Discover a larger than life legendary star of the Silver Screen with this Gene Kelly bio. Gene Kelly was a handsome athletic triple threat because he could sing, dance, and act. Kelly appeared in the greatest musicals Hollywood ever produced. His amazing career lasted for over five decades and his involvement in filmmaking and dance contributed to the greatness of Hollywood.
Gene Kelly’s Early Years. Eugene Curran Kelly was born in Pittsburg, PA on August 23, 1912 to Irish Roman Catholic immigrant parents. Kelly reluctantly began dance lessons at the age of eight. Like most young boys he was more interested in sports than dancing until he was older and interested in girls. He attended college for a short time, but like most young men, the depression forced him to quit school to get a job to help his family. In 1931, Kelly returned to college where he became interested in the theater arts. He began teaching dance in his parents failing dance studio and made it successful. Kelly abandoned the plan of law school to become a dance teacher. Kelly and his brother began choreographing local shows and appearing in nightclubs.
Kelly’s Stage Career. In 1938, Kelly left for New York to pursue a stage career. Eventually, he landed a role in the original Broadway production of “Pal Joey”.
Starting a Film Career. The exposure on Broadway led to Kelly being put under contract with David O. Selznick. His first big film role happened when he was loaned out to MGM to co-star with Judy Garland in “For Me and My Gal”. The film was a huge success that led Selznick, who didn’t want to produce musicals, to sell Kelly’s contract to MGM. No major roles came from the contract at MGM. In 1944, Kelly was again loaned out to Columbia Pictures to star with Rita Hayworth in “Cover Girl”. In 1945, MGM realized Kelly’s talent and let him choreograph the dance scenes in “Anchors Away” resulting in an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for Gene Kelly. In this film, Gene Kelly danced with an animated mouse for the first time on film.
Gene Kelly 2.0. In 1944, Gene Kelly enlisted in the military and was stationed state side in Washington D.C. where he wrote and directed a series of documentaries. When he returned to Hollywood in 1946 he wanted to direct. His next big success came from starring opposite Judy Garland in Vincente Minnelli’s musical swashbuckler “The Pirate” where Kelly created his most brilliant dance scenes. The big successes to follow were “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and “On the Town” where Kelly introduced more original and innovative dance scenes. In 1950, he partnered with Judy Garland again in “Summer Stock”. A year later, Kelly made “An American in Paris” with Leslie Caron. In 1952, Kelly made the all time greatest and his best know musical “Singing in the Rain” where he starred, co-directed, and choreographed the dance scenes.
Hollywood Changes. The decline of Hollywood began in 1953 and big production musicals were becoming a thing of the past. Part of the negotiations for Kelly to get out of his contract with MGM required him to produce three films which included “It’s Always Fair Weather in 1956, Les Girls in 1957, which was his last musical for MGM, and the B movie “The Happy Road” that he produced, directed, and acted in. Kelly returned to the stage directing the musical play “Flower Drum Song” in 1958. In 1960, Kelly played a dramatic role in “Inherit the Wind”. He directed Jackie Gleason in “Gigot” and in 1969 directed “Hello Dolly”. In 1970, Kelly directed the comedy “The Cheyenne Social Club” starring Jimmy Stewart and Henry Fonda. Kelly continued making television appearances and film cameos in productions like “That’s Entertainment” until his retirement.