One of the most celebrated dancers of the 20th century, Gene Kelly, was born in 1912 (one hundred years ago!). He is still revered among film and dance enthusiasts for his innovative work in film musicals, his charming personality on screen, and most of all, for his remarkable skill as a dancer.
WRL recently purchased Gene Kelly: Anatomy of a Dancer, part of the “American Masters” series. This nonfeature DVD is narrated by actor Stanley Tucci and gives terrific insight into Kelly’s career.
I enjoyed watching the film clips of Kelly in motion. The documentary spends a lot of time talking about his “common man” style of dancing. Where Fred Astaire may have made dancing look effortless, Kelly’s physical style showed the athleticism of dance.
I didn’t know that On the Town, the musical Kelly performed with Frank Sinatra, Vera-Ellen, Betty Garrett, and Ann Miller was the first musical to be shot on location (New York City, to be exact). It’s very common now, but apparently before Kelly and co-director Stanley Donen insisted, going on site to film a dance sequence wasn’t considered by studio moguls.
The show also had lots of tidbits about my favorite, Singin’ in the Rain. I didn’t know that Kelly had to change suits during the iconic rain sequence because the first one shrunk up after getting wet. And it never occurred to me that all that water pouring on his head would affect the ability of the neighborhoods surrounding the studio to water their lawns!
I was enchanted by the insights into his personal life. Kelly was a good athlete and apparently very competitive. He had to drop out of filming Easter Parade, a role he recommended that Fred Astaire fill, because he broke his ankle after stamping his foot in frustration over a volleyball game!
The DVD is only a little over an hour long. But there’s a lot of information and entertainment packed into the show.
Check the WRL catalog for Gene Kelly: Anatomy of a Dancer.