Gene Kelly Overview:

Legendary actor, Gene Kelly, was born Eugene Curran Kelly on Aug 23, 1912 in Pittsburgh, PA. Kelly died at the age of 83 on Feb 2, 1996 in Beverly Hills, Los Angeles and was cremated and his ashes given to family or friend.

Early Life

Gene Kelly was born Eugene Curran Kelly on August 23, 1912 to a blue-collar family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was first introduced to the world of dance as child of eight, when his mother enrolled he and his brother in classes. However, the boys initially resented the decision as they often became involved in fistfights with other neighborhood boys who would label them "sissies" for said dance classes. Needless to say, he and his brother soon quit dance class to participate in "more masculine" physical activities such as hockey, football, and baseball. Kelly would not dance again until he was 15, returning to the activity that would give him worldwide acclaim. After graduating from High School, Kelly was forced to defer his entrance to Pennsylvania State College in order to help his family financially due to the onset of the Great Depression. He worked a series of odd jobs while also entering local talent contests with his brother. The pair would often take home the first place and the cash prize that accompanied it.

In 1931 Kelly began his studies at University of Pittsburgh, majoring in economics. It is here he developed a serious interest in performing, taking part in the Universities' Cap and Gown Club; an organization dedicated to the production of original musical comedies. He remained with the club even after graduating in 1933. During this period, Kelly also opened a dance studio with his family and soon he and his brother were teaching a steady flow of clients. Although Kelly had enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh Law School after completing his undergraduate degree, he dropped out after only two months in favor of teaching dance and to pursue a career in entertainment.

Early Career

Kelly's earliest professional stage work came as a choreographer for the musical revue Hold Your Hats, a Pittsburgh Playhouse Production. He also acted and danced in many of the sketches he choreographed. This success eventually lead him to New York, where he made his Broadway debut as a dancer in the Cole Porter musical comedy, Leave It to Me. Broadway choreographer Robert Alton hired Kelly after being impressed by his talents at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. Alton continued to showcase Kelly's abilities, hiring him to sing, dance, and act in One for the Money. Kelly danced to his own choreography for the first time on Broadway in 1939'sThe Time of Your Life. Later that year he also choreographed the Broadway show Diamond Horseshoe in its entirety. During that production Kelly would also meet and begin to court his first wife, Betsy Blaire. The next year Kelly received his first lead role in Pal Joey with Robert Alton as choreographer. The role made Kelly a star and although the offers from Hollywood came pouring in, Kelly was in no hurry to leave the stage. He finally agreed to head only after his commitment to Pal Joey was complete. In 1941, Kelly signed with David O Selznick. Before heading west, Kelly choreographer the state production of Best Foot Forward.


Upon sis arrival to Hollywood, Kelly was immediately loaned to MGM studio for the Busby Berkeley film For Me and My Gal opposite Judy Garland. The film was a success and, at the behest of producer Arthur Freed, MGM bought the remainder of Gene Kelly's contract. In 1943 he teamed with Lucille Ball and Red Skelton in the musical comedy DuBarry Was a Lady, losing based the stage play. He danced to his own choreography on film for the first time in the ensemble revue Thousand Cheer.  In 1944 Kelly received his breakout role in Columbia Pictures Cover Girl, opposite Rita Hayworth. Columbia Studio head, Harry Cohn, hoped to capitalize on the borrowed star and allowed the young talent an immense amount of freedom in regards to the films choreography. The result was the visually stunning and technically impressive number "mirror image" where Kelly danced with his best partner: himself. The film was smash hit and became one of the most popular musicals during WWII. The film also marked the start of Kelly's partnership with choreographer/director Stanley Donen. For his next film Anchors Away, Kelly was given creative freedom in choreographing the musical numbers and was able to reach new technical heights by dancing with a cartoon mouse, Jerry. He was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. That same year Kelly filmed the musical revue Ziegfeld Follies. In the film he dances opposite fellow dancing juggernaut Fred Astaire for the first and only time on screen. The film would not be released until 1946.

In late 1944 Gene Kelly enlisted in the U.S navy and was commissioned to aid on the production of military shorts and documentaries. This is where he first gained interest in the workings behind the camera. Kelly returned to Hollywood in 1946 with the forgettable Living in a Big Way. In 1948 he teamed with Judy Garland in The Pirate. In 1949 he worked with Frank Sinatra twice, first in Take Me Out to the Ball Game and again in the more successful On the Town. The latter marked Kelly's directional debut, sharing the duties with Donen.  The film made also made history by being the first of its kind to film on location in New York City, rather than on the tightly controlled conditions of the studio back lot. Kelly showed his acting chops in the 1950 crime drama Black Hand. In 1951, He teamed with Judy Garland once more in Summer Stock.

