INTERVIEWS AND BIOGRAPHIES
Here you will find details of TV and other interviews which Gene gave through the years, and televised biographies.
That Old Black Magic
I remembered interviewing Gene a number of years ago …he hadn’t quite arrived at the point where he completely trusted interviewers. After an important point, which I would write down, he would ask, doubtfully, “Are you sure you got what I said right?” I’d read it back to him, and we’d proceed…Yet he was polite and courteous and genuinely nice.
MAKE A WISH
This first section features a very special interview which Gene gave in July 1991. The interviewer was a young lad named Darren. He had a life-threatening illness and was asked by the 'Make A Wish' foundation if there was something he would like to do or someone he would like to meet. Darren was from Northern Ireland, and spent several summers with a host family in the US. There were already five children in the family, and they spent many happy hours watching Gene's movies together. So Darren decided he would like to meet Gene. The children got together and composed an interview, and the meeting was arranged for July 1991 at Gene's home. This is a transcript of the interview.
Interview, July 1991, Darren Walsh, age 11, of Belfast, interviews Gene Kelly at his home in Beverly Hills. The questions were prepared by Darren and his American host family, Kerry, Kiki and Meaghan Roberts. Cindy is their mother.
GK: So how is school, Darren? What are you studying?
DW: It’s fine. I want to be an actor and I’m in a play about Scrooge at school.
I got two parts in it.
GK: I’m proud of you. You’ll make a good actor if you can get two parts in a show.
DW: Thank you, Mr. Kelly. That was nice of you.
GK: I might be going to Ireland next year. Did you ever see County Kerry and the coast there?
DW: No. I’d love to see it.
GK: It’s the most beautiful place. You’ve got to see it sometime.
DW: I know how you got that scar on your face (pointing to it).
GK: How do you know?
DW: Cindy told me. You fell off of a bicycle.
GK: (laughed) The very first time I tried to ride a two-wheeler.
DW: Did you grow your own mustache and grow your hair long for “Three Musketeers?”
GK: No, that was just a wig and make-up.
DW: Were the swords real?
GK: Yes, but they had a blunt cover over the tip.
DW: Did you practice sword-fighting a lot?
DW: Our favorite part is when you wiggle your bottom during a sword fight.
That is SO funny!
GK: (Stands up and demonstrates the wiggle for Darren.)
DW: Did you ever dance with Mary Martin? Kiki wanted to know.
GK: Yes, the first time I was on Broadway, I was in a show with her.
DW: Did you ever see her in Peter Pan? That’s Kiki’s favorite.
GK: Oh, yes.
DW: How come we can’t see the taps on your tap shoes when you’re dancing? We even stop the video and look at the bottom of your shoes and can’t see taps.
GK: Because there are no taps. I danced most of the time on the street and you don’t wear tap shoes on the street. We add the sound of the taps afterward. I do the dance all over again in a studio and they record the taps for the film.
DW: How can you be the director, singer, dancer, actor and choreographer all at the same time in “Singin’ in the Rain?” That’s amazing to me. Was it very hard to do? Was it hard to be thinking of so many things at the same time?
GK: Yes, it was very, very hard. I had a man behind the camera who helped me. His name was Stanley Donen. We directed many movies together.
DW: When you danced, were there marks on the floor to tell you where you were supposed to be?
GK: Yes, there were little lights on the floor to tell me where I was supposed to go. Everywhere the cameras would go, I had to go, too.
DW: Who taught you Irish dancing? I love how you dance in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
GK: I learned in Ireland.
DW: How long did it take you to teach Frank Sinatra to dance in that movie?
GK: Not long at all, because Frank and I had been in so many dances together. It took about a month.
DW: I like the part where he knocks you out with the baseball. How did they do it without hurting you?
GK: It was a fake baseball. It was soft.
DW: Also, I love the ‘clamping’.
GK: What’s ‘clamping’?
DW: You don’t remember? In “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” you sang (Darren sings) “The Hat Me Dear Old Father Wore.”
GK: (Laughing) Oh, yes. But I call that Irish step dancing. I’m surprised that you know that song.
DW: We Irishmen have to remember these things. (GK laughs loudly.)
Could you see Jerry the Mouse when you danced with him in Anchor’s Aweigh?
DW: How did you know where your hands were supposed to be when you held him?
GK: I imagined that there was a little guy about up to my knee who was standing there, and I had to imagine I was dancing with him.
DW: Did you like growing up in a big family?
DW: Did your Mom make you do chores?
GK: Yes. Everybody had their turn. One day, someone did the dishes, and the next day, someone made the beds.
DW: Did you have to share with your brothers and sisters?
DW: (Quoting Kerry’s note) Sometimes I don’t like having to share and do work around the house, and having my brothers mess up my room. Did you ever want to be an only child? Sometimes I do.
DW: Were you the oldest?
GK: No. I was right in the middle.
DW: Oh, I’m the youngest.
GK: (Laughing) Well, I suppose you get off easier that I did!
DW: Did you really smoke cigarettes or was that just pretend? Do you anymore?
GK: Yes, I really smoked.
DW: I’m surprised you did that because you were so fit and healthy.
GK: Well, we really didn’t know what cigarettes would cause in those days. I’m lucky now because I stopped twenty years ago.
The interview ended and pictures were taken of Darren and GK. It took so long at one
point that GK joked, “I could have made a movie by now!” Afterwards, everyone walked
into the living room and made their goodbyes.
Darren and GK hugged one another and Darren said. “I’ll write to you.”
Darren would write many times, and get many letters in return.
Gene had also met the little girls who helped create the interview. They were present with their mother, at his invitation, for a Gala at the Beverley Wilshire hotel in November 1990. It was an American-Ireland Fund dinner in Gene’s honour. At the end, although he was, as usual, the centre of attention, he got down on his knees in the middle of the ballroom and spoke to and hugged each little girl in turn. Mom got a hug too! She says it was a beautiful moment none of them will ever forget. He kept in touch with them until he became ill and could no longer do as he wished. Gene made sure some of the cash raised went to help Darren. Happily his treatment was successful and he is now well and living in Ireland.
Thanks to Cindy, Darren and the girls, for giving permission for publication of this lovely story.
Motion Picture. October 1944
Popping Questions at Gene Kelly. Quizzed by Helen Hover.
Thorough cross-questioning reveals Gene as a close-to-your-heart guy who saves safety pins, still remembers the day his dog died and wishes he looked like Douglas Fairbanks, Sr.
Q. In your opinion, who is the most beautiful girl in Hollywood?
The most beautiful girl in the whole world is Esther Williams and that incorporates physiognomy, figure, expression and charm. [!!!!]. Esther looks wholesome and dewy and in my opinion represents the typical American beauty.
Q. How do you feel when doing love scenes?
They aren’t so different from any other deeply emotional scene you go through. There’s no personal feeling involved at all. The only thing that bothers me is worrying about smearing the girl’s make-up.
Q. Are you an ice-box raider?
But the champion of the world. I make Dagwood look like an amateur. Say, I wonder if it could be those pickle-cheese-liverwurst-peanut butter sandwiches that keep me from falling asleep at night?
Q. Do you wish you were handsomer? [!!!!]
I’ll never keep Charles Boyer awake nights and I don’t care. No one would ever have suggested me for Rhett Butler. I have a Joe Average pan and that’s the kind of guy I like to play on the screen.
Q. What was the strangest coincidence in your life?
When I was a boy I used to have troubled dreams. I dreamed one night about my dog and the next day he was dead. After all these years, I’ve never forgotten it.
Q. What is the unkindest remark you have ever heard about yourself?
A columnist once lied about me over the radio and said I had left my wife and child.
Q. Do you talk to yourself when you’re alone?
Constantly. And like almost everyone else, I always think of some snappy or brilliant remark which I wish I’d said but didn’t.
Q. What performance of yours on the screen gave you the greatest thrill?
Doing the Shadow Dance with myself in Cover Girl. No one will ever know how difficult it was. Every technician on the set said it couldn’t be done and I sweated plenty to prove they were wrong. I had to go to the head of the studio to get permission to do that bit in the dance where I throw a garbage can through a large pane of window glass, because he thought it was too dangerous to attempt. I had to stand only about ten feet from the glass and he was afraid the shattering glass would hurt me. I wanted very much to do that dance just as I had planned it and the greatest thrill of my life was completing it successfully.
Q. What is your greatest extravagance?
Buying everything in town at Christmas without figuring out whether I have any particular person in mind to whom I can give it.
Q. And your pet economy?
Saving safety pins – an economy brought on by the advent of the war and the baby.
Q. Who was your very first love?
A mongrel dog that followed me home and stayed until he died.
Q. What don’t you like about yourself on the screen?
I could write a book on that subject. I literally turn green when I see myself do certain things. For example, I’d like to get rid of my New York twang.
Q. What is your idea of a good time?
Going away to a mountain retreat, having some people and books around and plenty of time to loaf. That’s the first thing I want to do after the war.
Q. What, in general, is your philosophy of life?
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That rule covers a multitude of actions.
Q. What do you wish you didn’t have to do?
Shave. I think it would be heaven to go without shaving for weeks.
Q. What is your favourite costume around the house?
T-shirt, slacks and moccasins. The nice part about not being a great lover type is that one doesn’t have to live up to a reputation. I can knock about in old clothes without anyone being disillusioned.
Q. What was your most embarrassing moment?
In a high school version of Midsummer Night’s Dream I played Bottom and while doing a little dance I heard a chuckle go through the audience. My pants had fallen down.
Q. What compliment meant most to you?
When Fred Astaire told me I was a great dancer.
Q. What is your personal recipe for making friends and influencing people?
I don’t know. I never thought about it. Maybe that’s it. I just like people, and show it.
Q. What is your greatest fault as a friend?
I never write letters. I hate to write, and don’t get round to them until a month or two late.
Q. Do you do any household chores?
I help with the dishes when my conscience bothers me. But no one can tie me when it comes to preparing eggs. I’ve learned from sad experience to leave leaks and other household breakdowns alone however, and yell for the nearest handyman.
Q. As a fan, what motion picture scene did you most enjoy watching?
Of all the pictures I’ve seen, none left as lasting an impression on me as The Three Musketeers, which I saw when I was a kid. The part where Douglas Fairbanks gave the jewels to the Queen is the most exciting scene I can remember.
Q. Who is the best non-professional dancer with whom you’ve ever danced?
A girl I used to take out in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. We once won an amateur dancing contest together.
Q. How many books do you read?
I average about two a month. I like historical books, biographies and war novels best of all. I don’t particularly care for fiction best sellers.
Q. What was the turning point in your life?
The day I left my dancing school in Pittsburgh and set out for New York. It seemed like a rash impulse at the time because the school was going great guns.
Q. Which of your traits do you hope your little daughter has inherited?
None. I only hope she’ll get as much fun out of life as her old man is getting.
Q. What is the most difficult part of being a dancer?
The constant rehearsals necessary to keep in shape. Working out a dance routine is a very sober business too. It takes a lot of headwork as well as footwork.
Q. Are you argumentative?
Sure. The name’s Kelly, remember? I’m always quick to jump into the breach when a hot discussion is going on. In fact, it’s my favourite indoor sport. I can outshout anyone about politics and the theatre, or go hoarse trying.
Q. What habit of yours annoys your wife?
It’s practically an ex-habit now, because she’s almost taught me to stop biting my lips when I’m thinking.
Q. About what are you most sentimental?
Boyhood memories and happy times as a boy with my brothers and sisters.
Q. What is your reaction when you’re recognised by fans?
If it’s a large crowd I usually become embarrassed. I guess I’m not quite used to it yet.
Q. What human failing irks you most?
People who are always late, especially those who think it’s cute never to be on time. And bad manners get my goat. Guys who make for a parking spot and cut in ahead of me just as I’m inching into the place rile me especially.
Q. What is your weekly spending allowance?
We don’t keep to a budget. Betsy and I spend what we have to and have no extravagant tastes.
Q. What Christmas present meant most in your life?
A gun which I received when I was ten years old. It made me feel like a man.
Q. Has Hollywood tried to make you prettier? [!!!!]
I have a scar on my face as the result of falling off a bike as a kid. The make-up men want to cover it up but I can’t see the sense in it. Covering the scar won’t make me better looking.
Q. What is your main idiosyncrasy?
Staying up all night reading. I once read till 7:30 in the morning.
Q. Can you take criticism?
Sure. If it’s dished out in a sincere, supporting manner. I not only can take it, I welcome it. But if it’s just meant to tear me down, I resent it. These people who start out by explaining, “I may be brutally frank, but –“ are usually just that – brutal.
