Wednesday, August 1, 2012


The month of August marks the 100 anniversary of Gene Kelly's birth. It seems like only yesterday he was dancing with Judy Garland or performing an intricate number on roller skates or a cartoon mouse. Luckily Gene Kelly left his mark in countless great musicals that we can watch over and over again. Here are my five personal favorite Gene Kelly musicals...

5. SUMMER STOCK (1950)
This is often an overlooked Gene Kelly musical. The movie is best remembered as the last movie that Judy Garland did at MGM. Her weight throughout the movie radically changed, but Kelly has some appealing dance numbers. I think one of his most energetic dances of all time was the dance to "Dig Brother Dig". This movie also marked the third and final time Kelly and Judy would appear together on film. It is an amazing example of his talent.

At first I wasn't even going to put Singin In The Rain on my list. Sure, I love the movie, but is it my favorite musical - no. I think the number that puts this beloved Kelly musical over the top for me was the "Broadway Dance Ballet" Kelly did with Cyd Charisse. I like the title number Kelly did in the rain, but I have seen it so much. I think the "Moses" number with his co star Donald O' Connor is truly great. Still though, the image of Kelly dancing in the rain with his umbrella is one of the most memorable cinema moments.

3. ON THE TOWN (1949)
This was one of the first Gene Kelly movies I saw back when I was starting to watch classic movies when VHS or even Beta first came out. Gene was of course great in the movie, but On The Town's appeal to me is the cast as a whole - Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, Ann Miller, Vera-Ellen, and Betty Garrett was like a dream team of musical greats. My favorite number is Ann Miller's "Prehistoric Man", but Kelly took his talents to new heights in this movie with some pretty tricky choreography.

2. FOR ME AND MY GAL (1942)
Watching Gene Kelly in this movie, it is amazing it is his first film. He really had a commanding presence on the screen. This was the first movie he was paired with Judy Garland in, and they made a great team. From the title number to their terrific performance of "Ballin The Jack" they really looked like they were having fun together. For Kelly's first movie he did not really play a nice guy but in the end his character grew. It really was an amazing performance for Kelly just starting out. All of the songs were old even by 1942's standards, but Kelly and Judy brought new life to all of them.

1. BRIGADOON (1954)
My stepfather, who is a 6ft 4in hunter, introduced me to Brigadoon when I was younger. The movie did not do well when it first came out, but I think since then the film has gotten more recognition. Kelly himself was disappointed with the movie because he wanted to film the musical on location in Scotland. MGM refused and shot the entire film on the backlot. One of my favorite numbers was "Almost Like Being In Love", and Kelly's version of the song is another memorable musical moment. Cyd Charisse and Van Johnson also are perfect in their roles as his love interest and his best friend respectively. The movie was one of the last of the great MGM musicals made, but Brigadoon is another example of why 100 years after his birth, Gene Kelly is still remembered...


  1. What a great list. I have only seen "Brigadoon" once, and your post has put me in the mood for a re-watch.

    While it seems that most people's (though not yours) favorite Gene Kelly film is "Singin' in the Rain," my favorite is "Cover Girl." Besides completely adoring Rita Hayworth, that film features my all-time favorite Gene Kelly dance scene---the one in which he dances with his reflection.

    Thanks for a charming post.

  2. I love Gene and it really depends on my mood on who I lean more towards (Gene or Fred Astaire). I've seen four out of five of these films that you listed, and that one is Brigadoon. It's been on my list forever to see and to buy, so I think I'll be doing that pretty soon.

  3. I was always been interested in the story of Gene Kelly and Judy Garland's friendly relationship. Apparently Judy was most supportive of, and generous to, Gene in his first MGM film - "For Me And My Girl"; conversely, when Judy was having extreme difficulity with her health and film career in what was to be her final performance in an MGM production, Gene was there to offer her, his patience,( a commodity he was not noted for), and great support.

    Their fondness and respect for one another is evident in all of their films together. While "The Pirate" was not the initial success that was hoped it would be, it is obvious that they both enjoyed working together.

    I would have to nominate "Summer Stock" as my favourite of their joint efforts.

  4. Singing in the rain is the number one on my list. Wheno it rain my daughter and I went out and dance and danced in the rain

  5. I watched "The Pirate last night and Kelly is wonderful in the title role.
    Plus he is amazingly sexy in some gorgeous (and one skimpy) costume.
    If Kelly is a heartthrob for you, "The Pirate" is a must.

    1. Nina (from The Pirate) and Slaughter on 10th Avenue (from Words and Music) show Gene Kelly at his most sensually, sexually charismatic. That man just exuded sexual magnetism. I love The Pirate for its witty, sophisticated humor. It may be my favorite of his films for the sheer pleasure of its humor.

  6. Some of Gene Kelly's most dazzling choreographic works are rarely seen. For sheer sexual, sensual power, his work in "The Pirate" (a wonderfully witty movie) and "Words and Music" (unfortunately one is forced to slog through nearly the entire dreary film until the end when he and Vera Ellen dance Slaughter on 10th Avenue) cannot be topped. Droolingly delicious! But two of his choreographic masterpieces are in "Living in a Big Way", which Gene himself lamented were some of his best work that rarely get seen. (Can one hope that an old film could be re-edited so that the completely emotionally dishonest, contrived and saccharine resolution that has the narcissistic, unappealing Marie MacDonald transforming into the dutiful, good little wife at the end be re-cut to have her end up exactly where she truly would have--choosing her rich, privileged life over her mistake-marriage to the working class, gorgeous Gene? Oh, that such a re-edit could be done!)
    Two of dances Gene does in "Living in a Big Way" are what is often referred to as The Fido dance, in which he dances several different styles of dance within this one choreographic masterpiece, and the "girls games" dance in which he takes several children's game songs and turns them into a breathtaking tour de force of physical prowess and grace. Both of these dances need to be seen in their entirety, from the set-up of each on through to their conclusion. Unfortunately, if you search for them through the usual venues, they are always truncated versions. Both of these dances are as cleaver and inventive as the newspaper/loose floor board dance of "Summer Stock" (another astonishing, wonderful dance of Gene's). Really, one has to ask: Was Gene Kelly even capable of doing any choreography that wasn't astonishing and wonderful? This man was one of the most important people of the 20th century, an iconoclast who so aggressively broke down cultural barriers that have come to permeate human perception people don't realize it started with Gene Kelly. History will bear this out. He challenged the patriarchal structure and its ridiculous delineations of Maleness. He paved the way for not only how dance has evolved, but also how assumptions of Maleness have evolved.
    In addition, he was one of the most decent, disciplined, loving, and good people to have come out of that toxic super-fund site, Hollywood. It speaks volumes about his essential character.
    There is a song from "The Pirate" that Judy sings to Gene: You Can Do No Wrong.