Observer. November 10th 1968. Peter Evans
Gene: “Musicals don’t change the world much…but pictures like Hello, Dolly! Bring a lot of pleasure to people in a world where pleasure is at a premium.
They certainly give me a lot of pleasure!”
..."I’ve had my fair bundle of disappointments. Sometimes you feel put upon because the pictures you’ve made were taken out of your hands by the front office.
They’ve been cut or re-dubbed and other times, sure, you know basically you were at fault."
Movie Spotlight. August 1954
Acting is merely a part-time taskmaster for Gene Kelly. He is one of the notable exceptions to the proverb that a jack-of-all-trades is master of none. He has been successful as a producer, director and writer. He would have been just as noteworthy as a chemist or insurance salesman as he is a dancer.
Whatever he tackles he bends his way with grim determination.
They snickered when he set out to make An American In Paris. All he accomplished was an Academy Award.
They said he was too short to command leading man roles, so he became one of the top consistent money makers as a leading man.
They said his voice was too high, his sex appeal too low.
It took him less time than usual to make them eat their words... As actor, director, writer and producer,
he is his own severest critic, and will cut himself ruthlessly out of a scene if he thinks it will make the picture better.
Which is the most remarkable remark anyone can make about an actor!
Hollywood Men. 1953
Gene Kelly…Always wears lucky Pal Joey shirt in one scene of every picture.
Movieland. April 1943
…Kelly is doing it all without dimples or graduated curls. He’s the hottest thing in town right now – this sassy looking mick who’s not one third as handsome as Taylor, [?????] who doesn’t sing at all like Crosby, [thank goodness!] and who doesn’t dance nearly so well as Fred Astaire. [Says you!]. Added up, however, Gene hits an audience like a three-alarm fire and will keep on doing it for seven long years – heaven and the draft willing.
There was never anything airy-fairy about Gene Kelly.
He’s the man who took musicals out of crinolines and put
them in sweat –shirts and sneakers.
Family Circle. September 1st 1944
Bright kids, the Kellys, and blessed with two gifts that insure success in the cinema racket –
ability, censored by good taste, and imagination tempered by sound judgment.
Entertainment World. March 6th 1970
Harry Clein. Is There a Future for the Hollywood Musical?
“The fellows who did Hair came to see me. I said, ‘I saw Hair
and I thought it was interesting. But I thought it was more
interesting when that guy burnt his draft card on television.’
I then said, ‘Send me a script.’ A script? They had no script.
So they finally typed up what people say to each other and
they had about three pages. There is very little to say, just
songs and people meeting. And some action and yelling
against the establishment. And some mild, very mild I
thought, put-downs of the middle class and the middle-aged.
“But it depressed me very much that movies are only making
adaptations of old Broadway shows. By the time Hair is put
on the screen, it may turn out to be Blossom Time. Musical
styles change, the world moves so fast now.”
…If Kelly really is looking for an idea for a new musical, what about showing how panicky Hollywood gets any time there is a change? Only this time around the change won’t be from silent to talkies; it will be the transition from the old generation of film-makers to the new. If he really wanted to, Kelly could be the bridge across the film musical comedy generation gap. He once gave the genre a whole new look, a whole new feel, and that is what is desperately needed today if the movie musical is to be saved from having the look and feel of a museum piece.
Gene, BBC TV Interview 1974
It’s damned hard to make a musical, it’s as tough as digging a ditch.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. January 18th 1985
Gene: A musical is such a pterodactyl to put together. It is the toughest thing to do in film.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 3rd May 1993. Kevin Thomas
Gene: I get lots more mail today than when I was a movie star – from Germany and Japan, from nations that have been flooded with VCRs. I get mash notes from 14 and 15-year-old girls! I don’t really like being an actor. I love dancing and choreographing. On my first picture…Judy Garland helped me and pushed me, and I am in her debt eternally. But I hate having to put all this stuff on my face! It’s really what I charge for, putting on makeup!
Producer Joe Pasternak.
The first thing that struck me about Gene was that he was a pretty smart cookie. No bullshit. And believe me, this made a change because most actors are ignorant people who let success go to their heads…Kelly…took success in his stride. He wore it well…Right from the beginning of his Hollywood career he wasn’t prepared to settle for anything less than his best….He was never unreasonable…he was concerned about such sordid things as the budget of a film…He is one of the handful of Hollywood originals. The two dirtiest words in the English language to him are ‘second best’.
Gene, magazine interview, date unknown
I've been accused of being a perfectionist so much that I guess it's true. I want to do everything as well as it can be done, even if I'm doing a bad musical.
Gene: On the stage I can walk around in rhythm…doing nothing but grin at the audience or wink at someone in the first row orchestra, and they love it. I know because I’ve done it. But on the screen that sort of thing leaves them cold…the personality is missing. You’ve got to keep plugging or before you know it your audience is out in the lobby drinking a lemonade.
I think that if he was competitive in his film work, he was competitive with himself. He always wanted every movie to do something new.
Magazine article, source unknown.
The great genius of the postwar musical – dancer, singer, actor, choreographer and director – is Gene Kelly.
Hartford Courant. September 21st 1942
Striking male newcomer to Hollywood scene is Gene Kelly…Kelly astounded makeup experts when he firmly refused to have scar on left cheek hidden by trickery.
Hartford Courant. October 20th 1942
No newcomer to the film capital has ever had a busier baptism with pictures than young Gene Kelly…
Eugene Register Guard. 27th December 1942
…A potent new screen personality is introduced for the first time in the person of Gene Kelly, sensational dancing star who recently skyrocketed to fame in the title role of the Broadway musical hit Pal Joey. Young Kelly is a brand new and unique type of screen hero, and the ladies are going to have a field day ‘discovering’ him in his first motion picture role.
Pittsburgh Press. 4th December 1942
If talent means anything at all in Hollywood, Gene Kelly, Pittsburgh’s most recent contribution to the motion picture industry can settle down in the film colony for just as long as he likes. The likeable young Pittsburgher is that good.
To those of us who have watched Kelly for some years, his success is no surprise because he was determined to make good in show business and he was always a nice guy. He came up the hard way and earned much of the cash that he used to pay his way in college. His dancing always was sure-fire and he made certain that he would be ready for his chance by taking dramatic lessons. All that preparation has paid big dividends now.
Movie Album December 1942
Gene Kelly, the bright-faced young Irishman with the winking eye and twinkling toes, is the latest firecracker to explode in Hollywood. First he landed in New York. That was in Pal Joey, the show he made and that made him. Before that it was Pittsburgh, where Gene bustled at odd jobs to pay college expenses. He started a dancing school that was the pride of the country. Then cracked Broadway wide open with a tap from those whirling feet. Judy Garland played godmother, caught Pal Joey and Gene hit her right. She wired MGM they ought to do something about it. They did, Gene’s first picture is Me and My Gal with Judy. Those lightning feet and that electric personality have hit celluloid – watch it burn!
Pilot #5 Pressbook
Director George Sidney:
“Gene Kelly has a mischievous likeability about him before the cameras. His eyes twinkle and you forgive him anything.
Motion Picture. January 1943
They’re calling Gene Kelly the triple-threat Irisher. He sings too, you see – but he passes that up as a bad job. Regardless of that, he’s a guy to put down in your book, for he’s on his way as one of the most important star-discoveries of the year.
Movieland. April 1943
Usually, it takes a film newcomer at least one picture or two to get whipped into good, fighting shape. With Gene, he made himself right at home in For Me and My Gal, and strolled in and out of the footage like an old hand at the business. Everybody was surprised, even his bosses, although he’s always been a fresh aleck who marched in and took over any situation after the first five minutes.
Photoplay May 1943
He came to Hollywood devoid of the supposed essentials of handsome looks [!!!] and personal glamour; his subordinate role in “For Me & My Gal” created such an instant sensation he was rushed into top roles in two top M.G.M. pictures and then was handed the starring part opposite Kathryn Grayson in “Private Miss Jones.”
Not bad for a young man who just has skimmed by his thirtieth birthday!
Yet Gene, in all honesty, professes to view the achievements as ordinary and himself as less.
Modern Screen. June 1943
Working within the confined space of a set gives him claustrophobia. Otherwise, he thinks the movies are fine. His body looks deceptively slight. It’s compact, muscular and inexhaustible. He did his own choreography for Dubarry and Private Miss Jones, with results that brought roof-raising cheers from bystanders. The studio rates his acting on a level with his dancing.
Chicago Tribune January 23rd 1944.
One of the finds of last year was Gene Kelly, a combination of Cagney – Tracy – Astaire.
Los Angeles Times. April 23rd 1944
Kelly believes that screen musicals are still child’s play, their possibilities largely ignored. “When they’re light, they sure are light! – no depth, no characterization, no nothing. Just lightness. The way I see it, the dance can be used to express emotions phonetically – in movements that ‘speak’. It’s too soon to expect it yet, but it’ll come”
Theatre Arts 1945
It appears probable that tomorrow’s dancer will acknowledge as great a debt to Kelly as to Astaire. For the battle between the dancer and the medium is being fought by the younger man on an ever-widening base of vitality, skill and imagination. And as he continues to compromise it appears he is doing no more than every artist is called upon to do; for all art is the product of just such compromise between the artist’s idea and the inflexible properties of his medium. And any creative man who is not in a constant state of siege is not worth his license.
At the studio he’s Gene Kelly, under contract, and he does everything reasonable that’s asked of him. If he is averse to publicity you would never know it, and at that you can hardly blame him if he gets a little bored answering too many of the same questions six days a week. You would too!…”Actually it’s a difficult thing to drop out of the character you’re doing on the screen to answer questions about how you first started dancing or what’s your favourite book and why. But even at that you won’t find me getting temperamental, because it’s all part of the business and I’ll go along with it just as well as the next guy.”
That Old Black Magic
I remembered interviewing Gene a number of years ago…As I waited for him on Metro’s Lot Two this day three years later, I wondered if he had changed.
He had. We all change, or we would be pretty dull people. But Gene’s changes were mostly for the better. In the first place, he doesn’t seem to be as tense about his career today; he’s more certain of where he’s going. He’s handsomer. At least, in his colourful costume for The Three Musketeers he seems so...He speaks of Hollywood, but now he doesn’t stick his neck out in quite the same way. He has developed a loyalty for his adopted town. He says, “I am a great defender of Hollywood – particularly when it comes to telling the world how hard the people out here work. Especially the women; up at 5:30, getting their hair done every day, working until six at night, going home and studying their lines for the next day. It takes a lot of self-discipline…”
Owosso Argus Press. 3rd August 1948
Hollywood Sights and Sounds:
Gene Kelly jumping up and down on the couch in his new dressing room and gloating, “Finally I got a room just like Sinatra’s.”
Los Angeles Times. October 9th 1949. Hedda Hopper.
Gene: “Pictures can’t be turned out on the assembly line like automobiles, because we’re dealing with emotions and intangibles. These qualities determine whether a film is good or bad. Money can be saved by careful preparation, but you can’t make good pictures fast.”
Toledo Blade. March 5th 1950. Hedda Hopper
When making a picture he never smokes or drinks, and he exercises like a mad man. “Sometimes I go in for athletics. But mostly I just dance for hours and hours.”
MGM Pressbook. Summer Stock . 1950. Phil Silvers:
“Headliners like Judy Garland and Gene Kelly got where they are the hard way. During filming of Summer Stock I found out that Kelly knows both sides of the camera. He knows scripts, direction, camera angles – the whole business. I defy anyone to work in a picture with him and not get as excited as he is.”
Picturegoer. April 19th 1952
Dance Carefully, Kelly
Gene must not ease up on the popular touch.
Braving the snow in the Bavarian Alps, Gene Kelly has abandoned dancing for a straight part in his new film, The Devil Makes Three, with Pier Angeli. As a result he’s putting on weight.
But it doesn’t worry him overmuch as he has a strenuous programme ahead of him. Within a few days he is due over here to prepare two new films, a screen version of the London stage hit, Brigadoon, and an experimental number called Invitation To The Dance.
In this latter piece music and ballet will be the sole attractions, apart from Kelly, of course.
Now isn’t this rather dangerous ground for Kelly to dance on? No one would dispute the fact that he’s a clever star; but he mustn’t overlook the vital ingredient called popularity when concocting the mixture for his films.
His An American In Paris proves that he’s near to a pretty sound formula – the film won a top Oscar and collected Picturegoer’s Seal of Merit into the bargain. And his latest to arrive in the West End, Singin’ In The Rain…is reported to be another On The Town.
So the lad who once played truant from dancing lessons because he thought them ‘cissy’ should think twice before he dances away from the popularity pull.
Look Magazine 1953.
Kelly’s ‘candle’, say some of his associates, “Burns all the time…Whether you’re working with him or just being his friend, it ends up as your way of life.”
In his search for absolute artistic and technical perfection in his pictures, Kelly permits himself only a few hours’ sleep a night. At work he is said to be as ruthless with himself as with the people around him. He is, in turn, rough, provoking, gentle, charming and always the boss. Carpenters have got used to Kelly’s pointers on constructing an unsqueakable platform for a dance. Musicians, set designers, sound technicians, grip-men – all wait to hear from Kelly on every phase of their activities. As a cameraman says, “That guy’s in everything, just like Charlie Chaplin…And the hell of it is, it always turns out right!” When everybody else has gone home, Kelly stays behind to pace up and down, rehearsing himself for the next day.
Movieland 1954. Busy, Busy, Busy.
Gene Kelly, except when he’s in front of the movie cameras on the set, doesn’t have time to sit still long enough to have his picture taken. When he’s working (and when isn’t he?) it’s usually a 16-hour day. This means he must do without the ten hours of sleep that he likes to get when he isn’t working!
The man with the magic in his feet doesn’t even have time to sit still for one part of the business of being a star – giving interviews. He’s pinned down about as easily as a new jet. Because of his schedule, Gene hasn’t given an interview in months. But he agreed to take part of a busy day at MGM, where he’s working on three projects at once, to talk for Movieland. What came out of it was a picture without cameras. A word tintype, it could be said, of today’s Gene Kelly.
Gene came into the MGM commissary and was stopped by at least a dozen people on his way down the aisle to the table. Having run his interference gracefully, he finally sunk into a chair with a sigh. “Now,” he said, “you know why I eat lunch in my dressing room, Even before I came into the commissary I ran into Leslie Caron and Roland Petit. It took me five minutes to explain why I couldn’t come down to the set of The Glass Slipper.”