Q how do you keep fit?
I don’t do any formalised setting up exercises, and I wouldn’t know what to do with a vitamin pill. I get so much exercise dancing I don’t have to touch my left toe with my right eyebrow ten times each morning to keep in condition.
Q. What qualities do you admire most in a woman?
Sweetness and reticence, couple with brains.
Q. What qualities do you find most obnoxious in a woman?
A general air of loudness. That is, women who try to talk loud, dress loud or try to monopolise the attentions of everyone in the room by their conduct.
Q. Have you ever been played for a sucker?
I’ve loaned money several times to guys who handed out a hard luck story and never paid the money back. But haven’t we all?
Q. What amazes you most about Hollywood?
Being here! I always thought one must have soulful eyes and lifeguard shoulders to appear before the camera, which would have let me out. Now I can hardly believe it. Is that really me up there on the screen?
PICTUREGOER. 5th October 1957
Dancers express themselves in movement, but Gene Kelly is one dancer who also is an agile conversationalist, as he proved when I asked for his views on women.
“Being a dancer, I imagine you are especially conscious of a woman’s carriage,” I remarked when we met after he had completed Les Girls at MGM.
“It’s nice to see a woman move well,” he admitted, “especially when you remember that it’s much harder for a woman to be graceful than a man.
“Women are hampered by fashion – high heels, for example. They also tend to become self-conscious and affected when they are being watched – and, let’s face it, they usually are being watched.
“Besides these emotional and physical inhibitions, they don’t have the physical training the average man does”
“Do you think studying dancing is the best way to achieve grace?” I asked. The answer, surprisingly, was: not necessarily.
“Any sport does just as well. This doesn’t mean you must spend your life at it.
“At the studio I’ve noticed many a secretary has as good posture and bearing as the professional dancers.”
“Dignity of bearing – that’s an interesting thought. Do you think dignity is an important part of a women’s appeal?” I wanted to know.
“I definitely do and I think most men will agree with me. A man wants to think a woman is a little better than he is – that’s why he appreciates her refinement of manner, dignity of bearing, quiet speech.”
I wondered if Kelly had any personal peeves.
“I dislike seeing make-up, particularly lipstick, overdone. A woman never should consider make-up a cure for all ills.
“Make-up should be adjusted to the individual woman just as a dress is altered to fit perfectly. And like a dress it should suit the occasion.
“Another thing that hits me is an elaborate hair-do.
“The worst mistake a woman makes when she’s going to get all dressed up is to start worrying ‘What shall I do with my hair?’ and then go out and get it tortured at a beauty salon. The best thing she can do is wash it.”
Before leaving, I asked what trait he thought women most needed to cultivate.
“Being a good sport. Most women aren’t and men resent it.
“Perhaps it’s because they have less training in team spirit and the art of losing gracefully, but I don’t know of any feminine weakness that comes up more often for discussion in male sessions.
“Don’t get me wrong – I like women,” he added suddenly with the Kelly grin. “Sometimes I wish I didn’t-they’re such trouble!”
EDWARD MURROW INTERVIEW DECEMBER 19th 1958
DANCE MAGAZINE. February 1959
Fine fellow, that Gene Kelly! But you wouldn’t have known it from the Person-to-Person interview on Dec.19. It is the format of the Murrow show that is confining…Kelly seemed strained, much less free than in the well-planned, thoroughly prepared Omnibus show – once again proving that there is nothing so relaxing as discipline.
TV Interview taken from DVD Person To Person, which contains many other star interviews.
This was a ‘live’ interview for television, in which Edward Murrow sat in a studio and the cameras went into the home of the celebrity. They talked via a link. It made for some uncomfortable and stilted interviews, but they are nevertheless a fascinating insight into the lives of the ‘stars’ of the era. Unfortunately Gene is not in his own home, but in a Park Avenue apartment borrowed from Milton Berle. They had ‘swapped’ houses for the previous 6 months whilst Gene was looking for a permanent place in New York. Gene however has some personal things around him in the apartment. He spends most of the interview with his hands stuffed in his pockets, which pulls his suit wildly out of shape, or making his characteristic gestures such as pulling on his ear, or rubbing his neck, things which I notice he often did when he was preoccupied or nervous or just did not know what to do with his hands.
It begins with Murrow giving a ‘potted’ biography of Gene and his work. “It’s been said that Gene Kelly has danced as many miles as he’s walked, and now after 16 years as a Hollywood song and dance man he’s back on Broadway and directing Flower Drum Song….He has worked on something like 35 pictures, as dancer, actor, director, producer or writer, and he seems to be just getting up steam.”
They discuss his hit show Flower Drum Song, and daughter Kerry who is in school in Geneva. He proudly shows a needlework picture she made for his birthday when she was nine years old, a portrayal of Robert Donat’s house in which they stayed whilst living in London in 1952.
Gene then shows off a large framed picture of himself with Fred Astaire, which he says goes everywhere with him.
We then follow Gene and the cameras into the dining room where he has the floor plan for Dancing, A Man’s Game, laid out on the table. It is due to air on NBC TV the following Sunday. He says he aims “To show all the young fellas in America that dancing isn’t a cissy occupation.” He explains that he has had to find a new way to create dances, because in the strange world of television you have to use five or six cameras, and one can’t get in the way of another. He manages to do a little ‘preaching’ on his favourite subject, the connection between athletic sports and dancing.
Murrow asks if Gene has problems keeping in good dancing shape. Gene replies: “Yes. If I do a straight show I find I get out of whack – then I have to go at it much harder…Over thirty, men don’t take enough care of themselves – including myself – we all let ourselves go.”
Murrow asks about Gene’s other interests. He shows a cheap Picasso poster advert framed on the wall. It has a splash of paint on it, which he says he did accidentally while painting his house, and it became a family joke, so he framed the poster and kept it. Then he points out two African dance masks, which he bought from jockey Billy Pearson. He says: “I could go on and on about those, but I won’t.”
Murrow asks how Gene is with business dealings. He replies: “Can I use the word lousy? I’m pretty much bored with business. I don’t sneer at money, I like to get paid well. I admire people who are good at it. I couldn’t be a businessman for the world. So I guess I am at the creative end of doing just about anything I can get my hands on.”
He then lists the jobs he did to help pay his way through college, and discusses his early attitude to dancing. “I guess I hated it. It was only the fact that my mother was such a farsighted woman that I took dance lessons at all. I thought it was real cissy stuff….I bless her for it now.”
Murrow asks: “What is the Gene Kelly explanation of what it takes to make a solid professional showman?”
Gene replies: “You have to learn your craft, your trade, as you do in anything. You have to be honest and sincere with yourself – that sounds a little platitudinous, is that the right word? If you really work hard, learn your craft and like your job, that’s the main thing.”
Here the interview ends, much too quickly for my liking, with Gene's saying that he will be spending Christmas in Switzerland with Kerry.
Cinema. December 1966
An interview by Curtis Lee Hanson
…The truest attestation of Kelly’s genius is that, whether dancing on roller skates, ash can lids, or with Tom and Jerry, he always made it look so easy.
Curtis Lee Hanson called upon Gene Kelly at his home in Beverley Hills
C; On most of your films you have functioned both as a director, or choreographer, and performer. What do you feel are the advantages of directing oneself in a motion picture?
G: I have never liked to do both things at once. Hence, I have always had an assistant, an aide, a colleague. You include choreography in direction, which is good. Directing dances is as big a part of doing a musical as the directing itself. It is most difficult to act and direct, you need somebody that you can trust and that can help you. The aid you have in musical comedies is the fact that the material is so light…If I were doing – let’s take a real tough one – King Lear…I’m certainly not able to do it as an actor. I’m not good enough. But even though it is a ridiculous analogy, it is a good one. Because of the intensity and the depth of the subject. I could not direct myself very successfully. But musical comedies tend to be light and frothy and puffy.
C: What is the difference in staging a dance number for the screen as opposed to the theatre?
Stage dancing is done for and under the proscenium arch. The audience is in front of you and when they look at you they see a three-dimensional person…take in the dancer and the total environment. In film, because the one-eyed lens only permits you to see the portion of the scenery behind the dancers, you are only seeing with one eye.. Therefore you lose the most important parts of the dance – the kinaesthetic, the kinetic force, and the third dimension.
C: What do you do to compensate for that?
G: Number one, you sit down and think up numbers that can be shot in the movies that cannot be done anywhere else….We’ve got a term now, which is sort of fancy-schmancy, called “cine-dance.”…The forces of the dance can be helped by moving toward a camera….You have to construct a dance so it can be cut, and so that the cuts won’t be glaring. You have to make sure that the dancer…can handle the particular kind of cutting you are doing. Many fine dancers have not come off well in movies, because the dances were not constructed for film.
C: Let’s take a specific number like the Singin’ In The Rain sequence. Mechanically, how would you go about constructing it for the camera?
Actually that was an easy number to create. We had a song first….It has always been my premise that a song and dance man, usually we have very weak voices, sings to state his thesis…And then I went on to exploit and expound on this thesis…Stanley Donen and myself decided to take advantage again of cinematic treatment, and we kept the dance coming into camera…I never had any weak movements. If I stopped, we would bring the camera up and cut and come sidewards so I would move back and forth. Always into camera. Always the forces were pushing, pushing, pushing the camera. A number is the same as a short story, you have a beginning, a middle and an end…And you always have to have some comment. A fellow who is singing in the rain has to be observed if it’s going to be funny. The policeman, in this case, saw it. It was difficult to shoot in the water. It was a harder job for the photographer than it was for me. All I had to do was get wet.
C: For the actual conception of the movement, would you go on stage and literally dance around and..
G: No. I sit in a chair or pace the floor, like a writer I guess. I get the idea before the movement. When I get the idea blocked out, I fill it in with movement. Movement, if you are a trained dancer, and especially if you have trained in more than one milieu, is the easiest thing of all….You never get right up and shake and shimmy like you do at the Daisy Club. That’s for amateurs. That’s for laughs…Professionally you have to sit down and grind it out.
C: Did you also choreograph Donald O’Connor’s number in the film?
G: Yes. Stanley Donen and I did the whole movie. Actually Donald was supposed to do one more number but he had to leave because the film went overtime…So I got hold of Cyd Charisse. Donald and I would have done it as a sort of personal humorous thing. Now we had to do it almost as a dream sequence. We had to make up something. That was tough. It was forced in, and it forced the picture. We couldn’t get off. Once it started it became like Topsy; it grew. It started a wondrous relationship with Cyd. It is a picture I feel very fond of for many reasons.
C: It is my favourite musical.
G: Betty Comden and Adolph Green who wrote the film, were particularly suited to this kind of satire.. Poking fun at Hollywood and how panicky we get at any time there is a change. Making fun of the premieres. Louella Parsons gushing all over the stars. It was a happy collaboration.
Actually my favorite that I did was On The Town. It is dated now, been done over and over again…But it had a bigger effect on Broadway and film musicals than any other one I did…
C: What about the alter ego number from Cover girl? How was that conceived?
G: In a frustrated mood I sat down one day and said, “What can I do that I can’t do on the stage?”…I had found by then that the things I did that would stop the show on Broadway would not work in the movies.. Everyone is not blessed with the intimate, easy style of a Fred Astaire. He fits a room…
First thing I could do differently was dance off a set. So I made up those numbers with Phil Silvers, Rita Hayworth and myself dancing in the street. Then Harry Cohn said, “I would like you to do a solo.” I thought up the idea of dancing with my alter ego, my other self, and having a dialogue with him through the dance…
C: Did the cartoon dance in Anchors Aweigh come about in the same way?
G: Absolutely. I was sitting one night with Stanley Donen and we said, “We’ve got to do something new. But what?” We sat for nights like a couple of writers suffering from writer’s block. Finally I remember Stanley asking, “Could you dance with a cartoon?” I said, “That’s it!” The technical problems were legion because it had never been done. …I had to sit with the cartoonist and show him where every figure moved.
C: How did your relationship with Stanley Donen come about? Was he a dancer also?
G: Yes. I was in Pal Joey in 1939 and ’40. Stanley was in the chorus. Then when I directed and staged Best Foot Forward with George Abbott, Stanley was in the chorus of that. He worked for me there. When he came to California he worked around, and finally I put him on as my assistant. I went into the service, and when I came back, he went to work for me again. By 1947 I asked the studio if he could be my co-director for On The Town. I felt he was ready and I have to say that I was right….
C: How was it working at MGM during that period?
