Gene Kelly, Creative Genius

A personal celebration of his life and work

A new page for 2013. I will be making additions of pictures etc 

 

 

DON’T TELL ME, I SHOCK EASILY.

No, I am not about to reveal some long-hidden scandal concerning Gene! Actually, any scandal would have to be very well hidden, in order to have remained secret for so many years. As his first wife Betsy said; “There was no scandal. He was a good Catholic boy.”

On this page I want to focus on Gene’s sex appeal, why he is perceived as having it and how he used it. (Well, it’s a chore, but someone has to do it.)

Running through many decades, quotes, articles, interviews, and especially fan comments, is the rich vein of Gene’s sexiness. And through many of his dances pulses the barely suppressed sexuality of his style.

The Biography channel 1996

 “Gene Kelly was energy. Gene Kelly was muscle. Gene Kelly was purpose.”

“He was very earthy, very sexy.”

“Men were won over by the muscular style of his dancing, women were won over by his sex appeal.”

Howard Gottlieb, Kelly Collection archivist: “His style was extraordinarily masculine – the muscular sexuality came through in his dancing. You knew that he knew what he was doing.”

Ann Miller:

He made boy dancers look very sexy and macho…Everything he did was very earthy, very sexy, and he’d spring up like a panther, like a tiger. There was

something about him that was animalistic.

…just so handsome...He was marvellous because he was ballet-trained as well as being a hoofer, and he had a lot of sex with it.

Violet Glaze. Pop Matters website. A comparison of Gene and Bruce Lee

Gene Kelly, the self-described Brando of dance…was physical, prowling and pacing in proletarian getups…with an undercurrent of animalism…his very he-man style carried a tinge of sex and violence that places him closer to Bruce Lee...

Dressed or not, Kelly had a sensual, blue-collar, unpretentious demeanor…

Kerry Kelly Novick, Ann Arbor 2002.

…The style was athletic and that made it masculine. And also that it was unabashedly sexy."

John Corry, New York Times 1981

…Mr. Astaire was graceful; Mr. Cagney was jaunty; Mr. Kelly was both of those, and virile, breezy and bravura, too.

Ruthie Henshall, British actress:

I wished I was Debbie Reynolds and could dance with Gene Kelly,

 who is one sexy man.

 

Of course, there is far more to Gene Kelly than his eye-candy status, but I guess his other talents are pretty well covered throughout the rest of this site and many others. So I thought it would be fun to explore the importance of his physical attributes, which, if we are totally honest, were the features which drew us to look closely at Gene in the first place. His ‘shop window’, so to speak.

 

Eugene Register Guard. 27th December 1942

…A potent new screen personality is introduced for the first time in the person of Gene Kelly… the ladies are going to have a field day ‘discovering’ him in his first motion picture role.

Bosley Crowther, The Times:

...Mr. Kelly...a fellow for you girls to make noises about, especially when he is dancing...

Movieland 1948. Alyce Canfield

There are a lot of things about Gene Kelly that give you a warm feeling in

your heart.

 

Along with the exponential rise of social networking sites has come the opportunity for a new generation of fans to express their feelings about Gene. He is describes as: hot, smokin’, sexy, cool, sex-on-legs and other less repeatable appreciative descriptions of a man who had ceased his earthly life before some of his admirers were out of the nursery. He is the object of sexual fantasy – publicly, and, no doubt, privately - and even the subject of some rather racy fan-fiction. I would say that, if not unique, this is nevertheless a very unusual phenomenon for a star from a past age of show business. I’m sure there are others, but only Marilyn Monroe springs to mind as an obvious contemporary focus of continuing desire.

Modern Screen. June 1943

… His charm has nothing to do with externals. Far from being flashy, it engages you bit by bit till you’re hooked…

Peter Evans, Interview during the making of Hello! Dolly
"Kelly", said a chorus boy in 'Hello Dolly', "Smashed the system. He wasn’t a skinny, elegant, long legged hero. Men could identify with him, women considered him obtainable."

 

 During his working life there were no doubt large numbers of females who were ready and willing to faint at his feet – or jump into his bed:

G. Bennett, imdb message board July 2007. (with permission)

I was very close to a female dancer at MGM  who WORSHIPPED Kelly.

She danced in the background of several of his films, most notably An American In Paris. She was about 22 then. She told me he was WONDERFULLY respectful to dancers and all the women wanted to sleep

with him - but he wouldn't cheat!! (They used to discuss it with great frustration!).

Cyd Charisse. Kelly Girls. TV Guide 2002

Any dancer when asked to dance with Gene Kelly would just faint right on the ground. That’s how wonderful he was.

Betsy Blair. The Memory of All That

Almost every woman who worked with Gene adored him unconditionally.

 

Right through his career, Gene was rather bewildered – or so he claimed – by the outpouring of juvenile passion which came his way:

 

Photoplay  1946

All this swoon business – girls squealing whenever he’s announced – still comes as a big surprise to him. The levelheaded, modest Kelly who thinks of himself in terms of a normal, Brother-Elk sort of guy, can’t get used to being mobbed by

bobby-soxers and feminine fans.

Seventeen  magazine. September 1946

Gene is one of the few stars adored by young people and old, men and women. …But Kelly still can’t believe it when teen-agers ask for his autograph. “I’m a grown man,” he remarks. “They ask me for my autograph only because I held Sinatra’s hand.”

Living In A Big Way Pressbook. 1947

The bobby-soxers have nothing on Marie McDonald – one look at Gene Kelly and she faints!

Boca Raton News. July 30th 1976

…I’m surprised at the romantic notes I’m getting from girls who weren’t even born when I made those pictures.

Pittsburgh Post Gazette. 3rd May 1993.

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!

 

Though as a teenager he had been very interested in making himself attractive to the opposite sex:

Nova Magazine. July 1972

I asked him what made him become a dancer. He took the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger, furrowed his brow, then gazed meaningfully out across his Beverley Hills lawn as if the ghost of old Diaghilev were tapping his silver cane on the window glass and cautioning him to answer carefully.

