Shine and Sparkle: Gene Kelly the Director

Posted by Anna Husted on 7.20.2012

Get out your feathers, your patent leathers
Your beads and buckles and bows
For there's no blue Monday in your Sunday...
No Monday in your Sunday clothes!

Commissioned by Twentieth Century-Fox to direct Hello, Dolly! for the screen, Gene Kelly led Barbra Streisand, Walter Matthau, Michael Crawford, Danny Lockin and Louis Armstrong to seven Oscar nominations, winning Best Art Direction, Best Score and Best Sound.

Although Hello, Dolly! disappointed at the box office and received mixed reviews, including the New York Times' Vincent Canby's criticism that Kelly merely "inflated the faults to elephantine proportions," it is nothing short of legendary, having been referenced in Laugh-In, The Muppet Show, The Simpsons, Law & Order, Small Soldiers, Moulin Rouge!, Wall-E, and much much more. Holding up as one of the greatest musicals of all time. It's only fitting that Kelly would be a part of it.

Kelly captures the rhythm of New York City at the turn of the century with wonder, color and grace, reminding us of what it is to live in the greatest city on earth. We are Cornelius and Barnaby coming down from Yonkers (or Garrison, New York, where the Yonkers scenes were shot) to revel in the shine and sparkle of a world of adventure. We are the pedestrians in the opening number, caught in the daily movement of stop-and-go, dancing with complete strangers. Kelly showed us ourselves and then showed us a little bit more.

Before New York, there was Paris, and before Dolly there was Gigot—the two couldn't be more different in manner and style, or more alike in character and love. Gigot is the (non-musical) story of a poverty-stricken mute who seems to get in trouble at ever turn, whether he's sweeping streets or attending a funeral. Having befriended a little girl and her prostitute mother, Gigot (played by Jackie Gleason) is never happier than when he makes the little girl laugh. Part slapstick, part tragedy, Kelly reveals a beautiful and often forgotten side of Paris where the rhythm is found not in the busyness of life, but in the passionate silence of one man.

Gigot's generosity reflects that of Kelly himself: inherent, continual and joyful—providing happiness to many through music. Kelly gave the musical to the masses by making it ubiquitous on screen. And, in the words of Dolly, "now that we’re dancing, who cares if we ever stop?"

Hello, Dolly! screens Sunday, July 22 at 2:30pm on a beautifully restored 70mm print! Gigot screens Wednesday, July 25 at 6:15pm in our 23-film salute to the film legend, Invitation to the Dance: Gene Kelly @ 100. See both together and save with our Double Feature Package and you'll automatically be entered to win Warner Home Video's gorgeous new Blu-ray of Singin' in the Rain!

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