G: Marvelous! What a group! Minnelli and Donen and Walters and Freed and Edens and Sol Chaplin. These are guys! And the musicians around them! Like Connie Sallinger and Lennie Hayton and Johnnie Green. Everyone was simpatico, one with another. Everyone was pitching in. It was like a repertory company, except very few of us were players. The players were Judy, Astaire, Cyd and myself. But the guys around us were the reason we had such good musicals…When Stanley was just 18 years old he was my assistant. And at that age, he was collaborating with me. He would work all night and all day if we didn’t get the idea and the step. That’s how it was with everyone. It was fun. We didn’t think it was work…
C: How did It’s Always Fair Weather come about?
G: It was written for Frank Sinatra and myself as a sequel to On The Town…
C: Just the two?
G: There was a third who wasn’t cast yet. We didn’t know whether the studio would go for Julie Munchin or not. We wanted them to. At the lastminute, when everythin was ready, Frank and the studio had difficulties. The studio was very cavalier about it, and, over the protestations of Freed, Comden, Green, Stanley and myself, overrode us. So we had to look about for a new cast. We got Dan Dailey first. Then, to get a little fellow who could fit the gags we were going to do with Frank, we got Michael Kidd. With Michael, not being an actor, but being such a good dancer, we made it a dancing show…
C: How did you arrive at the ash can number?
G: …I just dreamt it up, that’s all. A lot of that comes in a funny way. For example, I’ll go out in the street, and walk around and look at things…automobiles and rubbish bins and tennis courts. But in New York you have to look at what you find in a New York street, and the predominant thing you always see is ash cans. We had the damedest time rehearsing that number, trying to dance and keep from breaking a leg…They make good sounds though…
C: I have heard that you and Vera Ellen rehearsed for six weeks on the Slaughter on Tenth Avenue number…Is that correct? For a seven-minute number?
G: I think it was more like four weeks. But keep in mind, that was the longest straight dance number ever done up to that time.
C:What was it like working with Busby Berkeley?
G: The things I did with Buzz were not in his grand old classic style. He did For Me and My Gal. I thought he did a hell of a job on that. Then he did Take Me Out To The Ball Game. But Busby Berkeley showed what could be done with a movie camera. A lot of that nowadays is made fun of, laughed at. But he was the guy who tore away the proscenium arch…A lot of people are given credit for that…The numbers weren’t dance numbers. They were cinematic numbers, so when you criticize him from a dance point of view, you ar eon the wrong plane…He did it all…
C: You have just returned from France, from working with Jacques Demy on The Girls of Rochefort. Was that a good experience?
G: I liked it. His idea was to keep dance movement going, moving all the time. It is a fairyland, and yet it is modern dance….It may be another breakthrough. Another new style for musicals. How well it will succeed, I don’t know yet. I haven’t seen enough of the film. But I love the idea.
C: You worked with George Cukor. Is he the delight everyone says?
G: George is the most wonderful guy in the world, and no actor ever lived who didn’t like to work with him.
C: Why is that?
G: He is just so delightful by nature that you have to love him. You say, “I hate this scene. What are you asking me to do?” He says, “Well, well, well, now.” And he will discuss it, and laugh. And you will do it. He is never out of temper, never out of sorts.. and he does know how to help actors…
C: One of my favorite numbers is the one you did with the children in Living In A Big Way. But, of course, it had nothing to do with the rest of the film.
G: I am going to make a great big confession. It was not supposed to have any musical numbers in it. I came out of the service and they had nothing for me to make. L.B.Mayer said, “I have a girl here at the studio who is going to be a great star, Marie MacDonald. We have some great writers…and a great director, Gregory LaCava. They are coming to New York to meet you.” I was working out, dancing in the Charles Weidman studio to get back in shape after the service. “They can’t wait. They are going to fly in and tell you the idea of the story because it is not written.” So they came to New York. And we all looked blankly at each other. This array of talent. We had no story but we went out and started to make a picture. To be as kind as possible, it was a bomb. When Metro saw it, they said to me, “Could you do a few numbers to sort of pep it up?” I did three numbers, one of them with Marie MacDonald, even. Since we built a house in the story, I thought we should do a number with the kids in the park… We sneaked them in with the retakes, and that’s how they came to be in the picture.
C: It’s exactly like the Dancing Cavalier in Singin’ In The Rain.
G: Exactly. With one exception. This picture still bombed. Those last two numbers are among my favorites, about three people have seen them. And two of us are in this room now.
C: Is it true that when you first came to Hollywood, David Selznick wanted you to give up dancing?
G: After I did Pal Joey on Broadway, David put me under contract. He said, “You, you are a great actor. This nonsense about your doing musicals, that’s fine. You can do them for a hobby.” I said, “Wait a minute, I’m a dancer.” He said, “No. I have a property for you. You are going to play the priest in Keys Of The kingdom.”
David was, as everybody knows, a slow worker. Time went by. Finally he said, “Well, all right, maybe you are not right for the priest, but there is another great part. It is the role of a doctor, a Scotchman.” I said, My Scotch accent is like Harry Lauder. It’s just terrible. Forget it.” He said, “No, I’ll get you a teacher.” So he got a guy who lived out in Pasadena, and three nights a week I would travel out there and take an hour lesson. About six weeks later we made the test. Davis and I sat in the projection room looking at the test. We looked at each other and started to laugh. I still sounded like a Vaudevillian doing the Scotch"…
AN EVENING WITH GENE KELLY. 1974
This was an interview done by the BBC in association with MGM, I think in Gene’s home. He seems quite relaxed, in spite of a somewhat uncomfortable looking interviewer, Gavin Millar.
It begins with the first scene from Singin’ In The Rain, and juxtaposes Gene’s voiceover of his early life in show business with Don Lockwood’s own early life, thus drawing a parallel between the two.
Gene talks of training many in his Johnstown school to be professional performers, some specialising in acrobatic dancing, and of being an ‘act doctor’ in his school in Pittsburgh. This led to his belief that he could make it as a choreographer on Broadway. He says: “I was very disillusioned about that. No none wanted a choreographer from Pittsburgh.”
We hear of his success in Pal Joey and his Hollywood contract and first film, where he realised that dancing and creating dances for the camera were two very different things. No one was interested in this problem so he decided to experiment for himself.
We see the ‘mop’ dance from Thousands Cheer, of which Gene says “I almost blush to say I sang ‘Let Me Call You Sweetheart’ to it”, but it illustrated Gene’s growing awareness of characterisation and dancing as part of the plot.
Unfortunately the interview suffers considerably from bad editing. It was obviously much longer when made, and whole chunks of his story are missing in the form it was shown on TV. Thus there is no mention of Cover Girl and the alter ego dance, except when Gene disagrees that the animation dance in Anchors Aweigh was the most difficult thing he had done, saying the alter ego number was harder.
Speaking of Anchors Aweigh: “When you make a musical the idea is to make people happy. If you want to do a really difficult deep treatise you should go into grand opera or forget the musical.”
They then talk of Arthur Freed, saying he had an eye for talent, much more so than the so-called head of the studio L B Mayer, who often took the credit. Gene says: “I didn’t know anyone who had creative contact with Mayer, except when he told them not to write about toilets or bathrooms, for fear it would offend some mother in Illinois, or Pennsylvania or something.”
He says, of his time at MGM: “We were the only repertory company musically, that ever existed in the whole world… With all these people together we became an inbred kind of family, and we often met after hours. We enjoyed our work…it’s damned hard to make a musical, it’s as tough as digging a ditch…one of the reasons…when you get a bunch of talents together, the better the talent, the more that talent wants to do it his way.”
They then discuss Gene’s ‘speciality’ skills, in Pirate, Thousands Cheer, and Three Musketeers. Gene says it was fun and much easier than dancing. There is more bad editing where any discussion of The Pirate is missed out. We simply hear that Gene was not pleased with the Mack The Black ballet. “I thought it didn’t quite come off.”
We are next taken directly to the newspaper dance from Summer Stock. Gene explains how the dance was created, that the newspaper sound was the idea of choreographer Nick Castle, and how they went around town scraping and dragging on various things to try to find a suitable accompanying sound. Gene came up with the squeaky board when he was working on the wooden floor of the barn. He says that he rehearsed on that number longer than on any other dance. The paper would not tear properly: “I’d jump on it and I’d go whhhooooo... my legs went out and I almost ended up with a hernia.”
Then we are treated to shots of On The Town. The narrator says: “It was shot with great freedom, leaping about in time and mood and location, mixing fantasy and reality with no self-consciousness.”
They talk of the ‘famous dance with the Miss Turnstiles placard.’
Gene: “I love that, that’s again using a symbol – when you don’t have the girl you use a symbol. I remember it very well because the slides I had to do on my knees were very carefully rehearsed to fit the music, and overnight some painters who wanted to help, had changed the consistency of the floor. So the first time I did the slide I went about two miles and I was ready to pitch over, and a kind Grip grabbed me and saved me…we sanded it and rozened it…that didn’t work, it ripped my trousers and my knees started to bleed. I put on knee pads. On the 11th take we got it and the Grip forgot to pull the curtain. So I said ‘that’s ok, we’ll get it next time’. …To be more succinct, it took 26 takes just for that one shot. That’s what I remember about the number…I had sore knees for a while, but you should make all dance numbers look easy. If the audience is aware you are working hard then you’re not dancing well. You have to look like they can all go out and do it themselves. That’s the best way to have it look.”
An American In Paris is next.
Narrator: “It speaks volumes about what had happened to the Kelly character and to Kelly himself in ten years. The small town hoofer is now an artist in Paris. He’s finally found high culture, and society is claiming him for its own in the shape of a rich patroness.
“The ballet at the end of the film not only echoes the plot, with its décor and styles of French painters of the 19th century – how Eddie Marsh or Danny McGuire would have scoffed at that – it gives Kelly a classically trained ballerina as his partner.
“Kelly got to be Chocolat, the Toulouse L’Autrec Negro clown and circus rider, another North American who was dancer, athlete, artist and popular entertainer.”
Gene: “Nobody ever said what he did. I pored through many books, so I made up the dance.
“Selling the ballet to the studio was a very difficult job, because it was a tremendous amount of money for that time…we brought all the sketches up [to Dore Schary] and said ‘We want to do this ballet’…it was an abstract ballet…he finally said, ‘Wait a minute, I don’t understand one word of what you’re all talking about, but…it looks good, I trust you people, so go and do it.’”
On Invitation To The Dance: “For once in my life I wanted to do an unselfish thing. I was being treated very well by the movie-going public and by MGM...I said why don’t we make a small film and use great ballet dancers…when we got to England they changed their attitude and said I had to be in all the numbers, so I threw out a lot of the preparation I had and started again…the whole idea was I didn’t want anybody from the movies.”
On Singin’ In The Rain: “All those travails and troubles of making silent pictures into talkies, all those stories are true. We went around talking to very old timers and they told us all these stories that had happened….A lot of people would call it the first Camp movie. I don’t know about that, but we did take-offs of many people…the producer was a take-off on our beloved Arthur Freed, he would always end up saying ‘Well, I’ll have to see it on the screen’, and like barging into the studio and tripping over the wire.”
Millar: “What about the great number itself. How did that originate?”
Gene: ”The Broadway Melody number?”
Millar: ”No, Singin’ In The Rain."
Gene: ”Oh, that old thing. That was a very easy number to put on because the lyrics were there. We rehearsed about six days and shot it in a day and a half.”
The programme ends with a showing of ‘that old thing’ and we are treated to one of Gene’s ‘killer’ smiles right at the end.
INAUGURAL GUARDIAN LECTURE AT THE NATIONAL FILM THEATRE, LONDON 1980
You can listen to 20 minutes of this interview as an audio feature on the 'extra' DVD which accompanies the 2008 British Film Institute release of Les Demoiselles de Rochefort. I think it is available only as PAL, Region 2, version at present. (Makes a change for a Gene movie to be released PAL version!)
It begins with the usual story of Gene’s rise to fame through the Broadway stage and Pal Joey. He talks about going to Hollywood for only one picture, solely to make money, and of being ‘an effete Eastern snob’, until he realised that putting film on dance was a fascinating problem, and decided to stay.
He was asked if he had been responsible for bringing to Hollywood some of those who eventually made up the ‘Freed Unit’, such as Comden and Green and also Michael Kidd. Then of how he wrote Take Me Out To The Ball Game as ‘self defence’ because MGM had a movie planned for him, with Frank Sinatra, in which they were sailors opening a floating night club.
He talked about Busby Berkeley, who always let his actors overplay, said he looked like a 35 year-old Mickey Rooney, and it was easy to overact, coming from the stage. He said he was good at the long shots but when they made a close-up he was ‘really awful’. His only excuse was that he was ‘paying so much attention to dancing’.