“I found,” he said finally, lowering his light voice to a more reverent timbre, “It was a pretty good way of getting girls.”

I have a feeling that he did not need to become a dancer in order to get dates. Looking at his school and college pictures, it is obvious that a girl would have to be visually challenged, not to find him physically attractive. He was always conscious of his small stature however, and his inherent shyness could have been reason enough for his perceived need for an ‘excuse’ to meet girls on a social or romantic level.

Current Biography. February 1977

To impress the girls, he tried out for school plays and once again took up dancing. “It was strictly a case of make ego,” he told Gerald Nachman in an interview for the New York Post in February 1966, I was a little short then and looking back I can see it was pure self-aggrandizement. I wanted everyone to say, ‘Gee, he’s clever,’ and they did, too. It worked. I’d do a buck-and-wing and they all thought it was nifty. But I hated it at the time.”

Los Angeles Times. February 5th 1996. Charles Champlin

Kelly himself used to joke that he became a dancer because you got to hold the girl…for their part, the girls would have given almost anything for a once round

the floor with Gene Kelly.

 

In her book, Betsy Blair recalls an early comment describing Gene as being ‘too sexy.’  It is therefore interesting to discover that during his early days in Hollywood, not everyone held this opinion, appearing somewhat bemused by the ‘instant sensation’ he created: 

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…

Movie Spotlight. August 1954

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...

 

Gene always insisted that it was the public, not the studios or critics, who made a star. He said you could have all the talent and good looks in the world, but if the public did not take to you, well, you’d better give up and marry the boss’s daughter! The public sure took to him – and still does!

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…Added up, however, Gene hits an audience like a three-alarm fire.

Screen Album 1944

From the neck up, Gene Kelly’s a plain-faced…Below the tie-line he’s quicksilver muscle always an inch or two above solid ground…You’ve got to see…the controlled dancer’s grace of little gestures like climbing a stair-flight or leaning against a wall…Let the body act for him, Hollywood…There are a million better-looking profiles banging on Central Casting doors, but they say you gotta rub a lamp to get a Genie!

Photoplay May 1943

Gene Kelly doesn't have the soulful eyes, thick wavy hair and football shoulders of a Hollywood hero, but he does have something vastly more valuable – an indefinable something, an electric quality which blanks out his lack of good looks  and glamour. In many ways he is a brunet version of Fred Astaire with the same liquid grace and perfect timing in his dancing and the same shy manner, quiet bearing and modest mien.

 

I like Jeanine Basinger, a writer who gets straight to the point without fear of being discounted as a silly, squealing bobby-soxer:

 ...Kelly was a master of sexual magnetism…when he danced women thought about him, not the movie…A woman might give her heart and soul to Fred Astaire – but she saved her body for Gene Kelly.

  …Not only did Kelly have a one-in-a-million talent, he also had a million dollar screen presence

Her small book is very entertaining, with some great descriptive one-liners:

Jeanine Basinger. Gene Kelly. Pyramid Illustrated History of the Movies. 1976

 

Gene not only had a ‘million dollar screen presence’, he must also have been aware of his effect on women off-screen.

Spokesman Review. November 27th 1976

Practically every over-40 (and many younger, too) actress in Hollywood, including movie columnist turned novelist Joyce Haber, has tried to get her hooks into the very eligible Gene Kelly, but no success

Orange Coast Magazine. February 1990.

…Abdul says working with Kelly would be a dream come true. “I love the man…

“I had never been star-struck to the point where I couldn’t talk, but he was talking to me and I felt nothing would come out.”

…When it was time to leave, Abdul recalls, “I just became so silly, and I said, ‘I just want you to know that I love you, and can I give you a hug?’ I felt so stupid after I said that.”

Sheryl Crow: "I loved Gene Kelly so much when I was eight that I wrote him a letter because I really wanted to marry him and I thought, 'If you just wait' and he did write back, but," she laughs, "we never did get married."

 

I am sure that some of his sex appeal was unconscious, that is probably why it was so potent. There is no greater turn-off than a man – or woman – who believes he or she is irresistible to the opposite sex. Gene could nevertheless turn up the heat at will, become flirtatious, when he wanted to wrap someone around his finger, but at the same time he never took himself too seriously, as the following tale illustrates:

Leslie Caron. From Knox; The Magic Factory.

Onto the set came the sexily dressed female censor...Then I remember the whole performance that went on: Gene practically seducing her on the set and she being thrilled with all the attention…Everybody was sort of giggling in corners, and Gene was doing his whole number with her. It was very funny.

Sheryl Flatow. Biography Mag. March 1999.
…He was good looking, athletic, virile and sexy. He admitted he was aware of his sex appeal and consciously exploited it, nowhere more blatantly than in the testosterone laden ballet in The Pirate. Dressed in black cut off shorts and black T-shirt that showed off his compact muscular body, Kelly offered a virtuoso display of pyrotechnics that any swashbuckler would have envied.

The Foreward. May19th 1950

…As I entered the classroom I didn't spot Gene Kelly right away, for he was sitting on the sidelines rather inconspicuously dressed. He's really much handsomer in person (if that's possible) than he is on the screen. It was thrilling to watch Gene Kelly in his charming way talking to overjoyed children and their doting mothers…I was walking on clouds...

 

FROM HEAD TO TOES…

Now, I know I am asking a lot, but, if you can bear it, let us concentrate on Gene’s face and body, purely in order to try to rationalize his appeal. Perhaps if we make an objective study, as Ann Miller did, on modern man in On The Town, we may cure ourselves – almost completely – of our sad obsession…

We can discuss the purely physical components and the more esoteric elements, which make up the enchanting and irresistible whole.

Newspaper article. 1946. Source unknown. Interview with Gene. By Kay Kenney

Being conscious of my duty to the public, I opened and closed with the subject of sex. And don't reach for your sweaters girls, because it wasn't that kind.