Gene had come directly from the dubbing room where he matched the sound of the taps to the action for a dance number in Brigadoon. When he mentioned it to Leslie and Roland they chorused, “What ees eet – the dubbing room?”
“They didn’t know because they don’t have to be concerned with the workaday business of picture-making – only what they do in front of the cameras. They also don’t know,” he added wryly, “how lucky they are.”
Although Gene says this, we seriously doubt that he would like it any other way. He generates ideas with the speed of a super-charged dynamo and could never, as a result, be happy in his work unless he were concerned with every phase of a film’s production.
Also, with Kelly, it’s not just one picture at a time – three pictures at once is closer to a typical Kelly schedule. At the time we talked with Gene, he was busy on three films: Brigadoon, Invitation To The Dance and It’s Always Fair Weather.
Gene did the choreography for Brigadoon. This means that aside from his acting chores, he had to create the dances, rehearse them and then synchronise the routines with Van Johnson and every other member of the cast – even the chorus line.
At the same time Gene worked on the cartoon sequence for Invitation To The Dance – a unique film which tells a story in three dance sequences. The revolutionary film has no dialogue.
Gene’s third film, It’s Always Fair Weather, is another in which he stars, does the choreography and directs with Stanley Donen.
Los Angeles Times. September 7th 1958
Gene Kelly likes to work 16 hours a day and sleep 10. The word around Hollywood is that he can do it too.
He also likes movies. He likes to sing, dance and act in them. He likes to write them. He likes to direct them. In fact, the only thing he likes better is doing it all at once.
John Cutts. Films & Filming 1964
If he never treads another step on film…his reputation is dependably secure. Nothing short of the Apocalypse itself, can erase what has been achieved – and that, frankly, is more than enough to last us a lifetime.
In the private cinema of the mind, he dances on. As unsinkable as Molly Brown and as unstoppable as time itself.
Toledo Blade. February 11th 1966
Gene at 53 and “the only hoofer who ever studied economics” has strong views about some of the youngsters who with their “high camp” philosophy like to “denigrate a man like Busby Berkley” and run his old movies to laugh at them.
“Anybody who ever used a camera owes a debt to Berkley,” Gene said. “To laugh at his films is like laughing at Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales because it’s in Old English.”
Los Angeles Times. December 7th 1969. Joyce Haber
The graying, brown-eyed actor-director-choreographer-dancer has long been the darling of the Nouvelle Vague – those vaguists who write for France’s Cahiers du Cinema – says: “I always enjoy the people who write about pictures who don’t know anything about pictures…Those boys on the Cahiers du Cinema see something and say, ‘It has the great mark of a motion picture,’ They love the Jean-Luc Schwartzes, but they don’t know anything about making a movie. Particularly a musical. By the time you get a director and lyricist and composer and a choreographer, what happens to their Cinema Verite or The Auteur theory?”
As to criticism generally, director Kelly has a seldom-spoken, valid point: “The guy doesn’t like a film, so he should say it’s badly written and directed and produced and acted. Instead, he writes an essay. He says, ‘The intangible evanescent quality of the décor of this picture intruded on the viewer’s consciousness.’ Then he adds, ‘In the third reel, however, there is a moment reminiscent of the early Charlie Chaplin.’ I used to think this sort of reviewing was confined to music critics. But it isn’t.”…
In a lengthy, nit-picking but complimentary two-part analysis of Kelly, one of the Cahiers du Cinema boys concluded: “A most joyous, most happy fella! A filmic Puck. A modern-day Pan. Full of dancing life-force and most contagious in his exuberance and merriment.”
Is that what made me choose Loew’s? [to watch Gene’s films when a girl]
I doubt it. It may have been, rather, the Life Force itself, the technique to be sure, but the charm, the uniqueness, the honesty, the grace, the slight shyness Mr. Kelly projects on the screen or in person.
Gene Kelly Day. London 1970
And still they pay money to see old Gene Kelly revivals. They flourish in cinemas, museums, libraries and on college campuses. But don’t be surprised if the next thing is how some college film student will be ‘majoring in Gene Kelly’.
Gene, Introduction to John Springer. All Talking, All Singing, All Dancing 1971
There is more to movie musicals than just a series of particularly happy memories. It is one of the few peculiarly American art forms, and at its best it certainly is art.
...On his own, Kelly burst forth in one stunning musical after another.
Nova Magazine. July 1972
Half the world paid rapt attention to the matter of who would dance next with Gene Kelly, as if signing a contract to make a movie with him were the equivalent of becoming his bride or, much more to the point, embarking with him on an unimaginably romantic affair. Looking back at these public matings, Kelly might justifiably have permitted himself a moment of the smug complacency which must have accompanied sultans into the harem. He didn’t. His recollections of his partners were brisk and businesslike and probably a very good clue to the sweat and dedication which carried him along so fast in the performing business when he seemed so effortless and debonair.
“Leslie Caron, you know, was kind of fragile…She was a war baby and she hadn’t had proper food in that time so she couldn’t take an eight-hour day on a movie set the way an American girl could…
“Rita Hayworth, now, she wasn’t that way….They put a pair of castanets in her hand right after she was born and they just brought her up dancing…”
…He softened a little for Judy Garland: “Judy…wasn’t even a dancer at all but she could still pick up a step faster than I ever could and as for singing – we used to call her ‘Old Tin Ear’ because she just had to hear a tune once and she’d got it.”
He smiled, too, for Cyd Charisse: “Now there was a big girl. We had a beautiful relationship but she was a big girl. Every time I lifted her over my head Fred Astaire would say: ‘How can you do that, kid? That’s the way you get a hernia.’”
Gene, quoted in Tony Thomas, The films of Gene Kelly 1974
In the theatre you can chug along for years but being a success in the movies is like suddenly being turned into a rocket.
Film Buff. February 1976. Barbara Wolf. The Art Of Gene Kelly
He was, he remains, the most completely gifted artist ever to work in musical films. There were certainly others who surpassed him in one skill or another, singing or acting or clowning more brilliantly, or even directing or choreographing or dancing with an edge of something more. But no one else could do it all, or could unify and vivify so total a creative vision, or could communicate anything like the joy he seemed to take in his own creativity.
John Springer. All Talking All Singing All Dancing. 1976
Mostly the Kelly pictures were good, better, best - among the very top in all movie musical history.
Jeanine Basinger. Gene Kelly. Pyramid Illustrated History Of The Movies. 1976
Not only did Kelly have a one-in-a-million talent, he also had a million dollar screen presence…He could crinkle up the corners of his warm, dark eyes, smile as wide as a barn door and lay on the blarney with the best of ‘em..... He elevated the musical film into an art form by pulling it down from the skies.
Dance Magazine. July 1976
Despite the breadth of expression that Kelly has succeeded in bringing to filmed dancing…he readily acknowledges that film choreographers are forced to transfer what he feels is and untranslatable medium to an unfriendly environment…Every step…is with the camera in mind…Despite the inherent problems, Gene Kelly’s innovative work has helped make dance seem an art that does belong in motion pictures. In many ways he has been able to tame the camera into being more accommodating to dance so that audiences have been given glimpses of a dance that they have never known before…The energy and élan that he brought to American musical films as dancer, choreographer and director, have left a legacy of innovation that…changed the outlook of motion pictures.
New York Times 1979
No one alive today probably possesses more skill or knowledge in what it takes to do a first-rate film musical than Gene Kelly. He took to the form with passionate, boundless energy.
American Film 1979
Expressive, dazzling, exuberant – these are some of the words, among dozens, that hard-pressed critics have turned to in an effort to describe Gene Kelly’s dancing in the movies. For the rest of us, free simply to enjoy his dancing, words have always seemed inadequate to the effort.
One reason is that the pleasure of watching Kelly on the screen is almost visceral, and the pleasure is never limited to his dance steps…our delight is in watching a graceful burst of screen personality, fulfilling itself in movement...
Gene:There are no auteurs in musical pictures. It’s impossible. You have to have music arrangements, besides a choreographer, a director and so forth.
Ray Bolger. That's Dancing, 1982.
More than any other star, Gene Kelly became the symbol of the MGM musical of the 50's
Rudy Behlmer. Behind The Scenes. 1982
Gene Kelly was a major talent in all departments…I never saw him give a bad performance…he was very good with kids, he knew how to extract performances from people.
Thomas G Aylesworth. The History Of Movie Musicals 1984
The biggest star of the era’s musicals was undoubtedly Gene Kelly.
TV interview. ABC, 1984
Gene said that he didn’t like movie acting and dancing when he first went to Hollywood. The acting seems too concentrated and almost claustrophobic compared with the stage, and with no audience. And the dancing didn’t work so well in films. So he said, “I decided I’d better make dance work in films.”
He took dancing out of the ballroom and gave it back to the regular guy.
Gene: “I never could see myself being cast as a Prince Royal Consort or president… Being cast as an ordinary guy was right up my alley as that was the way I wanted to dance – it fitted and I was lucky.”
One of the differences between Fred Astaire and Gene was that by the time Gene came to Hollywood, the heyday of the musical was half over. Gene regrets having missed those early years.
American Film magazine 1985
With Kelly’s films, the songs and dances came to be so closely related to the story that neither element could be dropped without sacrificing part of the meaning of the other. Music and story were unified.
AFI booklet. 1985
…Gene Kelly, a man who recognised the simplest and the grandest of the world’s dreams, added a little color, song and movement and gave them back to us to carry away into our lives.
Disney Magazine 1989. Gene:
Kissing scenes are disliked by most actors and actresses. They tend to ruin make-up and draw bad looks from the people who have to redo the lady’s hair and lipstick – and often the man’s too.
Gene Kelly, the Dancing Cavalier. Hollywood Then And Now. August 1991
…There is another side to Gene Kelly, a side that surfaces briefly in some of his films and totally dominates a few. This version of Gene could be every bit as elegant as Fred – not in top hat, white tie and tails – but in the costumes of the cavalier, the pirate or the musketeer. This was the fantasy persona of that beaming, sometimes brash ‘average guy’ – the man who could don a sweeping cape, a black mask or a plumed hat and become the romantic swashbuckler of his dreams. Of course it was not so much what he wore or how he wore it but his style of dancing, that strong, athletic grace that was perfectly suited to making these dreams a visual reality..
Kelly combined the elements of the musical and the swashbuckler like no one else in film history….
Watch for this side of Gene Kelly. In a gesture here, a graceful leap there, he will reveal himself. The dream cavalier is just beneath the surface of Mr. All-American…
Gene had proved his ability to blend dance with derring-do…
As long as we have his D’Artagnan, his Serafin and his other unforgettable roles we have a record of this remarkable facet of the Renaissance man of the musical film: Gene Kelly.
Graham Fuller, from an interview with Gene, 1994.
There is no other Hollywood song-and-dance-man who took so much uninhibited physical pleasure in his performance while making us wary of the musical’s Utopian promise. Against that, it was Kelly’s streetwise, Everyman figure that did most to liberate the genre from its ‘putting on a show’ tradition…Kelly became the most agile and virile performer in American films since Douglas Fairbanks…and a fine throaty crooner.
John Updike. The New Yorker 1994
Kelly, who rose from the assembly line to the managerial level of choreographer and director, was ideally electric yet chaste. The musicals were about sex, but sex puritanically streamlined. They demonstrated to their public how to make love in the old sense of the phrase… few spoke the language [of film musicals] when it was a live one with more fluency than Gene Kelly, and none more thrillingly embodied American élan.
Time Magazine February 1996
There is no Ginger Rogers linked immortally to Kelly’s name, and that’s no accident….suspiciously good at playing hammy, self-serving show folks…he occasionally makes you wonder: is he exercising egocentricity or satirizing it?…But sooner rather than later, “his irresistible Irish-American charm,” and his “overwhelming, unstoppable energy” (Donen’s phrases) blew away your reservations. For there was always something disarming in the forthright way that Kelly…stated his needs and his aspirations. These transcended beyond the standard American desire to transcend one’s past and transform one’s limitations. For he was part of a generation that wanted to reinvent both the stage musical and the movie musical. It saw no reason why song and dance shouldn’t reflect the realities of everyday life – and at the same time illuminate our everynight dream life…
Vanity Fair. April 1996
With his handsome profile and matinee-god grin, Kelly was custom-made for the silver screen. Like Cagney he could tap, rat-a-tat, the street in his step. But Gene had romantic amplitude as well.
The Irish In America. Edited by Michael Coffey. 1997
"...Gene was not only the quintessential
song-and-dance man, but he carried with him a sense of
class and refinement that appealed to both men and
Biography magazine March 1999.
Kelly was one of the most innovative talents in the history of movie musicals, a choreographer and director who gave himself unprecedented challenges and in so doing, changed the nature of dance on film.
Entertainment Weekly, 2000. Owen Gleiberman
Gene Kelly, with his grinning rat-a-tat athleticism, was a happy contradiction, hoofing his way through musicals like an exultant cowboy (he used his feet as forcefully as Bruce Lee did his fists of fury).
Time Magazine March 2002
In a Kelly film… the camera was more than an observer in the musical drama; it was a participant, prowling and swooping to keep up with Gene, to dance with him. In film after film, Kelly and his team met the challenges of capturing dance on film…
Kelly, a believer in artistic integration, gave just as much attention to ‘the rest of the movie.’ He acted-danced with the same concentrated energy that he danced-acted. Maybe he attended to Selznick’s advice after all. [To concentrate on acting].
Scott Renshaw www.apolloguide.com movie guide
If film as an entertainment medium ever had to defend its existence in some sort of trial, I’d gladly serve as defense attorney if only to present Gene Kelly’s choreography as Exhibit A. Few visions in cinema history have offered as much pure joy as Kelly’s alternately graceful and exuberant dance steps; the fact that film can preserve those steps for posterity is reason enough to cherish its existence. When Gene Kelly dances, you remember what the pure magic of the movies is all about.
Carly Millard. Society, Form, Context and the Hollywood Musical 2007
Over his career, Gene Kelly (along with his collaborators) completely changed the face of the musical; he took it away from its traditions and gave it a vital, innovative artistry that carried a socially important meaning;
Leslie Caron, The Making of An American In Paris DVD 2008
There was no doubt Gene was a remarkable choreographer for the movies. He was the one who always placed the camera.
