Posts Tagged ‘gene kelly’

Take Dean Martin, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, Dick Van Dyke and Shirley MacLaine, put them all together in one film, and ask yourself what could possibly go wrong?  Answer: NOTHING!  Nothing is wrong with this film at all!

MacLaine is Louisa May Foster, a rich widow who is sent to see a psychiatrist after trying to give the IRS $200 million.  She tells him all about the four very different men she married (and the one she turned down), all of whom died and left her a fortune.  The stories of each of her marriages, to Edgar Hopper (Van Dyke), Larry Flint (Newman), Rod Anderson (Mitchum) and Pinky Benson (Kelly), as well as her first engagement to Leonard Crawley (Dean Martin), who she turns down in favour of Hopper, are told in flashback, with Louisa imagining each one as a film in a different genre.  Gradually each marriage turns from blissfully happy to sad – for Louisa anyway – as she encourages her husbands to chase their dreams, only to wish they hadn’t done so.

Despite the fact that the film describes four marriages gone wrong and four deaths, it is unquestionably a comedy, as it’s opening sequence makes perfectly clear, showing Louisa descending a pink staircase, wearing a pink dress, ahead of a pink coffin in an entirely pink house.

The story is light and fluffy, and my goodness, how lucky was Shirley MacLaine to be romanced by Martin, Newman, Mitchum and Kelly?!  I can only imagine that she was the envy of many viewers when this film came out!  She looks beautiful herself, and also does a rather lovely song and dance number with Gene Kelly, which was a joy to watch.

It looks sumptuous too, with MacLaine wearing a series of increasingly outlandish outfits, and lots of colour throughout.  There are lots of truly funny moments, and I burst out laughing several times, even having to rewind the film occasionally because my laughter made me miss a few lines.

Packed with gorgeous stars, and with a frothy, funny storyline, this film has shot straight into my list of top ten favourite movies, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good comedy.

Year of release: 1964

Director: J. Lee Thompson

Producer: Arthur P. Jacobs

Writers: Gwen Davis, Betty Comden, Adolph Green

Main cast: Shirley MacLaine, Dick Van Dyke, Dean Martin, Paul Newman, Robert Mitchum, Gene Kelly, Robert Cummings

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Yet another classic musical from MGM (who I believe made all the best musicals during the 40s and 50s).  Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra team up again for a third time (and just like in Anchors Aweigh, they play sailors on shore leave), and they are  joined by Jules Munshin, as the third member of their trio.  They are a day off in New York, and are determined to see all the sites, and meet some pretty girls.  Pretty soon all of them have fallen for a different girl (played respectively by Vera-Ellen, Betty Garrett and Ann Miller).  Super dance numbers and some great comedic moments ensue.

I loved this film – like other musicals of its day, it is happy and funny, and leaves you with a huge smile on your face.  Naturally, there are some fantastic dance sequences, mainly courtesy of Kelly, Vera-Ellen and Ann Miller (whose tap dance in the museum is simply wonderful).  You kind of always know where the story is going, but the journey there is a great deal of fun.  There’s some snappy dialogue, and Kelly, Sinatra and Munshin all delight (Munshin was far funnier than I expected him to be, and I loved the scene on the top of the Empire State Building.)

Definitely a film to watch if you need a quick injection of happiness!

Year of release: 1949

Directors: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly

Producers: Arthur Freed, Roger Edens

Writers: Adolph Green, Betty Comden, Jerome Robbins

Main cast: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Vera-Ellen, Ann Miller, Betty Garrett

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This film stars Gene Kelly in a rare dramatic role, and Natalie Wood, who at the time was a rising star. Natalie plays Marjorie Morgenstern (Morningstar is her ‘stage name’ which she uses later on in the film), a young and somewhat naive young woman, who falls in love with Noel Airman (Kelly), a man wo works at a summer camp every year, writing and directing the stage play, but who has dreams of seeing his own show on Broadway. Although her love is returned, Noel first refuses to make any sort of commitment to Marjorie, because she is just one of many women who fall for him every summer. He does subsequently realise his own feelings for her, but while her star is on the rise, his career is stagnant; he is unable to commit to anything, not just relationships, and their love causes pain and anguish to both of them.

It’s unusual to see Gene Kelly playing against type here. Noel was not an altogether sympathetic character, but I did recognise bits of him – we all know people who are lots of fun to be around, but don’t have the self-discipline to see anything through. (It should be noted that while I have posted a clip from the film which shows Kelly dancing, this movie is not a musical.) Anyway, Kelly does a good job in this role – I have always loved to see his magic feet, but film such as this show that he had a talent for serious acting too.