We were in agreement that the purely visual variety, all curves and cavortings, had to be spiked with the 'spark' in other words, inner sex, to pay off over a period of time...Kelly allows that this year's pin-up can be next year's wrapping paper. Because that sort of sex plays a one-night stand...

Los Angeles Times. June 5th 1944

According to pin-up-picture seller Irving Klaw, the best bets for the ‘He-Man’ title are Van Johnson and Gene Kelly, with Gene Kelly far in the lead.

Screen Guide October 1944

Home Life of a Heartbreaker

War hysteria, according to Gene Kelly, must be responsible for the swooning feminine adulation that surrounds him. “It’s wonderful, but I don’t get it,” exclaims the ex-hoofer whose fan mail has tripled since Cover Girl

 

Let’s start at the top and work down:

 

…GREAT BEAUTY

Vanity Fair. April 1996

With his handsome profile and matinee-god grin, Kelly was custom-made for the silver screen.

Jeanine Basinger. Gene Kelly. Pyramid Illustrated History Of The Movies. 1976
 
 …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...“

That Gene was a handsome man is irrefutable. Some time ago a friend found details of the ‘Golden Ratio’, a mathematical ‘reason’ why we find some faces and bodies beautiful.

This is a website which explains it:

 http://facethis.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/perfect-face-golden-ratio-beauty.html

She measured the elements of Gene’s face and body and discovered that he does indeed match the requirements for beauty. Perhaps that is why on a basic level, he is simply so satisfying to look at.

He does not however have a perfectly symmetrical face. Of course, the scar on the left side does throw things out of kilter a little, but most people would agree it does not detract from his good looks.

 

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.

Motion Picture. January 1943

 Gene isn’t one of your handsome heroes. He’s no Adonis in face or figure. He even has a very prominent scar on his face…”Everyone’s been trying to get me to cover that scar up,” he said, “but why should I? Just covering the scar wouldn’t turn me into a glamour boy.”

 Modern Screen. June 1943

He refused to let them block off the scar left on his face by a bicycle mishap. “I’m no glamour boy. If they don’t like me with it, they won’t like me without.” That they do like him, leaves him mildly astonished and understandably pleased.

Picture Show. 25th September 1943

Nothing ever camouflages that scar...now that he's a film star he doesn't cover it with make-up.

"They didn't sign me for my face," he points out.

 

His hair has been the subject of much discussion through the years – or his lack of it. One new fan was apparently devastated to find that he sometimes wore a hairpiece! He seemed to have a good head of hair in his teens and early twenties, dark, wavy, fine and unruly. By his early thirties he was quite thin ‘on top’. His father was similarly follically challenged. Nowadays most people would not worry about loss of hair being a turn-off; Yul Brynner and Patrick Stewart have never lacked female admirers, although millions of pounds are still spent on the search for an elixir of eternal hair.

Elton John is an example of a modern-day star who thinks he looks more attractive in a toupee. Can’t see it myself!

I have read that Gene had to bow to pressure from the studio to cover his receding hairline, but I suspect his vanity led him to co-operate, and to often wear a hat or cap when off screen but on ‘public’ duty. Patricia Wilson tells an amusing tale in her book, Yesterday’s Mashed Potatoes. Her daughter and Bridget, Gene’s daughter, became friends during the run of Take Me Along in 1974. She came running from Gene’s apartment early one morning, where she had been playing with Bridget, to tell her mother that Mr. Kelly’s hair had fallen out overnight! She had not seen him without his toupee before.

Some of his hair additions were more attractive and natural than others. For example, many fans would agree that he looks very handsome indeed in Summer Stock, An American In Paris and in Brigadoon. But his Pirate wig has come in for some severe criticism, and justly so, in my opinion. Curls are fine, the hair of Johnny Columbo in Black Hand is a good example, but the Pirate curls look like they have been stuck on in a lump. He gets away with it because of the handsome face beneath the atrocity, and the swashbuckling personality, which negate such minor details.

 

He has a broad, smooth brow. In fact his face never had deep lines, even in his later years, which meant that his looks remained as youthful as his personality for most of his life. From pictures I have seen of his mother, it is probable that he inherited the gene responsible for this, from her.

His whole face has smooth but well-delineated planes, making him extremely photogenic, a lighting-man’s dream, I would think. He photographs particularly well in black and white, the sculpted lines of his face giving depth and interest to his features.

In spite of the smoothness, his face has always been full of character, helped along by mobile, arched brows and wonderful eyes.

His eyes have been described as ‘dark pools of chocolate’, inviting you to dive in and drown – what a way to go! They are warm and direct, slanting down slightly at the corners, with interesting ‘crinkles’, heavy lids, and lashes which most women would covet. One extraordinary feature of Gene’s eyes is the whiteness of the scleras. We notice it often because of the expressiveness of his eyes, which he knew how to exploit to great effect.

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.

His ears are small and neat, in comparison with some other stars’ appendages.

His nose should not be attractive but it is! It is quite long and thin, but straight, with a slight bulbousness at the end. As with most people, his left profile differs from his right, mainly because of the asymmetry of his nose. It is a very determined-looking proboscis.

His cheek bones are to die for, giving a wonderful shape to his face.

In his prime his mouth was a perfect, pouting, bow, with a full upper lip slightly turned down at the corners – more pronounced when he was young. The turn-down ends in cute dimples. His smile is sometimes rather ‘lopsided’, probably because of the scar, but wide and welcoming, lighting up his face, and has caused many hearts to flutter when directed towards them, both on and off screen.

The Ledger. June 25th 1974

A smile the movies could never have lived without – Irish, boyish, brash and confident

1933. Florence Fisher Parry.

On With The Show.

Last night's star was a young dancer, Eugene Kelly…the moment he sprang upon the stage it was electrified…His smile was dazzling and his body was one with the music, quite free of the shackles of self-consciousness...

