FLASH SPECIAL: A Gene Kelly Jamboree
Today, in honor of this week's super-special one night only movie theater re-release of the iconic 1952 movie musical SINGIN' IN THE RAIN on July 12 we will be taking a look at some of the most impressive highlights and most cherished moments from the life and career of famed actor/director/choreographer/producer Gene Kelly.
The Dancing Cavalier
Having had an immeasurable influence on modern dance, many of Gene Kelly's remarkable Broadway and Hollywood achievements also act as landmarks in the entertainment landscape itself, as well - on Broadway, from his debut in the original Broadway productions of Cole Porter's classic LEAVE IT TO ME! accompanying the show's star, Mary Martin, on the Porter chestnut "My Heart Belongs To Daddy", as well as performing his own steps while also acting in William Saroyan's searing Pulitzer Prize-winning drama THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE to his breakout starring role the very next year in the iconic Rodgers & Hart musical PAL JOEY in 1940, through to Kelly's own choreographing of BEST FOOT FORWARD and directing of Rodgers & Hammerstein's FLOWER DRUM SONG in the late 1950s; in Hollywood, from his eye-catching early appearances in FOR ME AND MY GAL, THOUSANDS CHEER, COVER GIRL and ANCHORS AWAY to his very first collaboration with visionary movie musical director Vincente Minnelli on ZIEGFELD FOLLIES (alongside no less than Fred Astaire), whose working relationship would then continue with THE PIRATE with Judy Garland, BRIGADOON with Cyd Charisse and the bold and astonishing AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, which would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture (and many more). Besides Kelly's various filmatic alliances with Minnelli, he is also well-remembered for his magnetic turns in Busby Berkeley's TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME, co-starring Frank Sinatra and Esther Williams, as well as in ON THE TOWN (which he co-directed with Stanley Donen), SUMMER STOCK (once again with Judy Garland), the Sigmund Romberg revue DEEP IN MY HEART, his own repeat directing collaboration with Donen on the star-studded IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER, in addition to his later-career Cole Porter re-match with George Cukor's LES GIRLS, as well as the 1960s Jacques Demy movie musical LES DEMOISELLES DE ROCHEFORT, co-starring Catherine Deneuve. Besides his musical roles, as the sixties began and Kelly entered the later phase of his career, he made a mark on a whole new generation - following his committed dramatic turn in 1960's INHERIT THE WIND and easygoing, lighthearted comedic acting in Cukor's LET'S MAKE LOVE - by making a number of notable television appearances - including his own solo spotlight show, 1965's Gene Kelly: NEW YORK, NEW YORK and 1978's Gene Kelly: AN AMERICAN IN PASADENA, as well as guest spots on THE Julie Andrews SHOW and Frank Sinatra: OL' BLUE EYES IS BACK; not to mention his Emmy Award-winning work in the 1967 children's program JACK AND THE BEANSTALK and his own early 60s dramatic TV series, GOING MY WAY. Memorable appearances in TV's epic miniseries NORTH AND SOUTH and the variety staple THE MUPPET SHOW would follow, but the 1970s and 1980s offered forth two entities in particular for which Kelly would endear himself to an even younger generation of fans, film buffs and Broadway babies alike - by way of acting as one of the many A-list hosts of the three installments in the smash hit retrospective film clip showcase THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT; and, also, by way of sharing the screen with Olivia Newton-John for one final big, brash movie musical foray, the quite indescribable disco roller-skating musical spectacular XANADU. Yet, while all of these roles and many of these stage pieces and feature films have gone on to achieve the utmost classic status amongst both attentive film fans and those a bit more freewheeling, it is Gene Kelly's work in the seminal movie musical masterpiece SINGIN' IN THE RAIN that he will be celebrated for forever, maybe most of all - there simply are few performances as endearing, likeable, ingratiating, impressive and unforgettable. Plus, that title song - and, in particular, how Kelly puts it over?! It is as good as musical comedy gets - anywhere, anytime - and Gene Kelly was, is and always will be one of musical comedy's greatest assets.
