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Gene Kelly was a dancer whose athletic style transformed the movie musical and did much to change the American public's conception of male dancers.
Gene Kelly - Remembered (2:06)
Gene Kelly - On the Town (2:42)
While filming "Singin' in the Rain," Gene Kelly was ill, his suits were shrinking underneath the hot lights, and he filmed for days in the rain. Despite all of this, he managed to perform one of the most famous scenes in movie history.
Gene Kelly made his mark on Hollywood and, through his work both in front of and behind the camera, transformed the movie musical.
Shooting on location in New York City, Gene Kelly and Frank Sintatra starred in the movie adaption of "On the Town," in which they sang the song "New York, New York, It's a Wonderful Town" while dressed as sailors.
Gene Kelly worked many odd jobs to pay for college and eventually found his way into the dance world. After his brother, Fred, taught him some dance steps, they performed together in a dance troupe.
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Born on August 23, 1912 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gene Kelly was an American film actor and director whose athletic style and classical ballet technique transformed the film musical. He boldly blended solo dancing, mass movement and offbeat camera angles to tell a story in purely visual terms. Kelly is remembered for his lead role in Singin' in the Rain, regarded by some as the best dance film ever made.
"I didn't want to be a dancer. What I really wanted to be was shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Pittsburgh Pirates lost a hell of a shortstop."
Athletic and energetic, Gene Kelly was the king of the musicals in the 1940s and '50s. Not only did Kelly star in some of the genre's most famous films, he worked behind the scenes, breaking new ground with his choreography and direction.
One of five children, Kelly was born on August 23, 1912, and grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While his friends were playing baseball, he was taking dance lessons. Kelly put his lessons to good use in college, teaching at a local studio to help him pay for his education. He also performed with his brother, Fred.
In the late 1930s, Kelly made his way to the Broadway stage. He had small roles in Leave It to Me! starring Mary Martin, and One For the Money. In 1940, Kelly played the lead in the popular musical comedy Pal Joey. MGM executive Louis B. Mayer caught Kelly's stellar performance and offered him a movie contract with his studio. In 1942, Kelly made his film debut opposite Judy Garland in For Me and My Gal.
While he often was compared to another famous film dancer, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly had his own unique style. He brought dance into real life in his movies, performing largely in regular clothes and in common settings. "All of my dancing came out of the idea of the common man," Kelly once explained. He also produced some of film's most innovative and enthusiastic dance numbers, pushing the limits of the genre.
In Anchors Aweigh (1945), Kelly danced a duet with Jerry, a cartoon mouse—a feat that had not been seen before. He had sailors performing ballet moves in On the Town (1949), in which he starred with Frank Sinatra. Working with director Vincente Minnelli, Kelly continued to take dance on film into uncharted territory with An American in Paris (1951). He choreographed the movie, including its groundbreaking finale—a lengthy ballet sequence. For his efforts on the film, Kelly received a honorary Academy Award "in appreciation of his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film."
Kelly starred in one of his most famous films the following year. Accompanied only by an umbrella, Kelly put together one of the most joyous dances ever filmed in Singin' in the Rain (1952). He explained that his inspiration for the famous street dance scene was the way children like to play in the rain.
As interest in the movie musical began to fade in the 1960s, Kelly turned to television.
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