 

His teeth are good. Apparently in the early sixties his mother was asked by  a neighbour if his teeth were real. She was quite annoyed, asserting that he had all his own teeth and they were very good. Though it is clear that he had to suffer the indignity of wearing ‘Hollywood teeth’ on a few occasions, most notably in The Pirate.

His chin is forceful and dimpled, a stubborn chin used to getting its own way!

His neck has been the object of much swooning, on occasion. Dorothy Kilgallen, a journalist and TV personality, admitted, in print, to finding the back of Gene’s neck irresistible. He thought it was highly amusing.

 

JUST LOOK AT IT!

In the ill-fated Living In A Big Way, Marie McDonald was promoted as ‘The Body.’ Well, ‘no contest, lady.’ Gene won hands down.

In any discussion of Gene’s body, it is clear that its beauty is partly in his strength. He is no Mr Universe with disproportionately bulging biceps, being compact of build and not too tall, but his muscle control is absolute. He always sold himself as an athlete who danced.

Violet Glaze. popmatters.com

The pleasure of both martial arts and dance movies comes from seeing the human body at work… Both Lee and Kelly were small, powerfully built men, each five foot seven inches of hard-earned muscle. Both were incredibly competitive, natural athletes with an insatiable thirst for exertion, and both were blessed with the kind of charisma…that transfers easily to celluloid. Both were also intensely masculine personas working against a stereotype of sexual passivity… misconceptions they battled with every resource available, including shamelessly exploiting their own sex appeal.

Ann Miller

He made boy dancers look very sexy and macho….Gene always looked to me like a baseball player that condescended to tap.

Los Angeles Times. April 23rd 1944

…Kelly wants to dance; has always, it seems, danced; always will. It’s in every move of his lean, lithe body – the superb co-ordination of muscle and mind, even when, catlike, he crosses a room.

Toledo Blade. September 1st 1950

Gene Kelly, muscles rippling at every turn, does his usual spectacular dancing with ease –

Time Magazine March 2002

A viewer’s eyes always go to Kelly’s body…Like so many middle-class guys, he was an athlete and a salesman. His work was his cheeriest, most seductive pitch for his idea of dance and, of course, for himself...

 Christopher Walken TCM tribute to Gene Kelly

To look at him he was almost like an Olympic athlete, so fit. He was grounded to the earth and utilised his entire body…

 

For me, Gene’s body is interesting, not just because watching it move is often a fount of earthly delight. He used to describe himself as a truck driver type, conjuring up a big, burly bloke; but if you see him alongside most other men, he looks small and almost delicate.

Modern Screen. June 1943

His body looks deceptively slight. It’s compact, muscular and inexhaustible

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service 2/2/96

He was not a wimpy, skinny dancer; he was a big-chested, muscular man whose physique belied the polish and flow with which he danced. Kelly had the raw power of a street performer and the controlled grace of a ballet dancer – and it made for a powerful combo….

 

His grace and delicacy could have made him a great ballet dancer, but he chose to follow the path of cinematic dance; exuberant, earthy, ‘man-in-the-street’ stuff. He once told a British female ‘sexy’ dance group that his dances also were about sex, but he had been forced to disguise the fact. Life as a classical ballet dancer would not have afforded opportunity for such expression, even if disguised.

Marilyn Ewing. Structure, Corruption and Syphilis in Singin’ In The Rain. Heldref  Publications.  2006.

The film industry’s image of itself and its stars is, for the most part, dishonest…Because of its puritanical attitudes toward sex and bodily functions, …As a passionate defender of the artist’s right to practice his craft unencumbered by censorship, Kelly took a few potshots at those who would curtail artistic freedom.

American Film Institute Tribute Booklet 1985

…He wanted to create dance numbers in which the dancer did with his body what the actor did with words.

Richard Dyer Social Values of Entertainment & Show Business Volume 2. 1976

…Kelly’s own body, with big thighs and shaped torso, is a paradigm of muscular virility...

His buoyant athleticism, naive passion and look-ma-I'm-hoofing brand of enthusiasm introduced cinematic dance to sweat, lust and earthly delights

 

He was, however, no mere hoofer. His athletic background meant that he trained every muscle in his body, through long years of discipline, to obey him. An interesting comparison is with Donald O’Connor. During the making of Singin’ In The Rain, Donald said that Gene taught him to use his upper body as well as his legs. Side by side you can clearly see the differences in their bodies. Both are similar in height but Gene’s arms and chest are far more muscular than Donald’s. He has more pronounced shape to his upper body, which is attractive.

Chicago Tribune. September 23rd 1945

You may have thought that brawn and dancing ability don’t mix, but take a gander at Gene Kelly – he’s strictly on the rugged side….

 

Whilst on the subject of his upper body – does anyone else get annoyed by the constant chest shaving that went on in his movies?? The worst culprit is Three Musketeers. Now you see it, now you don’t! Another was Thousands Cheer, when he wore that nightmarish yellow leotard. Men have hairy chests, right? It’s normal.

  

Ok, moving on down…

New York Times April 17th 1994. Hal Rubenstein

…he gave bare-armed masculinity both elegance and grace.

We all know that Gene’s trade-mark outfit included rolled-up sleeves. I don’t think it was a deliberate ploy to get the girls excited, but it sure doesn’t detract from the swoonability factor of those ‘strong, manly arms.’ He constantly told us that it was all to do with body line, which he insisted was vital for audience enjoyment of The Dance. That is why he so often wore tight fitting and revealing outfits. It’s just a happy coincidence that enjoyment of The Dance is intensified by enjoyment of The Body.

