2 February marks the date that dancer, actor, and choreographer Gene Kelly died in 1996.
Born in Pittsburgh, his maternal grandfather was an immigrant from Derry, Northern Ireland. He entered Pennsylvania State College as a journalism major, but the 1929 economic crisis forced him to work to help his family. He created dance routines with his younger brother Fred to earn prize money in local talent contests. They also performed in local nightclubs. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1933.
Seeking to break from the class-conscious conventions of the 1930s and early 40s, when top hat and tails or tuxedos were the norm, by dancing in casual or everyday work clothes, so as to make his dancing more relevant to the cinema-going public. In relation to his own style and image versus that of Fred Astaire, Kelly commented that while Astaire represented the aristocracy, he represented the proletariat. The film, ‘Anchors Aweigh’ became one of the most successful films of 1945 and it garnered Kelly his first and only Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
In 1947, he was part of the Committee for the First Amendment, the Hollywood delegation which flew to Washington to protest at the first official hearings by the House Committee on Un-American Activities on those viewed as disloyal.
In the 1950 film, ‘Summer Stock’, Kelly performed a solo dance in a darkened barn, using a newspaper and a creaky board as partners and props; the musical accompaniment is “You Wonderful You”. Please enjoy the video clip below…