b. 23 August 1912, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
d. 2 February 1996, Los Angeles, California, USA
Co-starred with Fred in Ziegfeld Follies and That's Entertainment!, Part 2
Co-host with Fred in That's Entertainment!
If Fred Astaire is the greatest dancer to ever appear on the movie screen, then Gene Kelly is... also the greatest dancer.
For it is simply impossible to compare the two giants. They have completely different styles and talents. If Fred is the epitome of elegance and grace, Gene represents strength and power. The only common ground is the undisputed fact is that the two are far and away better than anyone else. The two share a stratum that no one else on the silver screen even comes close to.
"If Fred Astaire is the Cary Grant of dance, I'm the Marlon Brando".
Gene Kelly was born the third of five children to parents who loved the performing arts. By the time he was eight, he and his brothers were dancing at amateur vaudeville nights. However, Gene preferred sports and dreamed of playing ice hockey or baseball professionally. Still he kept dancing and grew to enjoy it- especially when he realised that it made him popular with the girls!
He graduated in 1933 from the University of Pittsburgh as an economics major, and worked for the next few years in various jobs, including as a dance teacher, before setting off for Broadway in 1938. After a few minor roles as a dancer, he got his big break as Harry the Hoofer in William Saroyan's The Time of Your Life. After several more starring roles, including the lead in Pal Joey, Gene left for Hollywood.
He began under the best of circumstances, co-starring with Judy Garland in For Me and My Gal. But it was when he was lent out to Columbia to star opposite Rita Hayworth in Cover Girl, that he became a star. M-G-M quickly put him with Fred in Ziegfeld Follies. He went on to make a series of successful musicals, including Anchors Aweigh, Take Me Out To The Ballgame, and On The Town with Frank Sinatra.
Following the success of On The Town, Gene made the two films that would forever be associated with his name and cement his place in cinematic history: An American In Paris, and Singin' In The Rain. Probably the most loved and remembered dance sequence in movie history is the title number to the latter.
Following the two movies, Gene moved to Europe to take advantage of tax laws there, but the movies he made there had little success. Upon his return to M-G-M, he starred in Brigadoon and It's Always Fair Weather, but neither were successful.
The 50s were not good to Gene, with his split from longtime collaborator Stanley Donen, from his wife Betsy, and from M-G-M all coming in that decade. But in the 60s, Gene bounced back, remarrying and taking his career in new directions, producing, directing and appearing on television.
In 1973, his second wife died from cancer, and he stopped accepting work that took his away from his children. He continued to be frequently remembered alongside Astaire in many retrospectives and award shows. He received the Kennedy Center Honors in 1982, and in 1985, a lifetime achievement award from the American Film Institute.
Gene married writer Patricia Ward in 1990. For the last years of his life he was hard at work on his autobiography, which was unfinished at the time of his death on 1996.
For more information:
The Gene Kelly Home Page
Jim's Gene Kelly Page
The Internet Movie Database