Dance magazine. July 1976

Norma McLain Stoop

…”The greatest contribution Gene Kelly made to American dance,” Kelly jokes, “is that he’s finally shown the male dancer how to dress… made sure that the pants were very tight and rolled up a bit, and wore a shirt or sweatshirt or something that would show the figure…Course, when we went into ballet, then I wore a tight black outfit and a little white collar, which has become pretty standard for a lot of popular and serious ballets 

 

My only criticism of Gene’s choice of dance wear is that he sometimes wore his pants, not too tight, which is fine with me, but too short. Brigadoon probably has the worst example, when he did the Go Home With Bonny Jean number. Thank goodness he changed them for a more normal looking pair for the rest of the film. His American In Paris white pants also leave much to be desired.

 

Now, some people might say that it is indelicate and disrespectful to discuss Gene’s backside. But I see it as fair game; he knowingly exploited it to the full when necessary, whether wiggling his bottom at the girls named Nina, or at Richlieu’s men, or wearing a white Pomeranian Navy suit or a Wolves baseball outfit or tight grey pants to tempt a gangster’s moll, or pretending to be a bar of Chocolat. And I know that most of Gene’s fans have dwelt on it in guilty pleasure at some time. Oh yes you have…

Toyah Wilcox. British actress

Gene Kelly! I mean, the sexiest man. That behind...ooooh!!

  

He was blessed with a shape that many a woman would envy; I suspect partly from good genes and partly from great muscle tone achieved by all the years of athletics and training.

I believe there is even a blog dedicated to Gene Kelly’s ass!

Debbie Reynolds once said that Gene had the strongest thighs of anyone she knew; they were like pistons. They are of course displayed to full, glistening effect in the Pirate ballet, and also slyly sneaked in to Anchors Aweigh in the dormitory scene, and even briefly in Thousands Cheer. The studio knew what their female audiences wanted, and gave it to them as fully as censorship allowed.

 

  

As you would expect in a dancer, Gene had great legs, and he loved to display them.

Liberty  magazine. September 1948

“The prettiest pair of actor’s legs in Hollywood belong to Gene Kelly”, says director George Sidney. “Spindle-shanks are what most other actors use for circumambulation.”

 

It seems so strange to me that Gene and Fred Astaire were often lumped together as if they were somehow the same. No disrespect to Fred, but could you ever imagine him bare-legged, bare chested, wiggling his rear, or in his underclothes on screen? Gene never really looked comfortable dancing in a suit; he needed to be free and unencumbered.

Gene had perfect dancing feet, smallish and narrow. When I placed my foot into his print at Graumann’s in L.A. it almost filled the indentation and was even a little wider than Gene’s. I am an English size 6, which is average for an adult female.

 

It seems that Gene never lost his physical magnetism even in later life when he no longer bothered too much about keeping a 30” waist.

At 64, Gene Kelly looks like a man who will live to be a hundred. The dancer’s body is still lean and pliant: the Irish eyes glitter with amusement…a sense of the muscle-flexing virility needed to handle a juggernaut that accounts for a lot of the power and most of the philosophy in Kelly’s contribution to the dance musical.

Saturday Evening Post. July 1980.

On the set of Xanadu. …He walks onto the set smiling…shedding radiance on the scene even before the white-hot lights are switched on. “He still has the magic,” says director Greenwald. “Magic doesn’t age.” Nor, it appears, does Kelly. At 67 he looks no more than 45…

But that is probably down to the more esoteric attraction which Gene undoubtedly had in spades – charm.

 

 

 

LOADED WITH CHARM

The dictionary definition of charm is: the quality of pleasing, fascinating, or attracting people: delight greatly: cast a magic spell: protect, influence or heal, supposedly by magic: captivate, entrance, enrapture, ravish, allure, bewitch.

Yep! Gene has charm.

 Modern Screen. June 1943

…Dump all of your preconceived notions in your hat. Kelly’s a quiet-mannered guy, who thinks more than he talks and smiles more with his eyes than his mouth. His charm has nothing to do with externals. Far from being flashy, it engages you bit by bit till you’re hooked…

Movie Fan. July 1946

Dear Editor:

In selecting stars for the latest Movie Fan, I think someone missed the boat, when Gene Kelly was not included…Come on and give the boy a hand. Besides he has been doing camp entertainment. What have Fay Emerson or Ava Gardner ever done?

Mrs. I. Green

We agree wholeheartedly – but we can’t get every star into every issue. He’s in this one, though – Editor...

…Ah, the Kelly named Gene…But oh we love that man. Take your suave continental gentleman…Take your tough guy…take anyone. Just leave us Gene…We remark, in solemn and impersonal manner, that Mr. Kelly is an extremely fine dramatic actor…he won fame through his dancing feet…But when a guy’s 99 and 99/100ths pure Irish charm, with a residue of 13.5% just plain wonderful, who cares about acting?...

It occurs to us to be horrified at the thought that he might have been a lawyer. Lets’ forget it quick…and now we’re at the end…so we can rave again…

 Photoplay February 1949

My Kids The Kellys, by Frederica Boger

You don't often find that much sincerity with that much charm.

Time Magazine. August 1967

…Says Frank Sinatra, whom Kelly directed in On The Town: “The guy just never heard of exhaustion.” But he has heard about charm, and he can crack the whip without stinging the ego.

Michael Burrows. Gene Kelly, Versatility Personified. 1971

Confident but not conceited, quite wealthy but disdaining ostentation; possessing such natural charm and courtesy that he turns enemies into fans…

Citizen Journal. August 1st 1974. Ron Pataky.

The magnetism of this fellow is apparent from the beginning, long before his applauded entrance. Just about every age is represented, and the atmosphere is almost cult-like in its nature…

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....

Stanley Donen. TV interview 2/2/1996

He had his own manner and charm...he had this wonderful Irish American brash quality which was so winning and full of energy. It was an irresistible charm...

Perfectly Frank. April/May 1996

A Talent Undimmed. A personal view by Ken Barnes

In the summer that same year, Gene came to London…for the premiere of That’s Entertainment II and I introduced him to my wife, Anne, who was bowled over by his charm. She thought he looked even more attractive in person than on the screen.