They talk of ‘auteurs’ and how movie musicals have none, it is always a team effort. Gene says, “Even though some of us can pronounce auteur, we know that it doesn’t exist.” He gives as an example the Singin’ In The Rain number, which Comden and Green had the task of making viable in the movie. They did not see the whole scene until it was finished, having gone back to New York when their part in it was completed. Gene said no one knew what to do with the number until he came up with the idea of being in love, because “To go out and sing in the rain, without looking like an idiot”, would be difficult – it must have quite an impulse. I have put more of this conversation on the Singin’ In The Rain section.
He was asked about his relationship with Donen. Which was captain? Gene said he was captain, Stanley had been his assistant earlier in their careers. More of this can be read in the Stanley Donen section on the ‘Encourage’ page. He said that if he had not had Stanley he would have had Carol Haney or Jeannie Coyne, people who were not ‘yes-men’, who could give constructive criticism, because “Once you put it on film, you’re dead, it’s up there forever. Nothing you can do about it unless you can sneak it out and burn it.”
Then he was asked about his favourite dance number, saying it was Dancing in The Dark, by Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse. “It is so lovely and so beautiful. I have seen it quite a few times because I often have to go to premieres of That’s Entertainment. Fred and I and Cary Grant are the sort of show-off males, of the old movies. We’d trudge up there, take a bow, and go and have a drink.”
The audio presentation of the interview ends shortly after this. The audience is very appreciative, laughing loudly and applauding on several occasions. Gene sounds relaxed and is an excellent raconteur.
Gene Kelly became the first man ever to walk on to the stage of London’s National Film Theatre under an umbrella. This was his way of beginning a fascinating Guardian Lecture, chaired by John Russell-Taylor.
Kelly kept a packed house entertained with his many anecdotes involving the musicals he’s made and confesses that On The Town is the one closest to his heart because it was the film that revolutionised the Hollywood musical…
…Thanks Mr. Kelly for a marvellous evening of sentimental nostalgia and I don’t care how bored you are of seeing that Singin’ In The Rain sequence, it’s still one of my all-time favourite movie scenes. K.F.
Magazine clipping, source unknown
His determination to change the image of dance on film was one of the subjects he discussed with fans during an appearance at London’s National Film Theatre in connection with their season of MGM films, the most ambitious they’ve ever mounted. It’s running until September…
Naturally the house was packed for Gene’s lecture which, together with film clips, ran for a couple of hours. Among the clips was the inevitable title number from Singin’ In The Rain which, despite the status it has attained as the most popular film number of all time, isn’t the star’s top favourite. I suspect that is because, as he himself admits, it wasn’t difficult to perform. The most difficult work on that number was for the people behind the cameras. Gene seems to have preferred more intricate routines that presented challenges both in regard to choreography and camera work…although he is fond of On The Town for the part it played in changing the direction of movie musicals, he admits it now looks a little dated.
Oddly enough, his most favourite movie of all time is not one of his. It’s Meet Me In St. Louis. Neither is his favourite number one of his. It’s Dancing In The Dark which Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse performed in The Band Wagon.
INTERVIEW WITH JACK WINTZ, FOR ST. ANTHONY MESSENGER CATHOLIC MAGAZINE, August 1980
Kelly came to the front door to greet my sister and me...the familiar voice alive with Irish charm...
It is a very cozy house. A large book on Ireland lay on the table...a hearty fire flamed away...his home is comfortable, lived-in, tasteful but not extravagant...
“A lot of people,” I observed, "are curious about your relationship to the Catholic Church...”
“Well,” Kelly replies, “some people are confused because earlier in my career when I lived in New York, I was always a left-wing type....because I took the side of the left, a lot of people said, 'He's not a good Catholic.'
“I was married in the Catholic Church. I was later divorced and I remarried a Catholic girl whose first marriage was not in the Catholic Church We went and talked about it with a priest, but we weren't allowed to be married in the Church.”
“So when you remarrried, you were prohibited by Church law from taking Communion?”
“Yes, and one of the problems I had with that was the effect it could have on my children...My wife and I would take them to church but neither of us could go to Communion...
”My point is this: if you can get absolution for murdering a guy, or for adultery, or any other offense, why can't you get absolution for being divorced? I think a change is needed..."
...He has had his quarrels with the church and its attitude towards the divorced. He even went through a brief phase of atheism during his college years. But deep down Gene has kept an affection for – and can identify with – his childhood faith.
“In the old days maybe you would call me a 'deathbed Catholic'. I disagree with that. I think I am a Catholic now. I still enjoy the Mass. My two teenagers and I often go together but I don't go merely out of compulsion as in days gone by.
..."We would celebrate Lent and Advent by going to Mass every morning. The whole family said the Rosary together every night on our knees. It was the old-time Roman Catholic religion. The Lenten rules were carried out strictly and with no dispensations.”
When Kelly left and went to Penn and then Pitt, he “Suffered some minor shocks"...not the birds and the bees or even the theory of evolution...It was the discovery that some fellows could not believe in God and still be just as nice, if not nicer, than those who went to church...
This caused Kelly while still in college to go through a phase of being "an out-and-out atheist." Then he went back to being a Catholic, but a "very ecumenical" one...
"I remained a very traditional Catholic until I went to Hollywood. For example when I was an actor in New York, I'd go out with my friends and get bombed on Saturday nights. I'd leave the party at 4.30 in the morning and go to Mass at St. Malachy's, the actor's chapel, with all the other drunken Irishmen...
"I feel an ambivalence about trying to be Catholic and meeting resistance from the Church in terms of its marriage laws... the reason I have stuck to being Catholic is that it is the religion which I know and which is best for me...I know this through my childhood and through my own parents. I know their deaths and the death of my wife was easier because of my religious belief.”
At the same time that Kelly indicated his need for the church as “someone to lean on,” he also defends the need of individuals to follow their own sincerely found convictions...
“It has sustained me, and I have helped sustain the Church, not just with money and sending my children to Catholic schools, but by working with the Church in other ways.”
Is Kelly pleased with all the changes in the Catholic Church since Vatican II?...Would he like to choreograph liturgical dance?
No thanks, responds Kelly. As he sees it, many Catholics of his generation are “almost reactionary as far as the Church goes. We're uncomfortable with the new liturgy, with the playing of the guitar. I know – intellectually – that the new form of the Mass is a good thing. But I'm uncomfortable with it because I was brought up as an altar boy to the echoes of per omnia saecula saeculorum, Dominus vobiscum and et cum spiritu tuo. That still rings in my ears.”
Does he think the Church has lost something?
“Well, perhaps it has – to our generation – again I must qualify,” he answers in sincere and gentle tones. “I feel like I'm going into a Protestant church now when I go to Mass. But one individual or little group cannot dictate what changes should be allowed. For example, I can disagree with the divorce laws of the Church and the law that forbids priests to marry. But because I do, that doesn't say that millions should have their lives changed because of this.”...
Despite a very successful career, Kelly has taken his share of knocks from life – a painful divorce, being a parent of a teenage daughter at the time, losing his second wife to leukemia. Yet an important ideal for Kelly is struggling to remain optimistic in the face of adversity. “You always need to do that. That's just part of life. Losing my wife, roughly seven years ago, was a blow I'm not over yet. But you have to adapt to it. You can't mope around. The kids can't mope around.”
Kelly feels that you can't stop your life or career because of your aches and pains, and yet you can't stop your aches either. “You see,” he says reflectively, “people think you get over them. But you don't always. They stay with you. It's hard to explain.”
PREMIERE MAGAZINE 1981. Interview with David Reiss
Gene Kelly swings into a room with the self-described “face as familiar as the label on a can of Campbell’s soup,” the legs still springing, the eyes still crinkling, and the husky Irish voice still lilting. At 68, having spent more than 50 of those years dancing, he is the perfect composite of his film roles: the incurable romantic of Singin’ In The Rain, the art connoisseur of An American In Paris, the dashing adventurer of The Three Musketeers, the serious humanist in Inherit The Wind, and the devoted companion of On The Town. He is definitely not an enigma, rather one gets the strong impression that Gene Kelly just knows what life is all about…
I sat with Gene Kelly to discuss his career, views of the film industry, and his recent move to Zoetrope Studios. I found him exciting, well-spoken and intelligent. His eyes sparkled as he discussed his career, friends, experience, and the Industry he loves.
Premiere: Has dance been a source of joy for you?
Kelly: Well, it evidently has, because I’ve been doing it most of my life. Most of the time, dance is for the professional what training is for the athlete – torture and hard work. So, when I say ‘joy’, I mean the discovery of something found, or the discovery that someone has given a new step, or a new kind of dance or movement…the training is long and arduous. But if you don’t enjoy it you better not be in it.
[The next column of my copy of the interview has the edge missing! So I am reconstructing parts of the next few answers based on what I already know]
…When I was a kid I used to love to jump and run just to feel the wind on my face. Dancing is that kind of expression. There was a choreographer who once said that dancing was primeval, because before man could talk, he could move. I’m inclined to agree with that.
P: What is the most frustrating aspect of dancing?
K: The fact that just when you begin to learn about the instrument by which you work – your body - it starts going downhill. In other professions…the older you get the better you learn your trade…But a dancer’s body is best in his 20s. And, at that time, he knows nothing about dancing…With the exception of a few.
P: It has been said that you think before you dance, unlike many other dancers who dance and then think about what they’ve done.
G: It depends. The dancer’s body has choreography set for it by a choreographer. The dancer doesn’t have to think about it. When I say I think about a dance I mean that I sit down in a chair like a writer and think about a beginning, a middle and an end… – and what the dance means.With few exceptions I’ve done all the choreography for my own dances, my own groups…I invented a style for myself that had not been seen before.
P: How would you define that style?
K: When I started it, my style was more rugged…it was a compendium of different styles. Just as I’ve always felt America is a melting-pot of various ethnic groups, that is the way I like to dance. It took a while to define it. As a matter of fact I was in my late 20s before I even began to learn what I was trying to do. It is true I had a late start as a dancer, but I made up for lost time….
P: [A question about] the American Musical. [No more missing words from hereonin!]
K: The form for musicals in America has far surpassed all others…I know I’ve made a contribution – according to the critics – I’ve changed the uniform of the male dancer from a lot of the traditional things he used to wear. I was the first to wear blue jeans, loafers, white socks and sweatshirts.
P: Have you influenced the dancers’ style?
K: I think time will have to tell. Some people think I have. I see a lot of young folks on television doing the same steps I did years ago so I know they at least want to imitate me…I’m frankly pleased to see it though, because I think that even if they’re just imitating something you’ve done it’s a compliment.
P: Did you specifically set out to humanize the dancer?
K: Yes, but I didn’t think of it with such a fine verb as “humanize.” I…wanted to dance to the music of Cole porter, Rogers & Hart, Irving Berlin and others. I didn’t want to dance to the styles of the 20s and early30s. I felt there was something lacking. But every dancer tries to explore…I set out to find what I then called “American Dance.”…
P: Does being a choreographer and a dancer cause any conflict?
K: There isn’t any with me because I enlist all the help I can get. But most of it is critical help. I would always have an assistant or co-worker and ask them, “What do you think of this?”. It’s not always that easy to get an opinion and when I first started out the opinions weren’t always favourable. Along the way you pick up people who help you, people who push you, people who sponsor you…
P: What is involved in the process of choreographing a dance for the film? Do you get a feeling from the music and work to that, or do you work to an emotion or to a story?
K: I try to find something in the character I’m playing that the dance will follow, and whatever dance I might do should reflect the look and feel of that character. The song is a great help.
The only difficulty with the modern American musical is that popular songs are very short in duration…So, you usually have to take a phrase of, let’s say, eight bars and do theme and variations on it. A lot also comes from the lyricist. What he/she says can help you extend the dance into something that the audience will not only understand but will embrace emotionally, and when they do, then I think it becomes successful…There are times when you know there’s something there and you sweat, and strain, and work, and it truly does become the old Thomas Alva Edison axiom of being 99% perspiration. But you know when you have it.
P: Your goal then is to embrace the audience – to touch them emotionally?
K: Yes, I think if you’re making musicals for a mass audience, with few exceptions your goal is to bring joy. And if you can lift the audience and make them happy for a few minutes, then the dance has done its work – with the song. I’m not a singer, so I use the song as a bridge between the dialogue and the dance, and I don’t pretend to do anything else with my little whiskey tenor. But I have been helped enormously by songwriters and composers. They’re a lot more important than I think people ever give them credit for…
P: Does music aid the dance or vice versa?