Natalie Wood is just beautiful as Marjorie – it’s hardly surprising that two men fall deeply in love with her in this film! She plays the part really well too, and I liked the character a lot. The development from an 18 year old girl into a confident young woman was believeable. Her parents, played by the always excellent Claire Trevor and Everett Sloane, were also great. Indeed, Sloane had one of the most touching scenes in the film as he stares out of the window looking at people skating in Central Park, and remembers his youth.

It’s quite a tearjerker this one – I found myself crying a couple of times during the film – not so much at the pain of the relationship between the two lead characters, but more because the ending was so inevitable (but I’m not giving it away). It’s a film I’d definitely like to see again, and it’s well worth watching, especially if you are a fan of either of the two main characters.

Year of release: 1958

Director: Irving Rapper

Producer: Milton Sperling

Writers: Herman Wouk (book), Everett Freeman

Main cast: Gene Kelly, Natalie Wood, Claire Trevor, Everett Sloane, Martin Milner, Carolyn Jones, Ed Wynn

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This film was made in 1969, some time after the golden age for Hollywood Musicals,  However, Hello Dolly is reminiscent of the flamboyant, feel-good, funny musicals of the 40s and 50s.  Barbra Streisand (too young for the role, but she gives it all she’s got) plays widow Dolly Levi, who makes a living by – among other things – running a matchmaker service of sorts.  She is determined to marry the rich but dour Horace Vandergelder (Walter Matthau), but he has decided to propose to Irene Malloy – a woman Dolly introduced him to.   While attempting to ensure that Horace and Irene don’t get together, Dolly also gets involved with the love lives of two naive young men who work at Vandergelder’s store.

This film was problematic in many ways for the producers, and director Gene Kelly – not least because Walter Matthau detested Barbra Streisand, thought she had no talent, and refused to talk to her at all unless the script called for  it (he also stopped speaking to co-star Michael Crawford during the filming, after Crawford placed a bet on a horse named Hello Dolly – which won its race – because the name of the horse reminded Matthau of Streisand).  No doubt there were some tensions on set, but fortunately it does not come through on the screen.

The film might be slightly over-long, with a lot of story to pack in, but it is still a joy from start to finish.  Jam-packed with catchy songs, and terrific dancing, it’s full of colour, life and laughter.  Although Streisand clearly IS too young for the role, she still plays the part well, and makes Dolly a thoroughly loveable woman.  The character could have been irritating, but Streisand allows Dolly’s love for life, and desire for happiness shine through – as well as her vulnerabilities.

Matthau was fine as the grumpy Vandergelder; I do think plenty of other people could have played the part equally as well, or possibly even better, but nonetheless Matthau’s portrayal really made me smile.

The supporting actors, particularly Marianne MacAndrew, and a young Michael Crawford, all play their parts well, and their stories are a worthwhile part of the film.

Admittedly, the film isn’t perfect; the running time of almost two and a half hours is a lot for a musical, although there is a story being told here as well.  Unlike many musicals where the plot is just there as a way of stringing the song and dance numbers together, this film would work without the musical aspects – and indeed is adapted from a non-musical play, which in turn was adapted from Thornton Wilder’s story ‘The Matchmaker’.  Also, some of the cast tend to over-act, although this is not uncommon in musical comedies.

However, what the film lacks in precision, it makes up for in enthusiasm and laughter.  This film left me with a warm happy feeling, and is perfect entertainment if you like lovely songs and lots of laughs.

Year of release: 1969

Director: Gene Kelly

Producers: Roger Edens, Ernest Lehman

Writers: Thornton Wilder (book), Michael Stewart (book of stage play), Ernest Lehman, Johann Nestroy

Main cast: Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau, Michael Crawford, Marianne McAndrew, Danny Lockin, E.J. Peaker

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Gene Kelly was in the process of writing his autobiography, but sadly died at the age of 83, in 1996, before completing it.  His widow Patricia Ward Kelly is said to be writing a book about her late husband’s life, but I’ve just about given up hope of it ever appearing.  Until such time as it does however, there are a few biographies of Gene available, and this book by Clive Hirschhorn is widely regarded to be the best in its field.  It is certainly the first place I would direct anyone wanting to know more about Gene Kelly.

