Gene Kelly, Creative Genius

A personal celebration of his life and work

"Je suis Le Professeur"

 


 

 

 

Frank Sinatra. Foreward, Clive Hirschorn, Gene Kelly. 1974

If they ever get around to handing out Oscars for outstanding performance as a human being,

you'll know where to find Ol' Blue Eyes - on the nominating committee for my old buddy, Gene

 

Picturegoer.  September 14th 1946

W.H. Mooring. Gene Kelly Is Home Again

“Don’t believe the stories they tell you in my publicity,” he says with a grin.

Actually, if we did we would not go far wrong.

 

Michael Coffey. The Irish In America. 1997

Gene Kelly was elegance and panache.

 

Jack Wintz. St. Anthony Messenger. Catholic magazine. August 1980

Gene Kelly is something like the character he plays in Singin’ In The Rain.

For he has always done his best to sing and dance his way through life’s storms,

keeping his optimistic and disarming smile despite personal losses.

He explains why he has tried to keep that singin’-in-the-rain spirit:

“Cheerfulness and good humor have always been important values for me. Gloom doesn’t help anyone.

My religious faith that God is good and doesn’t abandon his own –

as well as my faith in life and in other people – sustains me in stormy times.”

 

Picture Show. September 25th 1943

He would like to run the world on a ‘Love Thy Neighbour’ policy.

 

Joe Pasternak on Gene:

The two dirtiest words in the English language to him are “Second best.”

 

Betsy Blair. The Memory Of All That. 2002

He was, for all his talent and intelligence, a man of the people. He never lost sight of his vision or succumbed to film star vanity.

He fulfilled his youthful wish. He democratized the dance in movies.

He gave me – and the world – an unforgettable legacy ofjoy...

 

The Disney Channel Magazine. March/April 1988

Today the word star is used to describe any person – however humble – who has appeared in a motion picture.

By that standard, Gene Kelly is more than a star – he is more than a legend. Kelly stands on a pinnacle,

one of the supreme performers in American Film. As dancer and choreographer, actor, director and producer,

he has left an indelible mark on American motion pictures.

 

Movie Memos. Date unknown

Gene has another gift...This one he gave to himself. It is his unassuming almost shy, modesty.

He is very strong in his convictions opinions and ideas,

but doesn't shout them from the housetops...

Gene talks freely, fluently about anything and everything, except himself.

But his admiring friends are always willing and ready to speak for him.

 

Arthur Freed:

Gene is one young man who will never have to worry about a job. He's a Jack-of-all-trades and master of them all.

 

Movie Spotlight. August 1954

He is essentially a lone wolf. He confides in no one except his wife. On the surface their marriage would seem to be a casual affair.

That’s because their understanding and accord are so deep they don’t need the usual outward manifestations.

His soft, graceful manner on the screen is the real Kelly. He’s that way in his private life.

He still takes off his hat in elevators when ladies are present. He has an instinctive appreciation for children.

He treats them as equals and reserves a special grin and wink combination which never fails to put them at ease…

He doesn’t complain about roles, and is completely without star temperament.

He believes in the Biblical admonition to speak of one’s neighbor only if there is something good to say.

He will perform at parties only if everyone else does…

He is always pained when he hears people who have made their fame and fortune

in Hollywood speak disparagingly about movies.

 


 

Source unknown

Whether you’re working with him or just being his friend, it ends up as your way of life.

 

Carl Reiner

 

One of the greatest entertainers of all time, always behind, in front and on the side of good causes.

 

Edward G Robinson

The most forthright and decent of citizens

 

Patrick Sisam. News Of The World, British tabloid newspaper speacialising in sleaze! October 2008

I could try to find something snappy to say about Gene Kelly, but I’m not sure a more squeaky clean actor has ever walked (or danced) the face of the earth. Must be all that cleansing rain.

 
 

Hedy Lamarr

I think Gene Kelly is a marvellous entertainer, a friendly soul who’s a delight to watch or be with

 

Walter Winchell

…the most versatile in showbiz- an actor-singer-dancer-choreographer-film and stage director.

 

 

Stanley Donen 1996

When one is down and wants to be cheered up, watch Gene Kelly

 

Movieland. 1948

The thing that makes Gene Kelly unusual, he’s a generous person. He isn’t out to trample on the other guys while getting to the top himself. 

 

Christopher Walken. TCM tribute

With his handsome face and his charismatic smile he was a natural leading man and that small scar added a rugged quality to his everyman good looks. The ladies loved him, he was charming, sure of himself.

 

Toyah Wilcox. British actress

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

 

Avis Scott, English actress

Gene Kelly was a darling man

 

Bob Fosse.

He’s like a guy in your bowling team, only classier.

 

Hollywood columnist Joyce Haber (one time ?‘love interest’ of Gene)

You have to go a long way to find a man who compares to Gene. He’s so outgoing and thoughtful. 

 

Newspaper quote, source unknown, possibly 1941, New York:

Gene Kelly, dancer, director, singer, comic, choreographer and all-round ball of fire.

 

Motion Picture. January 1943

…In short, he has “socko” appeal – the kind of appeal that women love. His trick? It seems from here that it’s his smile – the most ingratiating smile you’ll see in a long time…As screen heroes go, 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.”

His voice is not romantic either. It hasn’t the tone or timbre that make women dream of being with Boyer on a tropical island. “I’m going to try to change my diction, though,” Gene explained. “I want to get that New York twang out of me if possible.”

Gene has dark, slick hair that makes you think he might be Italian instead of Irish. But he’s as Irish as the ould sod…He’s five feet, ten. ”I’m really five feet, nine,” he says, But Betsy, my wife, says to tell everyone I’m five, ten, so I’ll make her happy.” He weighs 165. “I’m really only supposed to weigh 157, but the sunshine and food here, and the waiting around on the stage, have fattened me up."

...Gene hates to dress up…His initial appearance in Hollywood society was anything but outstanding. He had come home late from the studio and was supposed to attend an elaborate party that night, a charity affair….he had nothing to wear. Thinking fast, he called up Richard Whorf and borrowed his pants. He had on the coat he had been wearing in Dubarry that day, so he kept it on. The only shoes he had, however, were the ones he had worn in New York in Pal Joey and they were practically falling to pieces. Then Tommy Dorsey completed the make-shift by lending him his studs.

“I felt like a country hick,” Gene Laughed. “If anyone had asked me to dance, I’d have definitely lost my pants. I was hiking them up all evening – and praying that I’d get out without any embarrassing damage.”

 

 

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.

Unlike Astaire, Gene is no fashion plate. Candidly he calls himself “a walking slum”. Recently he threatened to go to a swank Hollywood premiere in a plain business suit because his own dinner jacket was stolen a year ago and he refused to buy another. Tearfully Betsy, his wife, called Dickie Whorf, one of the Kelly pals, about the dilemma.

“Nuts,” said Whorf. “I'll loan him mine.”

So it was that Gene paraded in Hollywood high society dolled up in his best friend's finery.

 

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 and mumble a superfluous apology for having confused him with all those other lugs. “Thanks,” he grins. “Those are the lugs I don’t want to be.”

He is in no danger. What they’re not, he is – sensitive, gentle, well-bred, well-read. And for gentle, don’t read soft. Like many Irishmen he combines the tough with the tender. His mind is imaginative and independent. He wrote verse for his high school paper and doesn’t blush to say so. He wishes he could do as well now. George Bernard Shaw is his hero. If he ever gets three months off he’ll write that play…

About the screen and what he can give it, he harbors no illusions. 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. But today’s headlines of a world in stress continue to stir him more deeply than his name on marquees…

Gene says he was adolescent till 24. By his gauge, you reach maturity when you start directing your own life instead of letting outside forces direct it for you. Then he struck out the way he wanted to go.

His mother’s heart had been set on law. His too, he thought.

He also liked English classes and dancing. He was assistant editor of the high school paper. At the age of ten he’d worn his mother down to a point where she’s let him quit dancing school. What he couldn’t do was unlearn his native skill. Even at ten, he’d known in his private heart that, but for the stigma, he could have enjoyed dancing. At 15, he gladdened his mother’s heart by asking for lessons.

 

Photoplay. October 1943

“Mister Terrific” they call him

With his talent I know he’ll go far

I wonder by now if you’ve possibly guessed

That Gene Kelly’s my favorite star!

Jackie Campbell, Fort Worth, Texas.

Screen Album 1944

Nightclub comedians always feel like murdering Gene. He always whispers the punchline to his companions

  

Screen Romances. February 1944

You could put him in Alice In Wonderland and he’d have you believing it all really happened. 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.

 

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.

 

Chicago Tribune. June 8th 1944

A fan thinks that Gene Kelly should be tested for Valentino: “He has tenderness, fire, romantic appeal, and can sing and dance.”

 

Photoplay June 1944 It’s Like This – to be Mrs Gene Kelly

Gene and I are fortunate in liking the same people. Gene however, is more violent in his dislike of social climbers and those who are mean and deliberately hurt others, than I. He doesn’t believe it is smart to say cutting things irrespective of how clever and witty you might be.

My husband isn’t an Irishman given to black moods. He is more likely to be riotously gay – for no reason at all…He loathes waking up but once he is awake he isn’t grouchy…he practically never shaves unless he is going out… After Gene has gone two or three days without shaving and grown a little beard, I think he looks wonderful – as he did in “The Cross Of Lorraine.”…

When Gene has the time he is very clever about women’s clothes. His outstanding gift to me was a purple suede suit and a copper suede dress. Both fitted perfectly and were wholly his choices. I would have been afraid the copper colour would be too much with my hair, but it isn’t. It’s wonderful.

