GENE KELLY BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
Gene Kelly was born with the birth name Eugene Curran 'Gene' Kelly on August 23rd, 1912 in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. His parents were James Kelly and Harriet Curran. Kelly attended St. Raphael Elementary School and at the age of eight his mother enrolled him into dance classes along with his older brother James. Both boys rebelled against this as the other boys would make fun of them. Kelly did not dance again in lessons until he was fifteen and this time by his own choice.
He graduated from Peabody High School in 1929 when he was sixteen years old and then went to college at Pennsylvania State College with the goal to study journalism. However, due to the economy, he had to leave school to find employment to help out his family financially. Alongside his younger brother Fred, the boys would choreograph dance routines and then they would perform in local talent contests as well as local nightclubs to earn money.
In 1931, he did manage to be able to go back to the school at the University of Pittsburgh, this time focusing on studying economics. While at the university, he became involved with a Cap and Gown Club that would stage comedic musical productions on campus. He enjoyed being a part of these stage productions and even after graduating in 1933 with a degree in economics, Kelly remained active with this club.
Kelly decided to enroll himself at law school at the University of Pittsburgh Law School and at the same time he remained on the board of directors for the Cal and Gown Club. His family also decided to start a dance studio in Pittsburgh and they named in the Gene Kelly Studio of dance. Kelly would work as an instructor at this school and another one his parents opened while continuing his studies at law School.
In 1937, Kelly decided he really wanted to pursue his own career in dance and so he dropped out of law school and moved to New York City. After no such luck in his search for work, he returned to Pittsburgh to work as a choreographer for a musical revue, "Hold Your Hats" (1938). He finally got a chance at his first Broadway assignment in 1938 on, "Leave It to Me" followed by a role on Broadway in, "The Time of Your Life" (1939) in which he was able to dance his own choreography. It was his leading role in, "Rodgers and Hart's" (1940) that was his ticket to stardom.
It was from this point on that Hollywood became interested in Kelly and he eventually signed with David O. Selznick in 1941. Kelly's first motion picture was actually with MGM for, "For Me and My Gal" (1942) alongside Judy Garland and George Murphy. Next followed roles in, "Pilot #5", "Du Barry Was a Lady" starring Lucille Ball and Red Skelton and "Thousands Cheer" (all 1943) starring with Kathryn Grayson and Mary Astor, where he got to dance his own choreography on the big screen.
In 1944, MGM loaned Kelly to Columbia for a role along side Rita Hayworth in, "Cover Girl" which was a breakthrough role for him. Hollywood was really beginning to take an interest in his career and viewers were highly impressed with how each time he danced and performed he took his artistry to a whole new level.
In his next film with MGM, "Anchors Aweigh" (1945) starring with Kathryn Grayson and Frank Sinatra, he was given free reign on the choreography for his dance routines. This film was reached a decent amount of success for 1945 and Kelly earned his first Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
At the height of his film career, he enlisted in the US Naval Air Service and was stationed in Washington D.C. where he would write and direct various documentaries. It was this experience that got him interested in a different side of the industry working as a producer in film making.
Upon his return to Hollywood he worked on a couple more films such as, "Living in a Big Way" (1946) with Phyllis Thaxter and Spring Byington, "The Three Musketeers" (1948) starring alongside Lana Turner, Van Heflin, June Allyson, Vincent Price, Angela Lansbury, John Sutton and Gig Young and "The Pirate" (1948) with Judy Garland again. He also partnered with Frank Sinatra for his third and final time on, "On the Town" (1949).
Kelly then took on the leading acting role in, "The Black Hand" (1949) followed by two musicals which secured Kelly as a majore figure in the American Musical film, "An American in Paris" (1951) co-starring Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant and Nina Foch and "Singin' in the Rain" (1952) co-starring Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor and Jean Hagen which is to this day one of the most popular and admired musical films of all times. "An American in Paris" ended up winning six Academy Awards including Best Picture.
In 1951, he made a career choice that ended up having a huge impact on the direction of his career. He agreed to sign a contract with MGM that involved him relocating to Europe for 19 months to use MGM funds frozen in Europe making three pictures which benefited him from tax exemptions. When he did finally return to Hollywood, televisions popularity was making a huge impact on the film industry and musicals inparticular were becoming less desired.
He negotiated ending his contract with MGM but had to fullfill his role in three final pictures first, "It's Always Fair Weather" (1956) starring with Dan Dailey, Cyd Charisse and Dolores Gray, followed by his last film role under his contract with MGM, "Les Girls" (1957) with Mitzi Gaynor and Patrick Macnee. He did one more film where he was involved as coproducer for, "The Happy Road" (1957).
A classic drama "Inherit the Wind" (1960) featuring Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Dick York, Harry Morgan, Claude Akins, Noah Beery Jr. and Donna Anderson in a story about the Scopes 'Monkey Trial' of 1925 regarding the teachings of Charles Darwin.
