Eugene Curran Kelly August 23, —February 2, , the American actor, dancer, singer, filmmaker, comedian and choreographer, was known for his energetic and athletic dancing style, his good looks, and the likable characters the played on screen. Later, he starred in two films outside the musical genre: Inherit the Wind and What a Way to Go! His many innovations transformed the Hollywood musical, and he is credited with almost single-handedly making the ballet form commercially acceptable to film audiences. In , the American Film Institute also ranked him as the 15th greatest male screen legend of Classic Hollywood Cinema. His maternal grandfather was an immigrant from Derry, Ireland, and his maternal grandmother was of German ancestry. By the time he decided to dance, he was an accomplished sportsman and able to defend himself. He attended St. He entered the Pennsylvania State College as a journalism major, but after the crash, he left school and found work in order to help his family financially. He created dance routines with his younger brother Fred to earn prize money in local talent contests. They also performed in local nightclubs. After graduating in , he continued to be active with the Cap and Gown Club, serving as the director from to Kelly was admitted to the University of Pittsburgh Law School. His family opened a dance studio in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. In , they renamed it the Gene Kelly Studio of the Dance and opened a second location in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in Kelly served as a teacher at the studio during his undergraduate and law-student years at Pitt. In , he was approached by the Beth Shalom Synagogue in Pittsburgh to teach dance, and to stage the annual Kermesse. The venture proved a success, Kelly being retained for seven years until his departure for New York. Kelly eventually decided to pursue a career as a dance teacher and full-time entertainer, so he dropped out of law school after two months. Kelly returned to Pittsburgh, to his family home at Kensington Street, by , and worked as a theatrical actor. Kelly appeared in six of the sketches, one of which, La cumparsita, became the basis of an extended Spanish number in the film Anchors Aweigh eight years later. When Alton moved on to choreograph the musical One for the Money, he hired Kelly to act, sing, and dance in eight routines. In , he was selected for a musical revue, One for the Money, produced by the actress Katharine Cornell, who was known for finding and hiring talented young actors. He began dating a cast member, Betsy Blair, and they got married on October 16, This role propelled him to stardom. I create what the drama and the music demand. While I am a hundred percent for ballet technique, I use only what I can adapt to my own use. I never let technique get in the way of mood or continuity. It was midnight and we had been rehearsing since 8 in the morning. I was making my way sleepily down the long flight of stairs when I heard staccato steps coming from the stage … I could see just a single lamp burning. Under it, a figure was dancing … Gene. Offers from Hollywood began to arrive, but Kelly was in no hurry to leave New York. Eventually, he signed with David O. Selznick, agreeing to go to Hollywood at the end of his commitment to Pal Joey, in October Prior to his contract, he also managed to fit in choreographing the stage production of Best Foot Forward. I had an awful feeling that I was a tremendous flop. His first opportunity to dance to his own choreography came in his next picture, Thousands Cheer , where he performed a mock-love dance with a mop. Unusually, in Pilot No. He achieved a significant breakthrough as a dancer on film when MGM lent him to Columbia to work with Rita Hayworth in Cover Girl , a film that foreshadowed the best of his future work.
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