K: Usually dance is structured on music. However, I often have my dance pretty well structured before I get to the music…Then I need the musician – the arranger – to come in and help me. You can’t do it all by yourself. If you’re working in the mass media and you’re working for some sort of universality of appeal you are trying to touch a lot of people, not just 10 year-olds or 50 year-olds, but everybody.
P: That’s Gene Kelly the dancer and choreographer – is that the same outlook as Gene Kelly the director?
K: If I’m directing a musical, yes. When I’m directing a straight piece, I think the main job is to interpret what’s put down in the script. Whatever you can do to help that is very valuable…
P: Do you have a preference for one – acting, directing, dancing, choreography?
K: No. It really depends on the project. Sometimes I’ll love to do the role – the part. Years ago choreography was the thing I wanted to do above everything else. I believe a lot of that had to do with the single-mindedness that comes with youthful energy and a certain viewpoint…
P: What are some of the differences between choreographing and directing for the theatre as opposed to motion pictures?
K: Directing for the theatre one can see the results the minute the audience goes out of the theatre. You know where your laughs are or you know where your tears are. The writer sits beside you, or in the row next to you, and you get together and you fix the scenes that don’t go with the audience.
The difficulty with motion pictures is you don’t have the built-in audience and you have to do a lot that reflects your own emotional appeal…another difficulty in directing motion pictures is that once you get it up there on the stage you still have to put it into a camera, have the actors walk around, make cuts, move the camera, etc…
In retrospect I find the theatre much more simplistic both for the director and for the choreographer to work ion…
P: When directing musical films do you feel you have an advantage as a director because you are also a choreographer?
K: Yes, because when I create the steps I design them for certain camera angles or certain camera moves…
P: What is the most difficult task for you as a director?
K: Everything. The director has to know everyone’s job, everyone’s part. He has to be able to answer any question the actor brings him…A lot of directors I’ve seen shouldn’t be directors, they don’t know everyone’s job…
P: Are you still learning about dance?
K: Always, and I’ve always learned by observation…. When you talk of dance, it’s like talking of any other art form. I don’t think you can compare Toulouse-Lautrec with Michaelangelo – they had completely different styles of painting. Likewise I don’t think you can compare a classical dancer with a modern dancer…or a tap dancer with either one of them. The dancer who is skilled in each style has my admiration because I know what he or she has gone through. – the work. The Broadway gypsy who’s had to learn several styles is the one I admire the most. They amaze me all the time. I think there are more good dancers today than there ever were in the history of the world.
P: Music is very important to you. Have you studied music?
K: Yes, when I was a boy I studied piano and violin, and I also played the banjo in high school. I read music and I certainly read every arrangement that’s made for me and go over it with the arranger.
P: You haven’t done a film in quite some time. Why all of a sudden did you decide to do Xanadu?
K: Well, it was a personal choice. A film usually takes a year out of your life and if you’re directing, it’s two years. Since becoming a widower I just had to be at home for my children who were very young when my wife passed away. Being lucky enough to be here in the centre of all the television activity I’ve managed to stay active. Xanadu was made right her in Los Angeles. I was able to leave in the morning and come home at night every day just like a banker. So it didn’t interrupt the routine of our lives. Most films now are pretty much spread out, a lot of them done on location…
P: But why Xanadu?
K: I liked the idea of it. I liked the juxtapositioning of the parts. I was playing a man my own age. Most of my life they’ve been asking me to play myself twenty years younger, which is, I guess, a compliment, but nevertheless, it felt very comfortable for me to play my own age. I liked the idea of trying to make a film using the popular music of the day and yet trying to do a fantasy. I enjoyed making it and working with the young people who made it. The choreographer was good and the people I played with were very refreshing.
P: Do you see a return to musicals?
K: Who knows? Your guess is as good as mine.
P: Would you like them to make a comeback?
K: If they make a good one, I’ll like it. If they make a bad one, I’ll groan…
P: In film today there are more convenience dances, as opposed to the contrived dances of the musical of the forties. How do you feel about that?
K: Today, they’re pretty much afraid to do a contrived dance. They think that it’s old-fashioned. But the fact is, most of the time they simply don’t know how to stage it…They can grind their teeth at that statement all they like…nothing is old-fashioned if it works…
P: Would you comment on the evolution of dance?
K: We can’t find a reason why people dance the way they do. – especially the popular dance…I think one should start with the music of the period because it’s my strongly held belief that popular dance always follows the popular music of the era.
P: Which one of your films was the most enjoyable to make?
K: The one I enjoyed doing the most was The Three Musketeers. It’s still the most popular film I ever made, it’s still running all over the world and shown in all the Third World countries. I had fun making it because it was like being a kid and doing cowboys and Indians with plumes. I enjoyed the duelling and setting up the choreography of the so-called duels and fights was much more fun than doing a dance number. I enjoyed that picture the most.
P: What part would you have liked to play in a film?
K: In the past I had always wanted to do Cyrano on the screen and turn it into a musical. But MGM thought that having a leading man with a long nose would fail at the box office, so they would not finance the film. I tried for about 3-4 years then gave up.
I also wanted to do Guys And Dolls – Sam Goldwyn asked me to do it, but MGM wouldn’t loan me to Goldwyn. He told me, “If I can’t get you, I’ll get an actor like Brando,” and he did get Brando to do it…They also wouldn’t lend me to Harry Cohn to do Pal Joey, which Sinatra ended up doing.
K: No. I think there were a few times we could have used better judgment, but that can go for me as well as for some executives. One must remember that everyone accepted the idea of being an indentured servant, just the way ballplayers used to….Even when many actors, including myself, would defy executive wishes I must say that, in all fairness to MGM, it was a great studio to be at. They never penalized us. None of us was ever put on suspension or fired – we were listened to very civilly. You hear a lot of bad-mouthing about the old studio system and, of course, there were shortcomings. I defend so many things about the old system because it worked out well for at least the musical groups that I saw at the studios, especially those at MGM.
P: The MGM years – can you give us an idea of the flavour of those times?
K: It was the only time in history that America had a repertory group that made musical movies… We’d like to build such a repertory at Zoetrope. The exciting thing to me was that when somebody would say, “Gene, I’m a little troubled on this dance,” or a writer would say, “What’s wrong with this dialogue?” and we’d discuss it together, we didn’t put our names on the screen….The ambience was much freer, much nicer. We all had our egos, we all wanted to do what we wanted to do, but there are many dances in films – not just MGM films – that I’ve done and never received credit for. I just did them as favors for friends…
P: How did the job at Zoetrope come about?
K: It came about very easily. Francis Coppola called and told me he had acquired a studio and that he was interested in, among other things, making musicals. And he paid me the compliment of saying, “Of all the people I want to be here making musicals with, it would be you.”
He outlined a program of search and discovery, of trying to establish the kind of repertory group we used to have in the old MGM days. I got very excited. In ten minutes I said, “Yes, I’ll be in tomorrow. We’ll get going on it.” It was as simple as that.
I’ve always admired Francis. I ran into him first in a very unusual way. I was doing a picture with Frank McCarthy, I was the director...Frank called me into his office for what I thought was going to be a conference. He said, “I want you to read the opening of this script about Patton.” This was several years before he got Patton off the ground. I read it and said, “My God! This is the strongest piece of writing who is this fellow and where has he been… I want to meet him.”…and that was the first meeting I had with Francis Coppola…He’s just a pleasure to be associated with.
P: You mentioned a “search and discovery” program at Zoetrope.
K: We’re auditioning every day…We’ve already gone through a few hundred people. Naturally we’re trying to find the goldmines…the Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaires, O’Connors, Kellys of the 40s and 50s…On the other hand we’re looking for ideas and writers…
Everyone tells us…that they like the musicals. I get more fan letters now from people than I did when I was a movie star…kids ten, eleven, twelve, have discovered musicals the way we did them at MGM. That’s not nostalgia…
P: Setting up Zoetrope in the style of MGM, are you trying to recreate what happened at MGM?
K: We can never have the fantastic amount of stock talent that was at MGM.. In the first place it just isn’t economically feasible. However, we’re setting six pictures next year and we plan two of them to be musicals…We’re even looking at little children because we want to do some pictures with children. Also on the books is a family picture for next year.
P: how do you all work together?
K: It’s a well-rounded look at motion picture making, and a well-rounded group. I love them because they’re very young and enthusiastic…We all throw in our ideas. We all read the scripts. I don’t just read musicals. I say, “This will go/this won’t go.”…
P: What specifically have you taken from your experience at MGM?
K: Everything. Even the choice. Arthur Freed once took a title called An American In Paris. He called five or six people in a room and said, “That’s a good picture.” We all said, “Yes” and that’s how it started. Well, I have a title like that and called all the people into the room and said, “What do you think of it?” They all agreed. So, we’re going ahead and making the picture…
P: Could you make Singin’ In The Rain today for today’s audience?
K: Since today’s audience likes it better than when it came out I would say yes. Singin’ In The Rain wasn’t one of our big hits. It made a lot of money. But, pictures like On The Town and An American In Paris made fortunes…
P: today’s budgets. You can’t make a movie for $1-2million anymore.
K: today’s budgets are horrendous. You have to be very sure of your material and very sure of the talent. And even then it’s a risk…
P: are you more conservative and careful because $10-15 million rides on a film?
K: No. I’ve made pictures where I spent $500,000 as carefully as when I made pictures that cost, in those days, $3-5million. You can’t be a good film maker and not be as careful with a low budget as with a high budget…
P: Does Gene Kelly the administrator take away from Gene Kelly the creative artist?
K: No. If that were to happen then I would just have a ledger and pencil and paper and facts and figures and the human element would leave….It won’t happen because that part of the business has always bored me…I want to be involved with the human element, the aesthetic element, the artistic and creative sides…
P: how would you describe the type of property or material that you are looking for right now?
K: I couldn’t. It would be taking in the whole world. If a descendent of Mao Tse-Tung came up and said, “I have a Chinese film that could incorporate the Chinese ballet,” and it sounded exciting, I would certainly consider it (laughs) I’m reaching pretty far there!
P: What are you not open to?
K: Just bad material and bad talent. I’ve never been crazy about amateurs. I don’t book them easily. It’s the only time I get really impatient.
P: At the risk of a cliché, can you define what good material is?
K: A good script – when you break it down, it’s well constructed….After that, how you would shoot it and what the visual images are. The first test is how it gets to you. If it doesn’t get to you, no matter who wrote it, then forget about it…
P: What are some of the changes in the Industry that excite you?
K: In the MGM days there was no place that we could go to study our craft. Today the plethora of film schools that we have are doing a good job of turning out kids who have studied film, and the kids are very knowledgeable. When I speak to them at seminars or lectures I am amazed at the creativity they show…
Another change is that there has been a tremendous increase in actual film equipment and variety, a lot of it much lighter and handier to use.
P: Any other changes you have noted?
K: It has been said by many of my colleagues, who are very wise and even older than I – if you’ll believe that – that there is a major difficulty with the Industry today and that is that people have nowhere to go to fail. They don’t have so much of the summer stock and the little vaudeville theatres…
P: Do you think the Industry has become too much of a business, a corporate entity?
K: I think there are too many executives who hire people for their reputations and for what they have done and not for the particular job they are about to do….I don’t know how true that was in the old days, but I have a hunch that men had greater lovefor the film then…many of our compatriots today are in it for a buck and don’t have the pictures aesthetically and artistically at heart…they’re in love with the attractions the business has to offer.
P: Are you still in love with the business?
K: I am, yes. I will be until I die. And I always have been in love with every aspect of the business.
P: Does the businessman/producer situation agree with you?
K: I think the majority of the time it does. You have to be more of a businessman and less creative artist now than you were in the old days.
P: Are you becoming a businessman?
K: No. I can’t. I work on the aesthetic and artistic side. I have some very good colleagues who take care of the business areas for me.
P: Are you trying to create a family atmosphere at Zoetrope?
K: It was already created before I got there. Francis did that and he did it very well, and that’s part of the great charm of the place.
P: Any concluding statement?
K: I always wish I could thank the public for having been so nice to me over the years. They’ve kept me in business for a very long time. And even when I go on television for a guest shot I get letters saying, “It’s good to see you again. Do more.” The public has been very kind to me and I only wish there were some way to say “Thank you.”
P: Mr Kelly, you already have.
20/20 TV. 1984. Interviewed by Sylvia Chase.
Introduction: The movies he made, sparkled. He was dashingly handsome and he had style and panache. He could sing a few bars and he danced a little too, and when he did, time stood still…For Gene Kelly, his dancing and singing were not what was most important to him.