Even inhabitants of the canine world were not immune to his charm:

 Los Angeles Times. December 7th 1969. Joyce Haber.

…It’s been said that you can’t fool the camera, but that’s true in the long run of only a handful of stars, like Gene Kelly, who are what they seem…You can’t fool animals either. Of all the movies we’ve ever privately screened, only one has held the attention of my dog, Dorothy, from first to last. It was a 45-minute compilation of Gene Kelly’s best dances…My dog Dorothy couldn’t take her eyes off the screen or Gene Kelly…

 

Another word which constantly pops up when reading descriptions of Gene, is ‘grace’ or graciousness, which can be just as sexy and attractive as his physical attributes.

TV show, Hollywood’s Leading Men

Even until today, no-one has managed to replace his combination of manly charm and physical grace.

Adolph Green on seeing Gene for the first time, in Westport summer stock 1939

...what struck you most was his charm and his clean cut good looks...he was full of grace and vitality, and what I remember most was the effect he had on an audience. They just loved him

www.hollywood.com Kelly was a swaggeringly virile dancer of incomparable grace and charm. He pushed the boundaries of film dancing beyond the established limits…

Christopher Walken: TCM tribute

…Gene Kelly, charming, gracious, off screen and on.

Screen Romances. February 1944

He’s got that easy way with a line, the Irish grin that’s a part of no act at all, the slow grace

 that gives away his years as a hoofer.

Newspaper article. 1946. Source unknown. By Kay Kenney

…Arriving by train after his plane had been grounded, he was unshaven, obviously tired, but as gracious and relaxed as though he'd come from the restful hands of a masseur, rather than the frenzied mitts of autograph hounds.

Movieland 1948. That Old Black Magic

He has a genuinely gracious manner.

…Full of dancing life-force and most contagious in his exuberance and merriment.”

Mishel Green, reporter, Photoplayer 1957

Well, Mr Kelly…You turned out, on the occasion of our meeting, one of the most gracious, co-operative, pleasant, articulate – Oh nuts…let anyone say anything uncomplimentary about Gene Kelly now and I’ll punch him, I will.

Los Angeles Times. December 7th 1969. Joyce Haber

Is that what made me choose Loew’s? [The cinema where she watched Gene’s films as 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.

 

American Film 1979

…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 Kelly, the Dancing Cavalier. Hollywood Then And Now. August 1991

…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…

 

Online Free Library. February 1996

He imbued the studio’s timeless musicals with grace, athleticism and flair.

People magazine. Feb. 1996
Simple things like roller skates and puddles brought out the best in Gene Kelly…he imparts a sense of grace to the ordinary stuff of life.

Scott Renshaw www.apolloguide.com movie guideFew visions in cinema history have offered as much pure joy as Kelly’s alternately graceful and exuberant dance steps;

 

 

The word ‘grace’ can, of course, have connotations of effeminacy in males, and this was something of which Gene was aware from childhood.

We know that he was often taunted, by less erudite or imaginative Pittsburghers. As a child he was called 'sissy' because he attended dance classes, and as an adult, was tormented with the words ‘fag’, ‘nancy-boy’, ‘queer’, etc.

Throughout his working life he passionately fought the commonly held view that all male dancers were homosexual.

Time magazine. August 1967

Kelly deplores the common U.S. image of the dancer as a mincing she-man. When he first began dancing in nightclubs in the Pittsburgh area, ringside drunks would snigger “Hello, honey.” One night he slugged one of the loudmouths and hotfooted it to Manhattan.

 His ground-breaking, award-winning 1958 TV programme, Dancing, A Man’s Game, sets out his thesis on this matter. (It is now available on DVD, a real treat.)

Australian Woman’s Weekly. August 1976

A few years ago I wrote and directed an Omnibus show on American television and I called it Dancing Is A Man’s Game

I talked about homosexuality – and this was before everyone went overboard with sexual frankness – saying that an artist in any form, whether he’s a painter like Michaelangelo, a musician like Tchaikovsky, or a dancer, is the custodian of a certain gift, and his sexual preferences have nothing to do with his art.

I said that we in America are still afraid to say that a man is graceful, and pointed out that John Wayne is graceful. John phoned me the next day: “I heard you on that programme last night,” he said – and I wondered what was coming next. But he was grateful to me. I’d picked out the toughest guys I could think of at the time, and he saw the point I was making immediately.

Film Dope 1984

He has done for heterosexual male dancers what Warren Beatty did for heterosexual male hairdressers

 Milwaukee Journal. May 7th 1944

This Gene Kelly is one of the lean, hard-muscled chaps who, like Fred Astaire and Paul Draper, have shattered the tradition that the male dancer is a flower-like fellow.

Time magazine March 2002

And because his muscular masculinity was a crucial component of his appeal, Kelly blew away the perfume of sissy-hood that clung to serious dance like a too-tight tutu.

 

Gene made it okay to be graceful. Indeed, he is often described as ‘beautiful’, and not only by besotted fans:

 

John Updike. New Yorker 1994

…we think of Gene Kelly as a guy in loafers and a tight T-shirt…His torso and his profile were beautiful…

People. 1974

The film curator of New York’s Museum of Modern Art once wrote: “Gene Kelly, a superb specimen of manly beauty, doomed, you’d say, to matinee idolatry, has neatly escaped from the trap by dancing and miming in such a way that you would never mistake him for anybody but an ordinary Joe.”

 

Dancer From The Dance: Gene Kelly, television, and the beauty of movement. Velvet Light Trap, Spring 2002

...For Kelly, an intricate and strategic use of the technology of the industrial arts was needed so that men no longer confused beauty of movement with effeminacy of movement. A good deal of his inner masculine beauty necessarily needed to be projected onto the screen to confirm its masculine essence.

