The background track to this page is Michael Crawford talking of his first meeting with Gene. It is taken from a 'live' performance, a PBS concert in California in 1998.
This page focuses on Gene's work as a director
. We all know that he co-directed some of the best ever movie musicals with Stanley Donen - On The Town, Singin' In The Rain and It's Always Fair Weather.
Then of course there was Invitation To The Dance, made in 1952 and released in 1956. He also had the original conception, wrote it, produced it, (though nominally an Arthur Freed production), directed it and starred in it, a mammoth undertaking. It was completely 'his' movie.
Gene's first solo directing task in a non-musical was The Happy Road, made in 1957. Again, he also produced it and starred in it.
In 1967 he directed and produced, and starred in, Jack & The Beanstalk, a 'made for TV' production which won an Emmy as the best children's programme.
He directed That's Entertainment II, in 1974.
All of the above movies are featured elsewhere on the site.
Pitt Panther. Cap & Gown Issue. April 1939
…Gene doesn’t care to dance for the rest of his career although he has been dancing since the year “one.” His ambition is to direct; in fact Gene gave up a Hollywood contract several years ago because he feared if he started to dance in the films he would never get the opportunity to change.
Christian Science Monitor. December 5th 1977. Louise Sweeney
Gene: You have to know everybody’s job. And if you don’t, then you have to depend on everybody for advice,
if you don’t know where the camera’s put or that the light’s too dim. It takes a lot of extra homework.
But the main thing is to have a good script. No director is ever good with a bad script…
NFT Magazine. May 1990. Tony Sloman.
Taken separately, Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen are formidable talents. The former, the relentlessly hard working premier danseur who took movie dance out of Fred Astaire’s chic salons and into the sinewy streets, the latter, the sophisticate whose work with fashion, colour, design, camera, titles and scoring remains among the most inventive in all cinema.
But together. Ah, together! Film making is a collaborative art, despite auteurist claims to the contrary, and Kelly and Donen together changed the look of the movie musical for all time.
In the pioneering On The Town, Kelly and Donen established location shooting as a norm and imbued the 24-hour timespan of the plot with devices that, in their day, were as daring as they were enjoyable.
Their masterwork was Singin’ In The Rain, if not actually the best movie ever made then certainly finally recognised as the finest movie musical of them all. At no other time, and in no other hands, could such a magic screen original have come to pass. The combined talents of Kelly and Donen at their peaks, allied to impeccable casting, a joyous score and a witty and true-to-its-sources screenplay created the absolute apogee of cinema.
Kelly and Donen. Their importance in American cinema can never be overstressed: just see the movies. There’s a style, a professionalism and a sense of sheer joie de vivre that exists absolutely nowhere else. Kelly and Donen, up there with Welles and Hitchcock? You’d better believe it
Newspaper article. Source unknown. 1948
By Morgan Hudgins
Directed By Kelly
...Kelly directing, according to those who observed him on the set and on a recent location trip to New York, is the nearest approach to perpetual motion yet discovered.
Watching him in action is likely to leave the spectator with the feeling that he has been through a grueling eight hour day himself. But his years in show business, the new director points out, have taught him there is no short cut to perfection. The only way to achieve it is by tireless, hard work.
Frank Sinatra, working with him for the third time, admits that one Kelly picture a year is about all his body can take.
“When I get home at night after a day under Gene's direction,” he says, “I'm too tired to even say hello to my kids, The guy just never heard the word exhaustion.”...
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. May 14th 1949
Gene Kelly won’t be making too many more pictures. His heart is set on being a director only. Will someone please stop him from giving up his acting career.
Kentucky New Era. 13th September 1949.
Gene Kelly the director is critical of Gene Kelly the actor. “My main fault is, I still act as if I were on the stage,” he said seriously. “I’m still too broad in gestures and facial expressions. Same way with the voice. I hit the back row in a close-up. Keep forgetting there’s a microphone that catches every whisper.”
Gene recently bossed himself as co-director and star of On The Town. He said, “Acting and directing and being objective was a problem.” So was the cutting, which Gene oversaw. In one take he fairly sparkled but the overall picture, including the other performers, wasn’t so good. “I was tempted to use the one in which I was brilliant, but I had a twinge of conscience. Being a Boy Scout, I cut it and used another take in which there was a better balance of things that happened."The problem,” Gene said, “is not to let your own ego stand in the way.”
…I speculated that Gene's recent directing experience might cause him to differ with his present director. "Not as much as I used to differ with directors," he said. "I understand a director's problems better now."
Gene co-directed On The Town with young Stanley Donen…There were no serious differences. Sometimes Stanley would think a take was just right and Gene would insist it could be done better. They’d discuss it and maybe do it over.
“The hardest were soft, emotional scenes,” Gene said. “You can’t see yourself till the color prints come back four days later. You just have to rely on your timing, experience, intuition, and innate sense acquired over a period of years, especially your stage experience.”
His and Donen’s most serious differences would be over the angle from which to shoot a scene. Kelly liked directing, “but it’s too much work to be made a steady diet.”
In comparison he finds that just being the star is practically a vacation.