FOR ME & MY GAL. 1942
That's Entertanment II . 1976.
Gene: For Me And My Gal was my first film and boy was I lucky. I was starred with Judy Garland.
That’s what I call starting at the top.
Gene, on seeing the preview of For Me And My Gal 1942
I was appalled at the sight of myself blown up twenty times…but when I came outside executives started pumping my hand and Judy came up and kissed me. I went home thinking they were just being nice
Gene: Since Busby Berkeley wanted George Murphy in the part, he hated me and didn’t try to hide it. So I came onto the set with arrows pointing at me from the director and his assistant. Then Busby did a 360 and we became very good friends.
It was a measure of Kelly’s ability as an actor that he was able to strip down his ability as a dancer to meet the requirements of the role.
British Film Institute
In this, his film debut, Kelly is charming.
Magazine clipping, 1942. Source unknown
Salute to a stimulating newster! Gene Kelly in his first film…proves to be the find of the season for his dancing and persuasive playing.
Photoplay December 1942
It’s not necessary to predict a future for Gene Kelly. His future is here. What a performance he gives as a heel with a heart.
A winner, that’s what this musical is…Judy Garland entrances and newcomer Gene Kelly answers that $64 question as to new faces. If ever a star leapt overnight to stardom it should be Kelly, discovered by Judy on the New York stage and brought to Hollywood for this role…
Pittsburgh Press. 4th December 1942
Gene proves he’s a natural in For Me And My Gal and it’s more than civic pride that prompts me to say that he steals the show. When a newcomer takes honors from such capable hands as Judy Garland and George Murphy, that’s pretty nice stealing…
Except for the fact that the picture runs wild near the end, For Me and My Gal is pretty swell entertainment…but it is Gene Kelly’s picture and Gene makes good…MGM would do well to keep Mr. Kelly busy. The movies are ‘duck soup’ for him.
Time Magazine. November 1942
…The contagious little tune Ballin’ The Jack, as delivered by Miss Garland and Mr Kelly, is worth the price of admission.
In this nostalgic re-evocation of vaudeville’s golden age and the sweeter, simpler times of World War I, Miss Garland and Mr Kelly do a notable job. Kelly, who made a Broadway hit winter before last in Pal Joey, has flashes of acting intuition which should rate him a special berth, or perhaps a drawing room, in Hollywood.
Motion Picture. January 1943
…Despite the unsavoury aspects of the role, Gene clicked right off the bat. Which makes a pretty fair testimony as to his acting ability…In fact, he plays a heel in a way that makes you think he’s a great guy even while you’re eager to give him a good swift kick in the posterior.
Gene: When I was working in For Me and My Gal…I was anxious to get to the place where I could redeem myself. Every day I’d ask the director, “When are we going to shoot the scene where I’m nice to Judy?” You see, I figured that a great many people like Judy. I couldn’t be the only guy who ever threw her over. After all, if I didn’t have some decent moments, the fans would have hated me so much that I’d never have gotten any place in pictures.
The Montreal Gazette. 7th January 1943
For years Judy Garland watched with envy such screen dancers as Eleanor Powell, Ginger Rogers and Rita Hayworth. Her one ambition was to perform complicated routines, proving she could dance as well as sing…In For Me and My Gal…she envisioned herself whirling through the film in the arms of one of Broadway’s finest musical comedy stars, her leading man, Gene Kelly. That was all before rehearsals started. That was before she worked like a day laborer for five long preparatory weeks. From nine in the morning until nightfall Judy and Gene tirelessly rehearsed. The first task was to map out the type of dance numbers they would do…Ballin’ The Jack, jitterbug dance of its day, was selected as one of the numbers. Judy not only had to learn the steps, but she also had to master the art of using straw hat and cane. At the end of the first day she went home with blisters on her feet. The second day she sprained her back in attempting a difficult turn. The third day Judy realised there was more to this dancing than meets the eye…Judy and Gene would go through the routines sometimes twelve or fifteen times. This was the only way Berkeley could determine the point where certain steps could be most advantageously viewed.
Screenland. January 1943
Kelly from Broadway is in fast company in his movie debut, but he holds your attention in his role of brash but lovable hoofer.
Modern Screen. June 1943
Gene Kelly’s sister Harriet, who teaches school in Pittsburgh, looks forward to the release of Dubarry Was A Lady. It’s not wholly a matter of family pride. She’s grown weary of being accosted by reproachful kids. “Your brother’s a draft dodger. He crushed his hand in a trunk.”
Gene offers Irish advice. “Tell them that was the last war. Tell them I’m too old to fight now.”
Picture Show. September 25th 1943
To a ‘quiz’ programme, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly sent this query: “How many famous old-time popular songs can you recognise in the background orchestral score of For Me and My Gal?”
By picking fragments of eleven old-time songs, Roger Edens has created the most familiar mosaic of melodies in current musical history. The score includes excerpts from: Do You Ever Think of Me?; Some of These Days; Good-bye Broadway, Hello France; Mademoiselle from Armentieres; K-K-K-Katy; Pack Up Your Troubles; Oh, Frenchy; There are Smiles; We don’t want the bacon; Chicago; and Darktown Strutter’s Ball.
Current Biography. December 1945
…According to Newsweek, he “progresses from heel to hero with a persuasiveness that scores a scoop for MGM’s talent scouts.” But Bosley Crowther in the New York Times declared that Kelly had been “pressed a bit too far in his first film role.”
Review, sometime after 1945
The story is naively patriotic and sentimental, but Kelly is amazingly fresh: his grin could melt stone, and he and Garland are a magical pair.
Movie Stars Parade. July 1947 Tap Happy.
He’s got the shoes from his first MGM picture, when he looked across the lights at a gal with a bundle of hair, Judy Garland, danced with the girl, made love to her, and put on a bit of dramatic acting that stopped cold the pop-corn crunchers in the theatres across the country. That trunk-and-injured-finger scene in Me And My Gal marked him as something rare in show business – a dancer who could jerk tears while shuffling his feet.
Hirschhorn, Hollywood Musicals 1981
Kelly and Garland worked brilliantly together, establishing a magical rapport…they turned it into a box office smash for MGM, making at the same time, an international star of Gene Kelly.
DUBARRY WAS A LADY 1943
St. Petersburg Times. October 20th 1942
Kelly…in his full dress suit. He was having his troubles giving his all. His wife was in hospital and every time the phone rang he jumped. He said a man who was about to become a father ought to be pardoned for nerves.
Hartford Courant. February 2nd 1943
Gene Kelly all but steals Dubarry Was A Lady from lady Lucille Ball.
Motion Picture. January 1943
…Gene returned from giving Lucille Ball the works in a scene…I’m a fairly decent guy in Dubarry, but you still can’t call me a leading man. How I hate to be called that! None of this swooning over a girl’s charms or going romantic via a deep, slumberous voice for me.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 23rd July 1943
Mr. Gene Kelly’s engaging candour and toothpaste-ad smile were never more pleasant…Pittsburgh’s Mr. Kelly is seen dancing for a change and, while he is still a couple of taps behind Mr. Fred Astaire he has the compensations of being a good actor (which Mr. Astaire is not) and of having his own hair on his head (which Mr. Astaire hasn’t). It’s nice to see Mr. Kelly as a sort of latter-day Pal Joey thought the picture he’s appearing in is far from Saroyanesque
Picture Show. September 25th 1943
Gene Kelly stands out in the supporting cast.
THOUSANDS CHEER. 1943
Hollywood Musicals 1981
The only chance Gene Kelly got to dance was when …he did what was called ‘The mop dance’ – the freshest, most inventive few minutes in the show.
Howard Barnes, NY Herald tribune 1943
Kelly dominates the film and saves the picture from being merely a parade of personalities.
Joe Pasternak. Producer
I first worked with him in Thousands Cheer, and the highest praise I can give him is that in spite of having practically every heavyweight MGM star in that picture, he is the one who made the biggest impact. I told him from the start: “You want to steal the movie? All you have to do is one dance that is new and original…you be different.”. So he came up with the mop dance, which is the best number in the picture.
Family Circle magazine.1943
…Kathryn is always very real in her maturing devotion to the rebellious Kelly. There’ll be no stopping this lad either. He has the same qualities of tender-tough appeal that endeared Jimmy Cagney to the populace – and in addition, Gene’s dancing establishes him as the only other actor in the Astaire class.
Modern Screen. June 1943
Jewelry for men he classes with the minor felonies. In “Private Miss Jones,” he had to wear a ring, and kept it on for the picture’s duration to avoid the ignominy of asking the prop man for it each morning.
ZEIGFELD FOLLIES 1946
Anyone dancing on the screen today who doesn’t admit his debt to Astaire, is either a liar or a fool.
This guy is good. I don’t usually like dancers, but he gives me a kick.
There is a page dedicated to Fred's relationship with Gene elsewhere on this website. A Formal Brawl?
Christian Science Monitor. Ziegfeld Follies
Gene is stockier and sturdier, more open of thigh, more resilient of torso and though he knows his ballet, less elegant in style than Astaire. I see in him great possibilities for modern expressionism.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. May 19th 1944. Frederick C. Othman.
Hollywood. May 18th. At 8 o’clock this morning the two greatest dancers in Hollywood…sat down on a park bench in their ice-cream pants, preparatory to going into their act….
“Let’s go,” cried Director Vincente Minnelli. “Unhuh,” said the cameraman. He pointed out that one of the wires holding one of the pigeons wasn’t invisible at all, it seemed to have a piece of cotton adhering to it. The lights went out. Kelly and Astaire relaxed on their bench. The boys brought in a long ladder. They climbed after that bit of fluff – and they broke the pigeon wire. They had to crawl into the rafters and send down a new wire. This took time…The pigeon fixers seemed to have nudged the statue out of line…An hour and a half had passed. Astaire and Kelly fingered their neckties. Again they were ready. Minnelli took a look in the lens…Four leaves on the left-hand bush were shiny, when they should have been dull. They were reflecting light….A painter showed up. He said this was his first day at work in the movies and he didn’t have his brushes with him…the property department sent the leaves to the paint shop to be sprayed. Astaire and Kelly relaxed some more…Minnelli said he guessed maybe his dancers had better try a rehearsal first.
They stood up to rehearse. And woe is us. That bench was dirty. They had black streaks on their white pants and this was Technicolor, and hey, wardrobe! The wardrobe department came up with a can of carbon tetrachloride and did a dry cleaning job on two pairs of pants with their owners still in ’em...
The cameraman looked into his lens again and, so help us, this is what he said:
“Joe, please powder the left side of Mr. Astaire’s nose; the left side only.”…by now it was noon. And another guy was working on the bench with soap…The grips were tearing up the camera tracks for reasons best known to themselves, the electricians had to put new carbons in their arcs; and the Othman had a 20-mile drive to his office.
And that’s why we can’t tell you about the dance of Hollywood’s two greatest dancers; we never did get to see it.
There was plenty of time to talk to the dancers, however, and they agreed it was first class. For three weeks they’d been rehearsing it.
Photoplay magazine. 1945
He thinks Fred Astaire, with whom he does the Babbitt And Bromide number…is “the tops.” They rehearsed six hours a day for this number and every night when they went home each of them would try to dream up something to stump the other one on the next day. Then they’d compare notes. With much kidding.
Saturday Evening Post. July 1950
Arthur Freed: “A lot of sadistic characters who hoped to witness a fight to the finish with tap shoes as weapons were disappointed. Instead of infighting and gouging in the clinches, Fred and Gene staged an Alphonse and Gaston act. They threw themselves into it with so much abandon that it became fascinating to see how far they’d go. A long time before we decided to make the picture, Astaire had told me, ‘This Kelly is good. I don’t usually like dancers, but he gives me a kick.’. And Gene had sought me out to say, ‘Fred has been my idol ever since I put on dancing shoes. Fifty years from now, when they show old films, he’ll be the dancer they’ll pick to represent his era.’”
Freed suggested a number called The Babbitt And The Bromide, that Fred had once done with his sister Adele in a stage musical.
…”I put them together in a rehearsal hall and left them alone. At the end of the day Kelly came to me and said, ‘I can’t see what Fred sees in this routine. I think we’d be better off doing an Indian number.’ Like any two champions they naturally wanted to do the thing they could do best, but their respect for each other was so great that they were extremely polite when they were working together, and if they had any suggestions, they made them to me. Somehow, Fred discovered that Gene was unhappy about the routine and he came to me and said that perhaps they ought to do the Indian number after all. After that it became a kind of contest in politeness, for when Gene heard that Fred wanted him to have his own way, he did a switch and began to insist upon doing The Babbitt and the Bromide. Gene’s Alphonse finally out bowed-and-scraped Fred’s Gaston, and both of them poured it on so beautifully that folk who collect big moments in the movies…rank it well up on their lists.”
LIVING IN A BIG WAY 1947
Picturegoer. September 14th 1946
Gene Kelly Is Home Again. W. H. Mooring
It seemed only right that this being the first day of shooting on Gene Kelly's first film since he came back to Hollywood from the US Navy, Picturegoer should tag along to wish him good luck. It's nice to enjoy the opportunity to wish a fellow like Gene Kelly good luck. One naturally would feel the same kindly sentiments towards any Hollywood hero who had just come home, but that is not to say one would always get the same opportunity to express them.
One famous star came back from the war and testily announced that he'd been away so long he'd become nervous and didn't want any 'press people' snooping around while he was making his first picture.
When the film was released it was so bad that many of us wondered why he hadn't turned his temperament upon the writing department instead of the press.
However, his name was not Gene Kelly.
Gene ought to have been nervous, but if he was he completely concealed the fact. His patience was simply amazing. I do not know a single press man who would have put up with it the way he was doing.
Gregory La Cava was directing...Nobody I met on the set seemed to know anything about the story, except that the title was Life Is For The Loving.
They told me that La Cava likes to work without a script. He works out the story scene by scene...
I saw Gene Kelly go through at least ten takes and the number called was fifteenth, so presumably he'd already done it five times before I got there. Yet he didn't bat an eyelid.
The tight-lipped smile flickered and shone as his unusual black eyes seemed to recede into a mass of creases. You know how he does it on the screen. Well, he is just the same off.
The moment La Cava called “cut,” Gene was off the set talking with me again. Sometimes they'd call him back only a second or two afterwards. Or we might get quite a few minutes at a stretch.
Every time he would come back to our conversation ready to start it exactly where he had left off, and every time, too, he would go back to the film scene, as if he'd never left it.
