Extraordinary entertainer Gene Kelly was an actor, dancer, director and choreographer, who single handedly did more than any other contemporary to influence the evolution of the American screen musical. The American Cinematheque is honoring Kelly’s work with a four-night retrospective of eight of his films, from the MGM era to his glorious appearance in Jacques Demy’s “The Young Girls Of Rochefort.”
Gene Kelly hit 1940’s Hollywood following a wildly successful career on Broadway in the 1930s. He quickly became a recognized force on the screen, and as Kelly’s career progressed into the 1950s he began to exert more control off screen as well. Whether directing himself (with co-director Stanley Donen) in one of my favorites, “Singin’ In The Rain” or working with the likes of the legendary Vincente Minnelli on “An American In Paris” and “Brigadoon”, Kelly demanded the most of himself and his collaborators (Debbie Reynolds has got some great stories!). The result of Kelly’s strict regimen was a career filled with classic song-and-dance numbers and memorable performances. All presented by a man who worked so hard and yet appeared to be so effortless and natural style. This truly will be a wonderful opportunity to see the work of a legend the way his work aught to be seen.
Starting Thursday, March 25th at 7:30pm, the Aero is presenting a Double Feature of two of Kelly’s collaborations with director Vincenete Minnelli, “The Pirate” and “Brigadoon”. The first features a Cole Porter score and has Kelly playing a circus clown who pines for demure maiden Judy Garland, who thinks he’s actually a Caribbean pirate. Bold and expressive in its use of Technicolor and featuring terrific performances by Kelly and Garland, this is one of the best of MGM’s classic musicals. The latter re-creates pastoral Scotland on a soundstage in a glorious display of color, music and movement. Gene Kelly and Van Johnson discover a magical village in this adaptation of Lerner and Loewe’s Broadway hit, with lovely and leggy Cyd Charisse lending romantic interest and charm. Gene Kelly’s widow, Patricia Kelly, is expected to provide an introduction to both films.
Friday, March 26th at 7:30pm marks another Kelly double bill with a third Minnelli collaboration, “An American In Paris”. This Best Picture of 1951 features an irrepressible Gene Kelly as a struggling-to-make-it painter in Paris, caught between the romantic aspirations of a wealthy patron, Nina Foch and his true love, the young and adorable Leslie Caron in her big screen debut. The next film of the evening, “The Young Girls Of Rochefort” (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort), is director Jacques Demy’s love letter to American musicals. French cityscapes and romance in general is one of his greatest triumphs. Intersecting stories of young dreamers (among them Catherine Deneuve, Francoise Dorleac and Danielle Darrieux ) who continually miss meeting their ideal mates by mere city blocks. Gene Kelly is seen here in some of the most delightful moments in musical history.
Saturday, March 27th beginning at 7:30pm, Kelly stars in perhaps his most beloved film, “Singin’ In The Rain”. Co-director Kelly shines as silent movie idol Don Lockwood, whose career is imperiled by the coming of sound until he hooks up with spunky ingenue Debbie Reynolds. Supporting players Donald O’Connor and Cyd Charisse shine in brilliantly choreographed musical numbers, and Jean Hagen is nothing less than brilliant in her Oscar nominated performance as the vocally challenged Lina Lamont. And don’t blink, or you’ll miss a brief, but vital performance of a young Rita Moreno as a flapper!
“Summer Stock” is the second film of the night. Here, Kelly plays a bankrupt Broadway impresario who brings his collaborators to Judy Garland’s farm to rehearse. Although it was Garland’s sister who first caught Kelly’s eye, it’s Judy who gets both the boy and the lead in the show. This fourth and final film featuring the two great musical stars together features Garland’s famous rendition of “Get Happy.” A discussion is planned in between films with Gene Kelly’s widow, Patricia Kelly.
And finally on Sunday, March 28th at 7:30pm, the Kelly double feature starts out with “On the Town”, and ends with “Anchors Aweigh”. First Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Jules Munshin are three sailors on a 24 hour leave in New York who find romance (and plenty of song and dance) with Vera-Ellen, Ann Miller, and Betty Garrett. Then Kelly dances with Jerry the Mouse in a combination of live-action and animation in a romp that features Kelly and Frank Sinatra as sailors on leave in Hollywood who become involved with Kathryn Grayson. Once again, there will be an nntroduction by Gene Kelly’s widow, Patricia Kelly.
To find out more about this event visit the American Cinematheque’s website at www.americancinematheque.com.