To make this a complete and rounded portrait of Gene I should, I know, mention his faults. He must have faults, of course. But I can’t for the life of me conjure up a single one!

...Gene’s thoughtfulness and gentleness constantly surprise me. While I never thought him hard-boiled in any sense of the word, I knew he’d been around and knew all the answers. And a man like this, generally, isn’t sweet and tender too...

We aren’t fools with our money. We both know what it is to go without….Gene has lived on his unemployment insurance once or twice, and at the end of summer in Maine, his money gone, he existed on clams and potatoes

 

Picturegoer 1944

Kelly is a straightforward young fellow, does not like fuss, dress, or pretentious society. Somehow these qualities seem to come out on the screen when he is acting.

 

 

Modern Screen. August 1944

Hollywood has never seen anything exactly like Gene Kelly, not for a good many years. He’s a perfectionist, an artist from the tips of his flashing toes to his sparkling black eyes and inky hair. He’s a guy who knows what he wants to do and who says what he thinks, without any helping of hooey.

...Gene can’t quite savvy how come a screen star can’t take chances and be just like anybody else – a guy who does a job and leads his own life. His jaw still drops now and then with amazement at what goes on since he’s made a few pictures.

In New York, for instance…he was a pretty successful Joe around Broadway…But he could walk around without losing his cuff links, hanky and whatever else was loose. “Now it’s just like Sinatra without a bow-tie,” Gene cracks. Like having a nice cozy hideaway tank in the aquarium!”

After finishing Christmas Holiday, Gene went to Manhattan with Betsy, before setting out on a USO tour of army hospitals. He got mobbed. It made him sore at first until he saw a bunch of fans huddling in a pouring rain outside of a theatre just for a peek at him. Then Gene was touched. He got wet himself then, as a sort of penance, and signed his name until he was silly…

Of course, Gene Kelly has been a Hollywood celebrity only a short time, and he’ll probably get used to being public property and stop being surprised at living under a magnifying glass…But it’s my guess that no matter how long it takes Gene Kelly to get hep to odd acts of Hollywood movie fans, he’ll never start staging acts himself – that is, away from the camera...

 

...Gene could double for Junior in plenty of ways around the house. He won’t drink his milk, for instance, calls it a “boring drink” and can’t understand why Betsy loves the stuff. He hates vegetables. His worst abomination is a tie, and when he goes to the city and has to wear a hat and a tie both, somebody almost has to get him down and put them on him. He hates to shave and dreams of living where he could grow a beard and get away with it. Gene’s not too responsible about money, either – he’s always running short and borrowing lunch money from an extra or somebody at MGM.

 

Family Circle. September 1st 1944

You expect vitality and exceptional intelligence when you meet Gene. You get it the minute he starts talking.

 

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…Gene may be flattered by feminine interest, but his chief interest is in his red-headed wife, Betsy…and two-year-old Kerry…

An intense desire for normal living keeps Gene’s home insured from the unhappiness which might result from too sudden success. For a handsome young actor who is violently attractive to all females also attracts the lethal young actresses who are “amused” by a star’s interest in his own home and fireside.

 

Short magazine article, source unknown. Probably late 1944?

They’re a nutty, brainy, heart-warmin’ family, the Kellys, who used to think nothing of it if Papa took days paper-planning his dance routines, more days languishing in a wall-eyed fog – and then suddenly took off in a floating leap across that made-to-lounge-in living room furniture.

...when svelte, sequined Hollywood buzzed over the Kellys’ highly informal attire at a recent big-wig premiere, Gene refused to ruffle. “We don’t care a thing for champagne,” he grinned.

 

Screen Album. Winter 1945

“I’m just a Joe Average, just a guy.” Average?…He economises on safety pins and buys “Sweeney” Kelly’s all-Adrian jobs, hates his New York twang while spouting a fluent Russian and Spanish, devours the funnies then whole libraries on geopolitics, hates to shave thought he can’t bear untidiness, will read till 7-next-morning then snooze till way past noon come a no-work day. Confusing? Uh-huh, remember, he’s “just a guy.”

A guy who remembers living on clams and potatoes for a whole Maine summer, who still dreams of his 20-years-dead pooch, who’ll always regret not resembling Doug Fairbanks Sr, and who’s grateful for not being a great lover because, “this way, when folks see me all slopped up, they’re not disillusioned.”…

Gene’s intense about a very few, but very important items. Like liking folks and doing unto others and putting in his two completely sincere cents about the war and peace and mankind. He’ll kid that, “I can outshout anyone on theatre or politics” but you can bet that before he tried any hot-shot shouting, he’s done plenty of heavy thinking. As for physical comforts, there are just a few things he hasn’t got and wants: like an unlimited repertory of parlor games, 50 years to loaf and read in, a world where vegetables are replaced by candy bars and beer, and all women are lovely.

 

 

 Newspaper article. 1945. Source unknown. This Is About Gene Kelly And That's All It's About. By John Maynard

Kelly is inordinately fond of ice-cream, steaks, sitting up late and getting between nine and ten hours sleep a night...He's a remarkable natural athlete...drinks lightly at present but not at all when working on a picture, and he smokes only moderately... If he's going to drink, he prefers bourbon and water. Evidently he will smoke almost anything. And Mr. Skolsky, dear Mr. Skolsky, he sleeps in the tops of his pajamas. Just the tops.

His love of dancing is unmistakable. He goes through abortive steps and turns while waiting for elevators or walking along the corridors of hotels. He is tremendously fond of children as they are of him, and was happiest in Pittsburgh when he was teaching them. He once told the Hollywood Reporter off, a feat of great courage in Hollywood, and he intends to go right on doing so.

 

 Keeping Up With Kelly. Photoplay 1945

Ambitious by nature and proud of the strides he’s made in a picture career in such a short time, he still feels achievement is the important thing. Being a motion-picture star in itself has nothing to do with Gene’s personal philosophy of happiness. As he says, “I don’t care a thing about champagne... You can’t buy the really important things…Funny, but after you get more money than you’ve ever had you find out you really didn’t need any more than you had anyway…Actually the best things in life are free anyway…Things like sunshine, good stimulating conversation, congenial company, good health and a lot of laughs.”

 

Newspaper article. 1945. Source unknown. This Is About Gene Kelly And That's All It's About. By John Maynard

His most cordial dislike is for a Hollywood 'reporter' and snitch named Jimmy Fidler. The thing dates from a Sunday night...when Fidler, for no discernible reason, informed his radio audience that Gene Kelly had left his wife and 6-month-old daughter and moved to a hotel. The inference was one of rank and cruel desertion...It so happened that the Kellys were engaged in the innocuous task of putting a friend's baby to bed. Mrs. Keenan Wynn called them there and handed on the report. The Kellys laughed. Marlene Dietrich called...When they got home there were long-distance calls waiting from heartbroken Blairs and Kellys. Mothers and fathers had been hurt. The Kellys stopped laughing. Kelly wanted to bring suit but was dissuaded. Fidler was barred from the MGM lot. It was a mess, Kelly feels, that could easily have been avoided if Fidler had taken the routine precaution of checking his material...

The effect of the Fidler episode was to make him somewhat gun-shy where publicity was concerned, and this became acute when he entered the service.

 

 

 

 

 

Photoplay January 1946

In New York one morning a few months ago Lieutenant (j.g.) Gene Kelly was having breakfast in a Chock-Full o’ Nuts when a waitress suddenly tapped him on the shoulder.

“Say,” she said. “You’re Gene Kelly, aren’t you?”

Kelly looked up at her. “Nah,” he said. “Kelly? Who’s he?”

“Gene Kelly, the dancer of course.”

“Gene Kelly the dancer!” he said, indignantly. “What would he be doing in this uniform?” He dismissed the idea with a contemptuous wave of his hand. “They’re all sissies those dancers.” He paused for a moment and then, in a confidential voice said, “You know something though? Lots of people tell me I look like Gene Kelly. Yeah, lots of people.”

Now, such stories about movie stars are not especially novel. Nor, in most instances, are they especially true either. In the first place, movie stars don’t usually patronise such unglamorous places as Chock Full o’ Nuts. In the second, if they do, they are not likely to kid around with waitresses. In the third (and this is awfully important) they are only too happy to acknowledge their identity. Not hide their light in any bushel. In Kelly’s case however, the story is gospel rather than the apocryphal product of a press agent on the lookout for the human-interest angle.

Although he is now, on the strength of his miraculously versatile performance in “Anchors Aweigh”, one of Hollywood’s most valuable male commodities, Gene Kelly is not appreciably changed from the way he was, say, ten years ago.  His behaviour in New York for example, is marked by no more ostentation than it was in the hungry days when he was a chorus boy in “Leave It To Me.” He puts up at the modest Algonquin rather than the gleaming Waldorf. He does his drinking amid the earthly conviviality of Louis Bergen’s somewhat aromatic saloon on West 45th Street rather than in the scented glitter of the Stork….