Deseret News. 20th December 1949
Gene Kelly is the face on the cutting-room floor. And there is no one to blame but Kelly…
“I find myself in somewhat of a predicament,” admitted Kelly during the filming of On The Town. “As director, I sometimes have to cut Kelly, the actor, out of the picture.”
That isn’t his only problem. There are times when he must deliberately choose an unflattering shot of himself, or a scene in which he doesn’t shine.
“Let’s be frank. Everyone is naturally interested in himself. But when a director has a cast consisting of six principals…even if the director is a guy named Gene Kelly he must concentrate, not on Kelly but on the entire cast. For example, at the end of each day’s work, Donen and I view the preceding day’s rushes…as the director I must look for the best overall scene. If I’m bad in one of the rushes and it is the best overall picture, that’s the one that stays in.”
The combination of Kelly and Donen is nothing new. They were buddies on Broadway…Their working schedule fits like an old glove.
“When I am in front of the camera, Donen, who does not appear in the film, directs. His is the last word. If he doesn’t like a bit of business, particularly comedy, out it goes. Stan’s sense of humor is good enough for me. Stan and I divide the work when I am not in the scene. Then I direct the actors and he the lighting and camera angles. We have found this a workable plan and hope it pays off in an entertaining film.”
As to the cooperation of his fellow actors, Kelly is exuberantly enthusiastic.
“The kids have been great. On their toes every minute. Instead of nine they have been on the set at eight-thirty. Instead of quitting at six, they’ve stayed until seven…This is the ultimate for any director, especially on his first assignment. Budgets can be bugaboos to the most experienced, and time means money when producing a picture.”
As a director, Kelly attempted some innovations for Hollywood screen fare. First off, he simplified sets, then used the stars like a chorus…
But the star-director failed in one thing. He couldn’t keep Kelly off the cutting room floor.
The Dancing Irishman. Magazine article 1950
Gene hankers to be a director, but his Metro bosses aren’t too enthusiastic – he’s more valuable to them as a star in front of the cameras. While we won’t quarrel on the values, what with Gene’s success in writing and dance directing to date, we’ll go along with the idea of keeping him in Technicolour. We like the guy.
Hollywood Album 1950. Gene: I need plenty of energy for my work, but if my plans come true I will not have to put forth as much physical work because I hope to become a full-time director... I remember wondering why the director should spend as much as four hours to create a fleeting impression that will be on the screen twenty or thirty seconds. I finally appreciated the painstaking efforts of all concerned with making a film when I realised the average picture plays to an estimated audience of 40,000,000 persons…no wonder I still worry and try to be right!
San Fransisco Chronicle. October 5th 1954
Art in Cinema's Famous Directors series.
San Fransisco Museum of Art.
Gene as nimble of tongue as he is of foot... Hundreds turned away...
Toledo Blade. April 12th 1958
“Every studio in town has offered me straight directing jobs, but I don’t want to stay away from acting,” Gene said. “They soon forget you in this age of specialization. I like to do everything. But it’s getting tougher to direct and act in the same picture."
Gene. Theatre Arts. December 1958
I felt that the dancer in films had never had the opportunity to probe emotional and acting problems adequately. This feeling led to analysis and experiment.
In my second dancing picture I began to fool with colour. Then I started to worry about the camera. And with that began the evolution of a director.
Los Angeles Times. September 13th 1964
High up in Hollywood’s rigid caste system is the director. The star might sell tickets, but the director can make or break the star.
There usually seems to be some mystery as to what qualifies a person to be a director. But there’s none in the case of Gene Kelly, best known as a dancer…is still the most agile director in town.
“Every once in a while someone looks up the pictures I’ve directed and they’ll say – hey, you’ve directed 11 pictures…The public couldn’t care less. They want to see you. It’s love. I don’t mind. It’s only my ego that says gee, I wish they knew I did something else… People never come up and say you’re Gene Kelly the producer; the director. But even after you’re recognised all over the world this doesn’t give you the thrill of knowing you’ve done a good job.”
Time Magazine. August 1967
It is the moving part of moving pictures that interests Kelly, and to keep the action hopping on the set, he will often shout out the desired rhythms like a ballet master. “One-two-and-three-and-four.” His own movement is jitterbug. He will bound off his chair to correct a camera angle, touch up the scenery, or show an actress how to swivel her hips. “Actors like to be told how to act, not shown, “ says Matthau, “but with Kelly, his great body movements reveal what he wants.”
What he usually wants is another retake, and he is just stubborn enough to keep at it for hours.. Says Frank Sinatra, whom Kelly directed in On The Town: “The guy just never heard of exhaustion.” But he has heard about charm, and he can crack the whip without stinging the ego.
Los Angeles Times. February 14th 1968
Since What A Way To Go, Gene Kelly has been so busy directing or preparing to direct, that many of us have sadly missed him as a performer.
Los Angeles TV Weekly January 1970
Gene Kelly’s Wonderful World Of Girls
Gene has gradually transferred his emphasis from dancing and choreography to the directorial portfolio.
He’ll become less evident as a performer and more evident as the creator behind the performer.