 

Gene was happy in his own skin, he did not need to prove that he was or was not gay – in fact he was not, but that did not mean he despised those who were. What he despised was groundless prejudice and mindless assumption. An essential part of his attraction was his ‘live and let live’ attitude to other people. Betsy called it a ‘hands off’ philosophy – as was said of the oysters in Cover Girl , ‘Let them live their lives and we’ll live ours.'

He was so content with who he was that he would happily let his feminine side be exposed for fun purposes. For example his shenanigans in An American In Paris when he became Guetary’s ‘female’ dance partner, or when he planted a kiss on Oscar Levant’s head. And who could forget his cavorting, clad in floating gauze, in On The Town? I have newspaper pictures of him dressed in female attire for a charity performance. There are many other examples. Off screen he was a very tactile man, loved to hug and kiss, both male and female friends and colleagues.

It was this inner grace and charm and contentment with his own persona, which drew people to him and continues to do so, as much as his more obvious assets.

 

LUSTY…HUH?

I am sure that almost everyone who reads this will have been introduced to the delights of Gene Kelly’s face, body and personality through the medium of film. It is fitting therefore that we end this enjoyable journey with a few examples of how people acknowledge and appreciate his celluloid sex appeal. If we are honest, there are moments in almost every one of his films when we, as fans, want nothing more than to dive into the screen and get hold of him, the attraction is so overwhelming. Silly maybe, and unbecoming in some of us more mature ladies! But Oh! boy is it fun! A real feel-good factor.

And that pull of physical attraction that so many people experience when coming to Gene for the first time, so often leads to less lusty and more lasting life affirmations, aspirations and inspiration.

Interview Magazine 1994

In most of his films he played the hyperathletic sexual initiator of partners like Judy Garland, Vera-Ellen, Debbie Reynolds, or Leslie Caron.

 

John Updike. The New Yorker 1994

Kelly… 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…

Films Of The Golden Age. 1997

…Unlike Fred Astaire, Kelly’s film roles enabled him to be brash, sexy, daring, and a bit of a scoundrel, and what woman can resist a charming scoundrel?

His erotic and sensual dancing of Slaughter On Tenth Avenue, the Pirate ballet, the Broadway Melody  ballet, are illustrative of the kind of sexuality associated with Errol Flynn.

ANCHORS AWEIGH

Daily News July 20 1945

Frank Sinatra gets top billing in Anchors Aweigh but Gene Kelly is the one male musical comedy dancer who has sex appeal, and has the picture all wrapped up in himself.

Ballet Mag. Feb. 1946, Beryl de Zoete
We have the delightful task of praising the dancer Gene Kelly…in the glamour contest he would surely come out top…for he is, moving or still, the most entrancing sailor one has ever seen.
I have seldom seen a Western dancer from whose body such radiance emanates or who possesses such brilliance of expression.

Picturegoer. September 14th 1946

Gene Kelly Is Home Again. W.H.Mooring

It was Anchors Aweigh that sent up his fan mail so that MGM had to include

him among their five most promising young male actors.

Daily News July 20 1945. Wanda Hale

Frank Sinatra gets top billing but Gene Kelly, the one male musical comedy dancer who has sex appeal, has the picture all wrapped up for himself. Only blind devotion will keep Frankie's worshippers from swooning at the sight of Gene long before this delightfully entertaining picture has run its course...

  

THE PIRATE

Digitallyobsessed.com. DVD review July 2007

The Pirate sparkles, thanks to…—most of all—the combustible talent of Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, who not only nail their song and dance numbers, but also their tricky screwball roles, and produce a healthy quotient of sexual chemistry along the way….

Dancer From The Dance: Gene Kelly, television, and the beauty of movement. Velvet Light Trap. Spring 2002. (Goliath Reading Room)

In the ballet Macoco/Kelly is garbed in a black, tight-fitting, one-piece, short-legged costume. It is a costume that, for the period, reveals quite a bit more than the norm. Minnelli’s design... emphasized Kelly’s well-defined thighs, pumped biceps, and well-announced manly bulge…

John Fricke & Lorna Luft. Judy Garland. A Portrait in Art & Anecdote 2003

Dorothy Tuttle Nitch:

There was a huge “voodoo” song and dance. Now, Gene Kelly was a genius – and a very sexual person. And this was a very, very, sexy number and very well done; it was supposed to be pretty wild and wonderful…But L. B. Mayer wanted every picture a family picture – the number could not be that sexy, so it had to be changed a bit. And they did it again...and then they cut it out anyway!

American Film 1979. Gene, on the original, deleted, Mack The Black number

"We were doing a little bit of overgroping. It was a sensual and sensuous experience – both words are applicable – but I think it was too long and said too much. I didn’t mind that they cut a piece of that out. That didn’t hurt the picture."

www.brightlightsfilm.com

Garland serenades Kelly twice, first with You Can Do No Wrong… and then with Love of My Life. The latter finds the two nuzzling one another at their steamiest, or at least the steamiest they were allowed to get in front of a camera without Louis B. Mayer ordering the print be burned…The romantic chemistry is there…

Gene Kelly, the Dancing Cavalier. Hollywood Then and Now. August 1991.

The Pirate is…a feast of Gene Kelly.

Looking particularly handsome in curly hair and a mustache, and wearing the most colourful costumes of his career, Gene revels in the part of Serafin…for the fancier of Gene’s swashbuckling side, it is a treasure.

Picturegoer. July 9th 1949

[The Pirate] pointed towards a new direction for his career to take. It was obvious that physically, with his magnificent sense of rhythm, his grace of movement and his fine air of braggadocio that he was perfectly capable…of playing the romantic buccaneer as straight as the straightest of straight actors.

 

WORDS AND MUSIC

Tony Thomas The Films Of Gene Kelly 1974

…the piece was also an excellent showcase for his muscular masculine style.

David Soren. Vera Ellen, The Magic And The Mystery. 2003.

The image of the girl next door wouldn’t do. Gene Kelly sought to revamp her look and image and contributed to her education by teaching her to exemplify what she called “A sort of earthy, sexy quality – toward modern.”

