Edit
Gene Kelly Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4) | Mini Bio (1) | Spouse (3) | Trade Mark (1) | Trivia (44) | Personal Quotes (18)

Overview (4)

Date of Birth 23 August 1912Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
Date of Death 2 February 1996Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California, USA  (complications from two strokes)
Birth NameEugene Curran Kelly
Height 5' 8" (1.73 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Eugene Curran Kelly was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the third son of Harriet Catherine (Curran) and James Patrick Joseph Kelly, a phonograph salesman. His father was of Irish descent and his mother was of Irish and German ancestry.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 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 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was For Me and My Gal (1942) with Judy Garland. What kept Kelly in Hollywood were "the kindred creative spirits" he found behind the scenes at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 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.

Gene Kelly died at age 83 of complications from two strokes on February 2, 1996 in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Dale O'Connor <daleoc@worldnet.att.net>

Spouse (3)

Patricia Ward Kelly (20 July 1990 - 2 February 1996) (his death)
Jeanne Coyne (6 August 1960 - 10 May 1973) (her death) (2 children)
Betsy Blair (22 September 1941 - 3 April 1957) (divorced) (1 child)

Trade Mark (1)

Known for his innovative, athletic style of dancing

Trivia (44)

During World War II, he was a sailor stationed at the United States Naval Photographic Center in Anacostia, D.C. (where the documentary Victory at Sea (1952) was later assembled for NBC-TV). He starred in several Navy films while on active duty there and in "civilian" films while on leave.
Attended Peabody High School in the East Liberty section of Pittsburgh, PA.
In October 1997 he was ranked #26 in Empire (UK) magazine's "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time" list.
Inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame in 1992.
Kelly's father was Al Jolson's road manager in the 1920s.
Had three children: Kerry Kelly, with Betsy Blair, in 1942, and Bridget Kelly and Tim Kelly, with Jeanne Coyne, in the 1960s.
Was dance consultant for Madonna's 1993 "Girlie Show" tour.
Attended Penn State University before transferring to University of Pittsburgh, where he graduated.
His first two wives were dancers. Betsy Blair met him while she was a performer and he a choreographer in the show "Diamond Horseshoe". Second wife Jeanne Coyne was Gene's dancing assistant for many years before they married in 1960. A major talent in her own right, her dazzling footwork can be seen in the "From This Moment On" number alongside partner Bobby Van, Ann Miller, Tommy Rall, Carol Haney and Bob Fosse in Kiss Me Kate (1953) (1953). She died of leukemia in 1973.
He and his younger brother Fred Kelly appeared together in a dancing vaudeville act. When Gene got his big break as Harry the hoofer in the dramatic Broadway production of "The Time of Your Life" in 1939, he was eventually replaced by brother Fred, who took it on the road and won a Donaldson award for his efforts.
Working on an autobiography at the time of his death.
Graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in economics.
Kennedy Center Honoree, 1982
A stage version of "Singin' in the Rain" was awarded the Laurence Olivier Theatre Award in 2001 for Outstanding Musical Production, with choreography by Kelly.
Martial arts stars Jackie Chan and David Carradine both cite him as an influence.
Awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton in 1994.
Biography in: John Wakeman, editor. "World Film Directors, Volume Two, 1945-1985". Pages 510-515. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1988.
He was voted the 42nd Greatest Movie Star of all time by Entertainment Weekly.
Was named the #15 greatest actor on The 50 Greatest Screen Legends list by the American Film Institute
Is one of the many movie stars mentioned in Madonna's song "Vogue"
Biography in: "American National Biography". Supplement 1, pp. 309-312. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.
Member of the jury at the Cannes Film Festival in 1959
Ray Bradbury's novel "Something Wicked This Way Comes" was dedicated to Kelly.
Has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6153 Hollywood Blvd.
His last movie musical was Xanadu (1980) co-starring Olivia Newton-John.
Had a fever of 103 degrees while filming the famous rain scene in Singin' in the Rain (1952).
Producer David O. Selznick signed Kelly to his first Hollywood contract after seeing him star in "Pal Joey" 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.
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 him backstage and offered to sign him to MGM without a screen test. When Kelly later received a call from an 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. Kelly 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 he brought it up in an argument one evening.
Tony Martin, the husband of MGM star/dancer Cyd Charisse, said he could tell who she had been dancing with that day on an MGM set. If she came home covered with bruises on her, it was the very physically-demanding Gene Kelly, if not it was the smooth and agile Fred Astaire.
Was originally set to star as Don Hewes alongside Judy Garland in Easter Parade (1948). However, before filming began he broke his leg, resulting in Fred Astaire coming out of retirement to replace him.
Bob Fosse originally wanted him for a lead role in a musical film adaptation of the Maurine Dallas Watkins play "Chicago" around the early 1970s. He eventually gave up the choice, and Fosse opted to do a stage musical instead.
His death is mentioned in the Dream Theater song "Take Away My Pain" from their album "Falling into Infinity" released in 1997 with the lyric "he said look at poor Gene Kelly, I guess he won't be singing in the rain".
Joined the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity while studying at the University of Pittsburgh.
He was a lifelong staunch liberal Democrat.
Was a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
His father was of Irish descent and his mother was of half Irish and half German ancestry.
Jeanne Coyne, Kelly's second wife, was previously married to his show-business partner Stanley Donen.
Inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2014.
His trademark scar on the left side of his face was the result of a bike accident when Gene was 5 years old, which required stitches.
He named A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1945) as his favorite film for the AFI.
In order to secure the film rights to the hit musical "Best Foot Forward," MGM loaned the services of Gene Kelly to Columbia for one picture. Although it was assumed the studio would mount an adaptation of Kelly's stage hit "Pal Joey," for which they owned the screen rights, they instead co-starred him with their top star, Rita Hayworth, in "Cover Girl." Ironically when they did finally film the property over a decade later with Frank Sinatra, Hayworth again co-starred.
After his death it was reported that he had donated money to the Provisional IRA in the 1970s.
In early 1943 MGM announced he was to appear in the forthcoming production The Human Comedy (1943). The film was eventually made, but he wasn't in it.
Was one of Heath Ledger's idols.