Even when they brought over to him a horseshoe of carnations sent to wish him good luck, by director George Sidney, who did Anchors Aweigh, Gene didn't lose track of what he was saying.
That meant to me only one thing. He was speaking what honestly lay in his mind. I think he is given to do so much more than most young men in his position...
St. Petersburg Times. June 4th 1946
When Gene Kelly gets to Hollywood in two weeks, he won’t unpack his dancing shoes for The Pirate. A last minute switch puts Gene into Life’s For The Living, which is all drama and a yard wide without a single dance routine for Kelly. How do you think you’re going to like that?
I’ll say this for Gene – of all the ‘talent’ artists he strikes me as the best natural actor.
Movieland. Summer 1946
One of Gene’s favorite people is director Gregory La Cava. Who has “all the charm in the world.” The fact that La Cava is at the helm of his current picture intimidates Gene a little since it is La Cava’s habit to shoot off the cuff, following only a storyline and giving out the day’s dialogue on the set. Gene is a hard worker, the kind of guy who memorizes lines while pacing a rut in the living room carpet, sweating out a scene in the wee small hours while the rest of the household slumbers. He suffers from stage fright before every day’s shooting and particularly before every dance number, even though he may have boned up on the routine for a couple of months.
Screenland magazine 1947. Gene.
When I’m working, I have only one thought in mind – my job. We work from a script that is being written from day to day, and each morning I have to go through my lines before we shoot. That’s a thing that requires considerable concentration and since I’m trying to do the very best job possible, I shut out anything else that might intervene. Gregory La Cava, who is directing the picture, is a top-drawer man, so I feel doubly strong on the fact that I’ve got to do my very best work for him.
Paul Marsh, Screenland magazine 1947
Originally Gene’s role in his newest picture was listed purely as a dramatic part, but letters from moviegoers throughout the nation soon changed that. They pleaded that a picture in which Gene Kelly doesn’t dance is hardly fair…
“So I’ll dance in the picture”, said Gene. “Somehow, somewhere a couple of dance routines will be fitted into the script."
Chicago Tribune. January 18th 1947
Gene Kelly sprained his ankle during rehearsals for To Kiss And To Keep. He’s had to be dropped from the picture indefinitely.
Evening Independent. January 18th 1947
Gene Kelly tore two ligaments in his dance fall and will be on crutches for a while.
Evening Independent. January 20th 1947
Gene Kelly sprained his ankle with but one day to go on To Kiss And To Keep. He was luckily on the ground when it happened. The number he is doing consists of flitting around on small planks of a house construction – fifty feet off the ground.
Movie. January 1947 The Most Natural Guy.
The scene: a men’s clothing store on the set of MGM’s Life’s For The Loving. Gene Kelly is playing a recently-discharged soldier, trying to get civilian clothes. The salesman shows his complete stock – three suits.
“I don’t think this scene rings true,” says Gene to director Gregory La Cava.
“Why not? Because I haven’t been able to find one suit since I’ve been out of the Navy.”
So they changed the scene and shot is as Gene suggested.
We went into his dressing room to talk over old times and future plans.
The room is as casual as Gene himself. Bow-ties hanging on the walls, on the table and on the chairs. Five pork-pie hats dangling from the clothes-tree. A horseshoe of red carnations on the wall – welcome-back gift from George Sidney who directed him in Anchors Aweigh.
Gene looks better than he has in a long time. “I certainly should,” he said. “I put on eighteen pounds in the Navy…
His interest in the Veteran’s Housing Project is sincere. His enthusiasm for the project infected director Gregory La Cava, and the pros and cons of the problem form part of the plot of Gene’s new movie…
An assistant director came running to say they were ready to start the next scene. Gene went over to director La Cava. They discussed the lines and business a moment and Gene stepped into the scene to act.
Did I say act?
It was plain Gene Kelly, saying his lines as Gene would, laughing the way he would – the most natural guy in the movies.
Milwaukee Journal 13th April 1947
Kelly’s new dancing partner is one of the dumbest actors in Hollywood, but he’ll probably steal the show. His name is Chris, and he is the movie’s first dancing canine star.
Chris and Kelly dance together in Living In A Big Way. Kelly saw Chris’ smart salute in Spars and Tars and was inspired to work out a number, Fido and Me.
Chris worked his way up, just like any other star. He started his career as an understudy to the dog Daisy in the Blondie series, was kissed by Shirley Temple in Kiss and Tell, and was bodyguard for Margaret O’Brien in Bad Bascomb.
With Kelly, Chris swings, sways, high jumps, plays leapfrog struts, and somersaults into a bird bath – all to music. His owner, Jack Weatherwax, says Chris responds best – not to a bone – but to applause. Chris does get a bone now and then, but only to vary his diet of ground beef six days a week, and fish on Friday.
Living In A Big Way. Pressbook. 1947
This is the tale of a dog. His name is Chris…Cross between a poodle and a schnauzer, Chris has spent five of his six years in Hollywood…Kelly became interested. The two met, talked things over, and collaborated on the dance number, Fido and Me.
…At the moment, Chris is turning down all movie offers. He feels he needs a vacation.
Silver Screen. April 1947
He was concerned, he said, about his dances for his new picture, “To Kiss And To Keep,” for which, as usual, he was doing his own choreography.
“Naturally, during my two years in the Navy I didn’t have time to dance…I hope it’s like swimming – something one doesn’t forget – and I hope audiences still think I’m okay.”
Audiences, we’ll bet our best bottle of Christmas-present perfume, will think just that. In fact, it was a public howl, registered via the United States mail, which led MGM to include Gene’s dances in “To Kiss And To Keep.” It is not a musical, in any sense, and originally Gene was to do no dancing in it. That fact, duly reported in the public prints, brought such protests from fans that it was decided to incorporate some dances, carefully fitted into the story line. Gene plays a civic-minded ex-GI, and there’s no reason why the character should not be able to dance.
After all, in real life, he dances and is a civic-minded ex-seaman…
Gene is finding plenty of mental stimulation working with director Gregory La Cava…because the director, who also does much of his own writing, has a unique system in shooting a picture. To achieve spontaneity in performance he gives his actors their script piecemeal, only a day’s pages at a time and only twenty four hours ahead. Then, even as they are doing a scene, he often changes dialogue to conform with how he feels an actor in a certain role may say a given line.
“Especially after two years away, that keeps me on my toes, and I don’t mean that as a bad pun,” says Kelly. La Cava’s method is different, but he knows what he’s doing.”
Living In A Big Way. Pressbook. 1947
…When thousands of fan letters in three weeks deluged MGM, all demanding that Kelly dance, LaCava realised he had more than an actor on his hands. Kelly, however, still found dancing a stiff acting job. Before he could start to map out a new routine, he had to use all his persuasive powers to sell 62-year-old Jean Adair on the idea that dancing was fun. Kelly isn’t Irish for nothing – the touch of the Blarney Stone turned the trick.
Result, something different – his dance with Grandma!
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 24th May 1947
Gene Kelly fans who have been waiting to see their idol again (it’s his first film since he doffed Navy blues) will be delighted. Gene’s dance with a shaggy pooch is the highlight of the film.
Evening Independent. June 11th 1947
Living In A Big Way is a suitable vehicle for Gene Kelly’s return from the war. The film, which deals vaguely with war marriages and veteran’s housing, is burdened with a lame plot and much talking, a lot of it pointless. But it is a pleasant charade and it provides a backdrop for three Kelly musical numbers. Oh, how that man can dance!
Marie MacDonald offers bodily support.
Hartford Courant June 26th 1947Living In A Big Way is Gene Kelly and his dancing, and that’s fun in a big way. Romance in a big way too, because Gene’s dancing is out of this world.
Living In A Big Way Pressbook. 1947
…Special insurance was taken out for Kelly’s ‘Pied Piper’ dance, one of the high spots in MGM’s furious-paced new romantic comedy…He dances on 2x4 girders and 50-foot-high ladders which swing from building to building through more than 40-feet of space, then climaxes it by sliding down a block and tackle onto a swaying teeter-totter!
Incidentally the star not only created the choreography for the number, but was his own director on it…
Glamour girls take a back seat to grandma – Gene Kelly’s new dancing partner is sixty-two years old!
She is Jean Adair, remembered as the sweet-faced murderess of Arsenic and Old Lace…She and Kelly stop the show with a spirited waltz.
Evening Independent. July 28th 1947
This picture was not hailed, in advance, as stupendous, but it was entertaining most of the time. Kelly does two very good dance numbers, the one with a group of children being especially pleasing. There is a moppet dog that was the best actor in the cast…one of the season’s merriest romantic comedies.
Modern Screen July 1947
MGM’s new musical will make you merrier. It may make you live in an even bigger way. Gene Kelly and Marie McDonald are the ‘Boy-meets-Girl' of this hearty, happy picture. Gene is the shiniest dancer – the best ‘timer’ of scenes – and to our and the public’s mind, one of the very top stars in pictures. He has never been better, not even in “Anchors Aweigh.” How the boy can dance!
What originality characterizes his dance plots! The scene in which he does a terpsichorean routine on the girders of an unfinished dream-house is worth your weeks’ movie allowance. He teeters on a block and tackle, totters on ladders. Sure-footed, sure-fire Gene.
…When William James, the philosopher, was asked, “Is life worth living?” he said, “It all depends on the liver”.
And if the liver is “living in a big way”, then life has its worth.
Daytona Beach Morning Journal. 12th November 1947
Living In A Big Way…has lots of things which should appeal to the average movie goer.
Number 1, and to this reviewer most important, is Gene Kelly, who contributes charm, humor, and a number of novel dance sequences. Kelly worked out his own dance routine, and they include some fresh and unusual ideas. One is a pas de deux with Chris, a mongrel dog, and another is with a statue…Number 3 is the story, which should restore Gene Kelly to the good graces of the House Unamerican Activities Committee…Not having the male eye for beauty, to this reviewer Phyllis Thaxter, who plays an earnest young war widow, is a more attractive mate for Kelly than the spoiled girl he married.
Dance. June 1948
In Living In A Big Way Gene Kelly utilizes the dramatic and comic potential of a prop (a statue, in this case) to colour and heighten the effect of his one-man ballet, choreographed by himself to show off his powerful technique and mimetic talent.
Hirschorn. Gene Kelly. 1974
La Cava, who was one of the few directors with complete autonomy at MGM, managed to draw a cool, controlled, most accomplished performance from Gene, who, despite his misgivings, revealed a flair for comedy not many people realised he possessed.
Hirschorn, Hollywood Musicals 1981
The building site number, performed with children…was quintessential Kelly in its athleticism and in the easy spontaneous way the youngsters were involved
Rudy Behlmer. Behind The Scenes. 1982
Even in a picture like Living In A Big Way which is not a very good picture, when they added numbers to it, those numbers are extremely inventive…The picture is nothing, but he gave it his all…I don’t think he ever “phoned in”.
In the picture I’m a returned GI, and my clothes are supposed to fit very badly. Well, when I first showed up wearing that costume which was sizes too big for me, people thought the clothes were my own. In a way I couldn’t blame them, because I have never been considered the epitome of sartorial perfection. Friends who hadn’t seen me since my 22 months in service would come up to me, give my loose-hanging clothes the once-over, and then say cheerfully, “You’re looking fine Gene, but haven’t you lost a little weight.”
When it dawned on me that everyone thought I wore sad-looking clothes like that all the time, naturally it was a blow to my ego. ….since then I’ve looked over my wardrobe very carefully, because if I look like that, I’d better do something about it.
TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME. 1949
Silver Screen. April 1947
You’ve probably read that he has authored an original screenplay which his home studio, MGM, has bought for a musical to star him and, probably, Frank Sinatra. Tunesmiths Ralph Blane and Harry Warren are already at work on the score and Gene himself will create the choreography.
“It was simply a matter of self-defense,” he told us, trying his darndest to keep a serious mien as we lunched in the studio commissary. “An actor has to look out for his future, so I wrote my own story.”
But between bites of veal sauté he finally admitted it was an idea he conceived while he was in service, and mulled over in his mind for a good many months. After he got out of uniform and had a few weeks to spare before returning to the sound stages, he put it down on paper. What’s more, MGM grabbed it. He won’t tell, wisely, what it’s about, admitting only that the idea is novel and might be copied – if he talked.
So the chap who formerly merely sang, conceived and executed brilliant dances…and acted…now adds writing to his list of talents. What’s more, it’s such good writing that it sells.
Time Out Film Guide. Date unknown
More like a Donen/Kelly musical than a Busby Berkeley, which is hardly surprising since they staged and filmed the numbers,
while Berkeley left after the dialogue scenes…enormously enjoyable.
Bosley Crowther. The New York Times. 1949
The time-honored axiom of showmen that the ladies don’t go for baseball films and that movies about ballplayers have two strikes against them at the start has been easily circumvented by Metro in whipping up its Technicolor Take Me Out To The Ball Game. The studio has simply made this picture a rowdy-dow musical show…The individual performances of Kelly and Sinatra on the [baseball] team are genially and frankly in the spirit of unabashed burlesque…
It must be said, too, that Mr. Kelly and his sidekick do right nicely by a brisk thing called ‘Yes, Indeedy,’ as well as the title song.
St. Petersburg Times. November 15th 1947
As soon as Gene Kelly is able to not only dance, but run on that busted ankle of his, the baseball story he sold to Metro In The Good Old Summertime, will go before the cameras.
Deseret News. 7th June 1948
I do hope Ginger Rogers signs the contract offered her by MGM to co-star with Gene Kelly in Take Me Out To the Ball Game. There have been many conferences lately between her and Louis B Mayer, but Ginger wants to produce, and so far she hasn’t said yes. Teaming her with Gene Kelly, who is such a good dancer, would certainly be box office…Ginger is a wonderful dancer, and she and Gene would certainly bring plenty of sheckles into the tired old box office.
Schenectody Gazette. 14th September 1948
(Dorothy Kilgallen is on vacation. Her guest today is screen star Gene Kelly.)
Well, Dorothy, I couldn’t be more highly flattered…if your readers can stand it and you’re happy, then I’m certainly not one to quibble. At heart I’m something of a frustrated writer myself. MGM is finding that out. Stanley Donen and I banged out a story and managed to sell it to the studio.
Now we’re making it into a musical with Frank Sinatra…and yours truly...we think it's going to be a lot of fun...
