt.
PHIL SILVERS. The Laugh Is On Me. 1973.
Gene choreographed that buoyant Make Way For Tomorrow sequence…the number…called for an expert dancer. Gene, who helped many people with his enthusiasm, felt it would strengthen the story if I, the comic, danced it….I worked on the edge of embarrassment and anger…Gene forced me to keep up with him and Rita…In the end I had a great feeling of accomplishment: I felt I could do anything.
Modern Screen. August 1944
He has the patience and know-how of a born teacher…Phil Silvers, the funny man, who had never ripped off a step in his life, found Gene talking him into something.
He kept shouting “No!” when Gene suggested that he do a dance.
“Make a sap out of myself stacked against you and Hayworth – are you crazy?” protested Phil. But Gene had a reason – Phil was in a gay street scene where the rest of them danced merrily and darned if he was going to let Phil spoil it. Phil danced, even though Gene worked his legs off and almost sweated him into a collapse.
When the picture came out all Silvers’ Hollywood chums expressed their amazement. “Didn’t know you were a dancer, Phil,” they said.
“I’m not. Kelly hypnotized me.”
Hartford Courant. August 21st 1953
Gene Kelly is responsible for newcomer Tommy Rall being here. Gene saw him dancing on Broadway and took him to England for Invitation To The Dance. Metro has signed him…
Los Angeles Times. July 25th 1954. Hedda Hopper.
I’m always looking for male dancers. James Thompson, my assistant on a couple of pictures, has a good part in Brigadoon. Now he must be accepted as an actor.
HEATH LEDGER: Vanity Fair. August 2000. You might think that Ledger's cinematic hero would be Steve McQueen or Paul Newman or Marlon Brando or James Dean. "No it all comes from my love of Kelly. I think he's just awesome. It was more or less the partnership between him and Judy Garland that I liked. He nurtured her and had her under his arm," he says, miming having a phantom Garland in a gentle headlock. He pats her invisible head. "I really loved that. There was something so magical about Gene Kelly's films. It was moviemaking! They built those amazing sets! They danced and sang!" He pauses, trying to decide whether he should admit something or not. "Actually, I have a pair of tap-dancing shoes," he says. .. Like everything else, I'm self-taught. I do it by myself in my apartment." Lighting his last cigarette, he has to laugh at the image of himself privately step-ball-changing in front of his mirror. "God! Doesn't that sound lonely?" A rock'n' roll Gene Kelly, he's found the grace he misplaced this morning and, grinning from ear to ear, stomps about in one puddle after another.
People magazine June 1992
“He inspired me,” says Paula Abdul, who based her dance with an animated cat in the video Opposites Attract, on his pas de deux with Jerry the Mouse in Anchors Aweigh…[Gene] once flirted with the idea of producing a musical with Abdul as star…
Orange Coast Magazine. February 1990.
…Abdul says working with Kelly would be a dream come true. “I love the man. I’ve seen every film he’s done. I’ve modelled a lot of myself after him.”
However, nothing could prepare Abdul for her initial meeting with the entertainment legend. “My hands were sweating; I was a nervous wreck,” she recalls. Although Kelly warmly greeted his protégé and complimented her on her style of dance, Abdul was at a loss for words. “I had never been star-struck to the point where I couldn’t talk, but he was talking to me and I felt nothing would come out.
“I felt awkward because I wanted to say so many things and couldn’t. I wanted to tell him; ‘I’ve lived, breathed and slept your musicals,’ but I couldn’t say anything.”
When it was time to leave, Abdul recalls, “I just became so silly, and I said, ‘I just want you to know that I love you, and can I give you a hug?’ I felt so stupid after I said that.”
JOHN TRAVOLTA: He was taught to dance at the Kelly School of Dance. though not of course by Gene. "It was Fred Astaire with Gene Kelly -- those two said, 'Oh, my God, finally someone has carried the torch [of the musicals].' And 'Grease' hadn't even come out yet. There was a group who took very good care of me -- Cagney; Fred Astaire, who was the most vocal; Gene Kelly; Barbara Stanwyck; Gregory Peck; Kirk Douglas. And then from the other generation there was Shirley MacLaine and Jane Fonda. Those two generations really supported my debut, if you will, and really wanted me to succeed. I could feel it from them. It was a great moment in my history, as well as for others."
Magazine article. 1952 Munich
Wherever he went, eager crowds followed...asked his advice, confided their troubles and ambitions. And always the smiling devil-may-care world-beater Kelly had time for everyone.
