Perhaps no single figure has had a greater impact on the world of Hollywood musicals than Gene Kelly. The actor, director, dancer, choreographer and technological innovator helped make the genre what it is, while creating no shortage of masterpieces along the way. Now, in celebration of what would be his 100th birthday on August 23, the Film Society is showcasing 23 of his films, ranging from fan favorites to lesser known, but still invaluable, works in our upcoming series Invitation to Dance: Gene Kelly @ 100!
Kelly racked up an impressive number of prestigious nominations and awards throughout his lifetime. Among the earliest of these was his Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in Anchors Aweigh—one of Kelly’s first films. The film features the heavyweight duo of Kelly and Frank Sinatra as a pair of sailors heading for Hollywood. If you ask us, seeing Kelly’s famed dance with MGM cartoon mouse Jerry on the big screen alone makes attendance worth your while!
Also being shown is An American in Paris. Featuring music by George and Ira Gershwin, the film is among the genre’s most extravagant—in the best way possible. Kelly plays no small part in this accomplishment, as is best illustrated by the film's concluding, 17-minute dance sequence which was both directed and choreographed by Kelly, himself.
All of Gene Kelly’s innovative accomplishments will be on full display. For example: 1949's On the Town, a film in which Kelly breaks out of the studio and showcases his modern dance style on the streets. The film was Kelly’s first directorial collaboration with Stanley Donen and also his third and final partnership with Frank Sinatra.
Of course, as it is the series' namesake, we would be amiss not to mention Invitation to the Dance. a film directed by, written by, and starring Kelly. Invitation is perhaps Kelly’s most formally adventurous work. The movie consists of three different stories, each of which is told through a different style of dance as opposed to words. Suffice it to say, this is a movie that should not be missed by fans of this dance-film pioneer.
Unfortunately, the classic Singin’ in the Rain will be missing from the series due to a studio-imposed moratorium. Not to worry, though, because the lineup is full to bursting with enough outstanding films to keep both seasoned fans and Kelly-newcomers more than satisfied. And don't miss two very special events with his widow, Patricia Ward Kelly: an intimate, behind the scenes portrait in An Evening with Gene Kelly and an exploration of his innovations in dance and cinema in Gene Kelly: Changing the Look of Dance on Film.