St. Petersburg Times. March 19th 1949
Dansational is the word for Gene Kelly’s nimble version of an Irish jig…Gene is poetry in motion.
St. Petersburg Times.April 14th 1949
While bobby soxers may swoon at Sinatra and his songs, Gene Kelly is the man who steals the show with his nimble steps. He has some good dance numbers, one of which, a terrific dance, was applauded by the audience…
Box Office. May 1949
The April Box Office Blue Ribbon Award goes to this gay and tuneful production…Gene Kelly is all over the picture in more ways than one…The winning film has a 12-plus rating in the Review Digest and its boxoffice score is now 137 per cent on first run reports from 14 key cities…
Ballot comments this time were often couched in baseball language, as in these: …Homerun entertainment – a hit for the whole family…bases full and no errors…Excellent. More films like this would easily answer the $64 question: ‘What’s wrong with the movies.’…Superb family fare that gives a lift to the spirits of young and old. Children’s Wiggle Test audience couldn’t have been more enthusiastic, and they lustily sang all the songs…Solid entertainment – they cheered Gene Kelly…
Photoplay June 1949
Cupid is the umpire in this Technicolor triple-header with Frank Sinatra, Gene Kelly and Esther Williams.
As boss of the ball team, Esther makes all the boys toe the mark and even lady-killer Kelly can’t sweep her off her feet. When not on the diamond, Frank and Gene are wowing the customers as a song-and-dance team.
Betty Garrett is amusing as a man-chasing female; Jules Munchin makes a comical ballplayer; Edward Arnold is the menace. Apart from his acting chore, the clever Mr. Kelly collaborated on the story and staged the musical numbers. The result is a tuneful, enjoyable movie.
John Cutts. Films & Filming 1964
A young people’s frolic, an invigorating tonic entertainment…A musical of invention, humour, melody and energy…the dance numbers were staged with tremendous verve. Freed was delighted with Kelly and Donen’s work together.
The first Guardian Lecture. British Film Institute, London, May 20th 1980
Gene: I wrote the story in self-defence because they had a picture ready for me where Frank Sinatra and I would take over an aircraft carrier and turn it into a nightclub. I couldn’t do this, so I said what can I do, I must go to work. The song Take Me Out To The Ball Game was a big hit, I remembered an old Baseball pair called Nick Altoock and Al Schacht who would go into vaudeville every winter and make a living…So I said “Al and Schacht, Take Me Out To The Ball Game.” Big hit, Big hit! Song’ll be around for years!!… so I wrote all night and in the morning I got my protégé and friend Stanley Donen and said read this and tell me if it’s any good. He said “I like it”. He was young then and I would try these things on him. So we got it made into a screenplay…and got Comden and Green out to do the songs and special material.
Magazine article after 1980
The success of Take Me Out To The Ball Game encouraged Freed to give Kelly and Donen the opportunity to direct On The Town.
Hollywood Musicals 1981
Though the film was by no means epoch-making it had the sort of vitality that would characterize the three great Kelly musicals that would follow it. The musical numbers were delightful.
SUMMER STOCK 1950
Easy The Hard Way 1956
Gene had worked with Judy on his first film. She had been considerate, generous, helpful….and Gene Kelly, a man who knows genius when he is next to it, for he is not untouched with it himself, was more than merely grateful…it took us six months to finish the film. Gene Kelly rates a special mention…[He said] “ I’ll do anything for this girl Joe. If I have to come here and sit and wait for a year, I’d do it for her.”
The Deseret News. 26th February 1949
Summer Stock, starring Gene Kelly, June Allyson and Gloria De Haven takes its place as one of the most important musicals on the current movie schedule.
In the Gotlieb Archives in Boston there is a letter to Gene from MCA,his agents, September 7th 1950, enclosing notices on Summer Stock, which were 'really terrific'.
Chicago Tribune. February 6th 1950
Gene Kelly’s working himself to the bone trying to get Judy Garland’s numbers in the can for Summer Stock before she takes another rest.
MGM Pressbook. Summer Stock . 1950.
A “Battle of the Dances” was waged by judy Garland and Gene Kelly…with devotees of the newly revived square dance against the hep-cats.
The co-stars, however, remained neutral and combined both square dancing and jitterbug routines in a spectacular number which takes place in a huge barn.
But there was no doubt which dance proved most demanding on the principals. Miss Garland and Kelly were able to complete the square dance portion of the number in a single day but required three days to wind up the jitterbug routine…
The most complete farm set built at the MGM studios since Our Vines Have Tender Grapes, filmed five years ago, was constructed on the studio’s mammoth Stage 27 for Summer Stock…
The set included exteriors and interiors of a Connecticut farm house and barn, together with cow shed, pig sty and chicken run. Eighty per cent of the film’s action takes place on the farm set, including story sequences and musical numbers…
Arthur Loew, Jr., now essays a musical comedy role as Gene Kelly’s pal in Summer Stock…Son of the noted film executive, Loew won his opportunity to appear in the new musical after revealing his dancing ability while serving as master of ceremonies at a Hollywood benefit show.
Box Office. August 1950
The preview got the highest ratings of any New York neighborhood theatre survey ever made by the Film Research Bureau.
Hartford Courant. August 31st 1950
Summer Stock…is really terrific. Color, songs, dances, story, quips and Judy Garland, Gene Kelly and a large company of tip-top performers and names…You gape at Gene Kelly with open-mouthed admiration.
Toledo Blade. September 1st 1950
Gene Kelly, muscles rippling at every turn, does his usual spectacular dancing with ease – so much so that after some of his energetic numbers, he leaves you rather exhausted.
Daily Mirror September 1950
Summer Stock will do 'standing room only' business all the time everywhere. It's that good.
Daily Collegian. State College Pennsylvania. September 26th 1950
Summer Stock, unlike the average Hollywood musical, contains some really impressive footwork performances by Gene Kelly and Judy Garland. After watching Mr. K. manipulate a newspaper page and a squeaking board into a riotous dancing routine we’re ready to nominate him for an all-time hoofing award...As long as Hollywood can get Judy Garland and Gene Kelly in one picture they can have our 55 cents anytime.
Motion Picture November 1950
…Summer Stock, a movie which rates a big green light in any season.
What makes it so super-special isn’t the story, the music or the Technicolor trimmings, but leading players Judy Garland and Gene Kelly. These two put the picture over with a bang, demonstrating again – as in the past – that they are an unbeatable combination. Loaded with personality and talent, Judy and Gene go all out to entertain you with their singing, dancing and romancing against a rural setting.
John Cutts. Films & Filming 1964
The two stars worked well together, Kelly turning in an entirely unselfish performance.
Gene, Films Illustrated 1974
I was miscast in the picture. It was a revamp of one of Judy’s films with Mickey Rooney. It needed a teenager and I was pushing 40 at the time.
It was the dream of a dancer’s life to work with Gene.
I found myself completely buying the idea that a Scottish village could appear for one day of normal life every hundred years, as long as Gene Kelly sold it to me, by an awed and semi-mystic quality in his acting...
St. Petersburg Times. December 22nd 1953
For the first time in his career, Gene Kelly won’t perform a single dance on an even floor surface in MGM’s Brigadoon. All of the start’s numbers call for him to perform in natural settings of the Scottish Highlands, which means he’ll display his nimble-footed talents over hills and along the rough dirt tracks and roads…He has been practising in ways that correspond to the roadwork of the sports contestants – but dancing along instead of just straight running. He admits it is a new sort of challenge – but then. Kelly likes to meet new challenges.
Silver Screen June 1954
Currently in “Brigadoon” Van Johnson is doing a number with him – really the first time Van has danced since he was in “Pal Joey” on Broadway in 1941. In that show he was in the chorus and Gene was the star.
Originally, in “Brigadoon” Van wasn’t to do any dancing, but Gene decided the two of them had to do a number together. While they were rehearsing the routine, Van kept saying it had been a long long time between dances for him. Once he fluffed a couple of times and he hollered out to director Vincente Minnelli, “You’d better get Dan Dailey.”... another time he stopped in the middle and said to himself, “Holy smokes, I’m dancing along side of Kelly!”
Film Daily August 11th 1954
A delightful compelling handling of an unusual story and musical theme. It has a soothing factor in its unfoldment...
San Fransisco Examiner. 10th October 1954. Hortense Morton
For years I’ve wanted to meet and interview Gene Kelly.
I did, finally…Only for Kelly would I knock myself out to travel to San Fransisco airport for an interview.
It was the only way to get this story. He was on a speech making chore. If I wanted to work until midnight…all I had to do was meet him and take notes in the blackness on the way back to town…
Being an expendable drama critic, we made it and found Kelly to be timid and inclined to consider publicity about Brigadoon strictly entre nous, although he did give a little bit verbally…
“It’s a moody fantasy…and that is the most difficult type of show to stage. We wanted to do it in Scotland, but after getting the weather reports, the studio decided we better do it at home.
“We made our own hills and dales. Then we created the dances to fit them. Never did we create a dance and just toss it in. Everything fits. Every dance is just right for the setting and the story...It is full of faith and love.
“A lot of preparation went into Brigadoon, especially in the costuming. There are nearly a dozen clans represented by tartans.
“The studio designers cased museums in Glasgow and Edinburgh checking on the tartans. Managed to secure authentic replicas. Brought them back to Hollywood and reproduced them, dye after dye trial and error method. They managed to reproduce the tartans but not in the glaring tones of the originals. You will notice the picture goes in for soft tones.
Picturegoer. July 9th 1955
Who Carved the Heart out of This Musical?
The musical fantasy Brigadoon has been collecting quite a few brickbats. Not so much for what’s IN this Gene Kelly film, but for what ISN’T in it. Picturegoers have been quick to notice that there are no lyrics in the Heather On The Hill sequence, which was one of the hits of the stage show.
WHY? I put that question to the studio. And the answer? Somewhat guarded, I’d say. It finally emerged that parts of the scene had been scissored out because it was felt to be slow!
SLOW! The full sequence is one of the loveliest ever filmed. I know, because when I was in Athens, I saw the whole sequence of the whole film.
I know this is just the opinion of one man – myself. But I will go on record as saying that I found the song, and the dance that went with it, so beautiful that a lump came into my throat as I watched. At the end I applauded – and I was not alone in doing so.
Did director Vincent Minnelli find it slow? How did Gene Kelly feel about it? Did THEY want it chopped?
I don’t believe so. The cuts rob the film of a lift at the moment it most needs it. They also make nonsense of the scene later on, when Gene Kelly hears the songs again and makes a vital decision.
As the film stands now, his mind is made up for him by a voice singing a song that he has never heard before. HOW SCISSOR-HAPPY CAN THEY GET?
Come on you film people. Admit you made a mistake. Whether you think it slow or not, the complete Heather On The Hill sequence is an essential part of the film and its story.
PUT IT BACK AND LET’S SEE THE REAL BRIGADOON – INSTEAD OF BRIGADOON WITH THE HEART CUT OUT OF IT.
That's Entertainment. 1974. Cyd: standing in the MGM scenic backdrop building, in front of a 600ft long, 60ft high backdrop of the Scottish hills:
"Gene Kelly and I spent many hours rehearsing and filming our dance numbers in front of these heather hills.
I always had great respect for Gene, dancer, singer, actor, choreographer and director. He did it all, always brought exciting new dimensions to the musical motion picture.
It was my pleasure to dance with Gene in several films but I think this one is my favourite - Heather On The Hill."
Vincente Minnelli. I Remember It Well 1974
The filming went easily...helped immeasurably by Gene’s assistants, Carol Haney and Jeannie Coyne. With Gene so busy on the choreography, I depended on Carol to fill in when Gene was occupied elsewhere…Jeannie, later to marry Gene, was the perfect intermediary with the crew…Her patience was inhuman.
DANCE MAGAZINE July 1976
Norma McLain Stoop
…”At the time I wanted to do Brigadoon, Cinemascope had come in and television certainly was not only kicking the life out of the motion picture industry but the bottom was dropping out of the musical comedy business; so we had the vision of shooting Brigadoon as you’d shoot a western – out on the moors of Scotland. We found out on a trip there that the weather was prohibitive…so,” he shrugs, “we found a substitute around Big Sur which looked exactly like Scotland. But the studio didn’t have the money to afford the location, so Vincent and I did the movie all on one stage with painted drops and were very disappointed that we couldn’t be the first to shoot a musical in Europe."
NFT Magazine. May 1990
Sadly underrated in its day, this achingly romantic musical features Gene Kelly’s first attempts at choreographing for CinemaScope. On highly stylised Scottish settings, he and Cyd Charisse glide through the enchanting Lerner and Loewe score. The Heather on the Hill, excised by the UK distributors, will be included in all its glory. [In the showing at the NFT in London in May 1990]
Gene, Reflections TV interview 1994.
Poor Cyd and I had to dance on rocks and mud…in a couple of very nice pas de deux – in fact they’re my favourites. But she, in her little sandals, bless her heart, her feet were aching.
Scott Renshaw www.apolloguide.com Movie guide. When Kelly and his feet take centre stage, Brigadoon offers genuine enchantment. Whether gliding through Technicolor meadows with Charisse or bounding solo in romantic intoxication, Kelly in motion is poetry. His dance sequences also provide a remarkable cinematic shorthand. In a conventional narrative, it can seem silly when two people swoon for each other after ten minutes together. When those ten minutes are spent in a Gene Kelly ballet, the emotion proves contagious. Musical romance in a Gene Kelly film isn’t just more fun to watch; it actually feels more authentically romantic.
Minelli does occasionally get in Kelly’s way, editing a sequence such that it loses its flow. Brigadoon isn’t the smoothest of narratives, tacking on a late New York-set sequence that really could have used a pre-Scotland bookend. There’s nothing groundbreaking or spectacular about Brigadoon, but there is plenty of the force of nature that is Gene Kelly. And when you’re talking about a man who makes you happy that movies exist, that’s more than enough.
DEEP IN MY HEART 1955
Movieland 1954. Busy, Busy, Busy.
As if Gene didn’t have quite enough on his hands – and feet! – one more chore came up for him. They needed a brother dance act in another MGM picture, Deep In My Heart. Some inspired person thought of Gene and his brother Fred, now a TV director in New York, for the assignment…Fred came out to Hollywood and the brothers just went right into the old act!