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.
Betsy Blair. The Memory Of All That. 2002. On JULES DASSIN, blacklisted film director, Cannes Film Festival. 1950s
All the Hollywood people shunned him..but Gene came after him, greeted him warmly, took his arm, and walked with him up the staircase of the Palais du Festival among all the journalists…the only one who had the guts.
Criterion Collection Blog. Obituary for Dassin, April 2008
For one thing, as much as we tried to get him to talk about the blacklist, he was extremely reticent to do so. He refused to “name names,” which I suppose would have been out of character. He would only specifically mention people who had gone out of their way to combat the hysteria—especially pointing out Gene Kelly.
CHRISTOPHER WALKEN: TCM tribute
One of my best memories is the time I met Gene Kelly. I had made a film called Pennies From Heaven and had performed a big dance number… He had seen the film and was wonderfully generous in his comments to me. His words gave me a terrific boost. That was Gene Kelly, charming, gracious, off screen and on.
KENNY ORTEGA: on the making of 'High School Musical 2', 2007
"Gene Kelly was my mentor", he said. "There wasn't a day that I didn't think about how he would have done it".
The Prescott Courier. December 19th 1979
“He is still a genius – I learned more from him than I taught."
On 'Xanadu'.Dance Mag. August 1980.
Working with Gene is the most ultimate experience I’ve ever had in my career. Of course he has his own ideas for what he does in Xanadu, but he is always attentive to my ideas too. He’s made me feel respected.
…an afternoon spent on a baseball diamond at a public park near the resort. Mr Ortega had assembled much of the cast to rehearse a number called I Don’t Dance., which sets a baseball game to a musical score that fuses elements of hip-hop and swing. Mr Ortega said he created the choreography as a tribute to his mentor, Gene Kelly. The two met in 1980 on the production of the movie Xanadu, in which the aging Mr Kelly starred and the young Mr Ortega served as a rookie choreographer. Mr Ortega recalled Mr Kelly telling him how he had used moves from baseball – to teach Frank Sinatra, with whom he made Take Me Out To The Ball Game among other films, how to dance.
“This is for my father and for Gene,” he said. “I hope they’re smiling down on me, enjoying the game in the sunshine in the emountains.”
www.buddytv.com May 2008, on the making of High School Musical 3.
In addition, director Kenny Ortega says that he is truly inspired by his mentor, Gene Kelly, who appeared most notably in the film Singin' in the Rain.
“One great thing I learned from Gene Kelly was how to design choreography for the camera versus designing choreography for the stage,” Ortega said in the HSM3 press conference. “Gene used to say there should be a raison d'etre—a reason for being. What's at the center of everything?”
Kenny Ortega. Canwest news Service 2008
“Gene Kelly was my mentor and my teacher,” The 58-year-old filmmaker had loved old movie musicals from childhood, but it was Kelly – with whom he worked in the 1980 Xanadu – who had the biggest impact on him.
“It was meeting Gene and having Gene take time out of his life for me that sort of really helped me come to understand the importance that the director and choreographer had,” says Ortega…It was Kelly who taught Ortega the art of designing choreography for the camera – lessons which continued to benefit Ortega whan he took on the High School Musical franchise for Disney. What he learned from Kelly – the star and driving force behind Singin’ In The Rain, An American In Paris and other classical musicals – was vital to his career.
“If you didn’t understand how to design your choreography for the camera, then you were shortchanging yourself and would never come to fully realise your worth. It would have meant very little if I hadn’t come to understand technically how to put the work up.”
Gene Kelly was my mentor," Ortega explains, when he finally bounds into the room. "He was a genius director and choreographer. He was a man of books and art and the ballet and great wine.”
Ortega, 58, grew up watching old movie musicals such as West Side Story, Chorus Line, Gypsy and Singin' in the Rain. But it was Kelly, with whom Ortega worked on Xanadu in 1980, who taught him how to shoot song and dance sequences.
"He taught me how to design choreography for the camera, to look for the centre of the work," Ortega says. "He took me back to his home in Beverly Hills and we looked at his old movies - On the Town, Singin' in the Rain, An American in Paris - and he showed me how he did it.”
That technical legacy is evident in High School Musical 3, particularly numbers such as I Want It All, which, Ortega says, borrows directly from old Fred Astaire movies.
Ortega tells me how glad he is that children around the world think musicals are cool again.
