Today happens to be the 102nd Birth Anniversary of one the greatest singing and dancing sensations of the last century. Superstar Gene Kelly.
Gene KellyBorn in Pittsburgh, USA, on the 23rd of August, 1912, Kelly wasn’t a great fan of dance and music initially. When aged eight, he, along with his brother, were enrolled for dancing classes, by his mother. He hated dancing so much as a child, that he was embarrassed, especially in being called a sissy by his peers, and ended up in a lot of fist fights with boys from his neighbourhood. But by the time Gene Kelly; of mostly Irish roots, and a quarter German roots; was fifteen, he was in love with this art form.

I had known about Singin’ in the Rain (1952), ever since I was a kid, but unlike many other great musicals, I only got to watch this, Gene Kelly classic, when I was about 14/15 years old. I instantly fell in love with this musical set towards the end of roaring 20’s, just as silent cinema was nearing it’s death, with the advent of talkies, which was taking over the film industry, at the time. Today, it’s among my favourite musicals ever, and within my Top-5 favourite films from the 50’s. In fact, it’s the only musical within my Top-10, among my favourite films from the 1950’s decade (see my list 50-50’s from IMDB and my The 1950’s post from last year).

Cyd Charisse, in a green number, seduces Gene Kelly, by playing with his hat, in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN

Set in Roaring 20’s, Cyd Charisse, in a green number, seduces Gene Kelly, by playing with his hat, in SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN (1952)

Gene Kelly took over the reins of the Hollywood musical in the 1940’s and 1950’s, and he transformed the whole concept of what a Hollywood musical film was about. Musicals became one of the best loved genres at the time, even more than the musicals of the late 20’s and 1930’s. By the 60’s the staged style musical started to die out, but ironically some of my personal favourite musicals happen to be from the 60’s and 70’s. Rarer the musicals, the better films Hollywood came up with.

Since then, I’ve seen quite a few Gene Kelly musicals, like Cover Girl (1944), Anchors Aweigh (1945), On the Town (1949), An American in Paris (1951), and the Jacques Demy French musical – Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) with Catherine Deneuve and George Chakiris, and none of them match the brilliance in art form and cinematic wonder that Singin’ in the Rain was.

Gene Kelly kisses Françoise Dorléac in LES DEMOISELLES DE ROCHEFORT (1966)

The Swinging 60’s, Gene Kelly kisses Françoise Dorléac, in LES DEMOISELLES DE ROCHEFORT (1966)

One the biggest Hollywood singing and dancing geniuses of the Big Screen, who is credited as turning the art form of ballet, into a commercial vehicle, through his movies, and who was a tap dancing wonder, passed away in 1996.

After having suffered a stroke in 1994, and a another in 1995, Gene Kelly was bedridden until he died on 2nd February, 1996.

They sure don’t have such unique stars like that today. May Gene Kelly live forever, through his musicals, especially Singin’ in the Rain.

Nuwan Sen’s Film Sense