Kelly is recalled for his lead character in Singin’ in the Rain, seen by some as the most effective dancing movie ever made.
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Not only did Kelly star in a number of the genre’s most well-known movies, he worked behind the scenes, breaking new ground along with his choreography and direction.
One of five kids, Kelly was born on August 23, 1912, and grew up in a working class neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. While his buddies were playing baseball, he was taking dance lessons. Kelly set his lessons to great use in school, teaching in a nearby studio to help him pay for his schooling. He also performed together with his brother, Fred.
He had small parts in Leave It to Me! starring Mary Martin, plus One For the Cash. In 1940, Kelly played the lead in the most popular musical comedy Pal Joey. MGM executive Louis B. Mayer caught Kelly’s leading performance and offered him a film contract with his studio. In 1942, Kelly made his movie debut opposite Judy Garland in For Me and My Gal.
While he frequently was compared to another well-known movie dancer, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly had his own exceptional fashion. He brought dance into real life in his films, performing mostly in regular clothing as well as in common settings. “All of my dancing emerged from the theory of the common man,” Kelly once described. He also made some of film’s most progressive and passionate dance numbers, pushing the limits of the genre.
He’d sailors performing ballet moves in On the Town (1949), where he starred with Frank Sinatra. Working with director Vincente Minnelli, Kelly continued to take dance on picture into uncharted land with An American in Paris (1951). He choreographed the film, including its groundbreaking ending—a drawn-out ballet sequence.
Kelly starred in among his most renowned pictures the next year. He clarified that his inspiration for the well-known street dance scene was the manner kids want to play in the rain.
As interest in the film musical started to disappear in the 1960s, Kelly turned to television. He starred in two short lived programs—Going My Way, an version of the 1944 Bing Crosby film, and a 1971 variety show called The Funny Side. The kids’s telefilm netted him an Emmy Award. To encourage and maintain the truly amazing movie musicals of yesteryear, Kelly also helped host the documentary That Is Entertainment! in the mid-1970s.
In the 1980s, Kelly mostly pulled away from playing. He frequently appeared as himself on homage specials.
In 1994 as well as in 1995, Kelly endured a number of strokes. He died on February 2, 1996, at his house in Beverly Hills, California. Many Hollywood stars mourned his passing, including his Singin’ in the Rain costar, Debbie Reynolds. “There’ll never be an additional Gene,” she told the press. “I was just 18 when we made that film, as well as the most difficult thing was keeping up with his energy.”
In July 2012, Nyc ‘s Film Society of Lincoln Center hosted a month long program in honor of Kelly, showing almost two dozen of Kelly’s movies.