ActivePaper Archive. 1982
Director of the Joffrey Ballet Company, Robert Joffrey, said…that Kelly meant a lot to him.
“I know all his routines and they inspired me.”
My character says it’s cool to be a jock and a dancer. I’m a huge fan of Gene Kelly. I didn’t so much look to him for pointers, but I admire how commanding he was on the dance floor. Gene did tap-dancing in the most manly ways. Not everyone could make that look so cool.
Gene, BBC interview 1974
I have some friends who started the New Wave in France who said that On The Town inspired them to do a lot of the cutting they did. I hope that’s true and not just flattery.
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.
DICK YORK: From www.bewitched.net . York is still grateful to Kelly, whom he feels had great understanding about the pain which York had to endure because of his back problem.
“My back flared up about 25 shows into the Going My Way season” stated York. “Terrible spell, and all the shots and therapy didn’t work…Anyway, when I reported back to work…all the sets had ramps built on them, places for me to ease myself into position. Gene Kelly was not only the star of the series, he was also the producer. Never a word was spoken.”
RITA HAYWORTH: During the making of Cover Girl, Rita was going through a difficult divorce from her abusive husband. Gene, along with Phil Silvers, was very protective of her, and offered to physically intervene if she had problems. This is what Saul Chaplin has to say about the situation in his autobiography:
"As I entered the soundstage, I heard gales of laughter. It was coming from Gene, Phil and Rita…I later learned it was their usual behaviour…It was quite a different Rita from the one I had met several years earlier. She was relaxed, happy and enjoying what she was doing, despite the fact that her two co-stars never gave her a moment’s peace…they were constantly making what they called a “Rita sandwich”. She loved every second of it. Their joy is reflected in the film."
1995: My dream growing up was to be as athletic a dancer as Gene Kelly…
Free Lance Star. November 2nd 1985
Patrick Swayze and his wife Lisa wrote and performed in the dance theatre piece Without A Word,which had its premiere in Los Angeles shortly before he began North And South. The show was about the pain and struggle of being a ballet dancer…among those who sawit was Gene Kelly,whom Swayze later worked wioth on North And South.
“Gene Kelly, Lisa and I are now working together…It’s long been a dream of Gene’s to bring back the movie musical.”
SHERYL CROW: "I loved Gene Kelly so much when I was eight that I wrote him a letter because I really wanted to marry him and I thought, 'If you just wait' and he did write back, but," she laughs, "we never did get married."
KEN HARI www.hari.com
…in 1973 when Kelly was having his portrait made by the boy genius Perth Amboy celebrity painter Kenneth Hari, Kelly crinkled his eyes and smiled his great Gene Kelly smile and told Hari, “That was you I was playing in An American In Paris.”
“I didn’t know what he meant until years later,” Hari said… At the time he hadn’t seen the film so he didn’t know what Kelly was referring to….
The painting that Hari did of Kelly was among the artefacts destroyed in a fire in Kelly’s home…Other paintings lost in the fire included Picassos and a Mary Cassatt, an American impressionist…”He was devastated,” Hari said.
…He and Kelly stayed in touch, and Kelly became a sort of mentor…In 1976 Hari…was in Nashville where he had a commission to paint 17 Grand Ole Opry singers…He went out of his way to find and paint Deford Bailey…The problem is that Bailey was black and the Opry officials objected to his being given consideration….The Opry decided not to hang them…they are now in storage... The incident led to…appearances on TV…He was offered a shot as a replacement TV talk show host and he called Gene Kelly for advice.
Kelly advised against it, and Hari turned the offer down. “Do what you do well and are trained to do,” Kelly said.
Los Angeles Times. August 30th 1950
Johnny Kirby, a 26 year-old redhead discovered singing on a Pittsburgh radio station by Gene Kelly and Joe Pasternak, has been signed by Paula Stone.
[Another story says that Kirby gave a letter of introduction to Gene, who asked him to sing and dance, and liked what he saw. Gene then took him to meet Joe Pasternak.]
How Something Wicked Came (1996)
"If Gene Kelly hadn’t danced, Something Wicked This Way Comes might never have been written. In fact, it is an absolute certainty my carnival would not have come alive to travel and arrive at 3:00A.M., the soul’s midnight….Gene Kelly invited me and my wife, Maggie, to a private screening of his all-dance musical, Invitation To The Dance… Maggie and I attended the screening and walked home from MGM that night filled with admiration.
On the way I confessed I would almost tear off my right arm to work for Gene Kelly.