Personal Quotes (18)

[on his working experience with Debbie Reynolds while filming Singin' in the Rain (1952) (1952)] I wasn't nice to Debbie. It's a wonder she still speaks to me.
There was no model for what I tried to do with dance . . . and the thing Fred Astaire and I used to bitch about was that critics didn't know how to categorize us. They called us tap dancers because that was considered the American style. But neither of us were basically tap dancers.
The contract system at Hollywood studios like MGM was a very efficient system in that because we were at the studio all the time we could rehearse a lot. But it also really repressed people. There were no union regulations yet, and we were all indentured servants--you can call us slaves if you want--like ballplayers before free agency. We had seven-year contracts, but every six months the studio could decide to fire you if your picture wasn't a hit. And if you turned down a role, they cut off your salary and simply added the time to your contract.
Kids talk to me and say they want to do musicals again because they've studied the tapes of the old films. We didn't have that. We thought once we had made it, even on film, it was gone except for the archives.
I arrived in Hollywood 20 pounds overweight and as strong as an ox. But if I put on a white tails and tux like [Fred Astaire], I still looked like a truck driver.
If Fred Astaire is the Cary Grant of dance, I'm the Marlon Brando.
I never wanted to be a dancer. It's true! I wanted to be a shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Fred Astaire represented the aristocracy, I represented the proletariat.
There is a strange sort of reasoning in Hollywood that musicals are less worthy of Academy consideration than dramas. It's a form of snobbism, the same sort that perpetuates the idea that drama is more deserving of Awards than comedy.
[on his career] I took it as it came and it happened to be very nice.
[on Fred Astaire] I work bigger. Fred's style is more intimate. I'm very jealous of that when I see him on the small screen. Fred looks so great on TV. I'd love to put on a white tie and tails and look as thin as him and glide as smoothly. But I'm built like a blocking tackle.
[on Judy Garland] The finest all-around performer we ever had in America was Judy Garland. There was no limit to her talent. She was the quickest, brightest person I ever worked with.
[on Ginger Rogers] When Ginger Rogers danced with Fred Astaire, it was the only time in the movies when you looked at the man, not the woman.
I have a lot of George M. Cohan in me--it's an Irish quality, a jaw-jutting, up-on-your-toes cockiness--which is a good quality for a dancer to have.
[on Louis B. Mayer in a segment of That's Entertainment III: Behind the Screen (1994) when other MGM stars were singing Mayer's praises] I didn't like him. He didn't like me. It was mutual.
[on Guys and Dolls (1955) I was born to play Sky Masterson the way [Clark Gable] was born to play Rhett Butler, but those bastards at MGM refused to loan me out.
[on his supposed rivalry with Fred Astaire ] If we had any resentment, it was not with each other but with the journalists who talked about two highly individual dancers as if they were one person. For instance, the sort of wardrobe I wore--blue jeans, sweatshirt, sneakers--Fred would never have been caught dead in. He was always immaculate at rehearsals, while I was always in an old shirt. Fred's steps were small, neat, graceful and intimate where mine were ballet-oriented and athletic. But we were never rivals.
The fact is that [Fred Astaire] and myself were in no way similar, nor even the best male dancers around. There were ballet dancers vastly superior to both of us, but they of course never reached our mass audiences, so Fred and I got the cream of the publicity and naturally we were compared.

See also

Other Works | Publicity Listings | Official Sites | Contact Info

Contribute to This Page