“Please believe me,” he says, jutting his chin forward. “I enjoy those chocolate doughnuts… I always enjoyed them. Why should I stop enjoying them just because I made a hit picture?”…

Off the screen he neither looks nor behaves like a Hollywood personality. He is good-looking but not handsome. His clothes are neat without, however, making him a candidate for a list of the best-dressed men. He has a nice smile, uses expressive profanity and is shorter than he looks in movies. He is a hot jazz fan. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh but he does not look particularly like a college man. His one concession to his calling is an occasional show of concern over a balding spot on the back of his head...

There is about him and his artistry the wonderment of childhood, the sad searching loneliness which seeks companionship in the fairyland of the imagination. It is an abiding, cherished faith in make-believe. It is the thing that Chaplin had. It is the steadfast refusal to admit that there is no Santa Claus… On the other hand, there is Kelly and his imagination, which is as big as the world, and is pure childhood and, as such, is just about the nicest thing on the screen today. It is well for all of us that Kelly has had the persistence to induce producers to give his imagination free rein.

 

New Rochelle New York Standard Star. From a newspaper clipping February 1946

Joie Easton, 2 year-old Bart and baby John were struggling on a train at Penn station in New York. Gene saw Joie and came to her assistance by carrying the baby until they were settled. While thanking him, she recognised him and asked if he really was Gene Kelly. He replied, “I'm afraid so.”

Years later John Easton sent the press clipping to Gene with a belated 'Thank You.'

 

 

Newspaper article. 1946. Source unknown. By Kay Kenney

Gene Kelly is a dancing star whose feet haven't gone to his head, possibly because it was too well occupied in the first place. His sensational dancing has a cerebral origin, and you could never tag him with one of those coy cognomens such as 'The Feet' because his brain outshines his brawn...His mind is as limber as his legs...

It had been six years since we'd met at the summer theatre in Westport. Now, six years during which he'd been liberally sprinkled with the star-dust of success, can easily cancel all memory of mischief brewed, or high hopes shared, in far less glamorous days. Why, I've had actors forget my very name in the instant it took to blot theirs on a picture contract. Not so, Kelly. He's not one to cancel out the past, even while keeping a steady and mirthful eye on the future...

Our meeting took place in the Middle West, where Gene, still wearing his Navy uniform, was slated to appear at a Bond Rally. 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. And the instant we said “Hello,” I caught on to the fact that to have known him when was to have him know you, now.

Of course, I might go the way of those Fan writers, who'd rather be trite than search for a fresh phrase, and simply settle by saying that Gene's a regular fellow and a swell guy. Because he is. But those ambiguous adjectives may be applied in similar fashion to a Babbitt or an Einstein. And Gene deserves something more.

Kelly's a person, not a personality. And that, kiddies, with habitat Hollywood, is something to be photographed for posterity. Success, to him, is pleasant, never static. After all, his is not the story of bread crusts and failure, Kelly's always been a success. He had a most lucrative Dance Academy in Pittsburgh when he was barely old enough to count the profits, but he moved on to New York because of an urgent confidence in his own creative ability. Gene was star material...

He never says, “Here I am,” but, “where am I going?”...

Now, I'd suggested that I interview him, because you can't just monopolize a star's between-train moments in relaxed reminiscing. You feel pretty guilty with all those autograph hounds panting just outside with their fountain pens hanging out...

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 agree 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...

 

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. One thing it proves – they swoon from the feet as well as the voice. Though when his pals kid him about it, the most Kelly will admit to causing is a semi-swoon.

 

Seventeen magazine. September 1946

All this [fame] doesn’t ruffle the Kelly calm or turn his level head. He’s a serious artist, modest enough to know that he’s still learning. He, Betsy and three-year-old daughter, Kerry, live unpretentiously in a quiet residential section. Gene drives a ’38 convertible Plymouth most extras would not own. …”I’m Joe Average,” he says. “I’ve got a wife, a kid, a car and a home. There are millions of guys like me.”

He’s said to have an “American baseball” personality that reminds you of peanuts and hot dogs. Gene certainly isn’t the kind of person you would ask, “What’s your favorite food?” and expect to hear about Bengal curry or Turkish paklavah. You’d know the answer would be steak and French fries or ham and eggs…He doesn’t own a full-dress evening outfit, and his dinner jacket was stolen a couple of years ago. So now he borrows one when necessary…

Gene is one of the few stars adored by young people and old, men and women. Since his dance with the mouse king, tots love Gene Kelly right along with Donald Duck. 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.”

 

Newspaper article, 1947, source unknown

Hoofer With A Heart. By Jack Sher and John Keating

Kelly is a good-natured guy, but snobbishness or prejudice in any form infuriates him to the point of incoherence. On this score he has told off some of the biggest names in Hollywood.

 

Silver Screen. April 1947

He’s a rare personality. This Pride of Pittsburgh, who has become one of the greatest contemporary dancers and a fine actor to boot, is a serious-minded young man, works indefatigably on causes in which he becomes interested, but even on the subjects closest to his heart can inject a light note or a gag, which is a handy trait for a modern crusader. Kelly is indeed a brainy guy; he says a dancer dances with his head, not his feet. But he’s saved from the Heavy Thinker classification by his ability to kid even his most serious thoughts.

 

Screen Guide July 1947

With the possible exception of Cornel Wilde, Kelly is the only young actor who attracts as many adults to the movies as he does bobby-soxers…

 

He will talk effortlessly and at length about his work, particularly about any phase of dancing; but he is an unskilled window-dresser of his own personality, and when it comes to talking about his personal life, he’s genuinely shy...Gene Kelly is an intelligent, experienced, heads-up guy. He came up the hard way, but is not embittered. Always ready with a helping hand, he hates to see anyone shoved around. During the filming of one Kelly picture, for example, the director got hold of a comedian and started bawling him out. Feeling strongly that the director was unjustified, Kelly went over and in no small way told him off. This in Hollywood is a heroic deed.

 

Movie Show. October 1947. Van Johnson

In my opinion there is no limit to what Gene can do. He’s one of our greatest entertainers as dancer, actor, singer…He’s the hardest working guy on the lot, with astonishing power of concentration.. If he’s thinking about work he can walk right by friends on the lot and not see them. Between scenes he never relaxes in his dressing room like other stars; he’s either rehearsing a dance off in some corner of the stage, or working with the director and cameraman lining up the next shot. And he has never stopped helping the little guy.

Gene really gets a thrill out of working, loving every minute of it….There’s never a dull moment with Pal Gene. That I guarantee.

 

Screenland 1947

The buzz of activity that is centered round Gene is characteristic of his personality and his pre-Hollywood background…There’s no holding Gene back because in addition to a terrific talent for the dance, he has the understanding necessary to back up his progress in the glitter city where dancers are a dime a dozen. In other words, as the younger set would have it, Gene is certainly hep to the world in which he revolves.

 

Movie Screen. October 1947

…off the screen he won lasting affection as one of the friendliest, most sincerely helpful character in Hollywood.

 

Newspaper article, 1947, source unknown

Hoofer With A Heart. By Jack Sher and John Keating

Since his electrifying success in Anchors Aweigh, the bobby-sox brigade has lifted Kelly up to its own gaudy gallery, which he shares with Sinatra and Van Johnson. In Chicago, just before Kelly got out of the Navy, the kids ripped all the shiny buttons from his uniform. Gene returned to New York wearing a coat held together with safety pins and Scotch tape.

“Maybe you can help,” he told us. “Write that I am thirty-four and I love my wife. Tell them I have a baby four years old, my hair is getting thin, and that romantic scar on my left cheek is the result of a flop on roller skates when I was a kid.”

 

Screenland magazine 1947

Interview with Paul Marsh.

His thinking and speaking are as nimble as his dancing feet….He doesn’t waste a thought on irrelevant subjects, and what he has to say is directly to the point..

He looks directly at you as he speaks…

His eyes sparkle as he speaks, he’s warm and friendly right from the beginning, and he brings with him a pleasant, assured glow. You like him instantly because he’s direct and honest….

He greets you like a long-lost brother, sits down to a lunch big enough for a lumberjack, and then you relax as he dwells on his favourite subjects…

Too many of us think of dancers as self-centered people without other interests, but that’s one pigeon-hole in which you can’t file Gene….

He has a way of hitting the core of an idea with a sharp accuracy…

Personally I doubt if he has changed one bit from the days when he was an unaffected college student in his way of thinking, and his greatest peeve then, as now, is anything that’s false or phoney. He doesn’t hesitate to express his opinions on anything that’s tired and trite...

There’s one Hollywood institution he’ll have no part of – nightclubbing. “Too rugged for me, I can’t take all that bumping and pushing in noisy little rooms filled with smoke. I’d rather stay home”

 

1948 interview, set of The Three Musketeers
GK isn’t the flashy type.. he isn’t impressed by superficial things. If he likes you he likes you.. Gene sees the person, not possessions.

 

Movieland 1948

That Old Black Magic

I remembered interviewing Gene a number of years ago…I remembered how he was then: soft-spoken, intelligent. He had definite beliefs. He wasn’t afraid to talk, and he talked interestingly. He was no untried contract player, tentatively feeling his way. He had come to Hollywood a star…the glamor didn’t throw him. He was a big boy…

When you wonder where Gene gets that certain delicacy of interpretation, both in acting and in dancing, it becomes evident when you analyse him. For, even when he is emphatic, there is a certain gentleness about him. He has a genuinely gracious manner.

His masculinity is not the kind that has to be brusque and harsh in order to get across. He has a lethal glance that packs a wallop. I can’t visualise anyone pushing him around. But you sense that the glance is reserved for major issues only. You can tell he’s a kind man, a sincere and honourable person. A gentleman.