Kelly now decided that his contract with MGM had come to an end he would return to his love of the stage. He directed a musical play, "Flower Drum Song" (1958) followed by directing a modern ballet for the company, Paris Opera which was a major success. He also worked occasionally in film directing, such as on the production of, "Gigot" starring Jackie Gleason, which turned out to be unsuccessful.
Now trying his hand at television, he worked on the NBC documentary, "Dancing is a Man's Game" (1958) which earned a Emmy nomiation for choreography. Gene also appeared in three different television specials, "New York, New York" (1966), "The Julie Andrews Show" (1965) and "Jack and the Beanstalk" (1967) which he produced and directed. This earned him another Emmy for the show being an Outstanding Children's Program.
Kelly briefly joined Universal Pictures for a two year contract but it was highly unsuccessful and so he then joined 20th Century Fox. Finally, in 1967 he had another hit in, "A Guide For The Married Man" starring Walter Matthau, Sue Ane Langdon, Inger Stevens and Robert Morse. It was this film that got him the opportunity to direct, "Hello Dolly!" (1969) starring Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau and featuring Louis Armstrong singing the theme song, however the film did not earn back the initial financial investment it took to produce the movie.
With his direction of, "The Cheyenne Social Club" (1970) starring James Stewart, Henry Fonda, Sue Ane Langdon and Shirley Jones, he was able to redeem himself as the film did very well financially at the box office. He was very good friends with Fred Astaire and in he had the chance to direct and co star with him in, "That's Entertainment, Part II" (1976).
Kelly's career never slowed down with a role with Olivia Newton-John in, "Xanadu" (1980) followed by worknig as executive producer and co-host on, "That's Dancing" (1985). His final film project was an animated movie titled, "Cats Don't Dance" (1997) where he acted as uncredited choreographic consultant.
His many innovations transformed the Hollywood musical film, and he is credited with almost single-handedly making the ballet form commercially acceptable to film audiences. He was a big supporter of the Democratic Party and always upheald his lifelong passion for sports.
Gene Kelly married three times throughout his lifetime. His first two wives were both dancers whom he met during his career. First to Betsy Blair from September 22nd, 1941 through April 3rd, 1957 and together they had one child, Kerry Kelly. His second marriage was to Jeanne Coyne on August 6th, 1960 and they remained married until May 10th, 1973 when she passed away. They had two children together during their marriage, Bridget and Tim. His third wife was Patricia Ward whom he wed on July 20th, 1990 and they remained together until Gene Kelly passed away on February 2nd, 1996 in Beverly Hills, California from complications from two strokes.
Gene Kelly's body was cremated and he left instructions that no funeral service was to take place. Throughout his career, he received many honors such as an Academy Honorary Award in 1952 for his career achievements up to that point. Gene was also later honored with a lifetime achievement award in the Kennedy Center. The American Film Institute named him the 15th Greatest Male Star of All Time in 1999 and Empire (UK) Magazine ranked him #26 for, "The Top Movie Stars of All Time" in 1997. President Bill Clinton awarded him the National Medal of Arts in 1994 and Entertainment Weekly voted him the 42nd Greatest Movie Star of All Time. The University of Pittburgh inaugurated the Gene Kelly Award in 1991 given to students annually who participate in high school musicals in Pennsylvania.
Gene Kelly will always be remembered for his role in, "Singin' In the Rain", but more importantly then that is his memory that showed for his love for dancing and creating something different each time whether it be a dance routine on stage, film or televison.
1985 North and South
1984 The Love Boat
1979 The Mary Tyler Moore Hour
1977 Viva Knievel!
1976 America Salutes Richard Rodgers: The Sound of His Music
1976 The Dorothy Hamill Special)
1973 40 Carats
1971 The Funny Side
1967 The Young Girls of Rochefort
1967 Jack and the Beanstalk
1964 What a Way to Go!
1962-1963 Going My Way
1960 Inherit the Wind
1958 Marjorie Morningstar
1958 Something for the Girls
1957 Les Girls
1957 The Happy Road
1957 Schlitz Playhouse
1956 Invitation to the Dance
1956 The Magic Lamp
1955 It's Always Fair Weather
1954 Deep in My Heart
1954 Crest of the Wave
1952 The Devil Makes Three
1952 Singin' in the Rain
1951 It's a Big Country
1951 An American in Paris
1950 Summer Stock
1950 Black Hand
1949 On the Town
1949 Take Me Out to the Ball Game
1948 The Three Musketeers
1948 The Pirate
1947 Living in a Big Way
1945 Ziegfeld Follies
1945 Anchors Aweigh
1944 Christmas Holiday
1944 Cover Girl
1943 The Cross of Lorraine
1943 Thousands Cheer
1943 Pilot #5
1943 Du Barry Was a Lady
1942 For Me and My Gal