There is a mistake right at the beginning of the book however; Hirschhorn gives Gene’s date of birth as 3rd August, when it was in fact 23rd August.  This seems like such an easy thing to have checked that I cannot help but wonder if this was a typo that somehow escaped correction!  I feel obliged to mention it however, because anyone starting the book may wonder if it is going to be filled with other errors – happily, it isn’t.

The book gives a good account of Gene’s childhood, with his strict but happy family life, including the dance lessons which his mother insisted all of her five children take, and the dance school which Gene started, together with other members of his family.  It then describes his move to New York, where he found success on Broadway, and then his film career, starting in the early 40s, when he made his first film ‘For Me and My Gal’, starring opposite Judy Garland.

Overall, the description of Gene’s career is comprehensive, and mentions the high and low points of his career, which not only consisted of dancing, acting and singing, but also directing, producing and choreographing (yes, Gene Kelly was truly deserving of the description ‘multi-talented’).

The book also gives a detailed but respectful account of Gene’s personal life, including his first marriage to Betsy Blair with whom he had a daughter, Kerry, and which marriage ended in amicable divorce; and his second marriage to Jeanne Coyne, with whom he had a son and a daughter, Timothy and Bridget.  This marriage ended in tragedy, when Jeanne died of leukemia in 1973.

Gene himself was interviewed for this book, and there are many, many quotes from him, as well as people he worked with, and members of his family (predominantly Kerry).  The book is interesting, and well written; my interest was held throughout, and although I am a big fan of Gene Kelly, I found out a few things which were previously unknown to me.  Hirschhorn seems to have great respect for his subject, but is still able to be objective.  As well as the many films which Gene starred in, I also found the accounts of his work as a director to be very interesting (in particular, his work on the film Hello Dolly!, which must have been in difficult circumstances, considering that the two main stars, Barbra Streisand and Walter Matthau, could barely stand the sight of each other!)  I would have liked to have seen more about Gene’s involvement with liberal politics, and his business relationship with Stanley Donen (which unfortunately ended in a falling out, but while the two men worked together, they certainly produced some amazing films).

Overall, Gene Kelly comes over as I have always imagined him to be; determined, hard-working (in the extreme), a perfectionist, but a very kind, unfailingly honest man, with a strong sense of right and wrong, and a very deep love for his family.

Sadly, as this book was written in the 1970s, it does not cover any of the last 20 years of it’s subject’s life, which is a shame.  It is however, worth mentioning the lovely foreward, written by Gene’s friend Frank Sinatra.  It is a lovely start to the book, and a nice tribute to Gene Kelly. 

Overall, if you are interested in reading about Gene Kelly, or his work, I would certainly recommend this biography.

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In 1990, 10-year-old Aubrey Adderley’s mother takes Aubrey to an autograph signing by Hollywood Legend Gene Kelly.  She is slightly surprised by his reaction to her, but puts it out of her mind.  As she grows up however, she becomes an adoring fan of Mr Kelly.

In 2006, while housesitting for the parents of a friend, she discovers a time machine in the father’s office.  With the help of the machine and her best friend Rusty, Aubrey travels back and meets Gene at  three very different times in his life.  She starts to fall for the man behind the movie legend she has always adored, but Aubrey belongs in 2006.  Can two people from different times ever find happiness together?

I’m in two minds about this book.  There were both good and bad parts; the main good point being that the author is clearly a big fan of Gene Kelly and her passion for her subject comes through well (as I am also a big fan of Gene, I can fully appreciate this).

However, it sometimes reads as though the story is author’s own daydreams about a favourite film star, and that the time-travel element has been thrown in as a plot device to allow her to meet him.  Although fantasy fiction always requires the reader to suspend their disbelief, I found it hard to do here.  (It seemed that most of the characters who knew about the time-traveling accepted it with little difficulty – and also worked out how the machine worked, with relative ease.)

Aubrey herself was actually a very likeable main character, feisty, impulsive, loyal and sweet, and she was well described.  I also liked Rusty, and of course Gene himself, who is portrayed as the kind, honest and funny man which I like to think that he was in real life.