“Do it”, Maggie said. “Go through your files, look at all those stories you’ve put away, find something that might fit, do a screen treatment and send it to Gene.”…
One episode in Gene Kelly’s Invitation To The Dance had to do with a carnival/circus, with overtones of Laugh, Clown, Laugh, Lon Chaney’s tragic 1926 film….
In five weeks I wrote Dark Carnival, a seventy-page outlione/treatment, and gave it to Gene Kelly.
He called the next day with enthusiasm.
“Do I have your permission to take this to Paris and London and try to find funding for a possible film?”…He went and came back a month later, crestfallen.
“No takers, no money, I’m sorry”, he said.
…With the screen treatment dead, a novel came alive.
…The original screenplay and the published novel remain. Thank God for that. No, come to think of it, thank Gene Kelly for that.
PAUL COSENTINO, Australian Illusionist
...One of his other inspirations is a bit more unusual – Gene Kelly. Other performers may incorporate both illusion and traditional magic into their shows, but there are very few who also dance: Cos’s shows feature him leaping around the stage like Rudolf Nureyev. A self-taught dancer, he watched Kelly’s movies over and over in childhood and practiced the steps, gradually building up a repertoire of moves to put Michael Jackson to shame.
Dailygazette.com. (Schenectady, NY.) August 2008
Monica M Wemitt, Broadway and Radio City performer. (Has appeared onstage with Carol Channing and Liza Minnelli)
As a young child Monica fell pretty badly for two men, both dancers. Her love for them, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, hasn’t wavered since, and neither has her love for performing.
“…I fell in love with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly and ever since, dancing onstage was always my dream…I never met Fred Astaire, but I was once outside a theatre in New York and Gene Kelly came out the side door. I said; ‘Oh! My God!’ and he said ‘No, just Gene Kelly’. I loved him even more after that.”
ROBERT WAGNER. Pieces Of My Heart. A Life. 2008
[Wagner, speaking of the days following the tragic death of his wife Natalie Wood.]
Gene Kelly came round every day. Gene understood loss – his beloved wife, Jeanne Coyne, had died of cancer. He was a solid force, an unshakeable wall of support; he would hold me and say, “We’ll get through this.”
Tony Curtis; American Prince: A Memoir. 2008
I couldn’t believe that this brash kid from New York was getting to know people like Gene Kelly. I got close to Gene because he had seen some of my work and was impressed that I was such a good fencer. Gene, a major jewel in the MGM crown, starred in a string of Hollywood musicals…
Not only was Gene a great dancer, he was one of the most extraordinary athletes I’d ever seen. He could do anything a stuntman could do, which gave us something in common. He also showed himself to be a very generous man when he started inviting me to his house on weekends so he could teach me some of the secrets of performing stunts. I’ll always be grateful to him for that. Gene Kelly was one of the truly outstanding people in the movie profession. He could never have understood the great impact his kindness had on me. To be taught by Gene Kelly was to be taught by the best.
After watching Curtis sing and dance his way through So This is Paris in 1954, his friend Gene Kelly had advised the young actor to "keep fencing". ...!
MITCH HEWER (19 year-old star of UK dramas Skins and Britannia High.) Glasgow daily Record. October 2008
When I was a kid I wanted to be a footballer. But when I was about eleven a guy came into my primary school in Bristol to show the class tap dancing. And from then on, I wanted to dance.
It was around the same time I started to watch movies with Gene Kelly, and really all I wanted to do was to be a tap dancer, working these intricate beats on stage…
Gene Kelly was my inspiration from then on. There’ll never be a dancer like him again. I watched every single one of his films and he is incredible.
I love Singin’ In The Rain and American In Paris – there’s so many films.
Magazine item, 2008: After taking up tap dance at the age of 11, Mitch started to formulate his goals. He began competing in competitions in the south west from the age of around 14 onwards, and he says that was when his future started to became clear.
He said: “I knew that was what I wanted to do, and then Gene Kelly became my idol and I loved everything about him, every film he was in.
“I just wanted to be a younger Gene Kelly.”
ROBIN COUSINS. Olympic Gold medal winning skater. On being asked: "What is your favourite film - and why?"
I am a huge Gene Kelly fan so any of his movies work for me. His work in An American In Paris is hard to beat, though. Every time he starts to dance it looks like he is being spontaneous and while you know it is rehearsed to within an inch of its life you know it only looked like that once. He is an influence on my skating and that's how I tried to be when I performed.