Also, he has good, basic, fundamental manners. For instance, he thanks you for your time, and brushes aside the fact that he had given you his – despite the fact that he has been in five scenes and had two costume changes during the interview.

There is only one change in Gene Kelly from the man of a few years back that you wish could have been averted. That is a certain weariness when speaking of the past few years, a certain triteness of phrase – as if he had been asked the same questions so often, he has almost stock answers…

 

Movieland. May 1948

Have you ever wondered how the stars feel when they read stories about themselves? Frankly, I have, and yet very few stars have ever committed themselves. Oh, I’ve had bitter complaints. Ocasionally a star will say in a rather flustered way, “Thanks for the nice things you’ve said about me,” but most of them are modest, and if the story is flattering, they’re a little embarrassed when it comes to thanking me. Of course, if the story isn’t too flattering, they grumble about it.

However, Gene Kelly is an exception to the rule. He had seen a proof of his story “That Old Black Magic.” A day or so later, Alyce Canfield, who wrote the story, was on the MGM lot interviewing Keenan Wynn. As Alyce was leaving Keenan’s dressing room, she heard someone call out, “Don’t let that girl leave the set.” Alyce waited, and Gene came rushing out. “I want to thank you for a beautiful story. It made me very happy.” And then, to Alyce’s complete surprise, he kissed her hand.

To put it in Alyce’s own words, “Gene isn’t demonstrative, particularly with the fairer sex (he’s very happily married), so I was rather floored…Really, the guy is a dear!

 

Movie Fan April-June  1948

The stories they tell in Hollywood of his helpfulness, sincerity and unaffected good heart are endless.

 

  Movieland 1948
Brittle envy and hate and jealousy are as absent from his make up as false eyelashes. As you talk to him you begin to see that this is because, despite fame and adulation, he has kept his balance.

Liberty. September 1948

…you wonder where Gene gets that delicacy of interpretation…even when he is emphatic there is a certain graciousness about him…He has a glamour that packs a wallop…He won’t tolerate anyone pushing him around…You can tell he is a kind man, a sincere and likeable person.

Movie Life Yearbook. 1948

Gene is five feet, nine inches tall; weighs 155 pounds; has black hair and brown eyes. He’s an ice-box raider; prefers the old-fashioned waltz; hates vegetables; saves safety pins; loves steak; believes in the Golden Rule; goes in for parlor games; calls his wife Sweeney because it rhymes with her name for him, Genie; hates to write letters; reads two books a month; admits he’s very argumentative; is devoted to the comic strips; hates loud women and people who are late for appointments; keeps fit through rehearsing for dance work and says he wouldn’t know a vitamin pill if he ran into one.

Movie Glamor Guys. Undated. ?1949

…This black-haired, brown-eyed wizard of Terpsichore is a superstitious fellow who believes in hunches…Gene has a love for people that is almost too enormous to imagine. He loves just everyone and proves it by tacking a nickname on you the moment introductions are over. Calls his wife Betso, Red-head and Mamalatcka. She retaliates with Geno. Gene loves to read in bed, mostly biographies and adventure stories. He’s a restless sleeper, wears loud pyjamas and keeps chocolate bars on his night table to munch on when those tossing periods start. With that wonderful line of blarney he has, Gene loves telling stories to his daughter, Kerry, 6, manufactured ones of course, which he makes as beautiful or as grotesque as the mood demands…Gene’s a swell husband, for it isn’t beneath him to help with the household chores when things pile up. He’s quick to notice women’s clothes, favors tailored things…He’ll dance his way into your hearts again in his new Metro musical On The Town.

 

Motion Picture 1949. Betsy Blair:

That I didn’t work at all, or scarcely at all, after we got married, was no doing of Gene’s. He’s a “Hands off” person, anyhow. “Hands off” other people’s lives and the way they run them. With me he was even more so...

Gene is as big a nickname giver as ever lived. The people in our own circle now called by their own names you can count on one hand – thanks to Gene....

 One of Gene’s favourite pastimes is telling Kerry bedtime stories which he makes up, with the greatest of ease, as he goes along.

He does everything around the house. Honestly you wouldn't believe it, how clever he is. The builkt-in cabinets he's made - you should see them! And he is so neat. He loves to have the place clean and shining and he does more than his share to keep it that way.

But when it comes to his clothes – Oh my goodness! The faded bluejeans, the tattered T shirt, the baggy tweeds are not, as many suppose, Gene’s working clothes. They are Gene’s clothes, period. Just before we went to Europe last winter, Gene bought two new suits and that was An Occasion, that was A Big Thing.

 

 Los Angeles Times. October 9th 1949. Hedda Hopper.

Gene is extremely interested in the welfare of his fellow man, but though he is sometimes identified with radical groups, his philosophy is based strictly on Americanism. He’s an Irish Catholic.

 

Picturegoer 1949
Gene Kelly is the only hoofer in the world who ever majored in economics

 

Tap Happy. Motion Picture magazine 1950

Kelly is habitually…talkative, intelligent. Well-read, extraordinarily articulate with a mobile, animated face and emphatic opinions on a wide range of subjects...He hates to be shoved around… He still hates to see anyone shoved around and frequently is willing to go to bat for his indignations...

Kelly would prefer not to dance in night clubs. It makes him rather self-conscious

 

 Magazine article by Betsy Blair 1950. I Married A Dynamo

When Gene is working on the choreography for a new picture he sits absolutely quiet – sometimes for hours at a time – with that handsome Irish forehead of his furrowed in lines of thought. He is a man capable of losing himself in complete concentration.

...He believes in what he calls the ‘Eternal verities’. This truth deals with love, honor and the protection of one’s family – the primary sort of philosophy that saves a man from ulcers, anxiety and doctors.... 

Whenever he leaves a room, it is infinitely more orderly than when he entered. Gene’s wardrobe is a masterpiece of organisation.

 

 

Movie Stars Parade. October 1950

Though he didn’t glimpse the Emerald Isle until 1948, Gene Kelly is as Irish as shamrocks and shillelaghs…On-screen he won’t wear make-up, loves parts that let him grow a beard. Off-screen, he hates ties, hats and vegetables, relaxes by playing charades, listening to jazz. He stays up all night, eats horse-radish on anything, has one of the best speaking voices in town.

 

 Toledo Blade. March 5th 1950. Hedda Hopper

Gene, like Orson Welles, is as diverse as one can be in show business, but unlike Orson, he doesn’t go in for extravaganza or the wild spending of money.

 

Saturday Evening Post July 1950

…to date, Kelly’s following has been largely a feminine one…Such pictures as On The Town and…Black Hand may change his status when the 1950 listings are posted. But as of right now, the men fans are inclined to think of him primarily as a dancer given to leaping, leg-twinkling and undulation of the body instead of the simple hoofing which they can easily understand...

Kelly dislikes formal parties and seldom goes to one. At such affairs he is apt to say exactly what he thinks – a form of honesty frowned upon by the usual host or hostess. Hoodwinked into attending a shindig… he was approached by a banker from Boston. “Tell me about your work in films,” said the financier, with the air of a Beacon Hillier who has just discovered a decaying cod in his cellar. “I understand you’re connected with them in some way. You look intelligent, and I wonder how you stand it.”

Kelly slowly counted to ten before trusting himself to speak, then said, “I have an intense love for show business. So much so that I don’t believe anyone is really alive unless he is connected with it in some way. If you’ll forgive me, I’d rather not waste time in conversation with a well-groomed grave.”

 

Lois McClelland, Motion Picture 1950

There’s something so universal about Gene that he defies classification. His Italian friends are sure he’s Italian. His Jewish friends claim he’s Jewish and the Irish contingent are in there pitching for the shamrock and the sod. The Irish of course win. Lucky Irish! But beyond the mere accident of birth, Gene is actually a citizen of the world. He takes his rights and privileges as an American seriously, and exercises them...

Gene’s greatest happiness is in his wife and daughter, and in his home. Nothing means more to him. He comes from a good Pittsburgh family and his early upbringing is reflected in his own household.

In all these years of working so closely with Gene Kelly, I never have seen him display any form of temper. The only times I have seen him get even slightly ruffled is when he trips over old sneakers and discarded volleyballs that the Sunday crowds forget to pick up. Otherwise he’s always even-tempered, constantly good-natured.

 

John Maynard Magazine article 1951

Several years ago…Kelly exhibited the first pronounced symptoms of a militant tough-mindedness…a double-header of Celt ferocity and independence…one was an earnest effort to slug a widely read and heard commentator on movie doings. After which, Kelly proposed to stuff him into a wastepaper basket.

The other, an equally cordial offer to step a few rounds with a representative of a powerful Hollywood trade paper. Gene knew exactly what he was doing. He was inviting professional suicide to preserve his conceptions of human dignity and integrity.

 

Photoplay 1951

Like most people with a plan, Kelly does what he wants to do, quietly, with a minimum of hoopla. He joined the Navy during the war, without benefit of the press, and he leads a busy and comparatively quiet home life in Beverley Hills. At his home the company is highly intelligent, the talk good, his friends mature and interested in pretty much anything and everything.

 

Motion Picture  ?early 1951

From the Letters page.

King Kelly

Every month it’s the same thing. Away to New Orleans I go and back again. And the main reason is to buy every movie magazine I can find. This time I bought eight and not a picture of Gene Kelly could I find after looking through seven of them. With almost no hope, I just flipped through the pages of the last one and it happened to be Motion Picture.