There were a couple of elements which jarred slightly.  The main problem was more to do with editing than the story itself.  I don’t mind the odd spelling mistake in a book, but there were quite a few spelling and grammar mistakes here (and at one point Aubrey puts a skirt on, only to raise her pant leg a short time later, in the same scene). It shouldn’t reduce anyone’s enjoyment of the story however.  My main objection to the story though (and there are spoilers here, so you may not wish to read on if you’re thinking of reading this book), is that I found it slightly disrespectful to Gene’s extremely happy marriage.  A fair proportion of the story takes place in 1957, which was after the amicable ending of Gene’s marriage to Betsy Blair, and prior to his extremely happy marriage to Jeanne Coyne – which was cut tragically short by Coyne’s death at the age of 50.  Although I am certain that this was not the author’s intention, the book kind of gives the impression that throughout his marriage to Coyne, at least part of Gene’s heart lay with Aubrey, and this made me slightly uncomfortable.

Overall however, this was a fairly enjoyable book, and worth reading if you’re a Gene Kelly fan (I kept hearing his voice in my head whenever his character spoke).  It’s flawed, but enjoyable, and if Charlotte Sadler writes any more books, I would be tempted to pick them up.

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Singin’ In The Rain is one of Hollywood’s best loved films.  The American Film Industry named it the Best Musical Film of all time.  They also listed it as the fifth best film of any genre of all time, and it came the top 20 films of both their lists of romantic movies, and comedy movies.  More importantly, it is loved by film fans all over the world, even almost 60 years after it was released.

This book tells the story of how the film was created, beginning right at the genesis of the project, when screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green were asked to write a musical using MGMs back catalogue of Freed/Brown songs.  All they knew was that it was to be called ‘Singin’ In The Rain’; they had no guidance regarding what the storyline should be about.  The book describes the writing process, and then goes on to describe how all the main players in the cast came on board, providing short but detailed biographies of the main cast.

There are detailed descriptions of the various problems encountered by the cast and crew during filming, and also of the personal relationships between the people involved in the film.  It also gives details of how the dances were worked out, how the sets were created, and how the characters were developed.  (And finds time to debunk a few myths – for example, despite popular reports that milk was used instead of water for the title dance, this is not true.)

Finally the book describes the impact which the film had on the cast and crew, the critics, and the viewing public, and discusses its enduring appeal (giving details of life after the film for the main cast).

This book is jam-packed with details and facts, but it is all presented in a very readable and engaging style.  It’s clear that the authors love their subject (and indeed, who doesn’t?!), and have carried out exhaustive research for this book.

Above all, it is a fitting tribute to a wonderful film, and is definitely recommended for fans of the film, or anyone interested in how movies were made.  And I guarantee that when you’ve finished it, you will want to get the film out and watch it!


Click here for my review of the 1952 film.

Click here for my review of the 2012 (started) West End Theatre production.



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This 1948 MGM musical teamed up Gene Kelly and Judy Garland, who had displayed such on-screen chemistry in For Me And My Gal (and who went on to work together again).  The pairing certainly worked – perhaps never better than in this film.

Garland is Manuela, a young Spanish girl, whose hand in marriage her family have promised to Don Pedro, the mayor of their small town.  However, Manula has always dreamed about infamous pirate Macoco.  When Serafin (Gene Kelly) arrives in town with his travelling stage show, he meets and falls for Manuela, and pretends that he is in fact Macoco, in order to win her affection.

This film is flamboyant, colourful and in many ways, completely over-the-top – and it is incredible fun to watch.  The stars themselves seem to revel in their roles; they’re melodramatic and intense, and it just works so well.  I was laughing all the way through – the funniest scene for me was when Manuela and Serafin have an argument – the action is terrific and hilarious.

Many people say this was Gene Kelly’s sexiest role – and he certainly makes the most of it.  His tight fitting outfits show off his amazing physique, and at one part he wears some short shorts which (excuse me being shallow for a moment) really show off his incredible thighs!  Additionally, Kelly does an amazing pole dance – yes, you read that right – near the beginning of the film.   There are plenty of other fine dance numbers including Kelly’s dance with the Nicholas brothers, and Kelly and Garland performing Be A Clown; and a terrific Cole Porter score (Judy performing ‘Mack The Black’ is a real treat).

This is a real treat to watch – definitely recommended!

Year of release: 1948

Director: Vincente Minnelli

Writers: Albert Hackett, Frances Goodrich, S.N. Behrman, Joseph Than

Main cast: Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Gladys Cooper, Walter Slezak

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This 1942 musical is set during the popular vaudeville era, and follows the fortune of performers in the lead up to World War I.  It is notable for being the big-screen debut of Gene Kelly as Harry Palmer (co-star Judy Garland lobbied for Kelly to have the male lead role, after seeing him on Broadway in Pal Joey.  Originally Kelly was meant to play the supporting role of Jimmy Metcalfe; George Murphy was originally supposed to play Palmer).