 

THE THREE MUSKEETERS

Screen Album. Autumn 1948

…The script described the leading man as a “young, handsome, swashbuckling nobleman.” Since no one can ‘swashbuckle’ better than Gene, in he stepped…Twinkletoes Gene has lost none of his agility. His very walk is almost a dance…you’ll notice that those famous duels are as graceful as any dance…

World Telegram. October 20 1948

One great surprise is Gene Kelly himself, endlessly animated, acrobatic and ingratiating. His grace as a dancer flashes through his vigorous swordplay…

 Picturegoer. July 9th 1949

…the picture is played for its action, romantic vigour and visual excitement. Kelly provides a full share of all that. He wears the resplendent clothes as if born to them, and moves with the lithe grace you would expect of Dumas’s hero.

Michael Burrows 1971

…he managed to inject his part with all the athleticism, all the verve and dynamism that was possible.

 

ON THE TOWN

American Film 1979. Gene, on the Barre dance

There was nothing the censors could put their fingers on. The red colour, the girl in black, and the sailor in white were very sensuous. Yet I never laid a glove on her. There was nothing the censors could say. If they did, I could have said, “What? Do you have a dirty mind?” But yes, it was very sensual, and the colours did it.

His co-star in the film, Ann Miller, remembers him as "just so handsome...He was marvellous because he was ballet-trained as well as being a hoofer, and he had a lot of sex with it."

Magazine article, ?1970s

…lashings of Kelly exuberant, muscular, acrobatic choreography…

 

BLACK HAND

Newsweek. March 1950

…In Black Hand Kelly, as graceful when throwing a knife as when hoofing, combines for the first time the catlike agility that has served him so well in such musicals as On The Town...

John Reid. Popular Pictures of the 1940s. 2004

…As it turned out, it did his career no harm. In fact, it boosted his macho image…

 

AN AMERICAN IN PARIS

Violet Glaze. Pop Matters website. A comparison of Gene and Bruce Lee

Standards of studio decency probably prevented Kelly from stripping to the waist like Lee did on the flimsiest of pretenses ... but the nude bodysuit Kelly wears in An American In Paris (1951) leaves nothing to the imagination…

Interview Magazine 1994

…If one had to pick a screen persona that defined the Hollywood-style American man for all time, in all his brash, charming, idealistic, glib, muscular, overheated glory, it would have to be Gene Kelly in Vincente Minnelli's An American in Paris

That his American In Paris character was essentially priapic is revealed amid the dreamy Impressionist artifice of the Moulin Rouge ballet, in which Kelly dances in a skin-tight bodysuit before the splayed skirts of the cancan girls.

Euan Rasey, trumpet player in the 'fountain dance'. Quoted on The Making of An American In Paris DVD 2008

I played it very straight the first time. Gene was the guy in control of the music and he said “No, make it sexy and sensuous”, so I played what I thought was sensuous and sexy, not burlesque, a sense of sexiness to it. That was my interpretation of being sexy. Gene was overjoyed, very happy, a wonderful guy. He came back and said “Thank you so much”, and kissed me on the cheek…

 A Hundred Or More Hidden Things. Source unknown

The shot of Kelly and Caron intertwined on the Greutert Fountain as John Alton’s fumata cascades over them is undoubtedly one of the most unapologetically erotic moments in all of Minnelli’s work.

 

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN

Marilyn Ewing. Structure, Corruption and Syphilis in Singin’ In The Rain. Heldref  Publications.  2006.

…In The Broadway Ballet, the sensuality is…overt…The moll dances seductively for and with the hoofer. They dance so closely that their arms and legs wrap around each other. She wiggles her hips and slides down his leg. This jazz dance explodes with eroticism, replete with pelvic thrusts and crotch shots.

In the …dream vision, the hoofer idealizes the gangster’s mistress in a modern ballet…Although eroticism is not lacking in this dance, it is not in the bump-and-grind vein of the previous one.

Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service 2/2/96

…remember…the sexy, riveting dream ballet… a sizzling duet with Cyd Charisse. Kelly oozed sensuality, sexiness.

 

INVITATION TO THE DANCE

Eugene Register Guard. December 25th 1953

…he settled for a movie of three different sequences. One of them is stark drama and caused a rumpus with the censors. “It’s quite a strong bill of goods. In one of the scenes I’m walking down the street and a prostitute comes up to me. The censors got real up in arms about it. That’s something I can’t understand. I don’t see why we can’t have two seals in this country. That’s the way they do it in Europe and they get better pictures for adults…

Daily Mirror May 23rd 1955

The modern sequence is the most daring love-play I have ever attempted but I think I have handled it with sufficient discretion to satisfy the studio, the public and the censor.

 

It is part of the complexity, and fascination, of Gene’s personality that while he was no doubt a modest and reserved, rather shy man, of good moral standing, he was nevertheless happy to take on the direction of no less than three sex comedies.  Tunnel of Love related the story of a couple’s quest for parenthood, and was a little risqué, as was the Cheyenne Social Club and of course A Guide For The Married Man:

Time magazine. August 1967

…His own movement is jitterbug. He will bound off his chair to correct a camera angle, touch up the scenery, or show an actress how to swivel her hips. “Actors like to be told how to act, not shown“, says Matthau, “but with Kelly, his great body movements reveal what he wants.”

 It is to Gene’s credit that he was first choice for director of this movie, because he was perceived as the only man who could prevent it from being seen as tasteless, and turn it into a very popular and amusing mainstream film.

It is also to Gene’s credit that in spite of being a very sexual being he was able to control the force, rather than be controlled by it, as were, sadly, many of his contemporaries, with devastating effect. He used his sexual drive, rather, to create some spectacular and beautiful entertainment, and to draw people in until they were, and are, eager to learn more of his great talents and his philosophy of life, to emulate him, be inspired by him, and sometimes to simply enjoy him and all he has to offer.

‘S Awful Nice, ‘S Paradise….