83 (passed away Feb. 2nd, 1996)
Aug. 23rd, 1912
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Gene Kelly's Main TV Roles
Main Movie Roles
Guest TV Roles[none found]
M-G-M was the largest and most powerful studio in Hollywood when Gene Kelly arrived in town in 1941. He came direct from the hit 1940 original Broadway production of "Pal Joey" and planned to return to the Broadway stage after making the one film required by his contract. His first picture for M-G-M was For Me and My Gal (1942) with Judy Garland (I). What kept Kelly in Hollywood were "the kindred creative spirits" he found behind the scenes at M-G-M. The talent pool was especially large during World War II, when Hollywood was a refuge for many musicians and others in the performing arts of Europe who were forced to flee the Nazis. After the war, a new generation was coming of age. Those who saw An American in Paris (1951) would try to make real life as romantic as the reel life they saw portrayed in that musical, and the first time they saw Paris, they were seeing again in memory the seventeen-minute ballet sequence set to the title song written by George Gershwin and choreographed by Kelly. The sequence cost a half million dollars (U.S.) to make in 1951 dollars. Another Kelly musical of the era, Singin' in the Rain (1952), was one of the first 25 films selected by the Library of Congress for its National Film Registry. Kelly was in the same league as Fred Astaire, but instead of a top hat and tails Kelly wore work clothes that went with his masculine, athletic dance style.
- He and MGM studio head Louis B Mayer shared a long standing feud stemming from even before Kelly entered the motion picture business. One evening after seeing Gene perform in Pal Joey on Broadway, Mayer met Kelly backstage and offered to sign him to MGM without a screen test. When Kelly later received a call from a MGM representative requesting a screen test he insisted there was some sort of mistake saying he had Mayer's word he did not have to make one and told the rep to ask Mayer himself. When the rep did, he called back days later stating that he did talk to Mayer and that he still had to make a test. Gene was furious and wrote a scathing letter to Mayer for retracting his promise. For the first couple of years he worked for Mayer, Kelly was uncertain that Mayer even read the letter until Louis brought it up in an argument one evening.
- (October 1997) Ranked #26 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list.
- He was awarded the National Medal of Freedom from President 'Bill Clinton (I)' (qv) in 1994.
- He was awarded the American National Medal of the Arts in 1994 by the National Endowment of the Arts in Washington D.C.
- Awarded the National Medal of Arts by President 'Bill Clinton (I)' (qv) in 1994.
- During World War II he was a sailor stationed at the U S Naval Photographic Center in Anacostia, DC (where the documentary _"Victory at Sea" (1952)_ (qv) was later assembled for NBC-TV). He starred in several Navy films while on active duty there and in "civilian" films while on leave.
- Famed producer David O Selznick signed Gene to his first Hollywood contract after seeing him star in "Pal Joey" while on Broadway. Though Gene had had other offers from studios he chose to sign with Selznick mostly because his was the only studio that did not insist on a screen test before signing him. Selznick sold Kelly's contact to MGM before he could find a suitable role for him to appear in.
- 'Ray Bradbury' (qv)'s novel "Something Wicked This Way Comes" was dedicated to Kelly.