Motion Picture magazine 1955
Gene was rather busy at the time, bicycling between the sound stage where Brigadoon was shooting and the cartoon department cutting room where Invitation To The Dance was reaching completion. But they (Gene and Fred Kelly) worked the dance sequence in. "I had reached the point where the mind kept on working - half the night sometimes - but the body had given out."
John Cutts. Films & Filming 1964
Crude, happy, vulgar stuff, a piece of dancing razzamatazz done to roaring perfection.
IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER 1955
What a pleasure to see professional dancing on screen in long, continuous takes…It’s Always Fair Weather allows us to see, and feel, its numbers completely…it’s no surprise really, for the people behind the camera on this picture were, quite simply, pros.
Did excellent weekend business at the Empire in London.
Wittiest, most brilliant musical in years – Daily Sketch
Worthy successor to On The Town
Hits its target.
An uproarious farce, I laughed till I cried...best I have seen.
A real honey of a musical.
Time Magazine September 1955
It’s Always Fair Weather, despite its inclement title, is a sunny example of a Hollywood rarity – a song-and-dance movie with enough plot to justify its dialogue and enough needling satire to make some points. …For its superb dancing, inventive musical numbers…Fair Weather rates as one of the top contenders for the year’s lightweight title.
LA Herald. September 1st 1955
...It's Gene Kelly's roller skate routine that rates superlatives...It's Always Fair Weather looks like another hit musical for Arthur Freed and MGM.
David Williams. 1st September 1955
This breezy new Cinemascope musical really skewers TV with its own brand of humorous barb.
Chicago Tribune. 12thOctober 1955
Gene Kelly has hit a terrific new high as star and co-director.
Action. Director's Guild magazine. November/December 1968
On the multi-screen image.
In the Cinemascope musical It's Always Fair Weather, directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen divided the wide, ungainly rectangle into three parts and developed simultaneously in quick flashes the major events of the past ten years in the lives of the three army buddies...Film In Review describes the technique as 'terse, stacatto, ingenious and effective...a contribution to film grammar.
Entertainment World. March 6th 1970
Harry Clein. Is There a Future for the Hollywood Musical?
Kelly (and Donen) employed a split Cinemascope screen to
stage a dance detailing the estrangement of three former
army buddies…And unlike so many of today’s split screen
effects, it was not used as a gimmick, but for dramatically
valid reasons. Moreover, in a restaurant scene, Kelly had the
three ex-friends sing a sardonic interior monologue…As each
character sang his thoughts, Kelly blacked out most of the
screen to frame the individual’s face. Truffaut was to use
the same device to frame Jean Moreau’s sad-happy
expressions in Jules et Jim…Fair Weather’s climactic fight
scene took place in a television studio and the action was
shown through the broad window of the control booth.
However, three different views of the fisticuffs were
simultaneously spotted on three television monitors above
the window. The cumbersome wide screen was suddenly and
astonishingly both intimate and effective.
American Film 1979. Gene, On Stanley Donen.
I thought we were a good team. I thought we complimented each other very well. On the last picture we made – It’s Always Fair Weather – we were so together, we were so used to each other, that we didn’t need each other. It was almost dull doing it together: we could have phoned the shots in. It wasn’t a bad picture, though it was a little behind its time. That’s the only picture we didn’t have fun on.
From That’s Dancing 1983: It’s Always fair Weather was one of the best of the early Cinemascope musicals. Choreographed and directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, it used every inch of the wide screen, filling it with some of the finest dancing talents in all Hollywood, Gene, Dan Dailey and Michael Kidd.
New York Times 21st May 1987. Jack Anderson
It’s Always Fair Weather recently made a welcome return to the film forum….It depicts the comic misadventures of three Army buddies who get together ten years after being discharged from the service. Since the three ex-soldiers are played by Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey and Michael Kidd and the film is directed and choreographed by Mr Kelly and Stanley Donen, one can easily guess that the reunion will involve lots of dancing...
Mr Kelly and Mr Donen have told film historians that they were somewhat disappointed with their movie, which employed what was then the new Cinemascope process. Yet It’s Always Fair Weather holds up very well. And its dancing is sassy and inventive…
The best and most elaborate dance sequence shows the three soldiers on a drunken spree after Mr Kelly learns he has been jilted….Even small details can be amusing and meaningful. For instance, the soldiers pass a theatrical poster that contains not only the name of Goldsmith’s most famous play – She Stoops To Conquer – but its subtitle as well: The Mistakes of a Night…
All the dances are notable for their insouciance and for the way that camera work and choreography are united so that essentially ordinary situations and locales are gradually, almost surrealistically, transformed with extravagant fantasy.
In recent years, the choreographic and cinematic accomplishments of Fred Astaire have received deserved scholarly and critical attention. Now, perhaps, it is time for someone to reappraise the choreography and dancing of another key figure in movie musicals: Gene Kelly.
NFT Magazine. May 1990
…brilliant, mordantly funny investigation of friendship…
With hindsight, one of Hollywood’s most personal works. The satiric use of CinemaScope is unique and the staging of the musical numbers is remarkable.
Michael Singer. A Cut Above. 50 film directors talk about their craft. 1998
Q. In Hugh Fordin’s book about Arthur Freed and the great MGM musicals, The World Of Entertainment, there is an extremely grim account of the filming of It’s Always Fair Weather…
Gene: That book is false on practically every other page. The only mistake we made on that picture was that we all believed Cinemascope to be the answer to our prayers…much of the film is framed sectionally…When the film is shown on television, they pan and scan all over the place, and that careful framing is completely lost.
Victoria Large, Bright Lights Film Journal. August 2006
…Kelly gets a solo.
Actually, Kelly gets one of his very best solos. With roller skates strapped to his feet for reasons that don’t matter all that much, Kelly’s Ted realises that he is loved, is in love, and for that reason, can stop hating himself…Kelly taps in the skates as if it were the most natural thing to do, then he immediately glides for a few feet in one single long take, just to prove that these aren’t trick skates, and that there aren’t any camera tricks either. It’s just grace and athleticism, pure and simple, and it’s exactly the type of moment one watches musicals for. Coming at a time when the genre was on the cusp of extinction…and from a formerly embittered character like Ted, the number feels like a twofold miracle.
LES GIRLS 1957
1958 telegram to Gene at Hotel Mont Cervin, Zermatt. (Original in Gotlieb Archives, Boston)
Les Girls passed the censors scrutiny. Predicts greatest comedy in years. From Joe Fields. Wishes Gene Happy Easter.
Picturegoer 1957. A joyous film...at last Kelly's back
Picturegoer. November 2nd 1957
At last Kelly’s back! And, fittingly, in right royal fashion…He’s one of the stars in MGM’s Les Girls, which the Queen will see at the Royal Film Performance at London’s Odeon, Leicester Square, next Monday.
But Gene Kelly BACK? Who says he’s been absent? Haven’t we seen him recently in Invitation to the Dance and The happy Road?
Well, some may hold the view that the star in those two pictures was indeed Kelly. But not the majority of picturegoers. This wasn’t the genuine Gene that we admire.
For most of us, the only Kelly is the man who takes on roles such as those in On The Town and An American In Paris.
The “Gene” stands for that joyous gyrating: the “Kelly” is another way of saying capering and carolling.
We haven’t seen THAT Gene Kelly for far too long. True, he danced in Invitation to the Dance, but not in the Singin’ In The Rain way.
He sparkled in The Happy Road, but it was not as that American sparkled in Paris.
In fact two years have whizzed by – It’s Always Fair Weather was the film – since he delighted us in the real Kelly manner.
In Les Girls, out have come the straw hat and the dancing shoes…This is the bubbling, full-of-life Kelly we know. Welcome back!
Which, by the way, is a sentiment with which the Queen will probably agree.
WHAT A WAY TO GO 1964
20th Century Fox. Exhibitor’s Campaign Manual, What A Way To Go!
Gene Kelly not only co-stars with Shirley MacLaine…but also choreographed the numbers he and Shirley do…
“We’re having a ball in this contemporary romantic comedy,” says Kelly, who admitted he’s spoofing some of his own old ‘gigantic’ dance numbers. “We’re satirizing a famous singing team, the lush sets of a famous producer, the extravagant costumes of a certain designer.”
Evening Independent.August 30th 1963
Gene: “I’m having a ball…This kind of thing is easy to satirize. But, you know, those musicals were kind of wonderful too.”
Los Angeles Times. September 8th 1963
Kelly originally secured What A Way To Go – then known as I Love Louisa – from the writers, Betty Comden and Adolph Green, with the intention of directing it. Later he relinquished it to Arthur Jacobs, his press agent turned producer.
YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT 1968
It was after seeing the Umbrellas of Cherbourg that Kelly accepted to put his dancing shoes on again. It was also, as he explained, because, although he has plenty of money, he cannot remain idle for long that he welcomed Demy’s proposals. For more than a month, Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Dorleac, Gene Kelly, George Chakiris and Gower Dale rehearsed the numbers with Mean in London, before moving to Rochefort…but no doubt all eyes will be on the magic dancing feet of Gene Kelly. It will be good to see him in a musical again.
At 54, Gene, showing little signs of the years except a few more lines on his face, displays the skill and energy that made him a hit with all musical lovers in the fifties.
Entertainment World. March 6th 1970
Harry Clein. Is There a Future for the Hollywood Musical?
With The Young Girls of Rochefort, Jacques Demy elaborated on the style of the MGM musical. He even went so far in his quest for nostalgia as to cast Kelly in one of the lead roles. This literally all-singing, all-dancing fantasy was often awkward and overly naïve, but when Kelly touched Francoise Dorleac’s hand and the people of Rochefort in the hazy background began to dance in a stylized variation of Kelly’s own romantic choreography, Demy recaptured some of the magic that had been missing from the big-budget, slick adaptations of Broadway hits which had been waddling sluggishly across our wide screens.
In the Gotlieb archives in Boston is a bill for a party for cast and crew, $435. At the Hotel Le Grand Bacches
THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT 1974. Written, produced and directed by Jack Haley Jr.
The movie opens with Singin’ In The Rain, but the original version from the first ‘all singing, all talking, all dancing movie, Hollywood Revue 1929, sung jauntily by Cliff Edwards.
Then we are told:
“Over the years, under the leadership of L.B. Meyer and others, MGM produced a series of musical films whose success and artistic merit remain unsurpassed in motion picture history.
“There were literally thousands of people…artists, craftsmen and technicians who poured their talents into the creation of the great MGM musicals…this film is dedicated to them.”
There are other narrators apart from Gene, including Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Liza Minnelli, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney and Bing Crosby. Gene introduced Fred’s section, and Fred introduced Gene’s.
Gene walks down the sad remains of New York Street on the MGM back lot, and confesses that his favourite dancing partner was Fred. There follows a clip from The Babbitt and The Bromide, about which he says that when you dance with Fred you really have to be on your toes, and he would change his name to Ginger if he could do it again. Then Gene does a nice tribute section to Fred.
Fred is equally complimentary about Gene. He calls him his ‘long time friend’, and says:
“From the start Gene was constantly experimenting, from classical ballet to burlesque buck and wing. He was determined to broaden the horizons of the film musical and in doing so he became one of the most versatile performers the movies have ever known.
“Kelly was forever breaking rules. Though the studio often tried to stop him, Gene insisted on doing his own stunts. His bosses always seemed to find out about it after the scene had been shot. But audiences loved the sight of Gene himself flying through the air in film after film.”
“More than any other star, I think Gene Kelly has become the symbol of the MGM musical in the 50s.”
“The finale to the Broadway ballet from Singin' In The Rain seems to me to exemplify the genius of Gene Kelly: actor, singer, dancer, choreographer and director. He is one of those rare talents who really understood what the movie musical is all about.”
At the end, Frank Sinatra sums up:
“Through the years MGM has produced over 200 musical films and if you had to select one part from one film which would best represent the MGM musicals I have a feeling that the vote would be unanimous, especially among the people who worked here.
“That’s why we have saved the best for last. An American In Paris starred Gene Kelly…The ballet is as timeless as when we first saw it. It can only be described as MGM’s masterpiece.”
The Movie. Issue 132. 1982
…If the ballet from An American In Paris is so wonderful that it merits being the grand finale, why not do it the courtesy of showing it in its entirety? Nevertheless, to the generations who have never seen the originals, the effect remains revelatory.
Daily News November 23rd 1973
That’s Entertainment will be premiered across the country for the benefit of the Motion Picture Relief Fund while a slice of total profits will go to the fund…That’s Entertainment is a rarity these days – entertainment.
Gene Kelly couldn’t make it to the screening or the party later, because he was committed to appear at the San Fransisco Film Festival that night.
Chicago Tribune. May 20th 1974
Thousands of screaming fans packed the bleachers that lined the area between the Beverley Theater and the Beverley Wilshire Hotel, hoping to catch a glimpse of the stars after the premiere of MGM’s That’s Entertainment…Everyone was there, from Fred and Adele Astaire to Keenan Wynn; with the most applause going to Gene Kelly (escorting Shirley Maclaine) and Astaire.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. May 23rd 1974
That’s Entertainment Premiere supper at the Beverley Wilshire…Sammy Davis coaxes Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire into dancing together on stage while Gene Kelly was stomping alongside Dan Dailey, Donald O’Connor, Cyd Charisse, Debbie Reynolds, Buddy Ebsen, Adele Astaire, Tony Martin and Sammy Davis Senior, to Singin’ In The Rain and other MGM musical gems.
Dallas Times Herald. June 1974
Suddenly Kelly was not only interested in returning to work, but actually at a time when he was becoming a hot property again. The advance word is that of all the stars in the film, it is the magic of Kelly that seems to come through strongest..
The Ledger. June 25th 1974 Kelly says he has “mixed feelings” about the picture, which ends with a seven-minute edited version of the 17-minute American In Paris ballet. “The thing that suffered most in the picture was the ballet,” he says unhappily. “The best things in it are not shown. So there has to be a little sadness – it’s like if Shakespeare were alive and you gave a portion of one of the soliloquies – ‘O, what a - peasant slave – I.’ He would say, ‘What happened to ‘rougue’ and ‘am’ and the other words?’ We’re certainly not putting ourselves in the same league, but it happens that that’s part of our creation.”
The Ledger. June 25th 1974
Kelly says he has “mixed feelings” about the picture, which ends with a seven-minute edited version of the 17-minute American In Paris ballet.
