Tag: Gene Kelly

August 16, 2018 / / Main Slate

In April 1944, Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins debuted Fancy Free, a ballet about sailors on shore leave in New York City. The ballet was the genesis for the stage musical On the Town, which debuted on Broadway the same year. Five years later, On the Town made its way to the screen, with many of Bernstein’s songs replaced with pieces by the composer Roger Edens.

On The Town (1949) is a Technicolor musical film that follows three singing sailors and three dancing dames on adventures in New York. (Trivia fact: Technicolor originated in Boston.) On The Town is saturated with more than just color. The musical is unreservedly saturated in art, dance, and melodies.

July 31, 2018 / / Film Notes

There are few films that I’ve seen that epitomize classic Hollywood as well as 1944’s musical hit Cover Girl. Starring an effervescent Rita Hayworth as Rusty Parker, a vaudeville-style dancer, and a typically earnest Gene Kelly as Danny McGuire, her manager/boyfriend, Cover Girl thrives on the pair’s dynamic charisma. In fact, it’s difficult to imagine this film being enjoyable without either of its principal actors.

April 25, 2017 / / Main Slate

I like to imagine moviegoers seeing a talking picture for the first time. The union of pictures and sound into a seamless experience is a seminal moment in the history of movie magic, and I harbor some jealousy toward the generation of people who experienced that revolution first hand. After the resounding success of The Jazz Singer in 1927, it’s no surprise that talking pictures quickly became the new normal. Two films that stand the test of critical time and represent this shift from dramatically contrasting viewpoints are Singin’ In the Rain (1952) and Sunset Boulevard (1950).

January 2, 2013 / / Main Slate

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Invitation to the Dance – 1956 – dir. Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly was, of course, a major creative force behind some of the most commercially successful, critically acclaimed, and enduringly loved movie musicals of all time. His most popular films – particularly On the Town, An American in Paris, and Singin’ in the Rain, all released within a few years of one another – still regularly play repertory cinemas and remain must-sees for classic film buffs and musical fans. But Kelly’s lesser-known projects tend to be fascinating too. Whether it’s the cult movie The Pirate, which was far too underappreciated upon initial release, or the deliciously satiric and often underrated It’s Always Fair Weather, Kelly’s filmography has quite a few hidden gems.

April 13, 2009 / / Main Slate

The Red Shoes -1948 – dir. Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger

“Why do you want to dance?” asks Anton Walbrook as the ballet impresario Boris Lermontov in an early scene of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s 1948 classic The Red Shoes. “Why do you want to live?” is the immortal reply from flame-haired Moira Shearer’s Victoria Page, her words pinpointing the themes that The Red Shoes holds closest to its heart. That moment, and the film as whole, has carried incredible resonance for those who make or love art of any kind, those who see little to no difference between the will to create and the will to live.

February 9, 2009 / / Film Notes

By Chris Bamberger

TOP HAT (1935) dir. Mark Sandrich

In 2007 National Public Radio played an excerpt of Fred Astaire singing “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” and asked listeners to describe in a single phrase the quality of his voice. One participant’s entry was, “The boyfriend you longed for before you found out about sex.”

Oh, really?

Donald Spoto, in his biography of Audrey Hepburn, describes her one-time co-star as having “nothing erotic or even sensual about him… Fred Astaire was a gentleman up there on the screen—so much a gentleman, in fact, that there was never an atom of erotic appeal about him.”

It gets worse.

May 26, 2006 / / Film Notes

Written by Paul Monticone

Singin’ in the Rain. USA, 1952. 103 min. Cast: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagenl, Cyd Charisse; Songs: Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed; Choreography: Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen; Produced by: Arthur Freed; Written by: Betty Comden and Adolph Green; Directed by: Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen

Band Wagon. USA, 1953. 112 min Cast: Fred Astaire, Cyd Charisse, Oscar Levant, Nanette Fabray and Jack Buchanan. Songs: Howard Deitz and Arthur Schwartz; Choreography: Michael Kidd; Produced by: Arthur Freed; Written by: Betty Comden and Adolph Green; Directed by: Vincent Minnelli

By the early 1950s, Hollywood sensed a sea change. Due to suburbanization, television, and a Supreme Court antitrust ruling against the studios, movie-making had to become a more efficient enterprise. While the other major studios cut overhead—dropping contract players and disbanding their armies of salaried technicians—MGM remained dedicated to lavish musicals, and it was at this time that Arthur Freed’s production unit made two of the last masterpieces of the studio era.

May 26, 2006 / / Film Notes

USA, 1945. 142 min. MGM. Cast: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, Dean Stockwell; Music: George E. Stoll and Jule Styne; Choreography: Gene Kelly; Produced by: Joe Pasternak; Written by: Natalie Marcin and Isobel Lennart; Directed by: George Sidney

There is an old Hollywood story that goes something like this: only three years and six movies into his acting career, Gene Kelly had a novel idea for his next film, 1945’s Anchors Aweigh. He wanted to dance with an animated character and his first choice, unsurprisingly, was Mickey Mouse. Kelly and his assistant Stanely Donen brought it before Walt Disney. Walt was impressed and encouraging, but Mickey Mouse would never work in an MGM film.

May 26, 2006 / / Film Notes

USA, 1949. 98 min. MGM. Cast: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller, Jules Munshin; Music: Leonard Bernstein, Adolph Green, Betty Comden; Choreography: Gene Kelly; Produced by: Arthur Freed; Written by: Adolph Green and Betty Comden; Directed by: Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen

Stanley Donen was never nominated for an Oscar, so in 1998, the Academy did what was right and awarded him an honorary Academy Award. Donen danced with his Oscar on stage before declaring the secret behind his directorial success. “You show up,” he said. “You show up, and you stay out of the way. But you gotta show up or else you can’t take the credit and win one of these.”

May 26, 2006 / / Film Notes

Written by Jeremy Quist

USA, 1951. 113 min. MGM. Cast: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Georges Guetary, Nina Foch; Music: George and Ira Gershwin; Choreography: Gene Kelly; Cinematography by: John Alton and Alfred Gilks; Produced by: Arthur Freed; Written by: Alan Jay Lerner; Directed by: Vincent Minnelli

Musicals were once both a critically and commercially successful genre. With An American in Paris, producer Arthur Freed and his creative team were bringing the Hollywood musical to its height of popularity. Audiences ate up the romance, Gershwin tunes, Parisian joie de vivre, and Gene Kelly’s choreography, but there is more to the film than song and dance. While the lavish finale, a dream ballet inspired by Impressionist paintings, remains the most commonly cited aspect of the film, I find myself captivated by the subtly complex opening sequence, which introduces three central characters.