Gene: Gene Kelly Day, London 1970
I’m too old to jump over tables and grand pianos. It’s too much work getting into shape at my age.
So I have to direct films.
Los Angeles TV Weekly 1970. Gene:
In a musical, as a choreographer, you don’t tell the performer ‘I did it this way and it was good, so you do it that way also’. What you must do is try to get the best out of somebody in his own style. This is the difficulty in directing but, when you succeed, it’s also the joy of directing.
Chicago Daily News. December 1972
Trim, tanned Gene Kelly…thinks musicals will come back – as soon as the financial problems are worked out. “I directed Hello! Dolly, but it was too expensive at $20 million. The public liked it well enough, but with a budget that big, a film has to bring in money like Gone With The Wind or The Godfather.”
Toledo Blade. February 17th 1973
It was Gene Kelly, the actor, who met us at The Saloon in Hollywood. It could just as well have been Gene Kelly, the singer-dancer, film director, stage director, choreographer, producer, TV star. You name it, the man can do it and has been doing it expertly for years.
Asking him which one of his multi-talents he most enjoys is like asking Elizabeth Taylor which one of her diamonds she likes best. But he doesn’t cop out on the answer: “Directing. The way things are now in motion pictures, I like directing best. It’s the real creative force.”
Source unknown, possibly Photoplay late 1973.
Article by Barbra Paskin. Living The Life Of Kelly
I asked him whether he found that directing and starring in a film detracted from his performance as either the actor or director.
“Not really. It was very difficult to do, but I was smart enough to know how difficult it was and so I had a fine assistant who worked with me for many years. Stanley Donen, who’s now a fine director. He got to know every move I’d ever make, and we could communicate by a look of the eye or a jerk of the thumb. He was always behind the camera and was tremendously valuable in that he could tell me whether we’d got what we’d talked about earlier. That’s too hard to do yourself – to judge, when you’re in front of the camera, whether what you’re doing is coming off as you planned it.
"There’s always got to be someone behind the camera to help or at least say ‘yes, it’s worked,’ otherwise you’d be doing retakes about once a week. I did a picture in 1956 called The Happy Road which I produced, directed and played in but that was a killing job because I had no help at all, not in the way I was used to, because by then Stanley had gone on to do marvellous things on his own.”
Dallas Times Herald. June 1974
His direction of On The Town, with Stanley Donen as co-director, holds up today as incredibly bold and contemporary. It is probably more exciting a piece of film direction than all of those heavy works that film students lug out of the storage bins.
The difference between directing an actor and choreographing a dancer is that an actor doesn’t like to be told anything. He likes to think it all comes from him. But a good director has to understand the play and carry out its meaning
The Spokesman Review. 1983
The last musical Kelly directed was Hello Dolly! In 1969 (The last film he directed was The Cheyenne Social Club in 1970.) Why had he stopped?...”I’m not so sure I’d want to direct today, the way the business has changed. The young people have taken over, just as they’ve taken over the music business…There aren’t many pictures that appeal to all ages.”
Irish America magazine. December 1990
Gene: I actually love to create the dance more than I love to dance it. So naturally I got into directing. That was my greatest joy...the directing was always more of a pleasant task to me than the actual performing.
Michael Singer. A Cut Above. 50 film directors talk about their craft. 1998
…The gentleman who answered the door of his Beverley Hills home…in 1988,immediately making me feel at home… was Gene Kelly himself…
To discuss his work as a film director, and this he did, with charm and a crystalline memory…
In addition to his status as the most energetic, charming and athletic musical comedy star in movie history, Kelly had also been one of the genre’s most revolutionary directors…
On being asked why he decided to direct films: “I just felt that to have dances shot in a specific way and then handed over to an editor was a first step toward losing what you had done, and there’s only so much cutting in the camera that one can do.
“…I was more than ready, but I never prided myself that I could jump in front of the camera and direct a whole picture alone...
" If there is ease to what you see in the camerawork, it’s because of the hard work behind it. I planned every little step of the way. Then if on the stage something special happened, or one of the actors had a great idea, I’d throw it all out."
Sue Anne Langdon
Some directors stress interiors or exteriors, he likes posteriors.
THE TUNNEL OF LOVE 1958
Preview report cards (originals, filled in by the public after a showing of the film, are in the Gotlieb Archives, Boston)
Very Good 40
Congratulations to Mr. Kelly
It sure would make a sick man well
Entire picture was a joy
Mr. Kelly is a superb director
Best I have seen in years
Tony Thomas. The Films Of Gene Kelly 1974
It was Gene Kelly's final movie in his contract with MGM...The job was a pleasant one and Kelly claims the picture was shot fairly quickly and without problems, which no doubt accounts for the flowing good-natured mood of this glib sex comedy.
Elizabeth Wilson, ‘Miss MacCracken’ in the film
Gene Kelly was really gentle and very supportive…I can remember Gene Kelly trying to keep a sense of humor. At one point, he picked up a girl and was dancing around with her...Kelly told both Day and Widmark that they looked Swedish and took to calling Day Brunhilda.