“The thing that suffered most in the picture was the ballet,” he says unhappily.
“The best things in it are not shown. So there has to be a little sadness – it’s like if Shakespeare were alive and you gave a portion of one of the soliloquies – ‘O, what a - peasant slave – I.’ He would say, ‘What happened to ‘rougue’ and ‘am’ and the other words?’ We’re certainly not putting ourselves in the same league, but it happens that that’s part of our creation.”
St. Louis Post-Dispatch. July 1st 1974
Gene: The timing of That’s Entertainment seemed to be fortuitous in every way – not just for my career. Mostly for the kind of entertainment it represents. But I don’t know how much impact it will ultimately have. Every year they say we want to make those great old musicals again. This film has certainly made them more acceptable. Sociologists tell us that whenever there’s a depression in the country, a time of crisis, movies like this do well. Like the ads say; ‘boy do we need it now.Los Angeles Times. August 29th 1974
The best movie of the year is That’s Entertainment, which is a nonmovie. The best sequence in Entertainment is Gene Kelly, doing the title number from Singin’ In The Rain.
Spokesman Review October 5th 1974
MGM president and vice-president led a contingent of celebrities to London for the European premiere of That’s Entertainment. Among those flying to England were Gene Kelly…
TV &Movie Screen. August 1975
Unlike many people in Hollywood, Gene wasn’t surprised when so many millions of teenagers flocked to see the That’s Entertainment pictures. "Everybody out here expected the pictures to attract only audiences over 40 –" he says, “they were counting on the nostalgia bit to grab audiences – but I knew that kids would want to see the musicals because they had a taste of them on television. Of course, on that medium the kinetics were lost and the persons dancing appeared only as big as your thumb. So when the kids got a chance to see the real thing, they flocked to the theaters.”
THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT PART 2. 1976
The new sequences were directed by Gene.
Narration written by Leonard Gershe.
Produced by Saul Chaplin and Daniel Melnick.
Music arranged and conducted by Nelson Riddle, with lyrics by Saul Chaplin and Howard Dietz.
Animation by Hanna-Barbera.
DVD back panel: …hosts Astaire and Kelly gracing the screen with song-and-dance magic, that’s touching, timeless and above all, entertaining.
I love the ingenious Title sequence, starting with photographs of Fred and Gene as they grew up, then adding the names of all the stars in imaginative ‘movie credit’ ways.
Gene and Fred appear with a ladder, a clever continuation of the number That’s Entertainment, from The Band Wagon. Both look spry and smart, in fact it is difficult to realise that Gene is 63 or 64, and Fred is 76 or 77 years old! Especially when they start dancing!
Gene begins the narration: “For Me & My Gal was my first film and boy was I lucky. I was starred with Judy Garland. That’s what I call starting at the top.” We see Gene and Judy singing For Me & My Gal.
There is a section on clowns. Gene says: "I always wanted to be a clown, and in The Pirate with Judy I finally got my chance." We then see an excerpt from Be A Clown.
Following that, Gene is seen in silhouette dancing on a ‘blue’ screen. He introduces a section on Black and white films. Among the gems are a baby-faced Bing singing Temptation, and a very young Judy singing Zing Went The Strings Of My Heart which Gene says Judy did for her MGM audition.
We are next treated to the sight of Gene in huge ears, red nose, pink striped conical hat, and receiving a custard pie in the kisser! No, it is not Lina Lamont taking her revenge, it is an introduction to a section on slapstick.
There follows a section on songwriters introduced by Sammy Cahn.
Gene and Fred appear looking very dapper in top hat and tails. Why did Gene always say he looked like a truck driver when wearing formal attire? In my humble opinion he polished up beautifully! They danced round posters of some movies, then we see Good Morning, and I Got Rhythm, introduced by Fred: “I’ve always said, just put Gene with a bunch of kids and you’re bound to come up with a winner.”
A section on Frank Sinatra follows. Gene: “When he walked out on stage it was not merely the birth of a star, but the creation of a legend.” A very young and innocent looking Frank sings Old Man River. Gene introduces I Begged Her from Anchors Aweigh: “It seems only yesterday that I did this number with Frank. That’s when he taught me how to dance.”
The ladder returns, as do Gene and Fred, in smart suits: ”Movie buffs, and the rest, have a line or a scene they like best.” We see Greta Garbo uttering her famous words “I want to be alone”, and several Clark Gable clips among others.
We are then transported to Paris and the opening scene from An American In Paris. Then we see THE American in Paris, skipping along near the Arc de Triumphe and skating on the Place du Trocadero. “What can I say about Paris that wouldn’t be redundant? Even people who have never been there know its glories from songs, books, movies, even cookbooks, and thanks to the invention of film and records there is a national treasure who will live as long as all the others.” Maurice Chevalier is featured.
Gene says: “Lovers prefer the romantic shadows along the banks of the Seine.” The beautiful Our Love Is Here To Stay is shown here.
Gene skates with some kids at the Trocadero: “One of my favourite places in Paris…I always bring my kids here…Hey, y’know, A number on roller skates – might not be a bad idea.”
Fred and Gene introduce the next section using cartoons on screens, followed by part of the Magic Lamp section of Invitation To The Dance, and including part of the Singin’ In The Rain ballet with Gene in the scrummy grey and yellow outfit and Cyd in her green vamp costume.
Gene then introduces a section on Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn, who did nine films together.
After that: Fred introduces I Like Myself: “Gene, you finally did work out that number on roller skates didn’t you?”
“Yes, I guess I did, in a film dreamed up by Comden and Green called It’s Always Fair Weather”
We then have to watch the obligatory scenes with Esther Williams, which end the film clips.
We see Gene perched on a ladder in the dark, with Fred below on a smaller one. They sing: “A show, that is really a show, sends you out, with a kind of a glow. And you say, as you go on your way: ‘That’s Entertainment’. The art, that appeals to the heart, is a song, that just has to belong, or a dance that is sure to entrance, that’s entertainment.”
They end by climbing up and down ladders, reciting the names of all the stars who have appeared on the show, and then sing along with a reprise of That’s Entertainment from The Bandwagon. It is a real joy to see the two of them together, obviously enjoying what they are doing, and doing it very well.
Now that’s what I call ENTERTAINMENT.
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. December 12th 1975
I had nothing to do with the selection of sequences for the film. Fred and I didn’t even want to be consulted on that, we didn’t want the responsibility of saying what’s good and bad. I told MGM, if you want me to direct Fred Astaire I can do that.
Los Angeles. Supplement. May 1976. Sally Davis
Stage 27 at MGM was playing Montmartre for one night only. Against a backdrop of Notre Dame, on fake grass, vegetable and fruit barrows vied for space with cables and booms as Philadelphia’s favourite son, Mike Douglas, prepared to tape the last of a week long salute to That’s Entertainment II…
For Douglas it has been a good week. They’d given him as co-hosts Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly…and the ratings were rising in the distance…
Yes, it was a Big Night for nostalgia buffs, and Fred Astaire was hating every minute of it. Going the song-and-dance routine again to promote the movie had definitely not been his idea, and the MGM people were putting out the word: “Fred doesn’t want to talk to anybody – he’s had it. Send everyone to Gene.”
…Astaire maneuvered his way through the evening looking as though he smelled an offensive odor…he explained hi lack of enthusiasm: “Nostalgia is just not my bag. I live for today…”
“He won’t be compared now with what he was then,” says Kelly. “And who’s to blame him?”Astaire also hates to talk. So how had they managed to persuade him to go out and push the finished project? “I’ll tell you,” he sighed his world-weary sigh.
“I’m doing this only because Gene asked me to. I thought he was crazy. But he wanted to do it. I couldn’t be the reason for its falling down…”
Astaire takes…homage casually in the extreme. The phenomenal success of the film and the attention it re-focused on him didn’t excite him too much, either. “I’m glad people enjoyed it, but it didn’t mean anything to me. I was a tap dancer then, and that’s past. I don’t do that anymore. You won’t catch me with my feet in the sandbox again.”
Furthermore, the attention the studio is lavishing on him doesn’t fool him for an instant. “Let me tell you, they’ll walk all over you if you let them. I don’t own any of this picture nor does Gene…Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not bitter. That’s just the way it is…”
DANCE MAGAZINE. July 1976
Norma McLain Stoop
...In expressing his pleasure that MGM’s That’s Entertainment, Part 2 was selected to open the 1976 Cannes Film Festival, Frank E. Rosenfelt, MGM president and chief executive officer, remarked that it “seems to be a most appropriate film to represent the United States in this, our Bicentennial year.”
He was right, for the Hollywood movie musical, considered by many eminent European directors to be the acme of the effective use of the medium, is a peculiarly American art form that has raised the spirits and gladdened the lives of many…
Movie musicals attained their peak – witness MGM’s An American In Paris and Singin’ In The Rain – in the difficult post-war decade…
We, in the 1970s, need light-hearted escapist enjoyment as much as ever. MGM came to our rescue with That’s Entertainment!…
MGM’s new That’s Entertainment Part 2 tops its excellent first musical anthology conceptually and structurally, because it links yesterday with today by employing the present – wonderfully joyous – dancing and singing of that incomparable pair, Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, as a bridge to the stunning sequences from old movies…
Astaire and Kelly spread the screen with style, in motion and song…setting the scene for each past segment and subordinating themselves (in a way that only real stars can afford to do) to the overall theme of the film. One is graced with a satisfying feeling of déjà vu as one rediscovers the slants of the body, the turns of the head distinctive to each dancer.
Boca Raton News.July 30th 1976
The world has rediscovered Gene Kelly thanks to a pair of movies consisting of clips from ancient film musicals. The older generation had forgotten how good he was. Youngsters had never seen him do his stuff on the big screen before…Kelly’s broad Irish grin reflects his feelings about his new found popularity… “A thousand letters a week have been coming in,” he said.
“A lot of mail is from kids who seem to think we made those musicals only a couple of years ago. And I’m surprised at the romantic notes I’m getting from girls who weren’t even born when I made those pictures.
“The interesting thing about Entertainment 2 is that Fred Astaire and I did some new things as hosts of the picture. Audiences can see us then and now.
“I directed those sequences. Fred was wary about dancing again. I told him we wouldn’t compete with ourselves of 20 years ago. We’d just make a few moves….The acceptance of the picture has convinced me that Fred and I are a fraternity of two. We keep in close touch with one another.”
Toledo Blade. June 27th 1976
The year’s movie supercharger is MGM’s That’s Entertainment, Part 2. And one of the most charming things therein is the running commentary and introduction by Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire…Both have grown mellower since their heyday, but they do an amiable job of guiding us through this lengthy compendium of musical memories which opened the 1976 Cannes Film Festival and has now settled in for a happy commercial run.
Kelly says that neither he nor Astaire had been eager to take on the assignment of playing host. They were wary of introducing their own material, which could be embarrassing – “Now I’ll do a little number for you folks – but we tried to find a way of doing it without blushing.”
Most everyone will agree Messrs. Kelly and Astaire provide automatic “grace and elegance and style,” and Kelly’s unobtrusive direction deserves part of the credit.
Liberty Magazine. 1976
The two Kings of Dance were brought together again in 1975 by MGM, not to dance, but to narrate the filming of That’s Entertainment, Part 2. But when the toe-tapping music began in the background, no one could hold them back and soon the cameras were rolling again for Kelly and Astaire.
“We were just going to talk, maybe sing a little,” laughs Fred. “But Gene and I began to realise that if we just stood there, people would think there was something the matter with us. So we moved around a little. Don’t call it dancing,” he cautions…
“Fred and I had a ball…” says Gene Kelly. “We didn’t try to compete with ourselves twenty years ago…We’d get in and we’d say ‘Let’s try this and let’s try that.’ Fred would say, ‘You’re the director, put it on!’…No matter how old a performer gets, he never loses his style.
“Today Astaire walks across the room and it’s the same old style. Now he can’t do all the things he did before, nor can I jump over those tables like I used to do but we still have our styles. Our styles are very different, incidentally, and as I was also the director of this, it was my job to adjust to him. I’m also thirteen years younger.”
Wilmington Morning Star. October 11th 1979
“On this picture I will not touch a toe,” Kelly announced to the producers after he signed for Xanadu. At 67, he figured he’s had it as a dancer. Yet there he was, moving to the playback music with his oldtime grace…
Producer Larry Gordon watched the scene with obvious delight. “Can you imagine what a thrill it is to be working with Gene Kelly?” mused the bearded producer. “And to see him dance after he warned us…that he would not touch a toe. Gradually he agreed to do a little dancing, then more.
“Not that he’s easy. When we met with him, he said, ‘Now I want this, and this, and this.’ He knows exactly the way things should be done.”
Los Angeles Times. December 21st 1979
“Oh, sure, I do stick my toe out a little in this picture. I pop in and out and do a few moves”…Engagingly, as always, Kelly is almost excusing himself for occupying one of the plush campers that have been parked all around town recently on location for Xanadu…He’s only doing it, he says unambitiously, because it’s easy. His supporting part…allows him to leave the set most days in time to pick up his daughter when school lets out. Kelly enjoys his evening jog with her more than any residual hoofing he does in front of the cameras.
Saturday Evening Post. July 1980
After a 20 year hiatus from acting in Hollywood musicals, he has returned to star in a major extravaganza. Why?
“Number one, because they asked me. And number two, because I like all the people connected with the project. It’s a great opportunity to do a picture with such talented young people and to be able to play a character my own age instead of one many years my junior, as has often been the case…I do only a few moves in this picture because I don’t want to do dancing that, for me, isn’t satisfactory or very exciting anymore. I’d rather play coach than be the shortstop."
Gene, Films Illustrated. August 1980
Don't expect to see too much of me - I'm just playing old Dad.
Hollywood Reporter. August 14th 1980
...Kelly is good too, still the consummate pro. Looking great, still lighting up the screen with his easy manner and charm....despite the film's drawbacks he comes out unscratched.
Pittsburgh Press Weekender. August 14th 1980
What makes Xanadu work most of all is a good-sized supporting performance by Kelly, Pittsburgh's durable contribution to the Dorian Gray sweepstakes...he remains a powerhouse presence...his moves are so poetic he'll bring a tear to the eye...seeing him hoof anew is like hearing Judy Garland sing Over The Rainbow. It evokes the feeling something very, very good has survived.
Los Angeles Times. August 11th 1980
Gene Kelly is such a joy. The writers allowed him to be himself and to be his age.