Believe me, when I saw page 54 of the November issue my heart skipped a beat. Because there before my eyes was Gene Kelly at his best in Summer Stock. I’m telling you I sure enjoyed the ride home. A thousand cheers to you and your magazine from all the Kelly fans down here. Maisie Keating.

 

Evening Standard October 1952

Beneath the boyish charm, his mind cracks like a whip and his will is granite hard.

 

Dance and Dancers November 1952

To meet Kelly is like coming in contact with a streamlined dynamo. Even in repose, such as when we were talking over the luncheon table in the studio canteen, there is the feeling that machinery is working at high-pressure overtime. He works seven days a week and if there were eight he would probably work then also. It is hard to imagine when he has time to think up all his ideas. Yet he makes time somehow and manages to spend it with his wife and daughter, Kerry…

 

Screenland January 1953

Kelly loves to dress for comfort. On the set, except for costuming for picture scenes, he lounges around in Navy tans from a government surplus store, and at home he happily clothes himself in denims and an old T-shirt. When we were having lunch, his only concession to elegance was a beige cashmere sweater, and that was secured to his person with the sleeves knotted around his neck college-boy style.

 

 

 

Modern Screen July 1953

The thing to remember about Gene Kelly is that he is essentially a creative artist, a man who dances because of a life force which propels him. He would dance and experiment with the dance whether he was paid peanuts or a palace.

It is safe to say that he has done more to popularise ballet throughout the world than any other dancer in history. To treat him as a ‘money man’ is to defame his character and to detract from his contributions to international cinema.

When the history of the motion picture industry is written, the name of Gene Kelly will stalk boldly through its pages, and only one adjective will do him justice; “Great.”

 

Modern Screen 1953. Anybody here seen Mrs Kelly?

Here is a man who has no time for gossip, trivia, or inconsequential small-talk. Let others rage at slandering columnists. Let others threaten to file their lawsuits. Gene has no time for legal battles, rumor denials, studio politics, feuds of any sort, or any such manifestation of the Hollywood social game.

He and his wife Betsy stay out of night clubs, and he is probably the only Hollywood star earning $5000 a week who doesn’t drive a Cadillac. Most of Gene Kelly’s life revolves around his work.

 

Look Magazine 1953.

 At 40, he is no longer regarded only as a “he-man hoofer” but as a man of original creative ideas that result in commercial success. In Europe, particularly, Kelly is touched to find himself treated as an artist of stature.

 

Photoplay  Peter Hammond, October 1953

Kelly, despite his looks – and he looks like a lower- deck naval rating- is an extremely complex character. There are more facets to his personality than a scorpion has legs.

A man who dances like a combination Fred Astaire and Robert Helpmann, is a choreographer as brilliant as Frederick Ashton or Agnes de Mille, has a grin that makes strangers say, “What a nice, simple fellow,” and possesses an artistic integrity as firm and hard as a gold-digger’s heart – what sort of a fellow is this?

He has been called a walking lie. He looks so normal, so average. And yet he is so forcefully exceptional.

Gene’s ability to change from one character to another with the speed of an Olympic runner puzzles people who do not know him well.

“What is this guy Kelly, a quick-change artist?” someone once asked Van Johnson, who had known Gene since the days when they were both appearing on the New York stage in Pal Joey.

“He’s far more than that,” Van answered. “I’d call him the most versatile and hard working man in Hollywood. He’s also the greatest perfectionist I have ever known. Everything he does has to be exactly right, or he isn’t satisfied. He’ll do one step, or one little scene, a hundred times to get it the way he wants it. But the results are worth all his efforts. He’s tops in everything he does, and Gene can do almost everything in show business.”…

Gene is a very unassuming person. He has no star temperament to injure his fine reputation, and he could almost be said to be shy. He speaks in a low voice, even when he is most intense in his enthusiasm or interest.

He is very strong in his opinions and ideas but doesn’t shout them from the house-tops. He always demands the utmost effort from the people with whom he works but sets the example and the pace himself.

Outwardly Gene is still the same person he was years ago around the streets of Pittsburgh. It is only when he is working that he becomes a taut, controlled dynamo of energy

 

Movie Pix. February 1954

…The Pittsburgh boy…has driven himself hard all his life…Kelly never stops; his candle burns all the time…Even during rehearsals for [Brigadoon] Gene planned future projects, because his life, both private and public, is his work. He rarely permits himself any leisure that won’t pay off somehow in a usable idea for one of his pictures.

 

Motion Picture and Television magazine. May 1954

Friends of Kelly, dating back to his first years in pictures, have an idea that he’d kick half-a-million dollars in the eye rather than compromise his moral or artistic integrity, and there is reason to believe they are right. Nor will the argument, “Yeah-but-look-at-the-spot-he’s-in!" hold water. It was that way at the beginning, it is that way now, and very probably it will always be that way. Kelly’s one of the steadfast breed; he grows but he does not change.

He was not, for instance, in a specially enviable spot one afternoon eleven years ago when the representative of a trade paper approached him on the set and broached the matter of Kelly’s taking an ad. To a veteran of films, the approach would have been obvious, and most easily settled by taking the ad, paying on the spot, dismissing the man and then going back to work, pausing only to fumigate the joint. To Kelly, a virtual newcomer, it wasn’t obvious at all. Not being in the men’s clothing or dill pickle business, he couldn’t see why he should take an ad of any sort. The man explained it to him, subtle as a tractor. Kelly’s first really important film would be released shortly. The trade paper was planning extensive coverage and review. But would its critic care for Kelly’s performance? Who knew? Only one thing was sure: the critic was most susceptible to his publisher’s opinions and the publisher was most susceptible to advertising revenue. Voila! It didn’t spell voila to Kelly. It spelled extortion. A well-muscled citizen despite his external slightness, he managed to do quite a little physical damage before he was dragged off by horrified crewmen. Positively, you do not rough up representatives of trade papers in Hollywood – but Kelly did. And you know what happened to Kelly. He just went ahead and got bigger.

A few months later Kelly topped that one. Hollywood has several more than the usual quota of Commandments, and the 15th or 16th is, Thou-shalt-not-bop-nor-even-threaten-to-bop-a network-broadcaster. One of these, a male, informed his audience one night that Kelly had up and left his wife and child, just like that…Alarmed friends began calling the Kellys. The Kellys laughed. Then tearful parental Kellys and Blairs called long distance. They were reassured, but Kelly stopped laughing. He drove down to the radio station with some idea of taking the broadcaster apart. He was dissuaded by what they call cooler heads, but it wasn’t fear of professional reprisal that stopped him. He still wanted to sue. But that mess might have affected others. The point was that his guts were in the right place...

That’s the tricky aspect of Kelly. He doesn’t know which side his bread is buttered on. Or rather, he knows but doesn’t care. He’d just as soon get his fingers sticky. And that, in another sense, is what makes him what he is, which is all right, too. What he is is what he was. This disregards his stature as an artist, one of roughly six major talents in the whole film business, as dancer, actor, director and choreographer. It refers rather to Kelly away from the screen….

The saga of Eugene Curran Kelly as such may be disposed of quickly. It contains none of the wild irregularities stamping the lives of a few other toilers in Hollywood…

He’s about 40 now, quieter, more dedicated – and more fulfilled – than when, ten years ago, he was charging everything from windmills to Sherman tanks with whatever lance he had in hand. But in no respect is he any different. The lance is still in the closet for the time being but he still keeps the grip oiled…

Kelly can be a moody man at times, subject to a sort of Celt disorder in which he slips blackly out of a conversation to stare unhearing at his shoes and chew on some obscure worry. But he snaps out of these with great vigor, approaching at the other end of the cycle the nearest thing to elation he ever shows…

He’s a big eater with no worries about it, a small steak man for lunch and a big steak man for dinner. And since he is in essence an athlete in continual training, he goes in for none of the wind-cutting vices. He can get along on eight hours sleep a night but would prefer ten, and if he’s worried over a receding hairline in front, he has never remarked on it; a partial toupee covers it on the screen.

 

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! You’re what we in the adjective and barb-slinging profession call a newspaperman’s actor…let anyone say anything uncomplimentary about Gene Kelly now and I’ll punch him, I will.

 

St. Petersburg Times. May 29th 1958

Gene Kelly isn’t exactly a teenager any more, but he still has to work hard to elude his hordes of juvenile admirers. They traced him to his apartment the other evening, camped outside and refused to leave, so Gene slipped out the back way and spent the night at actor Maurice Gesfield’s flat.

 

Cleveland Amory 1964

He is known in Hollywood for his love of political activity, his hatred of gossip and his youthful spirit. “To get a kick out of being in this business you have to be touched with a streak of perennial adolescence.”

 

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

…Kelly’s hoofing days may be mostly past, but whatever made him unique and commanding isn’t. At 57, Kelly looks 40 and acts as though life were beginning. He has those everyday cleanly Irish good looks, the kind that suggest he’s just stepped out of the shower. His personality is warm and flaky and fresh, like a loaf of home made bread just out of the oven. His stature hasn’t diminished in the New Hollywood: Kelly just finished directing Fox’s Hello Dolly, the most expensive movie musical ever made.

…Middle-aged or not, one has the feeling that Gene Kelly has stayed the same. A bulwark, like the Rock of Gibraltar, or a potato in the Irish famine.

