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. Athletic and energetic, Kelly was the king of the musicals in the s 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.
Kelly is remembered for his lead role in Singin' in the Rain, regarded by some as the best dance film ever made. One of five children, Kelly was born on August 23, , 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 s, Kelly made his way to the Broadway stage. He had small roles in Leave It to Me! In , 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. While he often was compared to another famous film dancer, Fred Astaire , Kelly had his own unique style.
He brought dance into real life in his movies, performing largely in regular clothes and in common settings. He also produced some of film's most innovative and enthusiastic dance numbers, pushing the limits of the genre. In Anchors Aweigh , 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 , 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 He choreographed the movie, including its groundbreaking finale—a lengthy ballet sequence.
For his efforts on the film, Kelly received an 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.
He explained that his inspiration for the famous dance scene was the way children like to play in the rain. In , he co-starred with Natalie Wood in the romantic drama Marjorie Morningstar. As interest in the movie musical began to fade in the s, Kelly turned to television.
Kelly fared better with the television movie Jack and the Beanstalk , which he directed, produced and starred in. The children's telefilm earned him an Emmy Award. In the s, Kelly largely retreated from acting. He made his last film appearance in the musical fantasy Xanadu with Olivia Newton-John , which proved to be a box-office dud, but a cult classic decades later.
He often appeared as himself on tribute specials. In and in , Kelly suffered a series of strokes. He died on February 2, , at his home in Beverly Hills, California. Many Hollywood stars mourned his passing, including his Singin' in the Rain co-star, Debbie Reynolds.
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Fred Astaire was an American dancer of stage and film who is best known for a number of successful musical comedy films in which he starred with Ginger Rogers. Chris Kelly is best known for making up one half of the rap duo Kris Kross, who had a No. 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.