Dance Magazine August 1980
Gene Kelly on roller skates is as superlatively smooth and commanding an artist as Kelly in his dancing shoes. Or any other gear for that matter. BothOrtega and Trent (the choreographers) join in Hallelujahs for Gene Kelly’s generous encouragement.
Kenny Ortega. On 'Xanadu'. Dance Magazine. August 1980.
Working with Gene is the most ultimate experience I’ve ever had in my career. Of course he has his own ideas for what he does in Xanadu, but he is always attentive to my ideas too. He’s made me feel respected.
Films Illustrated August 1980.
A glimpse of Kelly in Xanadu is better than no new Kelly film at all. It will be interesting to see how Hollywood's most celebrated hoofer fits in with the new concept of movie musicals.
TV Times November 1983
Gene: I only did a few moves in that picture because I don’t want to do dancing that, for me, isn’t satisfactory or very exciting any more. I’d rather be playing coach than be the short stop.
Disney Magazine 1989. Gene:
It’s the last time you’ll ever see me dancing in a movie. So in that respect I guess Xanadu occupies a special place in my career.
THAT'S DANCING! 1985
The film was made by MGM in its Diamond Jubilee year, 1985. Gene was the Executive Producer, with Jack Haley Jr. as writer, director and producer, and David Niven Jr. as producer.
Taking part as narrators are: Gene; Mikhail Baryshnikov; Ray Bolger; Sammy Davis Jr. and Liza Minnelli. The original music was composed by Henry Mancini.
St Petersburg Times. August 4th 1984
I was a technical adviser really, although they call me an executive producer,” Kelly says, again showing that modest Irish grin. “I gave them a lot of what I hope was good advice, although they didn’t always agree with me.”
Jack Haley Jr: “I’d like the audience to walk away six inches off the ground, feeling that they have wings on their shoes….you carry away with you a respect for dancing and a sense of joy – that’s what dancing is supposed to spark in somebody.”
Gene: “I believe sincerely that this is a great dance film for kids to enjoy and learn…When I went to dancing school as a kid there weren’t any talking movies, so there was no dancing on the screen. Think what a dance teacher could do with a video cassette of this in a room, saying to her pupils: ‘Look at that man Fred Astaire. Now I can’t teach you just what he’s doing, ‘cos it’s style…but if you look at him and study him you’ll learn…’”
They spent 4000 hours viewing film scenes, Gene analysing and advising on which to use. They looked at over 800 films, and did two years' research. Included are dance scenes which have never been seen in decades and some remarkable outtakes which will be seen by the public for the very first time.
As the 100th anniversary of dance on film draws near, an historic event took place at the MGM studios, where the greatest living legends of dance met under one roof to pose for a commemorative photograph.
The film begins with a blank screen and drumbeats. Then Gene’s voice is heard: “Long before the dawn of history, long before we could sing or even speak, man danced. Moving to his own internal rhythms, the pounding of his heart, the beating of his pulse, primitive man discovered dance. It is with us always.” Then we see native dancers from all over the world.
Gene next appears on the streets of South Bronx, watching break-dancers. “They say dancing is as old as love, stepping, turning, swaying, moving in rhythm alone or with others – that’s dancing. It’s the primal art, the most physical and most personal of them all. Instead of using our hands to daub paint on a canvas or to chisel a shape from stone, dancing requires the use of the whole body, moving through the space around us. Dancing is also the most impermanent, the most fleeting of the arts. For the spectator it is often a bewildering succession of steps and turns that are difficult, if not impossible, to remember.
“Since the dawn of prehistory, countless artists have sought to capture the excitement, the fluidity, the beauty of dance, on the sides of caves and on temple walls… but no drawing, no sculpture, can ever convey the most essential element of dance – movement….
Centuries passed, civilisations came and went, and still, the art of dancing could only be handed down from one generation to the next by the teacher, the dance master. Then in the late 1800s a newfangled contraption, a novelty designed to amuse the public, gave momentum and life to the elusive art of dancing. The motion picture camera.”
There follows a selection of clips from very early dance films.
Gene: “The chorus girls looked like they spent more time at the dinner table than in the rehearsal hall.”
Then comes a tribute to Busby Berkeley.
Sammy Davis Jr. continues the narration, saying: “You have to learn the basics, and after learning them, that’s when style comes in." Fred Astaire is used as an example: “Style, elegance, charm and class personified.”
Others featured in this section include Bill (Bojangles) Robinson, Shirley Temple, Eleanor Powell, the Nicholas Brothers, and Ray Bolger.
Then it is Mikhail Baryshnikov’s turn to narrate, talking about ballet in the movies. He said: “No self-respecting ballet dancer would dance before the camera. The jerky motion of the film would make a mockery of their graceful movements. The first major artist to appear in films was an American dancer, Loie Fuller.” (A bit of trivia here. I believe Gene used to call Lois McClelland, his secretary and good friend for many, many years, ‘Loie Fuller’.)
He then talks about Isadora Duncan, Anna Pavlova, Vera Zarina who was George Balanchine’s wife, and Moira Shearer who was the star of the most popular Ballet film ever made – The Red Shoes. (I would have so loved to see Gene and Moira Shearer dance together.) He mentioned Tamara Tourmanova, who danced with Gene in Invitation To The Dance, and also Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn.
Baryshnikov: “Today we see the styles of dance overlapping, borrowing steps and movements from each other. We all learn from each other, bringing more joy and satisfaction to the audience.”
Over now to Ray Bolger, sitting in an MGM viewing room.
“Once upon a time in Hollywood at MGM there was an era in the history of dance that we will never see again…in the mid 40s MGM had assembled more creative musical artists than anywhere else at any other time. You could dive into that pool of talent and never hit bottom….Most film historians refer to the 40s and 50s at MGM as the golden years of the movie musical… The studio had the number one dancer, and the number one dancer, two gentlemen whose contribution to the screen have never been surpassed. When Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly sat in this theatre and watched their efforts up there on that screen, I don’t think they were ever entirely pleased – perfectionists rarely are. Kelly and Astaire were and are a tough act to follow, but when they’re up there on the screen they’re a great act to watch.”
Clips follow, of Royal Wedding, Moses Supposes, Three Little Words, Invitation To The Dance, Bandwagon, and It’s Always Fair Weather.
Next comes Liza Minnelli to talk about Broadway shows which were transformed into successful movies: Yankee Doodle Dandy, Kiss Me Kate, Sweet Charity, and West Side Story.
Then we see Gene near an MGM soundstage. “Dancing on film is nearing its 100th anniversary…the music of the 80s had had a profound influence on movie dancing, and the changes we’ve seen continue to hold exciting promise for the future.” We then see clips form Saturday Night Fever, Fame, and Flashdance
“In 1983 film dancing entered a new era. Music videos began to play on TV offering audiences a stylised, exhilarating form of dancing on the screen.” Michael Jackson is showcased at this point. Gene ends with the words: “That’s dancing.”
Film Comment 1984. Interview with Gene by Ron Haver.
Gene Kelly, wearing an old pair of chinos, a green pullover shirt, and beat-up sneakers, is talking enthusiastically about That’s Dancing!, the new film for which he was executive producer, a title he feels is inaccurate. “Actually I’m a supercharged technical advisor…running about 90 hours of footage…and giving my opinion, and then influencing people like Baryshnikov to do the show. …I do confess to being a walking encyclopaedia of dance history."
The interview took place (in Gene’s library) in the late afternoon, and was conducted between conferences with architects, telephone calls, queries from his secretary, a dialogue with his son Tim about dinner, and his date with his 10-year-old grandson for the opening game of the World Series. Through all of this, Kelly maintained a professional calm and an enviable ability to talk intelligently and engrossingly about not only That’s Dancing! But also about his childhood, his early career, and the state of dance over the past half-century. He does this virtually non-stop: he talks easily and well, and has no need of the interviewer's prepared questions.
Gene: “One of the first rules we made was not to use anything that that was in either of the two That’s Entertainments!
“You know what’s amazing to me, and something I cannot explain? The sudden burgeoning of dance companies all over this country. When I grew up there was such a paucity of teachers, of good dancing, of dance companies….I just love it…I’m Hammersteins’ Cockeyed Optimist about the future of dance…when I was a kid, any boy who went to his father and said, ‘I want to grow up to be a dancer’, he’d get a kick in the rump.”
NBC News Archives. 3rd February 1996 [This is a description only, from the archives. I have not seen this programme.]
Jack Haley Jr. discusses his friendship with Gene. He explains how they met and comments that Gene’s legs were like oak trees. He discusses Gene being a ‘taskmaster’ but also a dear person.
He says that That’s Entertainment would not have happened without Gene.
Haley discusses his and Gene’s roles in That’s Dancing, and adds he hasn’t spoken to him in a few years, since his stroke.
THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT PART THREE. 1994
Written, produced, directed and edited by Bud Friedgen and Michael J Sheridan.
Executive producer Peter Fitzgerald
Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 3rd May 1993. Kevin Thomas
Culver City – On a recent Saturday afternoon, Gene Kelly, dapper in a dark suit, striped shirt and colourful tie…visited Sony Studios here. When it was MGM, he reigned here as a major force in a series of classic musicals…
Kelly, now 80, figured he hadn’t worked on stage 5 since it was decorated to resemble the interior of Graumann’s Chinese for the finale of the 1952 Singin’ In The Rain…He was back to appear as one of the hosts of That’s Entertainment III…
Kelly made light of the passing years and was the model of polite professionalism, instantly sensitive to all that was going on behind the camera as well as in front of it. Recovering from a cold, Kelly discussed sound levels – “Now, I’ve got to go up, but I don’t want to sound like a castrato!” – and, after a perfect take, good naturedly did it over because the lights were reflected in his glasses. The sense of camaraderie was very much like that on his own sets.
The movie begins with shots of the MGM studios. “Once upon a time there was a factory that created wonderful musical dreams. It happened when a special group of talented artists came together to create some of the world’s most enchanting movies…MGM was not the only studio that made musical motion pictures, but it made more than anyone else and somehow did it better. To tell us more about those remarkable days is one of MGM’s best, Mr Gene Kelly."
We then see Gene standing on the roof of one of the MGM buildings: “The 44 acres behind me was where it all began. When I first came here MGM’s dream factory was in full swing…but the success of the MGM musicals did not happen overnight. It all started when the movies learned to talk…”
He then narrates over several old clips, including part of Broadway Melody of 1929: “The studio introduced a new song that did a lot for me later on, but at the time it was so new that some of the performers had trouble remembering the lyrics!” We see a large wet company in raincoats attempting to do Singin’ In The Rain, including Joan Crawford, Marion Davies, Buster Keaton and Jack Benny.
Gene then tells of the introduction of censorship – something which he often had to deal with! (That was when his Irish blarney and killer-smile came in useful, especially if the censor was female!) Following a scene with seemingly naked young ladies taking a shower, we see a man declaiming: “The vulgar, the cheap and the tawdry is out. There is no room on the screen at any time for pictures which offend against common decency.” We then cut to the wholesome sight of Jeanette Macdonald and Nelson Eddy singing fit to bust. Gene next highlights Eleanor Powell, Mickey Rooney and Judy, and Esther Williams, who takes on the next piece of narration.
June Allyson does her part too, featuring On The Town and Its Always Fair Weather, which introduces Cyd Charisse as the next narrator.
She is seen in the scenic backdrop building, where they have resurrected part of the scenery from Brigadoon. The set was 600 feet long and 60 feet high, and completely surrounded MGM stage 15.
“Gene Kelly and I spent many hours rehearsing and filming our dance numbers in front of these heather hills. I’ve always had such respect for Gene; dancer, singer, actor, choreographer and director. He did it all, always brought exciting new dimensions to the musical motion picture.”
She talks over Ballin’ The Jack. “Gene’s first big break came on Broadway, starring in Pal Joey. MGM soon grabbed him and started him off as Judy Garland’s leading man in For Me & My Gal."
Next comes the newspaper dance. “Gene had a style all his own; charming, athletic with boundless energy. In Summer Stock he created a classic number using only a squeaky floor and a newspaper as partners.”
We then see Gene in purple shirt and tight black trousers, dancing up a storm and a lot of sweat with Vera Ellen: “As a choreographer Gene staged this exciting and bittersweet ballet to Richard Rodgers Slaughter On 10th Avenue, from Words & Music.”
Next is Chocolat: “Gene’s inventiveness seemed inexhaustible. In An American In Paris he even danced into a Toulouse L’Autrec painting to find Leslie Caron and the incomparable music of George Gershwin. The film won six Oscars and a special award for Gene, for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film.”
Fit As A Fiddle follows, then Heather On The Hill: “It was my pleasure to dance with Gene in several films, but I think this is my favourite; Heather On The Hill from Brigadoon.”
After that we see Debbie Reynolds crooning to a huge poster of Gene, or should I say Don Lockwood, in an outtake from Singin’ In The Rain. “Gene inspired a whole new generation of stars. One of the brightest was Debbie Reynolds.”
Debbie does a section on the glamour of the MGM female stars. This is followed by Lena Horne, telling how she did not feel she belonged at MGM, that they did not know what to do with a black performer. She was considered for the role of Julie in Show Boat but the studios had banned inter-racial romance on screen! (A bit of trivia here. Gene and Betsys' house was always open to one and all. Lena and her husband Lenny Hayton were their friends, I believe, and Betsy and Gene were violently opposed to discrimination of any kind. Although I have read a rather unjust comment she later made about the Kellys, who showed her nothing but kindness.)
There follow sections on Judy, Mickey Rooney, Fred Astaire, Ann Miller, Howard Keel in the MGM vault, Louis Jourdan and Gigi.
Fittingly, Gene started the movie, now he ends it. For the finale we see him walk across an empty sound stage theatre. “What a time it was. Life was simpler then and so was the movie business. MGM’s dream factory created a rich, romantic, compelling world of illusion and although we may not see anything like it again, we’re blessed with memories, and miles and miles of film.
“In the words of Irving Berlin:
‘The song has ended but the melody lingers on.’”
That is always a touching moment for me, the last time we see Gene on screen. But we will ever be grateful for those miles and miles of film, which ensure that Gene and others of his generation will live on, both on our screens and in our hearts.
He is no longer physically with us, but there is much truth in the words he quoted. The melody and joy he brought to the world will linger on.
GENE KELLY IS FOREVER