Gene did a fair amount of advertisements for various products over the years. I guess it was an easy way to make money. And everyone else did it. Most of the adverts I have seen seem to be for things he really could endorse, like Air France, and video players, and foodstuffs like wine and ice cream, of which I believe he was very fond. Though I am not sure about the Bluebird Stockings!
I thought it might be fun to put some of the ads here.
The Ledger. June 19th 1983
Question from reader:
You’ve done some commercials lately. I wondered, do ads influence your buying habits? – L.V., Pueblo, Colo.
Gene: It depends. I am very impressed with some commercials, like the ones Henry Fonda did many years ago for cameras, because they’re made with humor and show how the equipment works. And I like those that tell a story, are true to life and make sense. Commercials keep me informed on new products. If an ad catches my eye, Investigate further – check out the product, see if it’s what it’s cracked up to be. Then, if my investigations check out and I need the product, I’ll buy. But, of course, one doesn’t buy everything one sees.
Commercial for Air France. Art Directors clip, 1979. Can be seen at the Paley Center, New York.
Gene Kelly explains that ‘being in France makes a fellow want to dance.’. He walks along the boulevards of Paris, bicycles through the countryside, and enjoys such treats as fine cuisine, the ambience of sidewalk cafes and the scintillating nightlife of the City of Lights. “Air France makes it easy to get there.” The ad is 30 seconds long.
WINE COMMERCIAL December 1981.
Gene did a wine commercial in Barcelona, magazine pics show him dancing on stage with women. He received six sparkling wine cases, which I am sure he enjoyed!
RCA VIDEO PLAYERS
The Spokesman Review. 1983
My new job with RCA – I’m their spokesman for video discs – keeps me pretty busy making commercials…Personally I think [the future for show business] is going to be in home entertainment. When RCA asked me if I wanted to be their video disc spokesman, I said I’d be delighted. So now I’m selling, just like my father. It may not be as arty as choreographing the French Ballet…but it helps put my kids through college”
GAP ADVERT. 1993
New York Times 29th August 1993
A new Gap advertisement featuring Gene Kelly is giving some people the wrong impression. The ad is part of a campaign that shows archivla black-and-white photographes of celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Ernest Hemingway, Rock Hudson and Amelia Earhart wearing their own pairs of khakis. Mr Kelly, who celebrated his 81st birthday on Monday, and Arthur Miller, who didn’t respond to a request for an interview, are the only two living people included in the campaign.
New York Times. 17th April 1994
...But didn't Gene Kelly wear khakis?
Gene: " Only to rehearse in, and around the house. Never in the movies."
Perhaps we should say something about the infamous VW cars commercial, broadcast on TV in 2005. I thought it was terrible, and I was not even really aware of Gene then. I know that Gene loved to see the kids doing their modern stuff, breakdancing etc, but the rain dance is such an iconic moment in cinema history that it seems almost like sacrilege to make such a mockery of it. Though maybe Gene would have enjoyed the idea of 'taking the Mickey', he did grow rather tired at times of the adulation shown to this scene, and resented the fact that many people thought he had done nothing else of note. And he never did take himself too seriously. But he must also have been very aware of the tremendous amount of joy he had brought to the public by his splashing through the puddles with a beatific smile on his face. There have been many tributes paid to the scene, by skaters, dancers, even by entertainers like the British Morecambe and Wise, but all have brought out the innate simplicity and 'feel-good' factor, and have been respectful and loving.
That's my opinion anyway, you may absolutely love it. If you want to see it you can watch it on youtube, but you will have to do your own search, I will not put a link here!
By David Thomson
The Independent on Sunday. 6 February 2005
How does this grab you? On American television last week a commercial aired in which approximately this happened - I only saw it the once, and I was angry straight away, so leave a little room for doubt over exactness. The ad begins with the classic scene from the 1952 movie, Singin' in the Rain, the one where Gene Kelly, with the help of an umbrella, a studio rain-storm, a passer-by or two, some artfully laid-down puddles, and a stern cop, does the number "Singin' in the Rain", a song written by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed in 1928 but immortalised in this movie.
I venture to believe that everyone reading this far knows the scene and loves it. Singin' in the Rain is often voted the best musical ever made, and this is its centrepiece.
Then the commercial starts to slip and slide. The music becomes a piece of hip-hop. The figure of Kelly starts to make moves in his dance that were never in the original film. He does somersaults. And this is all in order to promote a current product - let's draw a merciful veil of obscurity over what it is.
Singin' in the Rain was a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film, co-directed by Kelly and Stanley Donen, who also devised the dance routines together. I have spoken to Mr Donen about the sequence and he is properly proud of it, not least the way the choreography and the camera movements were co-ordinated. There is, for instance, a moment when Kelly turns rapidly and the camera cranes up above him that is one of the most exhilarating movements in American film.
Mr Donen is alive still, but he would not have been consulted on the commercial. Neither he, nor Mr Kelly (who died in 1996), ever had any rights of ownership in Singin' in the Rain. Still, I imagine that to gain permission for this vile transgression consent had to be obtained from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, or the people to whom they passed on ownership of the picture; and I think by contemporary law that permission would also have been required from the estate of Gene Kelly. I am sure that in both cases there would have been a payment to recognise the rights being passed on. And I have no idea about the condition of the estate of Gene Kelly, and no right to bar his possibly impoverished heirs from making money.
But I have every right to deplore their action and to draw attention to a nightmarish piece of work. I will not pause to argue the claim that the creative life of Kelly and Donen has been befouled. Let me just say that our collective memory, our culture, our pleasure have all been monkeyed with. Yes, the film survives, and can still be seen, but its beauty and its integrity are being flagrantly interfered with. The nature of a movie is being insidiously mocked and exploited. And while this is not the first instance of this kind of electronic reordering of an existing scene, it may be a threshold to ever more indecent re-makes. There are vital ways in which Singin' in the Rain belongs to us and the future, as much as it does to a studio or a few heirs to the image and persona of an actor.
Independent December 2005
…a backlash against the misappropriation of works of art for new commercial purposes. The use of Gene Kelly's celebrated dance sequence from Singin' in the Rain to advertise a Volkswagen this year was denounced by Kelly's first wife as "sleazy" and a "travesty", which stripped a "much-loved dance ... of humanity and joy". It employed digital technology to turn Kelly into a hip-hop dancer.