Los Angeles Times. September 7th 1958
…It is the first time Kelly has directed a movie without also acting in it. But the multi-talented star remedied that situation fast. He didn’t merely tell his stars how he wanted them to act – he showed them. And so, bouncing in and out of character like a rubber ball, Kelly acted every part in the movie.
What effect on the actors did Kelly’s do-it-yourself routine have? Did they resent it? On the contrary. Said star Richard Widmark:
“Movie actors often complain they miss the audience. But not with Gene around. He’s not only an actor, producer, and director. He’s a whole audience too.”
..Gene Kelly has done wonders. Every situation is carefully contrived, every laugh milked bone dry, most expertly by Young and Miss Fraser, champion milkers from way back. Widmark joyously throws himself into this bit of switch-casting. Doris Day skilfully rounds out the quartet of fun-makers." Photoplay
BBC Radio Times.
This film marked the first time Gene Kelly had directed a picture which he was not in, and though he makes an efficient job of transcribing the Broadway comedy by Joseph Fields, Peter De Vries and the blacklisted Jerome Chodorov, it comes out as one of those plays that convulsed theatre audiences in New York and London but seems only mildly amusing on screen. Doris Day and Richard Widmark (the latter in a rare comedy role) play a married couple forced to battle through all sorts of bureaucratic formalities in order to adopt a child. Shot in only three weeks on virtually one set, the film still lost money - Doris Day later blamed its failure on a poor script." BBC Radio Times
Los Angeles Times December 18th 1958
Gene Kelly in his first straight comedy directorial task, does a note-worthy job.
Ocala Star Banner. December 14th 1958.
Gene Kelly displays the same zip in directing as he does in acting…
ED SULLIVAN SHOW. 1/10/61
Jackie Gleason is a guest on this show, interviewed about the film Gigot. Ed asked Gleason why he had chosen Gene to direct. Gleason replied that it was the best thing they ever did. Gene was a good director of comedy. In fact he was a fine director all-round, with a sense of timing and humour, rhythm and pace.
Gene: This was my unhappiest experience in the picture business...We showed the film to the armed services ... in Europe and received enthusiastic response. When next I saw the film in New York it had been so drastically cut and re-edited that it had little to do with my version. I was never consulted, and I never found out who was responsible for cutting it...caused the picture to look like a continual pantomime, with Gleason following himself in a series of sketches. He was brokenhearted about it. We thought we had a minor classic- but not as it stands.
Gene to Bosley Crowther, 1962:
To be frank, I don't like to discuss it, because in its present state it doesn't bear much resemblance to the film I directed. Last December I finished the cutting and dubbing of Gigot in Paris. The picture then went into the hands of its owners, Seven Arts Productions. I saw it last month in California. They had made some forty-odd cuts and changes. To say they've altered the look and feel of the movie is putting it mildly.. In any case, I don't like the result. However, I recommend that you go and see it, to watch the phenomenal Gleason at work, He's a joy!
Gene: My concept of Gigot is that it is a ballet, comic yet with deep pathos, and of course my primo ballerina is Jackie Gleason.
Newspaper report, source unknown Diane Gardner, aged 5, was discovered by director Gene Kelly after a four month search... Her parents were travelling through Europe in a small car, arrived in Paris and looked in the want-ads to find a babysitter. They spotted Kelly's ad and 48 hours later the child had been tested and contracted for the picture. In Kelly's judgment she is the most sensitive actress since Shirley Temple.Time. May 5th 1961 …The cat picked its way across the floor to where the great body lay canted on its side, sagging in sleep…the cheeks, which were smeared with sardine oil, glistened invitingly. The cat sniffed, turned, sneered at its audience, and began cleaning its paws. Sorrowfully, Jackie Gleason heaved himself upright and looked at Gene Kelly. The two are in Paris trying to film a movie called Gigot…In the first scene, the cat is supposed to hear an alarm clock, wake up, and then rouse his deaf ami by licking his face. But the fist dozen Parisian alley cats had flunked their screen tests. Gleason…swabbed off the sardine oil and discussed things with Actor-Director Kelly… Francophile Kelly supervises Gleason’s workaday lunches and explains: “I just order what I think would be a decent meal for three men, and when it’s not enough, I order more.”… Time Magazine August 1961 In Paris to direct the Jackie Gleason film Gigot, dancer Gene Kelly, 48, was exposed to a new plastic art: the explosive impressionism of France’s right-wing terrorists who, in an effort to bomb a police station, splintered Kelly’s parked Citroen sedan. Evening Independent. November 21st 1962 Now and then director Gene Kelly tends to prolong good scenes, but in general he handles the pathos and humor of the story in befitting style. Time Magazine August 1967 When he teamed up with Jackie Gleason to film Gigot in 1961, the trade waited expectantly for the Great One to unload his celebrated wrath on the demanding director. Instead, Kelly had Gleason puffing up and down a flight of stairs like a trained St. Bernard and Jackie begrudgingly tacked a reminder on his dressing-room door: GENE KELLY is RIGHT. NFT Magazine. May 1990
Newspaper report, source unknown
Diane Gardner, aged 5, was discovered by director Gene Kelly after a four month search... Her parents were travelling through Europe in a small car, arrived in Paris and looked in the want-ads to find a babysitter. They spotted Kelly's ad and 48 hours later the child had been tested and contracted for the picture.
