This Week’s Charming Chap: Gene Kelly
Perhaps one of the most well-known actors of the 20th century, Kelly was equally renowned for being a skilled dancer, athlete, smooth-talking leading man, singer and director.
Kelly was born in Pennsylvania in 1912. At aged eight, his mother enrolled him into dance classes, much to Kelly’s disdain, embarrassment and ridicule from the kids in his neighbourhood. He soon rebelled and refused to continue attending.
After graduating from high school, he enrolled into the University of Pittsburgh to study Journalism, but the throes of the Depression forced him to drop out and seek employment to help support his struggling family. This is when he shrugged off his old resentments about being a dancer and he sought work as a nightclub dancer and frequently entered, and won, talent contests to earn extra money. The next few years he trucked with various forms of further education, including earning an Arts degree and dabbling in Law school, all the while nursing a growing interest in Dance Theatre. By the end of the thirties, he finally committed and moved to New York to become a choreographer.
Soon enough, he had conquered Broadway; both on stage and behind the scenes, earning a reputation as a skilled, yet strong and masculine, dancer. He never had to chase Hollywood; Hollywood chased him and convinced him to sign a contract with MGM.
The early fifties saw his two biggest shining moments: An American in Paris and of course, the classic Singin’ in the Rain. The former awarding him with an honorary Oscar for his contribution to the choreography of the film. The fall of the Musical began to peak in the late fifties, with audiences becoming increasingly bored with the clean and repetitive nature of family-friendly cinema, and so the sixties saw Kelly’s breakthrough in directing, where he helmed various Oscar-winning performers such as Walter Matthau, James Stewart, Jane Fonda, Frank Sinatra and Kelly’s all-time idol, Fred Astaire.
Refusing to ever burn out or fade away, Kelly remained working until the early nineties. His most notable last credit being as a dance consultant on Madonna’s Girlie Show tour. He passed away in his sleep in 1996 at the ripe old age of 83.