Orlando Sentinel. September 1st 1995
Robin Cousins: When I was growing up, my hero was Gene Kelly. I always wanted to do a musical comedy.
Jonathan Van Dyke, actor in musicals, aged 36
It was Gene Kelly for me, from the get-go. I was watching this movie on an oldie channel, and as soon as I saw him, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. He was very inspiring to me, and a stand-up kind of guy.
Chicago Tribune. October 24th 1978
What Gene Kelly did for the dance, I’d like to do for magic.
Chicago Tribune. December 8th 1974
David Copperfield…He emerged from all those hours of practice with Gene Kelly as his idol and…”I just know that I want to feel that tingle that Gene Kelly must have felt…
Deseret News. June 11th 1995
I consider Fred Astaire, along with Gene Kelly, the greatest magicians of all time. What they did with their art is more magical than any other magician
Chicago Tribune. March 28th 1978.
Eddie Mekka, song and dance man.
My hero is Gene Kelly. I’d love to do his life story in film.
Patrick A. Terrail. A Taste of Hollywood. The Story of Ma Maison. 2009
Gene Kelly Saves The Day
…I had a vision, and I needed to convince a few people to trust me…Pierre Groleau and I decided to invite potential investors to a dinner party in my home…Pierre casually made an introduction. “Patrick,” he said, “this is Gene Kelly and Skye Aubrey.”…
“Are you the Gene Kelly?” I asked.
“Yes, I’m Gene Kelly,” he answered. He hesitated then spoke again, “Well, which Gene Kelly do you think I am?”
“Are you the Gene Kelly from An American In Paris?”
“That’s me,” he answered…
I was thrilled…
Gene Kelly was extremely supportive of our project. Along with his check came his approval and blessing. “I’m not really one to invest in these types of things,” he confessed to me, “but I spent many good times at your father’s Hotel Bellman in Paris. And I think this is a good idea.” I couldn’t have asked for a better blessing from Gene Kelly or from any of the investors. They gave life to a dream…
Gene pictured leaving Ma Maison
Manila Standard. February 4th 1996
Pop superstar Michael Jackson, who modelled many of Kelly’s steps from the 40s and 50s into his own unique style of dancing, said, “Gene Kelly was a superb dancer, singer, choreographer, actor, director and gentleman. He is and will always remain an inspiration.”
Los Angeles Times. February 28th 1996
I learned a lot of things from Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. Actually I totally copied from them.
Los Angeles Times. June 8th 1995
One of Crystal’s personal heroes is Gene Kelly.
BETTY SCHRIBER, DANCER
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. July 9th 1995
She always said Gene Kelly, whose dance school she attended in the 1930s, was her inspiration. She started her own dance school at the age of 16, inspired by Kelly.
DEMETRIUS KLEIN, DANCER
Orlando Sentinel. August 13th 1995
I was amazed watching Gene Kelly dance. He was so cool, and he was wearing regular pants! From that moment on I wanted to dance like Gene Kelly.
TREVOR NUNN. (London stage producer and director of Cats and Les Miserables)
He says that he, his wife and their children watch Singin’ In The Rain practically every week. They were ‘addicted’.
TOMMY TUNE. Directed by Gene in Hello! Dolly
Really, truly, Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire. They’re the song and dance men of all time. He couldn’t have been greater. He gave me the best direction I’ve ever received. On the set, between takes, he came up to me and said, “Tommy, dance better.” And man that is the best direction because he knew exactly what to say to me.
In 1949, a talent scout discovered Luigi in a benefit show and brought him to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (M-G-M) Studios to audition for On the Town. Gene Kelly was impressed by Luigi’s dancing and gave him the job despite his facial paralysis and crossed eyes. This job led to a long friendship, during which Kelly became Luigi’s mentor and used him in his other films, such as Singin’ In The Rain. Kelly was responsible for giving him the nickname, “Luigi.”
Andrew Morton: aware that the vultures were gathering, Madonna threw herself into rehearsing…The Girlie Show. She was thrilled, indeed, ecstatic, when the dancing legend Gene Kelly visited the rehearsal space…and shuffled along with her and the other dancers. Even the fact that he hurt his leg during one sequence could not dim her delight when he compared her to Marlene Dietrich…she was like a kid in a candy store and talked about how honoured she to meet him.
Inevitably the Media didn’t see it that way. “Can Gene Kelly save Madonna’s career?” screamed the tabloid headlines.