GK: I like taking something out of thin air, turning it onto one’s anatomy and making it dance.
I wanted to combine various styles of American dance to create what I called in those days, perhaps pompously, an American style.
SC: A robust, athletic, acrobatic style is at the heart of the legend of Gene Kelly. When we think of the man we think of the dance. But if you ask the legend himself he’ll tell you he danced with some reluctance. Choreographer and creator, that’s what he wanted to be.
GK: Most performers; actors, singers, dancers, love the doing of it. I love the making it up. The doing of it is very secondary. The roar of the crowd and smell of greasepaint doesn’t kill me at all.
On the making of For Me & My Gal: Judy said, I haven’t danced for a long time, we have to do a number together. So I taught her a number. The director, Busby Berkley, said show her another. So I did another one. I didn’t get credit but I was doing a dance teacher’s job.
Stage v. film: On stage, dancing is like sculpture, its 3D, seen by an audience with two eyes. The camera has one eye, changes dancing into painting – flat.
SC: They said the mouse dance couldn’t be done, but that was just so much music to Kelly’s ears. Even Walt Disney was surprised. But that was Kelly, always expanding his vision of dance for the eye of the camera.
Stanley Donen: He has that absolutely wild, blatant, explosive talent.
S.D. On the making of On The Town: We were very sure we wanted something quite different from what was happening at that time.
GK: There was great inertia at the studio. If a thing worked, they’d say don’t fuss with it.
Leslie Caron: On the making of An American In Paris: I had hardly heard of Gene Kelly or the movies. When I got to the studio Gene started showing me his films, and I was very impressed. When you dance, there are some nice moments and then some less nice moments. With him, the effort, the supreme effort, was the same through and through.
SC: On Our Love Is Here To Stay: As you watch it, note the subtlety with which Kelly choreographed it. There is almost no editing. Nowhere to hide. You see it as they danced it.
GK: Each time you play a role you try to do something different, try not to repeat a series of steps. That often gets most difficult when you’re dancing with a partner. You’re saying I love you and saying it over a period of three minutes, when it just takes three words, doesn’t it?
LC: I think the quality of that number was achieved through a great deal of simplicity. Paring down, paring down until it was utterly simple and every gesture had a certain poetry. But it wasn’t technical. He didn’t want it to appear technical. So it appeared like just breathing or just being together – it looks like two lovers just out for a stroll. Took us a month!
SC: As a choreographer, perhaps Kelly’s biggest challenge was to transform Gershwin’s An American In Paris suite into a seventeen-minute ballet. But first he had to get the studio to agree to spend the money.
GK: It was going to up the budget by $350,000 – back then it was a whole picture cost. So we went in and I got up and did a few steps…And Dory Schary said, “I don’t know what the hell you’re talking about but you should do it, it sounds great.”…
We then see another ‘American in Paris’, Bridget Kelly, Gene’s younger daughter who is studying art history there.
SC: As big a star as her father may be, he has always put hearth and home ahead of career.
Bridget: I think the family is one of the most important things in his life, because after my mother died, he was always home, he didn’t go away on long trips which normally that calls for in his profession, and he comes from a large family himself.
GK: Seen with his brother Fred: Fred taught me to tap, I was a ballet dancer, and we went out and played amateur nights, American Legion halls, and anything we could play.
Fred: If I didn’t think I could win on an amateur night, I used to bring in my big brother and we’d cop first prize.
On making I Love To Go Swimmin’ With Women:
Gene called me and said do you remember what the second step was in the seventh routine, and I said oh yeah, that was the goose step, then the double maxi ford…all the tap lingo.
GK: Just say one word or two and we can say a whole eight bars. That’s how much we know each others’ dancing.
SC: When you watch something do you think, oh I wish I could get up and do that again?
GK: Nope! All finished. I knew for the kind of dancing I wanted to do I had to getup every day and work out. At my age, no soap. Too tough.
SC: Those knock-em-dead routines may be over but he’s never stopped working, on TV as well as what he knows best. On That’s Dancing, Kelly is resident expert as well as executive producer. Considering his many accomplishments it was surprising to hear he felt he’d missed something.
GK: You can always look back and say why didn’t I do another picture that year, that was a musical. In a way I regret that now, that I didn’t add more to my dancing skills and knowledge when I had the physical ability.
They then show the rain dance.
SC: Seeing this it’s hard to imagine he could have been more skilful. He says this is a simple dance and yet Singin’ In The Rain stands out even in a film that’s often called the best musical ever made. Kelly the choreographer and director is to be admired and respected, but this Kelly, exuberant and childlike – this is the Kelly we love to remember.
GK: People don’t even remember that I did a lot of straight movies. I don’t know how many people know that I choreographed so many musicals. They don’t even remember them. They remember me as a song and dance man and that’s fine.
SC: He’s thoroughly at home with just who he is. You have the feeling he could even do without Hollywood. His idea of a great evening is curling up with a good book and his favourite subject is history. As nice a man off camera as he is on. That was a delight.
1985 Interview Magazine. Interviewed by Margy Rochlin.
On being asked if women ever asked him to dance with him: Sure, all the time. The only thing is that ordinarily when I do dance with them they think I am suddenly going to throw them over a table or twist them all round. All I want to do is one-two, one-two-three – a simple foxtrot. But they're shaking with anticipation at the thought that I'm about to whip them round and then toss them on the roof...
The only time I feel pressured is when some woman's husband comes over to me and says, “Will you go ask my wife to dance? She's a great dancer and would just love to dance with you.” Okay, so I go ask his wife to dance and he goes around and tells all of his friends. Suddenly there's a crowd of people standing around us and they expect that they're about to see Fred and Ginger. Here the woman and I have just met, and these people think that it's showtime. That is the only time I think it is embarrassing...
On his decision to retire from dancing: I had already decided about a year and a half before I did Xanadu that I was through with dancing. In fact, I wasn't going to dance in Xanadu, but several journalists told me that Olivia-Newton-John kept saying how sad she was that she wouldn't get the chance to dance with me. So I finally said, “Alright, throw in a number.” But I'm through with dancing. It's just too much work to get up every day and practice. And like an athlete, it's an everyday job. You have to stay in shape – unless you just want to loaf through a couple of hoofing routines. But that just didn't satisfy me...
MR: What did you think of Flashdance?
GK: I don't even want to discuss Flashdance. I'm no critic, but that's an interesting phenomenon, that picture.
MR: Are you referring to the use of dance doubles?
GK: That's what I don't want to discuss. I don't understand the whole concept of doubles...in Flashdance you have triples, quadruples. From my point of view it is bad for the art. But obviously the public doesn't seem to care...
In film, a dancer should always be shot from head to toe, because that way you can see the whole body and that is the art of dancing. Nowadays they shoot the nose. Left nostril. Right nostril. Hand. Foot. Bust. Derriere. The film prevents you from determining who is a good dancer and who is not. When they do let them sustain on screen from head to toe, though, then you know they must think the person is a good dancer.
MR: Given how you feel about dance doubles, what do you predict the future of dance in film will be?
GK: The future of dance will always be tied up with the public's acceptance of the star. If they accept the star, then they'll accept that style of dance. America now has more and better dancers than they have ever had in the history of the country, but that won't account for what the public wants to see...
MR: Besides the lack of complexity, what did you think about Purple Rain?
GK: I enjoyed the film. I was amused by all the gimmicks used to titillate teenagers. There is a certain kind of pornography that exists throughout Purple Rain, but the appeal is obvious...
MR: What do you miss seeing the most in contemporary musicals?
GK: I miss the romance. I keep saying this over and over again. But dance follows music. And if the accent on music today is percussion and rhythm and loudness, then that is the way the dance numbers will be. But it is pretty hard on romance with seven guitars, three drums and no melody instruments in the band. I love rhythmic dancing – I'm not derogating it at all. It's just that sometimes you want to whisper “I adore you.” And for that you need strings and woodwinds....But a couple of weeks ago I saw Mikhail Baryshnikov do Twyla Tharp's Sinatra Suite on PBS. I have no numbers to prove it, but I bet that kids who saw that loved it. I think you will see younger dancers, who certainly have the artistic sense and capabilities, start going back to more romantic numbers.
MR: Would you like to work with Twyla Tharp again?
GK: I think Twyla has a lot to say...I recently told Twyla that if it were twenty years earlier I could have fit right in with a lot of things she is doing. That doesn't mean I agree with everything she's done. I don't agree with everything George Balanchine did....
MR: Do you invent a specific system for choreographing a dance?
GK: When I would create a dance, I wouldn't have the luxury that ballet people do when they take a piece of music and impose a dance upon it. What we did in motion pictures was have a song and within that song try to elaborate. My usual method was to do what a writer does: get a plot....Mentally I write myself a little story. Of course sometimes you have a song that says, “Do that.” My best example is “Singin' In The Rain.”...It was a setup I couldn't escape: I was happy in love and playing in the puddles and the song would say the rest...
MR: Who was your biggest influence?
GK: It was Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. I couldn't believe his grace, his moves, his athleticism. But I wasn't one of those kids who went to the ballet one day and said, “Oh! I must be a dancer.”...I was pushed into it by my mother.
MR: What inspired you to continue dancing?
GK: Girls. Mainly girls. It gave me a chance to put my arm around their waists without getting my face slapped.
ANDRE PREVIN TALKS TO GENE KELLY. BBC TV. 1986
I LOVE this interview. It takes place in Gene’s home, and is very easy and relaxed. It seems like just two friends chatting. Though I had to get over the fact that in spite of being a ‘friend’ of Gene’s, Previn has said a couple of less than complimentary things about him since his passing. Nevertheless it is a delightful 40 minutes. I have transcribed most of it, missing out repetitive statements etc.
Previn: I am getting a sense of deja-vu; any minute you’re going to ask for a charades team. You used to have the most amazing charades contests. They were great fun but there was blood all over the floor.
Gene: It was brutal. If you won or lost it was world war one or two….We haven’t played in years, it’s gone out of style, out of fashion.
P: I remember performing in this room. I met some of the wildest people, and never on large occasions. I remember Chaplin, Norman Mailer, Marilyn Monroe…
G: It was really a haven for Eastern refugees. Everyone from Broadway gathered here. We had so much music. Besides yourself we had Lenny, Oscar, Roger, Sauly… if some actor who had three drinks and wanted to get up and sing, someone would play for him. It was so nice.
P: And unexpected because you never knew if the person who intended to sing was Richard Conte or Noel Coward.
Have you always been very convivial, liked a lot of people around?
G: It depends what one’s doing. Aloneness is very important, when you’re working hard and trying to make sense of some choreography and make it come to life out of thin air you go off and seek aloneness, but generally out here during that time my life was one of conviviality, one of outgoing.
Previn here asks about Gene’s family.
G: We had a great sense of family, being Irish Micks, hanging together and fighting our way to school and back, especially when mom sent my brother and I to dancing school. She gave that up in a year but she made another mistake – she asked me to take violin lessons and there’s something about a boy carrying a violin case in a poor neighbourhood that brings out the very worst in every kid.
P: Worse than carrying dancing shoes?
G: Well they don’t see you carry dancing shoes, until you go and they hear about it. Then they get you on Saturday or Sunday. This predominantly Irish Mick neighbourhood was very declassë.
P: Did everybody know you were going to be a dancer when you were five or six?
G: No, least of all myself. I wanted to be shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Then in high school I found the girls liked you when you could dance, and show off in the school shows. I was fifteen. I didn’t like dancing earlier.
P: Were your dance lessons in Pittsburgh?
G: Yes, but in senior summer between high school and college I went to Chicago and took ballet lessons and did that every summer for about seven years. By that time I had a dancing school and was teaching all my knowledge to other dancers.
P: Why did you leave Pittsburgh?
G: After the dance schools became successful, I’d made as much money – to put it crassly – as I could, and Id done everything aesthetic or artistic that there was to do in Pittsburgh, so I said I’ll go to Broadway and be a choreographer.
P: Not a dancer?
G: Oh no. I went to Broadway and they said what have you done and I mentioned Pittsburgh…So I had to take a job as a dancer. It didn’t bother me, I knew I was a good dancer so I could always get a job as a dancer. We did some shows, summer stock including Green Grow The Lilacs which became Oklahoma, things like that I’m quite proud of. Then I was put into Pal Joey.
P: Explain…please why that was such a ground-breaking musical.
G: At the time there were no heroes on the Broadway stage in musicals who were heels. Joey was making his way through the chorus line and at the same time he was in love with a virginal young sweet girl. And was being kept by an older woman…he was as amoral as you could get. The whole trick was to make the audience like you so you do that in the music and dance numbers. After deflowering a young lady I turn and smile at the audience and do my act. And it worked!
