Eugene Curran Kelly Biography

(Actor, Dancer, Singer, Filmmaker, and Choreographer)

Birthday: August 23, 1912 (Virgo)

Born In: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States

Gene Kelly, whose name is synonymous with dance, was a leading figure of Hollywood musical films of the mid-1940s. His dancing style which was based on ballet, made a serious impact on the film industry for the first time. He proved that dance is not typically a woman’s forte and that men can excel in it too. At that time when dance, especially ballet, was restricted to the theatres only, he was instrumental in introducing it into the films. Soon, dancing was not just a part of the film, but films began to be made on dance! He danced his way to glory in the peak days of Hollywood musicals, choreographing in almost all of his films. Kelly laid a great impression upon the film industry owing to his innate ability to think out of the box. He was not just focused on achieving perfection in dancing, but also experimented with his style in almost every film, making the best use of lighting, camera techniques and special effects to render extraordinary visuals. He believed that dancing in films is not any different, but if one is to make a film on dancing, it is bound to have more than just plain dancing. Kelly certainly achieved what he aspired to and also made way for other actors/dancers who come to Hollywood with similar dreams.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Gene Kelly

Died At Age: 83


Spouse/Ex-: Betsy Blair (m. 1941–1957), Jeanne Coyne (m. 1960–1973), Patricia Ward (m. 1990–1996)

father: James Patrick Joseph Kelly

mother: Harriet Catherine

siblings: Fred Kelly

children: Bridget Kelly, Kerry Kelly, Timothy Kelly

Born Country: United States

Actors Singers

Height: 5'7" (170 cm), 5'7" Males

Died on: February 2, 1996

place of death: Beverly Hills, California, United States

Ancestry: German American, Canadian American, Irish American

Diseases & Disabilities: Stroke

U.S. State: Pennsylvania

City: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

More Facts

education: University Of Pittsburgh

awards: 1985 - AFI Life Achievement Award
1981 - Cecil B. DeMille Award
1988 - Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award

1942 – Best Actor award from the National Board of Review for his performance in For Me and My Gal
1956 – Golden Bear at the 6th Berlin International Film Festival for Invitation to the Dance
1981 – Cecil B. DeMille Award at Golden Globes.
1982 – Lifetime Achievement Award in the fifth annual Kennedy Center Honors.
1985 – Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute.
1989 – Life Achievement Award from Screen Actors Guild.
1991 – Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera inaugurates The Gene Kelly Awards
given annually to high-school musicals in Allegheny County
1992 – Induction into the Theater Hall of Fame.
1994 – National Medal of Arts awarded by United States President Bill Clinton.[29]
1994 – The Three Tenors performed

Childhood & Early Life
Kelly was born to Harriet Catherine and James Patrick Joseph Kelly as their third son.
At the age of eight, he was enrolled to dance classes against his wish. He dreamt of playing baseball for the ‘Pittsburgh Pirates’ a Major League Baseball club from his hometown, Pittsburgh.
He was sent to the St. Raphael Elementary School and later to the Peabody High School, from where he graduated in 1929. With the ambition of studying journalism, he enrolled to the Pennsylvania State College, but financial difficulties forced him to work in order to support his family.
In 1931, he attended the University of Pittsburgh where he studied economics. There, under the department of theatre and arts, he joined the ‘Cap and Gown Club’.
He graduated from the university in 1933, with a bachelor’s degree in economics. Then he went on to join the University of Pittsburgh Law School, while still in contact with the University of Pittsburgh and serving as the director of ‘Cap and Gown Club’ in 1934.
He dropped out from law school after two months and in 1937, he went to New York City to establish a career in choreography.
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Not being able to find any suitable job in New York, Kelly returned to Pittsburg where he choreographed the musical show ‘Hold Your Hats’ in April, 1938, at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. The same year, in November, he made his Broadway debut as a dancer in the musical ‘Leave It to Me!’
In 1939, he appeared in the famous five-act play ‘The Time of Your Life’, which established him as a dancer in the industry.
In 1940, his extraordinary performance in the famous musical ‘Pal Joey’ shot him to fame and grabbed the attention of MGM executive, Louis B. Mayer who offered him a film contract with his company.
Thus, he made his first film ‘For Me and My Gal’ in 1942 in which he was cast along with Judy Garland.
In 1945, he danced remarkably well in ‘Anchors Aweigh’, with the famous cartoon character ‘Jerry’, an act of its kind.
In 1949, he worked with renowned actor/singer, Frank Sinatra ‘On the Town’ in which he performed ballet.
His next popular film was ‘An American in Paris’ in 1951, which he choreographed entirely.
In 1952, came his most remembered film, ‘Singin' in the Rain’, elevating his dance to an iconic status.
Turning his attention towards television, he appeared in ‘Going My Way’ a comedy-drama in 1962. The series enjoyed moderate success and ran till 1963.
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In 1967, he produced, directed and acted in the television film for children, ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ which earned positive reviews. He appeared in the variety show ‘The Funny Side’ four years later.
His last major film was ‘Xanadu’ in 1980 which was a big disappointment. Even though he made several television appearances, he never really went back to mainstream acting.
One of his important works towards the end of his career was as an executive producer and co-host of the dance documentary by MGM, ‘That's Dancing!’ in 1985.
Major Works
One of his earlier movies ‘Anchors Aweigh’ in which he starred alongside actor Frank Sinatra was a huge success. In the movie, for the first time in the history of film industry, Kelly danced with ‘Jerry’, a famous cartoon character. Not only the movie received several awards and nominations but also amassed a massive $4.5 million at box-office.
The musical film ‘An American in Paris’ in which the actor exhibited his dance virtuosity, turned out to be his most successful film, winning several awards. Made with a budget of $2,723,903, it went on to earn $8,005,000 worldwide.
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Awards & Achievements
Kelly earned his first Academy Award nomination in 1946, for the film ‘Anchors Aweigh’ in which he danced with ‘Jerry’, a cartooned mouse from the famous cartoon series ‘Tom and Jerry’.
He was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 1951 in recognition to his talent as an actor, singer, director and dancer.
He was awarded a ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ from the ‘American Film Institute’ in 1985.
In 1994, President Bill Clinton awarded him the ‘National Medal of Arts’.
Personal Life & Legacy
Kelly’s first marriage was with Betsy Blair in 1941, with whom he had a daughter Kerry, before they got divorced in 1957.
He married Jeanne Coyne, his choreographic assistant, in 1960 and was with her till her death in 1973. The couple had two children Bridget and Tim.
His last marriage was to Patricia Ward which took place in 1990.
In 1994, he suffered a stroke for which he had to be hospitalized for seven weeks.
A second stroke in 1995 left him bedridden and a year later, he died in his sleep at the age of 83.
This famous actor, dancer and choreographer, was a dance consultant for Madonna's ‘Girlie Show’ tour in 1993.
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