Thursday, 8 September 2011

Gene Kelly: Genius of the Musical

Watching a documentary last night on the life of Gene Kelly, I was shocked at just how much this legend of the screen achieved. He was not just one of the greatest dancers in the world, but he had his own innovative dance style that transformed the Hollywood musical. We were used to static shots of Fred & Ginger dancing the American Smooth, but Kelly saw that this needed to be changed: the camera had to dance with the dancers.

From his choreography on Anchors Aweigh, Singin' in the Rain and An American in Paris to name a few, he set the screen alight with his new, athletic style of dance that was far from the elegant, top hat 'n' tails Hollywood was used to. YouTube has many of his famous scenes uploaded, including his dances with Jerry Mouse, dances with himself, his epic ballet sequence, and of course, his iconic performance of the song 'Singin' in the Rain'.

Not only was he spellbinding dancing alone, but he had a host of sensational dance partners, from the leggy Cyd Charisse, the multi-talented Judy Garland, and the goddess of love Rita Hayworth. All were worthy partners, and complimented Gene's dancing beautifully, creating some show-stopping sequences.

Gene Kelly won a Special Honorary Oscar in 1952 for his achievements in film, and importantly his success and contribution to choreography in film. Not only that, but Kelly went on to be asked by the Paris Opera House to create his own ballet for the famous theatre- an enormous achievement for any Hollywood star.

In today's films and even in modern music videos, you can see Kelly's influence - he was truly lightyears ahead of his time. What I admire most of all with Kelly, is that he always tried to push the boundaries, not just with dance and directing, but with special effects - think of his double scene in Cover Girl or his number with Jerry Mouse in Anchors Aweigh.

Kelly was an exceptionally talented dancer, choreographer and director. It is such a shame that he died at the time he was working on an autobiography- what a fascinating read that would have been. Please check out his famous dance sequences on YouTube, and most importantly, his films.


  1. Again another fab tribute, and more succintly put than my endless posts! He was a powerhouse and so iconic. You might be interested in his last film Xanadu with Olivia Newton John, even at that mature age he blew everyone out of the water, such a strong force of nature. I would have liked to have read that autobiography too.

  2. What a lovely post. Kelly did have it and could do it all.

    1. Thank you, Sweet Sue (I'm guessing that's a Some Like It Hot reference?). He was unbelievably talented - could watch his films all day! Best wishes, Claudia