In Kelly's judgment she is the most sensitive actress since Shirley Temple.Time. May 5th 1961
…The cat picked its way across the floor to where the great body lay canted on its side, sagging in sleep…the cheeks, which were smeared with sardine oil, glistened invitingly. The cat sniffed, turned, sneered at its audience, and began cleaning its paws.
Sorrowfully, Jackie Gleason heaved himself upright and looked at Gene Kelly. The two are in Paris trying to film a movie called Gigot…In the first scene, the cat is supposed to hear an alarm clock, wake up, and then rouse his deaf ami by licking his face. But the fist dozen Parisian alley cats had flunked their screen tests. Gleason…swabbed off the sardine oil and discussed things with Actor-Director Kelly…
Francophile Kelly supervises Gleason’s workaday lunches and explains: “I just order what I think would be a decent meal for three men, and when it’s not enough, I order more.”…
Time Magazine August 1961
In Paris to direct the Jackie Gleason film Gigot, dancer Gene Kelly, 48, was exposed to a new plastic art: the explosive impressionism of France’s right-wing terrorists who, in an effort to bomb a police station, splintered Kelly’s parked Citroen sedan.
Evening Independent. November 21st 1962
Now and then director Gene Kelly tends to prolong good scenes, but in general he handles the pathos and humor of the story in befitting style.
Time Magazine August 1967
When he teamed up with Jackie Gleason to film Gigot in 1961, the trade waited expectantly for the Great One to unload his celebrated wrath on the demanding director. Instead, Kelly had Gleason puffing up and down a flight of stairs like a trained St. Bernard and Jackie begrudgingly tacked a reminder on his dressing-room door: GENE KELLY is RIGHT.
NFT Magazine. May 1990
Jackie Gleason, in his own original story, brilliantly portrays a mute simpleton who joins funeral gatherings in order to ‘belong’. Ironic and touching, Gigot’s pathos brought out the best in Kelly, who responded, as ever, to the Parisian locations and French support cast. But the producers, unsure of their product, trimmed the film and the resulting movie is far less than what it once was.
A GUIDE FOR THE MARRIED MAN 1967
Tony Thomas. The Films Of Gene Kelly. 1974
Sex is not easy to spoof, particularly those areas of it dealing with infidelity, but Gene Kelly came close to perfection with A Guide For The Married Man, a film that might have sunk in a mire of tastelessness in less cunning hands.
Frank McCarthy on the choice of Gene as director:
Apart from Gene’s innate good taste, there was another reason why I wanted him. My idea was to cast every available comedian in Hollywood in small cameo parts…and the only guy I knew who was popular enough, and who was sufficiently highly respected in the business to get them to say ‘yes’, was Gene…Gene could get them, and he did.
Hirschorn: [Gene] proved he was every bit as contemporary as some of his younger colleagues, and…it firmly established him as a viable commercial proposition. The film was justifiably well reviewed and praised for its ‘impudent candour and freedom from leer’. It made the studio a great deal of money…
Time. June 2nd 1967
Director Gene Kelly has guided Guide flawlessly, making it as crisp and catchy as one of his old dance routines.
Los Angeles Times. June 1967. Bosley Crowther.
Gene Kelly has directed with speed and persistent wit. He proves himself a swinger with this film.
Time Magazine. August 1967
At 54 Kelly is going like sixty. It has been twenty-five years since he first whirled across the screen with Judy Garland in For Me And My Gal, and now he is Hollywood’s busiest – and only – sextuple threat – dancer, actor, singer, choreographer, producer, director. “I wear so many hats,” he says, “that sometimes I forget where I’ve been and where I’m going.” These days he prefers the checkered cap that goes with the director’s chair. He has just completed A Guide For The Married Man, a kind of lab course in advanced adultery starring Robert Morse and Walter Matthau, and it is one of the niftiest comedies to come out of Hollywood in years.
Deftly alternating fast and slow motion, blackouts, flashbacks and stop action … Kelly in effect has choreographed the film along the lines of a fast-paced modern dance. He enlivened one terpsy-turvy scene, for example, by having Art Carney prance after his mistress like an oversexed peacock.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette January 17th 1967
For himself Fred Holiday wishes nothing for the New Year. “I only wish,” the young actor was saying here on a short visit home the other day, “that in 1967 every movie director should come from Pittsburgh.” Like Gene Kelly, for instance… they were interviewing a truckload…for bits in a motion picture called Guide For The Married Man
…Fred Holiday announced himself late one afternoon at the 20th Century Fox casting office. His was the last name on the list Gene Kelly…held in his hand.
“Since everybody else has been checked off,” Mr. Kelly said, “you must be Fred Holiday.”
“That’s right,” Mr. Holiday answered, and then added, “from Pittsburgh.”
Gene Kelly smiled…
“I think you’ll hear from me,” Mr. Kelly called after him at the end of their brief meeting.
Fred Holiday did indeed hear from him. Not only that but Mr. Kelly built his two-day part in the motion picture…into a two-and-a-half week part.
