Aug 23, 2007

Gene Kelly, 1912-1996

In writing of my favorite films and the stars that populate them, I can't help but feel I've covered every aspect of uber-hot hoofer Gene Kelly before: the tough-nosed professional man behind the debonair onscreen romantic, the painstaking perfection he infused into each of his films, the vibrancy with which his colorful MGM spectacles still resonate today (and oh, did I mention that smile?). But as I celebrate what would've been Gene-o's 95th birthday today, I wonder if it isn't so much simpler on some level. Could Gene Kelly really be just a fabulous movie star?

Devastatingly handsome and supremely sensual, Kelly proved adept at playing his non-dancing roles pitch-perfectly: he was, in equal turns, Judy Garland's overzealous and histrionic lover in The Pirate, the despondent film star on the edge of decline in the insurmountably superb Singin' in the Rain, and the hardworn, Hopper-esque journalist in Stanley Kramer's dramatic Inherit the Wind. Watching his films decades after their respective releases, it seems that Kelly understood, even from the outset of his career in 1941, the great beauty of cinema, the legacy of the motion pictures he was creating. And so he worked to raise the medium to a higher standard regarding its inclusion of dance and its depiction of aesthetic beauty, moreso than any of his contemporaries: he often harangued scriptwriters and challenged directors, re-wrote dialogue and cast his own leading ladies in order to fashion the caliber of film he knew that he, and MGM, was capable of. What a legacy that leaves us to revel in.

So Gene, here's to you. Sexy, savvy, graceful and ingenius...Really. Our love is here to stay.

Not familiar with Gene? Check out my film suggestions to get acquainted with Monsieur Kelly here.

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