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…

 

Herald Examiner 1970

Gene Kelly studied the clothes he was wearing to see if they matched. He explained he was the sort of dresser who just put on whatever was closest and that at times his wife would have to point out that he was wearing too many stripes going too many different ways...whatever his apparel he must qualify as one of the nicest men this city has ever known.

 

Atlanta Journal. 1970. Terry Kay

Gene Kelly made it easy. He is sitting in his hotel suite, coatless and tie-less, lounging in a chair, feet on a coffee table, as comfortable and informal as a morning yawn...”Hey, take off your coat. Kick off your shoes. Relax.” I do...Gene Kelly is a man I respect....

 

Gene Kelly Day. London 1970

At the end of Gene Kelly Day, the object of all the affection ate spareribs and pizza, shook hands with kids imitating the master by dancing in the streets with garbage can lids on their shoes, and kissed his daughter Kerry.

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, Gene Kelly has been described by Fred Astaire as possessing “All that I ever had and more”. His overriding characteristics are accuracy in self-assessment and tenacity of purpose. His predominantly wry sense of humour provides the healthy release for his natural, sporadic exasperations with the turmoil of this unreal tinsel world...

Gene…”the realist”, faced serious issues with the attitude of a well-read man, who “whatever the subject, supports an open mind without for a moment yielding his own convictions”.

 

Nova Magazine. July 1972

As an artist Gene Kelly is simply not of the type to be best remembered by a knighthood or a Swedish Prize or a cold, noble bronze in some high-falutin’ foyer. Those things are for people who make artistry remote and religious and tediously self-absorbed…whereas Gene Kelly’s accomplishment has always been to offer his to everybody and the hoi polloi who go to the pictures particularly. His art has always been yours for the price of a cinema ticket and freely dispensed in that highly assimilable form which is the American film musical….a genuine art form with all the necessary qualifications like conviction and originality, durability of appeal and universality, and at the heart of the best of the genre was Gene Kelly…

Curiously, he doesn’t look a bit like a great dancer or even a performer, except possibly a clown because his eyes are round and black and very bright and his features so humorously mobile that he seems constantly on the point of doing something droll to please you, like miming a trombone solo or executing a series of somersaults without pausing in his conversation.

Approaching 60, he is stocky, broad in the chest but almost equally wide in the waist, impressive not feathery. In his prime he was scarcely lissom with his heavy thighs and solid seat but in those days he was hardly still long enough for you to register those things and you recall him best as a pattern of curves and dynamic angles and detonating energy. Now, without his hairpiece, he could be an ex-middleweight champion currently running a bar on the West Side.

What distinguishes him…is a great deal of the kind of dignity that only successful artists seem to proffer convincingly…

 

Leslie Caron. The Magic Factory. Donald Knox 1973.

His appeal was his simplicity. He wasn't the elite, he didn't play a gentleman. Gene was the everyday man....He was a leader. Wherever he was, he took command. He was fair and generous when mentioning his approval. His disapproval was just as straightforward and delivered in even tones which did not allow for any form of excuse.

 

Toledo Blade. February 17th 1973

He was beginning to attract attention form the other lunchers. The buzz-buzz started around the Saloon (a new ‘in’ restaurant in town)…”There’s Gene Kelly”…even from a group of young people at the next table. He didn’t mind the stir.

“It is one of the things that had bothered me about returning to acting. I get a lot of  fan mail from kids who see me in my early movies on TV. They think the pictures have been made just recently…how are my 14 to 18-year-old fans going to take the way I look now when I crop up in Forty Carats?”

He has no worry on that score. I doubt if he has gained a pound or added a wrinkle since he hit stardom on Broadway in Pal Joey…and I told him so. “Nice to hear, but I doubt it,” he said as he shrugged off the compliment.

 

The Ledger. June 25th 1974

A smile the movies could never have lived without – Irish, boyish, brash and confident – dissolves into a frown.

“My right leg feels like a hundred elephants stomped on it,” says Gene Kelly. “I was working out today over at the lot – MGM – doing some hoofin’ and I must have twisted it or something.”

He isn’t exactly limping. Heaven forbid, but he isn’t exactly leaping either. And leaping, or dashing, or strutting, or jumping for joy, that is how one thinks of him. That is part of what the name Gene Kelly conjures.

Would you like to hear that he looks great? At 61, his hairpiece in place, he still does.

 

Tribune Chronicle, Warren Ohio. July 17th 1974

Some stars are remembered for their voices or profiles or measurements. A few are even famous for their acting, but Gene Kelly has transcended the rules for celebrity and gone beyond all these accepted talents (of which he is heavily endowed) and is identified by his legion of fans the world over by his twinkling eyes and educated feet…

In his phenomenal career Kelly has danced with more celebrated stars than most actors come to know in a lifetime. Even though his tapping efforts always include the most elaborate steps imaginable, the adored dancer has made this facet of his performing arts look as easy, and as natural, as breathing…

One only needs to watch Gene Kelly perform to realise that he is a stickler for perfection and the veteran showman gave a tremendous performance, indicative of his perfectionist trait.

 

People magazine. 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.”

 

Citizen Journal. August 1st 1974. Ron Pataky.

There are stars and there are superstars; and when you have exhausted that relatively select list, there are people like Gene Kelly, a gentleman who, in company with very few others (Cary Grant and Duke Wayne come to mind) outranks them all.

It is Tuesday evening, an hour or so following Kelly’s opening in Take Me Along…The atmosphere at 16 East is, for lack of a better word, electric.

Sixteen East is where the Kenley Players appear each Tuesday evening for their opening night press parties…

On a hunch I arrive early. The hunch is based on the time-tested fact that whenever and wherever the name Gene Kelly is mentioned (try it), someone is going to state categorically that he is his or her favorite star of all time…

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…you know they’re waiting; moreover, you know who they’re waiting for. Yep, electric is a good word. You can feel it.

Finally the moment comes. Even in the rear of the shop where I am, you know immediately that himself has just entered the premises. It’s the sort of thing a person could feel if he were stone deaf. For a good while I keep my distance. Kelly’s human after all, and folks are around him in veritable droves…

I’m having a beer with friends and there’s a tap on my shoulder. Looking around, I’m knocked halfway to the floor with the realization that the tapper is none other than Gene Kelly himself. It is at this moment I realise I’m nothing more or less than utterly and completely starstruck. Bang. Just like that.

So we sit, much as we might if we had known each other for years. Other folks keep popping up here and there for autographs. Without exception, Gene is as warm and genuine as any star (much less super-super star) I’ve ever met. People continue to stare. The electricity goes on.

We laugh about the antics of his young’ns, Timothy and Brigit, and are just in the middle of one amusing anecdote when little missy herself pops up smiling a smile that would stop a subway train and itching to tell daddy something that’s just happened to her. (To my dismay, the whole bloddy thing’s in French. I know more Aramaic than I do French.)

It occurs to me about then that an interview per se will be almost superfluous. What can Gene Kelly possibly tell me that the hundreds of fans around him can’t? That’s where it is, and no one realises it better than Gene Himself.

It is an evening they will all cherish, myself included. They’ve watched him sing and dance yea these many years and now here they are actually shaking his hand…maybe even exchanging some patter. And it’s a story that will be told over countless patio grills well into the first snowfall. That, friends, is real super-stardom. That’s the real stuff. And man, does it show.

 

Philadelphia Inquirer. 1974

Gene’s wife died this year, [it was actually 1973] after a long illness…Now he’s a bachelor in Hollywood. I asked him if his phone rings all the time with ladies inviting him out. Since Gene has always been a modest man, it was like pulling teeth to get him to answer. I know how popular he is. He is the most eligible extra man in tinseltown.

 

The Spokesman Review. June 7th 1975

Q. How old is Gene Kelly? Will he really marry Joyce Haber, the gossip columnist for the Los Angeles Times? – Marilyn Henschel, Dallas, Texas

A. Kelly is 63 and will finish That’s Entertainment Too…After that Kelly enters UCLA for surgery of his prostate. Kelly and Miss Haber are taken with each other, and under the circumstances, anything, even marriage, is a possibility.

 

Boca Raton News.July 30th 1976

Kelly’s inactivity over the past four years has been voluntary.

His wife, Jeanne, died of leukaemia four years ago. The tragedy overwhelmed the star who devoted himself to providing all the love and security possible for their two children, Bridget, now 12, and Tim, now 14.

He chose to sacrifice his career rather than leave his children to make movies away from home.

 

Spokesman Review. November 27th 1976

Practically every over-40 (and many younger, too) actresses in Hollywood, including movie columnist turned novelist Joyce Haber, has tried to get her hooks into the very eligible Gene Kelly, but no success. Since his wife died of leukaemia, the 64 year-old star has dedicated his life to their two children and to acting and directing.

 

 

 

August 22nd 1977

Strasberg Theater Institute. School Seminar

According to the reporter of the event: Gene had incredible ease and sense of humor...the room filled with warmth and respect.

 

 

Pittsburgh Post Gazette. February 16th 1979

Gene Kelly took the stand yesterday as a defense witness in Lee Marvin’s $1 million property rights trial and contradicted testimony given by Marvin’s ex-girlfriend Michelle Triola Marvin.