Palmer is a solo dancer and comedian in vaudeville shows, with dreams of making the big time and playing The Palace in New York.  Jo Hayden (Garland) is a dancer in Jimmy Metcalfe’s act, and also the object of Metcalfe’s unrequited desire.  When Palmer persuades Jo to join him in a double act, Metcalfe doesn’t stand in her way.  However, Jo starts to fall in love with Harry, which is complicated by his friendship with singer Eve Minard.  When Harry takes action to avoid being drafted for war, Jo is angry and disappointed.  Will love prevail….?

I really enjoyed this musical, although it does not follow the format of many of the other musicals released by MGM.  The songs are delightful (although there are no original songs here; they are all songs which were popular in the era).  Also, the song and dance routines only take place in the context of stage performances, whereas in most musicals, they form part of the storyline itself.  This doesn’t detract from the enjoyment however; there are some lovely dances, particularly where Kelly and Garland perform Me and My Gal in a cafe.  Kelly’s ‘tramp dance’ near to the beginning of the film is also a delight.  Considering this was his movie debt, Kelly is very assured in his role, and displays the incredible charisma and talent which would turn him into a major star.  Harry Palmer is, in all honesty, not the nicest character – but he certainly isn’t all bad, and redemption is a major theme here.

Judy Garland is as wonderful as ever as Jo Hayden.  She and Kelly have real chemistry together, and it’s no surprise that they went on to make more musicals together.  They bounce off each other perfectly, and are a terrific on-screen partnership.

This is less comedic than many musicals, with a storyline containing human emotion and drama (and some very touching moments, which could move a viewer to tears).  The film came out during World War II, and it’s fair to say that the movie could be seen as a slice of wartime propoganda, to boost the public support for the war.  However, it doesn’t labour the point, and it never stops being entertaining.

Definitely worth seeing, for the sparkling on screen partnership between the two leads, and also for seeing a Hollywood legend right at the start of his film career.

Year of release: 1942

Director: Busby Berkeley

Writers: Howard Emmett Rogers, Richard Sherman, Fred F. Finklehoffe, Sid Silvers

Main cast: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, George Murphy

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Les Girls is a 1957 musical starring Gene Kelly, Kay Kendall, Mitzi Gaynor and Taina Elg.  Sybil Wren (Kendall) has written a tell-all book about her time spent in the touring dance troupe Les Girls, which is run by Barry Nicholls (Kelly).  In the book, Sybil says that one of the other dancers, Angele (Elg) tried to commit suicide after an affair with Barry ended.  However, Angele says that this is incorrect and that it was actually Sybil herself who had the affair with Barry and who subsequently tried to kill herself.  The case has come to court and both ladies in turn present their side of the story which is told in flashback from their respective points of view.  Finally, Barry himself takes the stand and tells of events through his eyes…

This was Gene Kelly’s last film under his contract with MGM, and it was a great ending to a truly incredible partnership.  It’s true that there are probably fewer song/dance numbers in this one than in some of the other Kelly/MGM movies.  But the songs, courtesy of Cole Porter, are great (perhaps not Porter’s best, but still hugely enjoyable), and the dancing as ever is simply a joy to watch.  My favourite dance was the Kelly/Gaynor number ‘Why Am I So Gone About That Gal?’  I also really liked the Kelly/Kendall dance to ‘You’re Just Too Too’.

I am aware that the plot device of telling the same story from three very different points of view did not work for some viewers, but I really liked it – people do have different perceptions of the same events, and that point is illustrated beautifully here.  There is plenty of scope for humour (Kay Kendall is simply hilarious in the second ‘segment’), and Kelly as ever is graceful, manly and oh-so-charismatic.  Mitzi Gaynor looks stunning in what is for most of the film, a supporting role, but she comes into her own towards the end.

Overall, it may not be my favourite Gene Kelly film (they can’t all be my favourite after all!), but it was a very enjoyable couple of hours, and I would certainly recommend it to fans of any of the stars, or musicals and/or comedy.

(Sadly Kay Kendall died just two years after making this film; her performance here serves as a reminder of the talent that was lost tragically early.)

Year of release: 1957

Director: George Cukor

Writers: John Patrick, Vera Caspary

Main cast: Gene Kelly, Kay Kendall, Mitzi Gaynor

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