They then discuss how Gene went out to Hollywood with Selznick and how he sold Gene to MGM.
P: how did you wind up in absolutely straight things like Pilot #5 etc? Did you ask for them?
G: When I wasn’t working I was unhappy. Also I felt there were a lot of things I had to learn about appearing on the screen. When I’d see myself I wasn’t stupid enough not to see I couldn’t do a close-up. I was still playing to the fourth balcony. So I thought those pictures would help me. They were easy to do because they were programmers. They were shot fast – two or three weeks for the whole movie.
P: Are you proud of any of them now?
G: No, not really. Once in a while some of the pictures made a fortune. Made for three-and-a-half-dollars and they made, round the world, zillions. The biggest grossing film I ever made was not a musical. The biggest success was Three Musketeers and it still plays in houses throughout Africa, Asia…
Previn asks about Cover Girl.
G: They loaned me out. I had a lot of fun. I did my own choreography and after I came back from Cover Girl they would let me do any choreography – oh, please, please do it, they asked.
P: Did you get to shoot and direct that number? Because that film was directed by Charles Vidor.
G: Yes, yes. Charlie had left. He knew the number couldn’t be done. He’d gone away because technically it was impossible…Shooting it covered in black velvet then with the black velvet torn off the set. The way we did it was by the soundtrack. Say there were four quarter notes in the bar. I would hit each of these quarter notes on the same mark on the ground. I put a safety pin on the Mitchell camera… [Gene then goes into technical details about the panning of the camera]. It was very primitive.
P: How long did it take you to work it out?
G: To work it out, about three weeks. The shooting took two days. Shooting was simple, it was only myself.
P: What happened when the picture was previewed, did the people go fairly berserk after that number?
G: It was a very popular picture and a popular number.
P: The ambition to choreograph and direct really was always as strong as to perform?
G: Much stronger. I really didn’t care about performing. The joy is creating. Let’s take a dance that’s pulled out of the air. Transfer it onto the instrument called the body. The creation of that is a bit masochistic but joyful. Once that’s done, if I could have gotten several young men to dance for me I’d have gladly said ’go ahead’.
P: If someone had said to you just direct an enormous picture but skip being in it, you would have said yes?
P: I mean in the first flush of the great big movie star?
G: I’d have said yes, in my premature egotism, but I felt at that time I could have handled it. I’d have said yes with great joy.
They discuss the non-production of movie musicals.
G: The main thing is economics…to start them you have to have a group. The musical is the most convoluted, most difficult way of making a motion picture...The romantic era is gone…It’ll come back.
The current trend is, you’re as good as your last picture…the next picture we make will be like the last one which made a trillion dollars. So if a robot picture made that, there’ll be another one.
P: When Singin’ In The Rain, American In Paris, etc are on, kids go crazy, even ten or twelve year olds.
G: I have my biggest audience right now, and most of it is from teenage and pre-teenage kids. So it is a phenomenon I don’t quite understand..
I’ll give you my really deep-felt feelings. I think that one of these days a young man or woman’s gonna walk over the hill and be so good at all these things – singing, dancing, acting, he or she will just transform it back into what I call the romantic era of movies.
P: Well, I’m ready. I know Singin’ In The Rain is probably talked about too much with you, but it is an absolute landmark. Do you have another favourite?
G: My favourite is On The Town, because it was not only the first film I directed and choreographed – with Stanley Donen of course – but we did things that hadn’t been done before. We broke new ground. That was the film I guess I’m proudest of. But Singin’ In The Rain is the most popular, yes.
P: Tell me about your experience at the Coronation.
G: I’ll try. I’d rented a house with my wife and child in Chapel Street below Hyde Park Corner. I was given the chance by MCA [Gene’s agents] to go up onto their balcony…to overlook the parade. I was coming before seven, early. I had my umbrella up and my little girl on one side and my wife huddled under my arm and we were just in the middle of Hyde park Corner and the rain was coming down. Then everyone all over London started singing Singin’ In The Rain and I started to cry. I was so moved and touched.
P: I would think so. To upstage the Queen…
G: It wasn’t just that, it was the millions and millions of voices, as they had tannoys and they were all playing back the crowd and the fellow said, “Thank you, Gene Kelly,” and I was overwhelmed.
P: You’ve always been more of a Francophile than an Anglophile.
G: It’s fifty-fifty, but the French have been so nice to me and given me so many honours and decorations and you do feel you’re going to a foreign country when you go there. Paris is a great city but I love France as a whole.. I can take New York or London or Paris for a bit and leave them alone. I like to go out to the Cotswolds near London or the Lake country. [actually the Lake District, in the North of England]. And in America I certainly prefer outside of New York better than in. The taxi drivers in New York and Paris are tough and rude as you can get. By the way, in London they are the nicest in the world.
P: I saw the ballet you did in Paris in 1960.
G: It was an experience, teaching French Opera dancers a new line of American jazz. Some could do it and some couldn’t. There it was like Stanley meeting Livingstone. They didn’t understand the beat…
People forget that dancers have one instrument – the body.
A dancer uses his instrument best when he’s twenty-one. He doesn’t know anything… Now at twenty-five he begins to learn a little but his instrument’s still in good shape. In his thirties it’s starting to go downhill but he’s beginning to know what the art form is about. When he’s forty or fifty his instrument is dessicated and dried up but he really knows what the art form is about. Unfortunately he’s not a Stradivarius that improves with age. So that as his instrument gets old and dries up, his ability gets better. This paradox, and living with it, is a very painful one for dancers.
How did I get on to that? Was it an answer to a question?
P: It doesn’t matter, it was a great answer anyway.
Previn then mentions Invitation To The Dance, asking how Gene managed to persuade the studio to let him do it.
G: My deal at MGM was simply this: that I would re-sign with them if I could make an experimental picture about dancing. Why? Because it seemed unfortunate to me that I knew all these great dancers who are also friends of mine, and no one has heard of them except in a few capitals of the world. I’d like to do something for screen dancing for once in my lifetime. I had a pilgrimage to make. I had to show these dancers to the world.
P: You could do that again now with different dancers.
G: I’d love to.
P: Do you miss the big studio thing?
G: It had great perks. We had the advantage of many people like yourself, right there…arrangers, orchestras…and talent who could go up on the screen…
They reminisce, Gene being amazed that Previn and Comden and Green could write two new songs for It’s Always Fair Weather, literally overnight.
G: It’s the fault of Stanley Donen and myself that It’s Always Fair Weather is not shown much. We believed the powers that be, that Cinemascope was there to stay. Why we should be so gullible, don’t ask me. We shot the entire frame. We had the trios… Luckily I was always in the middle! You only ever see half of Dan Dailey and Michael Kidd. They can’t show it on TV. So what they’ve done, with the trios, they scan the film so you see two men then another two and the whole staging of it is ruined…. The only person with a Cinemascope lens is Adolph Green. He bought one…
They then discuss James Cagney and how he said that making great movies was ‘just work’ to him.
P: When you made movie after movie that formed a new basis for American culture, were you aware that you were making an enormous contribution or were you just working on another film?
G: No, we didn’t think we were making a basis for a future American culture but what we did believe is that we were doing artistic things. When we came in our decade and generation to Hollywood, the musical, with few exceptions, was frowned upon….We were very intense and almost antagonistic toward the powers that be. In fact it took several years on my own part to even have the crew and fellows who had done musicals smiling at me. They thought, what the hell are they doing, why are they doing it this way? …
P: You have it in abundance, and Fred, and that is that you could also be charming, not just spectacular or just romantic or clever, but real charm, and that is not used much in films any more. I’m sorry because I liked charm in films.
G: I’ll say a humble ‘thank you’.
P: Whether you knew you were making masterpieces or not, you were.
G: We tried. We tried to make them good, that’s all.
REFLECTIONS ON THE SILVER SCREEN. 1994 . Written and presented by Professor Richard Brown.
This interview was part of a series written and hosted by Richard Brown, a film lecturer at new York University and the founder of Movies 101, which was also a series of interviews with movie celebrities stretching over a thirty five year period.
It takes place in a book-lined, intimate room, with Gene looking relaxed in a large armchair. He looks remarkably bright, though obviously he was not a well man. And his ‘killer smile’ and sense of humour were still very much in evidence. The talk is interspersed with relevant movie clips. Richard Brown gives the impression of being knowledgeable on the subject, not surprising given his profession, but although very respectful toward Gene he sometimes 'tells' him what he did and said, speaking for him, a habit I found a little annoying. But overall it is, in my opinion, a satisfying and in-depth look at Gene in his later years. You will find several quotes from this interview scattered throughout the site.
Gene begins by talking of his idol Martha Graham. “She inspired me to say 'why can’t I do something new in dance'…” He speaks of his resentment of the rich, as depicted in the movies of the day, and the struggles his family underwent in order to survive and to get a living and an education during the Depression. He wanted to dance for the common man.
“I was lucky that my two Broadway hits cast me as a common man…dancing the way a real man would dance – no tights.”
They talk about his early days in Hollywood, how that Busby Berkeley hated him and did not try to hide it, because he wanted George Murphy to play the lead in For Me And My Gal, but then says that they became very good friends. Gene watched him every moment and saw the way he moved the camera, learning so much in that first film which would stand him in good stead throughout his career. They then discuss the difficulties of filming dance.
Gene says that he never learned to do close-ups on screen. “When I worked on stage there were no microphones. When you said ‘I love you’ to a girl, it had to be said to the people in the front row, it had to be projected to the back balcony, so you had to acquire vocal skills…People like Tracy and Brando walked right into movies (from the stage) and adapted in the first couple of pictures, and I did not.”
Brown asks about the ‘tug of war’ for his soul, between dancing and straight acting. Gene says …”I like to create the stuff, I like to direct and choreograph…Performing I never worked at, though you have to work at the dancing - if you are to leap in the air and hit marks on the ground, you have to train very hard.”
They then discuss his ‘action man’ exploits in films such as The Pirate and The Three Musketeers. He said how much he enjoyed learning the karate and kung-fu, it was fun. And Three Musketeers was “Like playing cowboys and indians with plumes. You go back to your ten-year-old time. I enjoyed that” He enjoyed directing the swordfights in the film, and praised director George Sidney for letting him do it.
Jerry Mouse gets a mention as Gene describes how grateful he was to Walt Disney for his encouragement to go ahead with what was then a revolutionary idea. There follow discussions on Slaughter On 10th Avenue, and On The Town, both of which Brown considered to be of great importance for dance in the movies. They talk of Donen and how he came to work for Gene, going into detail of how the Alter Ego dance was created and filmed.
Gene tells of how he wanted to make An American In Paris on location and Brown says he cannot forgive MGM for putting out the story that Gene could not dance on cobbles, as an excuse for not making the film in Paris. That leads to a discussion of Brigadoon along similar lines. Brown says that Minnelli did not want to make the film on location, but Gene contradicts him, saying “You’ve been reading the books”! He describes their vision of a John Ford type of ‘Scottish Western’, with wonderful outdoor shots of the gathering of the clans etc. And he talks of the alternative plan, to use an area which looked like Scotland, around the Highland Inn, I think in California. But they had to be content with a soundstage, and they were committed to the film so they had to make do.
This leads to talk about Cinemascope, about which Gene makes a disparaging noise like a duck being strangled! He was very angry that the studio deceived them saying they would install suitable equipment, which never happened. He says: “We filled up the screen…so you’d see dancing with one eye here and people out of the shot… If you make a picture for a trio, as in It’s always fair Weather, it happened worse…poor Dan Dailey and poor Michael Kidd were never seen…It was a good picture and nobody has ever seen it properly unless they were at the opening in New York where they had Cinemascope."
Brown says that Gene did what he set out to do, to make dance belong to the common people. Gene says: “I was lucky in being cast that way, I was never cast as an aristocrat. I was never in that kind of trouble. I was proud to be compared with Cagney.”
They talk of Inherit The Wind. Gene says that it was a very high class picture and for that reason was not too big a hit! But he saw it as a great climax to his acting career.
Of course they have to end with Singin’ In The Rain, though Gene seems quite pleased that they have avoided it until now. He said it was never meant to have anything to do with rain. Comden and Green and Gene had been working on the songs and dances etc for a while, when Freed told them individually that he wanted it to be called Singin’ In The Rain. Comden and Green were furious. Gene says: “Arthur said ‘What are you going to be doing?’ I said, without any enthusiasm in my voice, ‘Arthur, it’s gonna be raining and I gotta be singing. I’ll work it out’. Comden and Green wrote a whole evening with rain. The love scene, I requested, because to do the number I had to act like a kid. So the most famous number I did, came about through Freed doing that. “
He says the most difficult thing was the dubbing. “I had all the people around the studio wearing different kinds of shoes trying to dub the sound like it was real. I ended up dubbing it with the old metal taps against squishy sounds from a terrific sound man Bill Saraceno. For a couple of months I couldn’t get that sound."