Although Gene Kelly may have been nursing a cold and upwards of a 105-degree fever while filming the actual scene itself, the "Singin' In the Rain" sequence in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN remains one of a handful of hallmark movie moments and stands as one of the finest distillments of character, song, scene, story and plot motivation perfectly marrying to create something even more immediate that packs more punch and incites an even more plosive impact with the pieces all coming together, time and time again. So, experience the movie musical moment of moments - as well as the rest of the plethora of pleasures SINGIN' IN THE RAIN has to offer - this Thursday, July 12, at your local Fathom-equipped movie theater in HD before it hits Blu-ray.
More information on SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is available at Fathom's official site here.
Check out the trailer for the Fathom/Turner Classic Movies presentation of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.
As we anticipate Thurday's SINGIN' IN THE RAIN one night only cinematic return - for the first time in glorious HD, by the way - let's gear up in a grand way for the big splash-back to the silver screen by flashing back to Gene Kelly's most top-tier moments.
First up, here is some of the earliest surviving footage of Gene Kelly - or, as his birth name would have it, EuGene Kelly - onstage, with the first two clips in the collection taken from THE CAP & GOWN REVUE and a stage appearance by Gene alongside his brother making up a double act, The Kelly Brothers, both from the early 1930s, and the latter portion footage from the original 1940 Broadway production of PAL JOEY, directed by George Abbott.
For further PAL JOEY paraphernalia, here are some vintage photographs of the original Broadway production starring Kelly, with Vivienne Segal, June Havoc, and, incidentally, both a soon-to-be co-star and a soon-to-be collaborator in the chorus, Van Johnson and Stanley Donen.
While Rita Hayworth would go on to star in the feature film adaptation of PAL JOEY with Gene Kelly's ON THE TOWN co-star Frank Sinatra in the lead, Kelly actually made one of his first breakthrough screen performances in a Hayworth film long before then, 1944's COVER GIRL. Here is one of the most visually arresting and choreographically (and technologically) complex scenes from the underrated film.
Next, luxuriate in the heart-stirring Hayworth/Kelly duet from COVER GIRL, "Long Ago And Far Away", written by Jerome Kern and Ira Gershwin.
Kelly made a significant impression with this characteristically excellent - and totally, unmistakably singular - dance duet with half of the cartoon duo Tom & Jerry in this classic and oft-imitated clip from 1944's ANCHORS AWEIGH.
Gene Kelly would sing a number of Cole Porter songs and scores over the course of his career - from LEAVE IT TO ME! on Broadway to THE PIRATE onscreen - but his first Porter role in a feature film came with 1943's DUBARRY WAS A LADY, co-starring none other than legendary comedienne Lucille Ball. Kelly serenades Ball with the timeless "Do I Love You?" in this clip from the fabulous film.
Following that, see Kelly do what he does best as he takes the opportunity to show off his serious skills in this absolutely awesome solo spotlight number from DUBARRY WAS A LADY. That's tried-and-true tops in taps - and, no question, that's tried-and-true, red, white and blue entertainment at its best, to boot (or tap, as the case may be)!
Now, witness Gene Kelly's very first screen role, opposite that star of movie musical stars, Judy Garland, in Busby Berkeley's FOR ME AND MY GAL.
Also, click through to watch Gene reminisce about "For Me And My Gal" on a 1970s TV special with none other than Judy Garland's daughter, the one and only Liza Minnelli! Click here for the skit and vintage song clip of the two showbiz superstars.
A glittering gem among many of Vincente Minnelli's formidable diadems of movie musical masterpieces, here is Cole Porter's "Be A Clown" from THE PIRATE as rendered by Kelly alongside The Nicholas Brothers.
Don't miss movie musical history being made with Gene Kelly and Judy Garland giving their all to the reprise of "Be A Clown" at the rousing conclusion of the colorful and feverishly wild THE PIRATE.
Gene Kelly and Vincente Minnelli's film partnership was perhaps as fruitful as Kelly's with Stanley Donen, as the triumphant AN AMERICAN IN PARIS surely most generously attests. See the trailer for the landmark film musical below - one of the best American films ever made, no contest.