Creative Peak

In 1951 Kelly teamed with noted musical director Vincent Minnelli for the one of the most ambitious movie-musical projects to date, An American in Paris. The film featured an unheard of 18-minute ballot number, beautifully choreographed by Kelly and Donen, demonstrating the artistic heights the film musical could achieve. The film was smash hit, gaining an impressive eight Academy Awards nominations and winning six, including Best Picture. At that same ceremony, Kelly received an honorary Oscar for "his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film." In 1952, Kelly released what is perhaps the most beloved musical of the golden era, Singin' in the Rain. The film, directed by Kelly and Donen, is a hilarious account of silent films transition to talkies.  The film's featured number, Singin' in the Rain has since become one of the most memorable musical numbers ever filmed and has cemented itself into the collective cultural conscious.

Career Decline

After reaching a creative high, Kelly made a series of finical decisions that had some lasting negative effects on his career. After signing a contract with MGM, Kelly traveled to Europe to benefit from tax exemption. He filmed a forgettable German thriller, The Devil Makes Three, in 1952 and worked on personal project Invitation to the Dance that remained unfinished even when released in 1956. It flopped at the box-office. In 1954, Kelly starred in the lavish musical Brigadoon. Although not a complete financial flop, the film did not meet the studios lofty expectations and it became apparent that's Kelly's star had lost some of its luster. After MGM refused to lend Kelly out to other studios for the filmic adoptions of Guys and Dolls and Pal Joey, Kelly negotiated a three-picture exit deal with MGM. In 1956, he and Donen directed It's Always Fair Weather and the next year he released his final musical for MGM, Les Girls. Neither film performed particularly well at the box office. His last picture for MGM was the B-film comedy The Happy Road, allowing Kelly to film in France.

Later career

With musicals on the decline in Hollywood, Kelly made a return to the stage. In 1958 he directed Flower Drum Song and in 1960 became the general administer of the Paris Opera and Opera-Comique. He was the first American to hold such a position. That year he also appeared in the courtroom drama Inherit the Wind. Kelly next explored the medium of television and starred in Going my Way based on the 1944 Bing Crosby film. By the end of 60's, Kelly focused on directing, winning an Emmy for his television adaption of Jack and the Beanstalk. In 1969, he directed the mega hit Hello Dolly! that launched Barbara Streisand into superstardom. Through out the 1970's Kelly continued to make television appearances and direct. In 1973, the two culminated with Kelly directing the Emmy nominated Frank Sinatra special Ol' Blue Eye is Back. In 1974 he offered his voice to That's Entertainment and two years later hosted it's sequel with Fred Astaire. In 1977 he co-starred in daredevil Evel Knielel Viva Knievel! It was a flop. In 1980 he starred along Olivia Newton-John in the musical fantasy Xanadu. The film was massive flop both with critics and at the box office. It has since become a camp cult classic and marked his final musical appearance. Soon after, his health began to go into decline.

Recognition and death

In the 1980's Kelly received many honors and recognition from the entertainment industry. In 1982 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Fifth Annual Kennedy Center Honors and three later he would gain another Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. In 1994, Kelly made his final onscreen appearance with MGM's That's Entertainment III. That year he also received the National Medal of Arts awarded by President Bill Clinton. Soon after the films release, Kelly suffered a series of strokes that left him bed-ridden. On February 2, 1996, Gene Kelly died in his sleep at his Beverly Hills home. He was 83 years old.

(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).



Although Kelly was nominated for one Oscar, he never won a competitive Academy Award. However he won one Honorary Oscar Award in 1951 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.

Academy Awards

YearAwardFilm nameRoleResult
1945Best ActorAnchors Aweigh (1945)Joseph BradyNominated

Academy Awards (Honorary Oscars)

1951Honorary Awardin 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 was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. Gene Kelly's handprints and footprints were 'set in stone' at Grauman's Chinese Theater during imprint ceremony #137 on Nov 24, 1969.

BlogHub Articles:

Review: An American in Paris (1951): ’s Love Letter to France

By 4 Star Film Fan on Jun 15, 2020 From 4 Star Films

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?He?s Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of ? Book Giveaway?via Facebook and this Blog Okay, now it?s time for the?Facebook/Blog?version of our??He?s Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of ??Giveaway Contest! This time we?ll be giving away one copy of the book via Facebook and this blog... Read full article

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Gene Kelly Quotes:

[last lines]
Henry Drummond: You poor slob! You're all alone. When you go to your grave, there won't be anybody to pull the grass up over your head. Nobody to mourn you. Nobody to give a damn. You're all alone.
E. K. Hornbeck: You're wrong, Henry. You'll be there. You're the type. Who else would defend my right to be lonely?

Private Eddie Marsh: They call me "The King of the High Trapeze"

The Viceroy: I must say Macoco, you're very satisfying! The other members of your profession whom I've met officially looked more like bookkeepers than pirates, but you - ooo hooo hooo - you fill the eye.
Serafin: Thank you.

read more quotes from Gene Kelly...

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Gene Kelly Facts
Attended Penn State University before transferring to University of Pittsburgh, where he graduated.

Awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

Working on an autobiography at the time of his death.

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