Brown asked Gene: “Did you have any sense that it was what might be the defining musical of all time?” Gene replied: ”No, we tried to do that in every film we shot.”
Finally Brown asks “After fifty years, what do you think of movies as a way to make a living?” Gene replied: ”…Dancing was always more effective on the stage. I signed for one picture. Then I fell in love with dancing in the movies, because everyone I asked didn’t know what to do about it. The only people who were being shot correctly were Fred and Ginger, doing this team dancing, shot from head to toe…but they didn’t know how to use the camera. So I went to work. I said ‘I am going to lick this thing’.”
The interview fades out at that point.
Burt Prelutsky. THE SECRET OF THEIR SUCCESS. 2008
This interesting book features 78 interviews with ‘Legends and Luminaries’, including Sammy Cahn, Gerald Ford, Jerry Herman, Jack Lemmon, Randy Newman, Billy Wilder, Ginger Rogers, Dinah Shore, and many more whose names are not familiar to me.
The interview with Gene took place at his home. It is said to be the last interview which Gene gave. It is quite short, five pages, and there is nothing really new for well-informed fans to learn, but it IS Gene, relaxed and honest, and the questions are intelligent.
Prelutsky: You always had the sense that if you followed Gene Kelly around with a camera for a week or so, you’d wind up with a Gene Kelly movie. Everything he did had a spontaneous air to it…He had the ability to take what was back-breaking work and make it look like child’s play…he had millions of us believing that we too could tap dance on roller skates…and what’s even more extraordinary, he made us want to.
Asked if he had been surprised to find himself a movie star. “I never envisioned it happening. To me, the stars were guys like Gable, Cooper and Stewart. It was just plain dumb luck that I was paired with Judy and the movie was such a big hit.”
Asked if his liberal politics had ever hurt his career. “MGM got a lot of letters, but they knew I wasn’t a Communist…Let’s face it – my movies were making lots of money for MGM, and that’s what counted.”
Asked if there was a downside to success. “You bet there is…while we’ve been sitting here…I’ve noticed at least ten tour buses slow down or stop outside. It’s a damn nuisance. And it’s hard to go out in public without being asked for an autograph...”
Asked whom he would like to meet. “You can pick up either Bible and find a lot of names. Plus there’s Plato, Socrates, Voltaire, Shakespeare, Mary Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth I. I did meet Elizabeth II, and she was very nice.”
Asked if he missed dancing. “No, I did plenty of it…Besides, right now I’ve got this bum leg. So if I miss anything, it’s walking.”
The author ends with the words: For us, it’s Gene Kelly we miss. There just aren’t stars like him anymore...
GENE KELLY BIOGRAPHY. THE BIOGRAPHY CHANNEL 1996
I understand this biography was produced following Gene’s passing in 1996. I find it to be much warmer in tone than Anatomy Of A Dancer, although it is perhaps not 100% accurate. But then neither is Anatomy! It does however seem to get to the ‘heart’ of Gene and of what he sought to accomplish. Stanley Donen and Andre Previn make surprisingly positive, one would almost say affectionate, comments on Gene.
It starts with the words: “Gene Kelly was energy. Gene Kelly was muscle. Gene Kelly was purpose.”
“He was very earthy, very sexy.” (Sounds good already!)
Then we hear Gene’s words when he accepted the AFI tribute in 1985.
“We all thought we were trying to create some kind of magic and joy, and y’know, that’s what you do up there. You dance love, you dance joy and you dance dreams. And I know that if I can make you smile by jumping over a couple of couches or by running through a rainstorm, then I’ll be very glad to be a song and dance man…”
Narrator: “Gene Kelly did not invent the Hollywood musical…but he transformed it from a filmed version of a staged performance into something new and greater.”
Leslie Caron goes on to talk about the difficulties of film dancing and of how Gene’s inventions made it possible.
Neal Gabler, Film historian: “Gene Kelly thinks of dance in terms of the movie medium.”
Howard Gottlieb, Kelly Collection archivist: “His style was extraordinarily masculine – the muscular sexuality came through in his dancing.”
Ann Miller: “He looked like a baseball player who condescended to tap. He had that ‘all-American’ kind of thing.”
Narrator: “To audiences he was America itself at an exuberant moment in its history.”
Donen: “To me, Gene was the epitome of the Americans – energetic, charming, brash, smiling…”
Dennis Cunningham, critic: “…He smacked of the neighbourhood streets…in Pittsburgh…”
A biography of Gene’s early life follows, including a clip from the Edward Murrow interview, in which Gene lists the jobs he took in order to work his way through college and help support his family.
Betty Comden & Adolph Green: “Gene had a deceptive quality of being an ingenuous chap – you know, the first time in the big city – you thought that about him for about two seconds and then realised he was a brilliant guy with a terrific education.”
Then comes Pal Joey.
Comden & Green: “He gave one of the greatest performances on the musical comedy stage, it was a unique show…danced by Gene it was very funny and charming.”
Narrator: “His part drew rave reviews…Even members of the cast were struck by the way the Kelly appeal made the part.”
Donen: “These things don’t happen very often…I can count them on my fingers…extraordinary people, and Gene was certainly one of these.”
Then it’s off to Hollywood.
Narrator: “When Kelly got to the West coast in 1941 he discovered that Selznick wasn’t making musicals. MGM was the place to be. It was the one studio that put money and time into lavish musicals, that could make the public forget the Depression…that could have more stars than there were in the heavens.”
It talks of Gene’s first role, with Judy, and how she helped him through.
Next is a comparison of Gene and Fred Astaire.
Then we focus on Cover Girl, with comments from Donen.
Narrator: “Kelly’s Alter Ego dance made movie history.”
Anchors Aweigh is mentioned, in which Donen claims he woke Gene up at 3am to tell him he was going to dance with a cartoon character!
Mention is made of Gene’s stint in the Navy.
After that comes On The Town.
Betty Comden: “The opening of that movie is spectacular. It makes the movie. Could they have done it on the back lot? No!”
Donen talks of how they did the location shots.
Narrator: “On The Town opened in 1950. The style of its star helped the movie perfectly capture the exuberant self-confident mood of America in peacetime.”
Gabler: “Gene Kelly epitomises the post-war American period.”
Narrator: “The success of On The Town was another triumph for Kelly and it fed his hunger for innovation. But MGM had other ideas….The MGM executives asked him to walk Judy Garland through her next picture…Summer Stock offered no challenges for Gene but in true Kelly form he challenged himself..” (Goes on to discuss the squeaky board and newspaper dance.)
An American In Paris.
Narrator: “The movie posed a challenge big enough to match Gene Kelly’s creative ambitions”.
Leslie: “He was very exacting but I have never seen a dance teacher that wasn’t. They had to be.”
Narrator: “Once again Kelly had tried to top himself and once again, he succeeded.. An American In Paris was a smash at the box office when it opened in 1951, and it swept the Academy Awards.”
Gabler: ”Gene’s Award was an acknowledgment that he was more than just another hoofer, he really was an artist.”
Then comes a section about Gene’s home life, his ‘open-house’ weekend gatherings.
Leslie: “He was sort of a father-figure, a brother-figure. His house was always open on Saturday nights. You didn’t even knock, you just walked in. I remember Adolph and Betty during weekends at Gene’s house, saying ‘We can’t think of a story for Singin’ In The Rain’.”
Narrator: “It seemed impossible to repeat the success of An American In Paris but soon Gene Kelly was working on what would turn out to be his greatest and most memorable movie.”
Comden & Green: “Gene was not afraid of ridiculing himself. One of the wonderful qualities of Singin’ In The Rain was that he caught the spirit of the spoiled movie star and exploited it like mad. He loved every second of it.”
Donen: “It was hot, we were under black tarpaulins and it was summer, and Gene had a cold. The rain made it worse…the steam makes you twice as hot.”
Donald O’Connor: “His suits kept shrinking…they had to keep getting him suits.”
Narrator: “It took one and a half days to film Kelly’s most memorable moments, and the audience never knew that Gene was running a temperature of 103 when he danced before the cameras.”
Gabler: “I think it’s remarkable for the sense of exuberance that you get. The…expression of Kelly’s joy and it so beautifully comports with what he does with his body, with what he does with the rain. It’s all of a piece.”
Narrator: “It took some time for audiences and the movie’s creators, to recognise Singin’ In The Rain as a masterpiece.”
Narrator: “There seemed to be no limit to Gene Kelly’s talents. He was determined to bring ballet to a wide audience and in 1952 he made Invitation To The Dance…But MGM had no faith in the film and shelved it for four years.”
Brigadoon and It’s Always Fair Weather are mentioned briefly. “…The era of the big musical was over. TV had taken the spotlight and the audiences from Hollywood.”
We hear of Gene and Betsy’s divorce, and his acting role in Inherit The Wind, and his marriage to Jeannie, and that at age 50 Gene had to look for new ways to use his talents. Going My Way is mentioned, and it is stated that during the early sixties his ‘career languished’.
Donald: “Nobody wanted to hire him because he was moulded into a song and dance man…which is not true at all”.
Narrator: Gene’s marriage to Jeannie and his family were his central concerns.”
Andre Previn: “He loved his kids a great deal. He was the first one to tell stories about them. He was very good with children.”
Following the success of his directing A Guide For The Married Man – “Kelly was now in demand as a director and didn’t have long to wait for his next assignment, the $20 million Hello Dolly.”
We are then told of Jeannie’s illness. “Gene turned down any work that would take him more than half an hour from her side…he turned down directing Cabaret, he recommended his friend Bob Fosse for that job….for most of the seventies Gene spent the time raising their children…”
We are reminded of the honours Gene received.
Gene: “Dance follows the music and the music today is raucous, very much on the beat and very rhythmic and very loud. Some people will cry out for a return to romanticism and other people like it the way it is right now. I like it all, y’know.”
“…What I loved best was creating anything. I made up a dance, which means you pull something out of the air and bring it into anatomical, physical life – that’s exciting.”
Gabler: “He brought dancing to a public that may not have otherwise accepted dancing.”
Gotlieb: “His sketches of his choreography….show how intricately, meticulously he worked everything out ahead of time, on paper, before he tried it…”
There is footage of the blaze which destroyed Gene‘s house in 1983, very sad to see him sitting on the ground in a state of shock as he saw all his worldly possessions disappear before his eyes.
Narrator: “In 1994 Gene suffered a series of strokes and he never fully regained his strength. He died on 2nd February 1996…The next night Broadway dimmed the lights for one of their own…The boy from Pittsburgh, the song and dance kid with the dream of being the best, made his mark, and left the movie musical forever transformed. But he wanted to be remembered for more personal accomplishments.”
Leslie: “He gave opportunity to enter the career to quite a lot of people. He brought in Stanley Donen, he certainly brought me in, he’s the one who picked Debbie Reynolds…”
Comden & Green: “He was really a true creative artist who managed to give out to the world what was intrinsically everything about himself.”
Annmiller: “His legacy is his rhythm, his style, his love for what he did, because he really loved his work. He lived his work. He lived his art.”
Gabler: “We think of Gene Kelly as not being a romantic dancer so much as a dancer who is asserting his will, he’s a power, he’s a dynamo. We don’t think of him with a partner so much as we think of him alone, dominating the frame of the film."
Donen: “We have the films but we’ve lost him and we’ve lost the ability to thank him for giving us that, and that’s our loss, that he’s no longer here to be thanked and appreciated.”
Comden & Green: “It’s wonderful that it’s movies, because there it is, it’s preserved. You can always feel blue and turn it on and there he is.”
ANATOMY OF A DANCER 2003
Lewis Segal (Los Angeles Times). Reviewing Anatomy Of A Dancer.
It’ll take more than complaints about Gene Kelly’s perfectionism and deep competitive streak to make audiences dislike one of the most devastatingly appealing men ever to dance across movie and television screens.
I will get around to reviewing this DVD some time, but in all honesty I do not like it very much! It is a reasonably comprehensive record of Gene's work in the movies, I suppose, and does have it's good points but I find it cold, not at all capturing his spirit of joy. Though I am always moved at the end, when the narrator says that the lights on Broadway were dimmed in acknowledgment of Gene's passing.
The TV biography featured above is far more enjoyable in spite of a few inaccuracies.