Kelly was summoned to the stand as Marvin’s attorney opened the defense case. The dancer-actor was called to refute Michelle Marvin’s testimony that she gave up a chance to appear in a Broadway show so she could stay with her then-lover Marvin. That was in 1964. Michelle Marvin who was Marvin’s mistress but was never married to the actor, is seeking a property settlement…

Kelly denied talking to her about a role in the stage play Flower Drum Song in 1964. “Miss Triola is very confused about dates,” said Kelly. “I had nothing to do with Flower Drum Song after 1958.”

Miss Marvin’s attorney sought to show that the actor’s memory was faulty and he had forgotten the conversation. “In the year 1964, you are asking me if I saw her?” Kelly said. “I don’t remember. Can I ask Mr. Mitchelson, would he remember if he saw her in 1964?” Spectators laughed and the judge said Kelly could not ask Michelle Marvin’s attorney a question.

 

 Saturday Evening Post July 1980

On the set of Xanadu:

Gene Kelly appears. He walks onto the set smiling, greeting some by name and patting others on the back, 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… His expression is still bright, his face showing barely a trace of wear or fatigue. Take away the grey hair and time appears to have frozen still...

His 50 years in show business have been plastered with the same principles and ideals throughout. There is an unyielding penchant for artistic integrity, an obsession to settle for nothing as blandly mediocre as second-best, and above all a desire to be his own man. Kelly is a genuine superstar in an era of pre-packaged ones, spit-and-polish leather in a world of vinyl.

 

He continued to act, direct and occasionally dance in films, on stage, and on TV. In 1960 he married Jeannie Coyne. They had 13 happy years and 2 children together before her death at 49 of leukemia. Respect for Kelly grew and grew. He had survived Hollywood and public scrutiny, his closet always open and no skeletons to be seen. Even his hairpieces, written into his MGM contract, were scarcely a secret. No one was less spoiled by success than the Irish-American with his compulsion: “Gotta dance.” Gene Kelly died in 1996.

 

Rudy Behlmer. Behind The Scenes. 1982

Kelly could be difficult, but he was not alone, good people, really good people, could be difficult on occasion, particularly when you are dealing with other factions, people and politics…Kelly always worked hard and he always had the ultimate good of the project in mind. That was his whole concentration, except when he was having fun.

 

 

 

St Petersburg Times. August 4th 1984

…When he first arrived in Los Angeles in 1941 he was homesick for the hustle and bustle of the Great White Way – the all-night restaurants, the show-biz camaraderie that develops during the run of a Broadway musical. Hollywood may have seemed like Nirvana from a distance, but close-up it was just boring.. Kelly thought often of the Fred Allen joke about living in southern California: “It’s great if you’re an orange.”…

It seems ironic that by playing Everyman, Kelly became a movie star – he still seems rather astonished by the process. “The public doesn’t let you forget it,” he said, a bit ruefully. “You know you can’t walk down the street anymore without being recognised. It’s often quite upsetting, to be honest about it, but you can’t escape it.”

To Kelly, stardom is ultimately a bore. “It really does upset your private personal life. But then, nobody begs you to be in the movies or on Broadway. It’s our own choice. I can’t understand all the crying I hear about it. If you have to take that to do what you want in life, you take it.”

 

AFI. The Bulletin. October 12th 1984

Director George Stevens Jr., AFI’s co-chairman, cited Gene Kelly as one of the premiere dancers – choreographers – directors – actors in the history of world cinema.

 

Hugh Downs, who interviewed Gene on TV’s 20/20 show in 1985

He could sing a few bars and dance a little and when he did, time stood still.

 

Jeanine Basinger, American Film magazine 1985

So much has been written about Gene Kelly and film dance that it is sometimes forgotten how much else he has done. He produced and directed films, starred in a television series and on various specials, introduced hit songs in his rather quirky but appealing singing voice, created the original role of Pal Joey on Broadway, and appeared in many dramatic roles on film. What other top musical star can boast of having played a murderer, a Black Hand victim who seeks revenge, a Frenchman captured by the Nazis, a Greek immigrant, an American pilot flying combat mission in World War II, a member of the U.S. occupation army who captures a neo-Hitler, and H.L. Mencken? Kelly was an actor, a singer, a producer, a director, a choreographer, something of a sex symbol, as well as a dancer.

 

Magazine clipping 1986

 

Gene: What’s the point in pretending I’m not getting any older? Age is a fact of life you have to live with, and I always knew the day would come when I’d no longer be able to jump six feet into the air. But, I’ve got no regrets. I still think of myself as the luckiest man in the world.

 The Ledger. March 16th 1986

Today in Beverley Hills along posh Rodeo Drive, theatreland laid a long green carpet. It’s the St. Patrick’s Day parade and Gene Kelly is Grand Marshal. If anyone can lend a touch of class to this, he will.

 

Rome News Tribune. March 18th 1986

The weather fit the song, but Gene Kelly refused to do Singin’ In The Rain as he led a glittering but rain-soaked St. Patrick’s Day parade down a green-carpeted Emerald mile of Beverley Hills. Parade spokeswoman Gail Block had said Kelly was “prepared to do Singin’ In The Rain” but asked about that, Kelly, who rode in the back seat of an antique car, snapped, “No, no, no,” and declined further comment.

 

Disney Magazine. Spring 1989

About once a month, as he’s done for several years, Gene Kelly locks the front door of his house and sets out to entertain a thousand or so of his fans….

“It keeps me in touch with the public,” Kelly explains. “I address a very general audience. Older people. Movie Buffs. People who are interested in musicals and dances. Lots of college kids studying dance and film and theatre.”

 

Allegheny Times. 4th November 1990.

Along the way, Kelly has endured more than his share of disappointments and tragedies…But through it all, Kelly has maintained the charm and optimism that permeates most of his films; in other words, the Gene Kelly you see on screen is much the same man in person.

  

 

 

Chicago Tribune. September 11th 1990

The rules of Hollywood and gravity have never been a match for Gene Kelly.

CNN news: On his 80th birthday in 1992, he remained at a private vacation spot, releasing one comment: "It's only another round number."

Interview Magazine 1994

It may be difficult for audiences raised on rock to grasp the notion, but Kelly was the Bruce Springsteen of the late ‘40s and early ‘50s. Just as Springsteen emerged as a force at the end of the Vietnam War, so had Kelly after World War II, an unaffected blue-collar arriviste whose macho romanticism was impervious to the neuroses that characterised the era. Kelly’s agility, virility, and Technicolor smile were a virtual refutation of the gloomy fatalism of film noir heroes like Mitchum and Bogart….Thus it’s only a short leap from Kelly’s Slaughter On Tenth Avenue ballet…to Bruce growling Tenth Avenue Freeze Out….Kelly may have been born in Pittsburgh, but it was a Manhattanite’s brashness he brought to the Arthur Freed musical unit at MGM.

Debbie Reynolds

Gene's legs were like pistons. He had the strongest thighs of any man alive

 

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.

 

Stanley Donen. TV interview 2/2/1996

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

He was aware that he had a very special gift and that he wanted to show it in the best possible way. He drove himself very hard...

Gene was among the wonders of the 20th Century.

He was the only song and dance man who had balls.

 

Richard Schickel. Time Magazine February 1996

When Gene Kelly died last week at 83, he left us to contemplate certain ironies. Despite his long life he was granted only a few years in which to assert his genius as a dancer. And for all the effort he and directors like Minnelli put into balletomanic spectaculars…it is the sweet simple things like I Got Rhythm – just Kelly, some cute kids, a cobblestone street on Montmartre…that lived most effectively in memory. But this too is true. We could not have one without the other. Together the complexity of his ambitions and the underlying innocence of his spirit constitute the inextricable weave of this dear man’s singularity.

 

Manila Standard. February 4th 1996

Former first lady Nancy Reagan…said, “Gene Kelly was a friend to Ronnie and me for many years. We go back a long way to our treasured days at MGM, where Gene and I were privileged to be part of that special studio family.

“Gene will forever be remembered as a true genius of entertainment. There wasn’t anything he couldn’t do and do well. He made you believe that Hollywood really was a magic place.

“Ronnie and I enjoyed every movie Gene made, but one of our all-time favorites has to be An American In Paris. The song, Our Love Is Here To Stay has always had special meaning to us – we’ve sung it at our anniversary celebrations for years.”

 

Fort Worth Star – Telegram.  February 11th 1996 – 1 Life

…Our snows, in this part of Texas, are just for a while. They turn grimly gray winter days into bonanzas of possibility, just as certain people cross over and into our lives, lifting us briefly into a more magical place. Gene Kelly was like that. To me, first as a kid, then teenager and now old…a joy sure as rain...it was Gene Kelly who made us feel we could do anything….

 

 

Manila Standard. February 4th 1996

Bob Hope:

“Hey, who else do you know who parlayed an umbrella and wet loafers into the greatest movie moment of all time?"...

“What a talent. A dance instructor and a chorus boy with a degree in economics who gave more talent to the big screen than almost anyone I know.”

 

Liza Minnelli. 1996
He was part of my family, part of all our heritage..an American treasure, a friend, an original. For the rest of my life, whenever it rains.. I will think of him and smile.

 

Los Angeles Times. February 5th 1996. Charles Champlin

Well after the peak years of his musicals, Gene Kelly…could still drop to the floor as if to do push-ups and flip himself across the room on his hands and toes. It was an astonishing performance for a man of any age. Then again, everything about Gene Kelly was astonishing.

 

Perfectly Frank. April/May 1996

A Talent Undimmed.  A personal view by Ken Barnes

In the spring of 1976, Pete Moore and I were in Los Angeles working with Gene Kelly on an album of songs associated with his long career.