“He was always thinking up new things for me,” Mr. Holiday recalled…”Each morning when I’d report for work, there would be more lines for me, and then finally came the ultimate! A scene all by myself with Pat Becker, which Gene added at the last minute.”
This called for Mr. Holiday and Miss Becker to be driving home from the party…at which the two of them were to pull up at the side of the road and climb into the back seat for a spot of smooching.
Mr. Holiday remembers that Mr. Kelly wasn’t satisfied with their necking the first time or the second time either.. Then he said:
“Hey, Fred, this isn’t Mulholland Drive necking – it’s Schenley Park necking” [Schenley Park is in Pittsburgh!]
Mr. Holiday got the idea at once and the director called out a few minutes later “Cut and print it.”
…”I have my best part in pictures so far in Guide For The Married Man, thanks to Gene Kelly and the fact that I happened to be from Pittsburgh, too!”
NFT Magazine. May 1990
Sexy, sexist and very much of its period, Kelly’s lightness of touch resulted in this ‘X’-certified comedy being ribald but never vulgar. Using famous guest stars in cameos was a neat touch but it was the pre-Hello, Dolly! Walter Matthau that gave the film its edge.
HELLO DOLLY!. 1969
Ernest Lehman: On the choice of Gene for Director:
He was a hot property and it seemed a smart move – was a smart move. Gene had exactly the qualities we needed on the picture. Tremendous energy and vitality, and a maddening cheerfulness…outwardly at any rate, he always maintained a bright, confident attitude towards his work. He just didn’t believe in showing fear, anxiety, uncertainty, lack of confidence or pessimism.
Official guide to the Glasgow Film Festival. February 2012
Harshly reviewed in the era of Easy Rider and MASH, Hello, Dolly! Just keeps improving with age and now looks like the last of the great old school Hollywood musicals. Gene Kelly proves himself a masterful director expertly juggling the pressures of a hefty studio budget, the expectations built by a legendary Broadway show and a volatile star team of Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau who famously did not become bosom buddies…Look at the old girl now fellas!
Los Angeles Times. June 9th 1968
Marianne McAndrew: Being the second female lead in Hello! Dolly is almost as bad as being an Indian in a John Wayne western. You’re dead before you get to finish a war whoop…Gene Kelly is a very strong and patient director and I think Barbara respects him….
Observer Magazine. 10th November 1968
Gene Kelly Gets His Second Wind. By Peter Evans
After more than 20 weeks of shooting Hello, Dolly! And with the last scene in the can, Gene Kelly is busy on the agonising stages of cutting, linking and shaping the results into a film. When it is all over, if he is feeling sentimental he might well have cause to weep or get drunk. For it will be the end of his twenty-fifth musical, this one as director…
It is right that as musicals get hot again…Kelly should be around to bask in the rekindled glory…
…Now, reigning 80 feet high on a camera crane above a stunning £700,000 reconstruction of New York City in the gay nineties, Gene Kelly is like a king out of exile. He looks almost regal enough for white tie and tails.
Gene. Hello Kelly!’ She magazine 1969
I was a bit worried about taking a show that’s been the biggest musical hit of our time and that had nothing of a plot to speak of…and having it hold up on the screen for 2.5 hours …The logistics of putting Dolly on are tremendous, it’s the biggest budget (about $20 million) ever made for a show going in.
In the Parade scene we have about 7,500 people. If I don’t get the shots...the first day, that means you call them back a second day - this is a tremendous amount of money….The day we shoot the parade…that night it will be hard to go to sleep because I will be listening to all the weather forecasts.
Los Angeles Times. December 7th 1969. Joyce Haber
…Kelly was characteristically modest…He’s very high on the picture…but gives much of the credit to its stars. “I thought Streisand was wonderful,” he says. “The chief measure of a picture is whether the performer looks good. If the performer looks good, some is bound to rub off on the director. Sure, Barbra had her own ideas, but I know I’ve made contributions in movies that had nothing to do with the writer or director or producer. If someone has an idea, what’s wrong with that?”
Kelly thinks there’s nothing wrong with Walter Matthau either: “Walter’s singing voice is just right,” he says, with that well-known chuckle that’s a croak from the throat. “It’s on a level with mine. I could almost have dubbed it. Walter has almost a whisky baritone; I was a whisky tenor.”
On the subject of the well-rumored problems between the co-stars of Dolly…”There was only one major rift. It occurred in Garrison, N.Y., where we were shooting the Yonkers sequences. Walter was saying a line and Barbra was nodding her head at the same time. He told her, ‘You’re doing that purposely.’ I dragged them both off the set and said ‘You’re not going to do this here.’ Walter apologised to her a few days later.”
Kelly says that he’s only taken snippets out of Dolly since its sneak preview. “I wish we could cut more, but we’ve taken all we can…”
Telegram from Fred Astaire 22nd December 1969: (Original in the Gotlieb Archives, Boston.)
Merry Xmas Jeannie and Gene. I am crazy crazy, about your Dolly. It must be a massive smash. Loved everything about it and if this looks like a rave that's what I want it to be. Love Fred.