Minnelli and Kelly's partnership continued with the stage-to-screen adaptation of the mega-hit Lerner & Loewe musical romance BRIGADOON soon after.
With one of the most memorable convergences of talent in all of entertainment history, see the result of a young Vincente Minnelli directing Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly in a showstopping performance of George and Ira Gershwin's "The Babbitt And The Bromide" from 1945's feature film ZIEGFELD FOLLIES. A movie musical moment to treasure forever!
Maybe even topping that, next we have one of the most striking and sensational dance sequences ever rendered on film, so experience the thrilling "Slaughter On Tenth Avenue" from WORDS & MUSIC below, co-starring Vera-Ellen, whether for the very first time or for the tenth. Wow!
Next, Gene Kelly teams up with Frank Sinatra, Ann Miller and the MGM crew with the smash hit screen iteration of the hit Leonard Bernstein/Betty Comden/Adolph Green musical ON THE TOWN.
A semi-sequel of sorts to ON THE TOWN in some of its themes, IT'S ALWAYS FAIR WEATHER featured another trio of GIs on the loose and on leave and on the town for a very brief two-day stay. Enjoy the opening sequence of the Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly directorial collaboration below, featuring Kelly alongside fellow hoofers Michael Kidd and Dan Dailey.
In 1950, Gene Kelly once again shared the screen with the inimitable Judy Garland in the oh-so seasonally apropos SUMMER STOCK. If you've never had the pleasure of seeing it, seek it out! Now's the time - and, after all, it's always fair weather to witness two stars at the top of their game.
Gene Kelly makes his one and only screen teaming with his brother, Fred, in this clip from the Sigmund Romberg musical revue DEEP IN MY HEART, singing "I Love To Go Swimmin' With Women".
The duo of Cole Porter and George Cukor afforded Gene Kelly a delectable opportunity to show off his titanic triple-threat talents in 1957's LES GIRLS. View the trailer for the stylish and glamorous movie musical below.
Moving to 1966, sample the swingin' original international trailer for Jacques Demy's unique and unclassifiable movie musical LES DEMOISELLES DE ROCHEFORT (THE YOUNG GIRLS OF ROCHEFORT), featuring even more of les girls.
If Demy's ROCHEFORT defies description, the same can certainly also be said of Gene Kelly's movie musical swan song, 1980's roller skating rock/pop/disco fever dream XANADU, co-starring GREASE and pop superstar Olivia Newton-John, who was more than a merely befitting final co-star given the incredibly diverse and dynamically talented divas Kelly had co-starred with previously in his starry, heady career. Take part in the glitzy, gaudy, mirrorball-powered fun below.
The trailer for THAT'S ENTERTAINMENT PART III pays particular homage to Gene Kelly and SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. All three endlessly entertaining collections are must-see events for movie musical fans of any age, particularly those with an affection for the life and legacy of the one and only Gene Kelly, who is highlighted in all three documentaries.
A standout in a career even as rich as Gene Kelly's, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is simply the very best movie musical comedy ever made - there is simply nothing more effervescent and as easily enjoyable than that film is. None. While we have already covered the best clips contained within it as well as related content in our previous SINGIN' IN THE RAIN-centric clip countdown last week - FLASH FRIDAY: SINGIN' IN THE RAIN Splashes Back is available here - no Gene Kelly clip collection would be close to complete without due diligence paid to the absolute apotheosis of his incomparable career and that intrinsically important film.
Lastly, here is Gene Kelly's gold standard movie musical moment of them all, "Singin' In The Rain".
So, what Gene Kelly moment is the nearest and dearest to your heart? Is SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, from beginning to end, just impossible to top? If so, there still remain so very many truly tremendous performances to cherish in the vaunted and vivid artistic legacy left on celluloid by Kelly and we can hope that the continued appreciation and constant re-appraisal of the most outstanding films of his career will spell that we shall see even more Gene Kelly-related re-releases in movie theaters in the coming years. As this clip collection clearly shows, Gene Kelly is without a doubt the movie musical comedy's lucky star!