…Kelly, we had been told…would be tough, uncompromising and even severe in his attention to detail.

We fully expected his professionalism and dedication to doing a good job but what we didn’t expect to find was a man who was not only charming and modest but highly intelligent and extremely well-read.

Rehearsals for the album took place at Gene’s home…It has to be admitted that Gene – who was then 64 – was having trouble with his throat. He would occasionally stop in the middle of a take and say “Are you sure we should be doing this?”

“The record company want it,” I replied. “and they’re paying for it.”

“O.K.” said Gene. “Let’s get on with it.”

The sessions all took place in the evening because, as we discovered, Gene was a night person. After every session, Pete and I were invited back to his house for sandwiches and coffee or “Something stronger if you prefer.” His conversation was always refreshing and I really got the feeling that I had found a friend in this man I had admired for so many years.

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.

Later in the year we were pleasantly surprised to receive a Christmas card from him. And every year after that…I never saw much of him in subsequent years, although I was invited over to his house for an occasional drink when I was in Los Angeles. I spoke with him on the phone now and then and we corresponded sporadically. But it is only now that he is gone that I regret not seeing him more often than I did. …

Of course, his films are still with us. Dazzling, brilliant and unique – they’ll always be around to delight and entertain each new generation….Kelly has left his footprints indelibly on the twentieth century.

 

 

TV programme, Hollywood’s Leading Men

Even until today, no-one has managed to replace his combination of manly charm and physical grace. He’s a one-of-a-kind performer and a bona-fide Hollywood legend.

 

Film Review January 1998

…through it all and until his death in 1996, he performed – as Don Lockwood said – with ‘Dignity, always dignity’, an ever-ready smile never far away and a dance just a toe-tap away from those busy feet.

 

Biography magazine March 1999.

Kelly was good-looking, athletic, virile and sexy…he moved with…the confidence of the superb athlete he was, his manner and casual clothing indicated that he was just one of the boys. But when he offered a ballad in his effective light tenor and launched into a seductive dance, the girls saw right through his cocky façade.

 

All That Jazz. Martin Gottfried. Bob Fosse Biography

Why did Fosse fail to become the star performer of his dreams?…What Kelly had was a communicable charm, personal electricity, the star quality so indescribable and unmistakeable, and that was what Bob lacked.

 

Betsy Blair. The Memory Of All That . 2002
Gene could cook, Gene could iron his shirts, Gene could sew on a button, Gene could fix the plumbing if need be
 

He was lively, smart and funny, tender and loving, a natural teacher. He loved life…and he loved his work...

He had been forced to take over and be the ’man’ in his family at an early age. Gene was a natural carer and a smart, creative and benevolent boss type. He didn’t want to be the centre of attention. He wanted to quietly control the whole thing. I don’t think for a moment that he was aware of this...

Gene never stifled me...I was a free agent. He also supported and respected my professional life...he was attentive and enthusiastic...

Almost every woman who worked with Gene adored him unconditionally

 

Time Magazine March 2002

Kelly wanted to put his own spin on the friendly rivalry [between he and Fred]. “If Fred is the Cary Grant of dance, I’m the Marlon Brando.” Oh, not really. It’s true that, like Brando, Kelly wore T-shirts and, though he came form far west of the Hudson River, spoke in a working class Noo- York accent. But he was stuck with that pre-1950 smile, the professional good nature, the go-getting optimism that defined showbiz in the 20th century’s first half. The second half, led by Brando, was serious, surly, studiously indifferent to giving pleasure or generating affection. Kelly was impudent but not arrogant. His real movie siblings are James Cagney, and Douglas Fairbanks, the chunky fellow with the big smile and the grand stunts. Kelly’s The Pirate and The Three Musketeers are both tributes to and evocations of the hardworking Fairbanksian derring-do.

I am speaking of Kelly’s movie personality, as semaphored by his body language…In fact…the private Kelly was as ‘grounded’ as his dance style. Unlike half of Hollywood in the 40s, he was not in analysis..

If Kelly reminds me of any modern star, it’s George Clooney: a rugged Irish-American, an intense competitior, a man’s man most at ease with other man’s men...

Is there another Kelly out there, who might with the slightest encouragement bring that love of creation, that joy of motion, those dreams and ambitions back to Hollywood? Will the movies ever revive this primal pleasure? Come on with it. somebody's gotta shout, "Got-ta dance!"

 

Cyd Charisse. What A Glorious Feeling. Singin' In The Rain special edition DVD 2002
Gene.. knew just what he wanted. He said that's the way it's gonna be and that's the way it is. He was right, because he was an absolutely brilliant and terribly talented man.

Debbie Reynolds. What A Glorious Feeling. SITR Special Edition 2002
The wonderful thing about Gene Kelly was that he made you feel you were capable of more than you had ever done.

 

  Ben Novick. (Gene's grandson) Ann Arbor 2002.

 "[Gene] resented the fact that the public, perhaps understandably, portrayed him or saw him only through his roles. He did try to dress down ... and yet this is the man who went to college, who was a very intellectual man. It was a big part of his life; he liked fine art and could speak foreign languages, and could speak with you very intelligently, while Fred Astaire was a Vaudeville kid who came up through the ranks of Vaudeville. But off-screen, their roles were almost turned around." Kerry added, "it's one of the burdens of famous people that they do get characterized according to other peoples' perceptions."...

That was also one of the talents that Gene had that made him so appealing to audiences, for his blend of comedy and more traditional leading man traits separated him from many other actors.

Robert Trachtenberg (producer of Anatomy Of A Dancer) from an interview for  www.americanmasters.com  So what do you think Kelly's appeal was?

A: You know right before I started the film, this very young woman was in my office repairing my computer and my assistant turned to her and said, "What happens when I say Gene Kelly to you?" and she instantly said, "I smile." The guy was a movie star in the classic sense of the word -- he had that X quality that you cannot define. But he actually had the talent to back up the sheer charisma. He was very frank in some of his archival interviews, he knew that some of his films were dated, that numbers didn't work, but his appeal really transcends and even filters down to the movie audience of today. When I was around him, he was still getting fan mail from thirteen-year old girls!

 

What kept you interested in Kelly throughout the process?

A: I didn't realize it until about halfway in, but it was a very similar situation to
George Cukor, who I made a film on last year for AMERICAN MASTERS. I'm not as interested in personalties with alcohol and drug problems -- I don't find it glamorous or tragically romantic like some people do. I'm more drawn to someone who can get up and go to work decade after decade, plugging away at trying to do something fresh and new. When you really look at it, he was starring, singing, dancing, acting, choreographing and directing his own numbers -- there is no precedent for this career.

 

From an interview with Betsy Blair, 2003

But American readers have thanked her in turn for dishing no scandal about their adored Gene Kelly. “And the truth was, there was none. There was no other side to him. He was a good Catholic boy.”

 

Violet Glaze. popmatters.com 

The pleasure of both martial arts and dance movies comes from seeing the human body at work. Nobody understood that more than Gene Kelly and Bruce Lee, two performers whose legacies occupy a middle ground that's not quite dance and not quite violence. 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 — equal parts looks, joie de vivre, and damn-I'm-good confidence — that transfers easily to celluloid. Both were also intensely masculine personas working against a stereotype of sexual passivity (Kelly because dancers were suspected of being twinkletoes, Lee because he was Asian), misconceptions they battled with every resource available, including shamelessly exploiting their own sex appeal.

Carly Millard. Society, Form, Context and the Hollywood Musical. 2007

Over the years that followed Gene Kelly became a star in his own right, not just for his unique talent for telling a story with dance or the way he could make the most complicated dance move look effortless, but for what he symbolised in society. For he represented the modern, post-war American male, brimming with confidence, self assurance and that ‘can- do’ attitude so important to America’s culture. Throughout his career, he would constantly play the all American...This is part of the reason for Kelly’s popularity, because through his screen image, he appealed extraordinarily to both men and women. He was popular with men because he seemed to embody a brash, straight-forward attitude that reflected the feelings of young American manhood at this time, and although a ballet dancer, he was never considered effeminate. He was popular with women because he was good looking, a change from the usual male dancer, and as the romantic lead who seemed to appear sure of himself on the surface, but had an underlying sensitivity that wasn’t completely confident, he could appear vulnerable, this trait was both appealing and realistic and ultimately, identifiable. In short, men wanted to be him and women wanted to be with him.... one can see how Gene Kelly and his screen persona represented a time, an ideology; he was the very epitome of the American Dream; an example of the notion of meritocracy that promised success to anyone from any background, that invested hard work and enough audacity to emerge triumphant. He symbolised this post-war, confident, growing nation and is an example of how actors can become the embodiments of a value, a movement, and an opinion...As a choreographer and director, he was a true original, a uniquely brilliant conceptual artist, but as the movie star, he was the representative of a large collective in America’s mainstream society; determined, confident, optimistic and full of joy.

 

 Robert Osborne TCM magazine 2007

I didn’t know Kelly well, but I enjoyed his company enormously: he had great Irish charm and I always found him kind, self-effacing and a pleasure to be around.

 

Brooklyn Eagle, August 23rd 2007. PITTSBURGH — The archetypal genial Irish-American, family man and hard-working pro, there is nothing remotely salacious to report about Eugene Curran Kelly who was born on August 23, 1912. 

 

 

 

 

Daughter Kerry
He once said he hoped most that he had made people happy.