Time Magazine December 1969
If the echoes sometimes blend into a solid chorus, credit must be divided between Director Gene Kelly and his choreographer Michael Kidd…The most kinetic, Dancing, is happily reminiscent of the old MGM musical It’s Always fair Weather, starring a couple of guys named Gene Kelly and Michael Kidd. Hello! Dolly could have used those personalities on screen.
The Age. February 27th 1970
Director Gene Kelly recaptured much of the lyricism, zest and spontaneity of his great days, in this huge production of the stage musical.
Entertainment World. March 6th 1970
Harry Clein. Is There a Future for the Hollywood Musical?
…While lacking the exploration and inventiveness of Kelly
at his best, there was nevertheless a genial quality to the
With Dolly’s $20 million and 4000 extras weighing him down, it seems only logical that his work wouldn’t be quite as nimble as in that astonishingly active period in the early fifties…
Gene, Gene Kelly Day, London 1970
When I directed Hello Dolly! I knew it was old-fashioned, but it excited me to meet the challenge of blowing it up into a big and exciting picture. I’m not sorry I did it, but it probably wouldn’t have been my first choice.
Photoplay Film Monthly. August 1976
Ken Ferguson. Why Fred and I rarely starred together.
I asked him if he considered Hello, Dolly! had been another disappointment in that it had cost Fox a fortune and didn’t prove to be all that successful.
“No, not at all,” Gene replied. “They spent a fortune on it before I got there. As a matter of fact I saved them a lot of money because we brought the picture in on schedule. Eventually it’ll get all its money back.
“It didn’t cost nearly as much as Cleopatra which last year started to earn money and came out of the red. No, I thought I did a good job. I saw it with audiences and they laughed and seemed to enjoy the picture.”
And how did he get along directing Streisand?
“She was very nice to me,” he said. “She was charming, but she realised the part was for a much older woman. I didn’t hire her for the part. She and Walter Matthau had been hired before I was asked to direct.
“I found it a challenge to do because they wanted to blow this very intimate story up on a big screen. I accepted the challenge gladly. I suppose Barbra was a little young to play Dolly, but after she got through the first couple of reels she did a marvellous job. It wasn’t the best picture I ever directed, but I was pleased with what we did.”
From sleeve notes, Totem Records, On The Air. Greg Gormick. September 1980
Of that film, Kelly says he has no regrets, specifying, “I was brought in as a play doctor. At that time, the sine qua non of making a picture was to do it like the Sound Of Music on a huge 70mm format film, meaning you tripled or quadrupled your costs.
“The sad thing about Dolly was that, after it was edited and ready for release, it had to be held on the shelf for a couple of years because the contract with David Merrick had some fine print saying that as long as the show ran on Broadway, it couldn’t be released. The inventory on films is tremendous, with interest on the bank loan going up and up and up.
“It’ll eventually earn a lot of money because pictures go on forever.”
NFT Magazine. May 1990
A wonderfully assured, and desperately underrated musical version of Thornton Wilder’s The Matchmaker. If Streisand is a little too young for the lead, Kelly’s direction more than compensates, with some of the most complex and stylish achievements of his career…Perhaps the last great studio musical?
The heavy handedness and painfully coy atmosphere that plagues so many 60s musicals like Oliver! (1968) Star! (1968), Doctor Doolittle (1967), Camelot (1967) and Paint Your Wagon (1969) is wholly absent from Dolly’s mélange and to this credit is largely due to Gene Kelly. For all his behind the scenes angst and consternation, Kelly delivers an adroit and jovial procession that never once seems strained or dull.
Michael Crawford. Parcel Arrived Safely: Tied With String. 1999.
Roger Edens arranged for me to audition with Dolly director Gene Kelly, which completely changed my life….the words look so matter of fact…Gene Kelly. But let me tell you, just the anticipation of meeting that great American dancer was enough to tie me in knots.
…I am still changing as the doorbell rings…I open the door and see that famous genial Irish grin….he never took his eyes off me…”Let’s cut the small talk” he said. “Can you dance?…Just get up and do something. Try this.” He cleared the coffee table, got up on it and did a couple of tap steps…his compassionate eyes were glued to the human rubber band who helplessly flailed away in front of him….
“Siddown”, he said. “What I’m looking for is someone to play Cornelius Hackl…he’s an attractive idiot. Now my wife, well, she thinks you’re attractive, and I think you’re an idiot…”
The romantic ‘It only takes a moment’, was my big song in Dolly…. I looked up at Gene when I finished and saw he was in tears. He came over and put his arm around me. “That’s my boy”, he said.
While we were filming in New York, Robert Kennedy was assassinated in LA….Gene was crushed; he had been a friend of the Kennedy family. …The set was closed down the day after the tragedy….When production started up again…the mood was bleak for cast and crew. Yet Gene Kelly was able to handle it all with great equanimity. He was enormously understanding and empathetic to his artists.
"I was doing my solo and I’d shot it a couple of times. He said ‘Let’s go for it again’ and he came over to me and said ‘Tommy, dance better.’…and I went ‘What does he mean!’ Then I…got ready and by the time he said ‘Roll them, action’, I went ‘Oh, right, dance better’, and I did, and that’s a great, great thing for a director to tell a dancer."
THE CHEYENNE SOCIAL CLUB 1970
Assistant director Paul Heinrick: Gene may not have know a darn thing about Westerns or the West when the picture started, but when he finished it he was very knowledgeable about the subject and there wasn’t much you could tell him he didn’t already know – just as there wasn’t much you could tell him about the technical side of filmmaking from editing to special effects. He never did things by halves. His undertaking something was guarantee enough he would do it to the best of his ability. The only time I ever saw him lose his Irish temper was when other people ‘goofed off’. That he couldn’t stand.
Toledo Blade. January 4th 1970
Kelly…is directing his first western. “He blocks out the scenes like a chorus,” Fonda agreed, “but it’s more for the crew than the cast. We had a location scene in which Jimmy and I are doing laundry alongside a track. It called for co-ordinating action, dialogue, sound etc as a train, starting from half a mile away, passed by. Gene worked it like a countdown, with everything happening on count.”
Deseret News. 11th February 1970
In the hands of a less skillful director and less accomplished performers, it could have been rather tasteless, but Kelly, Fonda, Stewart and the rest, make it a lot of fun.
St. Petersburg Times. June 10th 1970
Jimmy Stewart, Henry Fonda and Gene Kelly were in Salt Lake City…to promote their new picture The Cheyenne Social Club
Cinematograph Weekly. October 10th 1970
Critics and columnists turned up in force at Peter Reed’s party for Gene Kelly following the press show of the producer/director’s film, ‘The Cheyenne Social Club’, the second release from the Carthay Center Distributors. In addition to the press coverage, interviews and extracts are to be shown on both the BBC and Granada television. James Stewart and Henry Fonda star with Shirley Jones in this comedy…Press photographers turned Piccadilly Circus into a still studio.
Films Illustrated 1974
There were James Stewart and Henry Fonda, they had director approval and they chose me. I wasn’t just flattered, I was ecstatic.
Dallas Times Herald. June 1974
He directed a film with James Stewart and Henry Fonda a few years ago, Cheyenne Social Club, a quasi western, and turned it into one of the most affecting films of the year, letting those two personalities bounce off each other, finding a relationship between them that was uniquely male and fascinating.
“I didn’t want to do that film,” he said. “I wasn’t interested in directing a western. But I’m a pushover for performers and how could I go through the rest of my life realising that I had turned down an opportunity to work with two people like that. “
This film was brought up by Kelly on the first day of rehearsals in Dallas for Take Me Along. Any director and choreographer would feel intimidated, obviously, in working with Kelly as a performer and Kelly is extremely aware of this reaction. Especially, in this case since director Michael Maurer and choreographer John Sharpe are talented but young men. Kelly called the staff together and told of a story that took place on his first day of shooting Cheyenne Social Club.
He said he had called Fonda and Stewart into a huddle and explained his predicament in having to direct two great and legendary actors and hoped they wouldn’t play around him and give each other pulling on the ear signals. Both told him flatly that as far as they were concerned he was the director and whatever he wanted was good enough for them.
CNN News: Hollywood's Gene Kelly had this town built in 1969 for the filming of a movie he was producing, "Cheyenne Social Club" starring Jimmy Stuart and Henry Fonda. In the years since it has hosted the likes of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, and Johnny Cash. When it isn't serving as a Wild West backdrop for cameras, it is open to the public for tours. The J. W. Eaves Movie Ranch is about 10 miles south of Santa Fe. randmcnally.com This moment of Western Hollywood fantasy and many others were brought about by Jesse Willard Eaves. He purchased the land south of Santa Fe in 1958 and by the early 1960s it had become a popular spot for shooting movies and commercials. What really got the cameras rolling though was in 1969 Gene Kelly asked Jesse Willard to make a whole Western town for a movie. This opened the door for many more Westerns to be made including “”Silverado”", “”Easy Rider”", “”Lonesome Dove”" and “”Young Guns”". The movie ranch is still used as a film set and can also be used for special events.
J. W. Eaves Movie Ranch is located at 105 Rancho Alegre Rd, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Telephone (505) 474-3045. http://eavesmovieranch.com/
CNN News: Hollywood's Gene Kelly had this town built in 1969 for the filming of a movie he was producing, "Cheyenne Social Club" starring Jimmy Stuart and Henry Fonda. In the years since it has hosted the likes of John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Kevin Costner, Kevin Kline, and Johnny Cash. When it isn't serving as a Wild West backdrop for cameras, it is open to the public for tours.
The J. W. Eaves Movie Ranch is about 10 miles south of Santa Fe.
This moment of Western Hollywood fantasy and many others were brought about by Jesse Willard Eaves. He purchased the land south of Santa Fe in 1958 and by the early 1960s it had become a popular spot for shooting movies and commercials. What really got the cameras rolling though was in 1969 Gene Kelly asked Jesse Willard to make a whole Western town for a movie. This opened the door for many more Westerns to be made including “”Silverado”", “”Easy Rider”", “”Lonesome Dove”" and “”Young Guns”". The movie ranch is still used as a film set and can also be used for special events.