Thursday, January 17, 2008

Gene Kelly: Paula Abdul's American Idol

Long before Paula Abdul ever judged a contestant on "American Idol", she was a pop star herself. One of her commercial endorsements was for Diet Coke, in which she danced along with Gene Kelly from his appearance in Anchors Aweigh. Both Cary Grant and Groucho Marx also "appeared" in the commercial. But of the three stars, Paula considers Gene Kelly to be her idol. According to interviews, she first saw Singin' in the Rain at the age of 4, and she decided she wanted to be a performer.

When she began to fulfill that dream, Paula claims that Gene influenced her choreography. For the video to one of her first hits, "Opposites Attract", she created an animated character to dance with a la Joe Brady's dance with Jerry the Mouse. Gene saw the video and enjoyed it, and he asked Paula to have tea with him. According to an interview in Teen People magazine in May, 2006, Paula describes their meeting:
When I met him, it was as if I'd known him my whole life. We talked like two dancers talk; it's a language where you go back and forth really quickly. I remember saying to myself, "If I die today, I died meeting my hero."
Paula goes on to say that they had weekly tea parties until Gene passed away in 1996. She calls him "one of the most phenomenal male dancers in history...He took risks, made magic happen on-camera and did most of his own stunts. They broke the mold after him."

We agree, Paula, and how lucky you were to have had Gene for both a tea-partner as well as a virtual dance partner! And now, here's the commercial...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

New Poll

I haven't posted much lately, so today I added a new poll. Gene's "big" films have a lot of well-known and well-loved favorites, but what about some of his other musicals...the ones you may not see on top ten lists? Do you have a favorite of the ones listed to the right? Vote now, and we'll tally the results next month.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Singin' in the Rain and The Pirate at Movies Til Dawn

Today let's take a tour through blogosphere for good posts about Gene Kelly's movies! Over at Movies Til Dawn, Raymond De Felitta has two great posts on our favorite musical, Singin' in the Rain. The first, "Singin' in the Rain": Backstage at a Backstage Story, focuses on the CD soundtrack to the movie and the sheer magnitude of what was involved with making movies, specifically the music. Part II is called Singin' in the Rain Pt. 2: The Mystery of Jimmy Thompson, in which the question is asked: "Who the hell was/is Jimmy Thompson?" As GK fans know (or maybe they don't if they're too busy paying attention to Gene), Jimmy is the dorky guy in SITR who sings the "Beautiful Girl" number. He also appeared as Charlie in Brigadoon and as one of the players in Summer Stock. Which was a surprise to me, actually - I never noticed that it was the same guy. Raymond asks a good question, and although it's suggested that Jimmy was some sort of protege of Gene, I have not found any good evidence of that in what I've read. I wouldn't mind knowing more about Mr. Thompson myself - is he still alive? The name is too common to find out on the web.

While you're over at the Movies Til Dawn site, there are also two interesting posts on another of our favorites, The Pirate. The first post highlights just how great the underrated movie is, and the second focuses on Judy Garland and how she was "on fire" in that film with sexual energy. Interestingly, in the same way I talked about how you can tell how much Gene loved Judy by how they appear on screen in the movie, Raymond's post discusses how much her husband, Vincent Minelli, was in love with her "through the lens" by the way he shot the film.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Gene Kelly and Judy Garland

Gene and Judy in The Pirate
Over on the Gene Scene message board, fans were excited with Renata's new video of Gene and Judy clips (see below). Well, I wanted to present that video as our "featured video clip" so it inspired me to do this post on...what else? Gene and Judy!

Gene Kelly and Judy Garland appeared in only three films together: For Me and My Gal (1942), The Pirate (1948), and Summer Stock (1950). Ironically, their first film together marks Gene's screen debut, and their last is Judy's final film for MGM. All three films feature a brash male character (is this a trend for Gene?) in the entertainment "business" pursuing Judy's more wholesome gal.

I was never a huge Judy Garland fan, but I just have to admit that she's wildly talented and I like her more each time I see the films. What is most evident in the montage of clips from these three films is the real-life relationship between Judy and Gene. And no, the word "relationship" used here does not imply a sexual or romantic one.

According to biographies, the pair met when Gene was performing in Pal Joey on Broadway. Judy, already a huge movie star, attended one of his performances and requested to meet. Gene accompanied Judy and her entourage, which included her mother and several press agents, to dinner. The group went to the Copacabana club for singing and dancing until 3 am. Judy asked her mother if she and Gene could walk around the city for a while. Permission granted, Gene took her for a walk through Central Park, walking and talking about the future possibilities of a movie together until 5 am.

That dream became a reality in For Me and My Gal. Gene appears somewhat star-struck as if he can't believe he's on screen with a big star like Judy! He always gave her credit for helping him learn how to dance for the film camera as opposed to dancing on stage for an audience. While Gene was a "newbie" when it came to acting in front of a camera, when it came time to dance the pair were well matched! By The Pirate, the mutual affection is evident in their performances. And in Summer Stock, the tables were nearly turned in that it was suddenly Judy who appeared lost at times. Despite her experience in the movies, her medical condition was precarious due to the "prescriptions" provided by the studio. In this film, Gene takes the lead to help her through it. Cast members reported that they waited, and waited, and waited for Judy to be emotionally ready to work or perform. Gene was patient, and he brought out the best in her as a result. Considering he's decribed by other co-stars as a "slave-driver", the fact that he was so patient during the filming of Summer Stock proves just how much he cared. The patience paid off, and Judy looks fabulous in her "Get Happy" finale, filmed months after the rest of the movie.

What I see in their on-screen appearances together is a mutual love, respect, and admiration. And so, I present our Featured Video Clip... Many thanks to Renata for her love of Gene and her talent at making videos!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Results: What's Your Favorite Gene Kelly Musical? Not Brigadoon!

Happy New Year, Gene Kelly fans! This wasn't the post I intended to write today, but I noticed that the blog's poll closed yesterday. And as you can see, the results were somewhat predictable with Singin' in the Rain our favorite by a landslide! SITR garnered 62% of the vote with 68 votes. An American in Paris had 17 votes (15%), Anchors Aweigh had 8 (7%), The Pirate had 12 (11%) and poor Brigadoon only received 4 votes (3%). So, why is there a photo of Brigadoon here and not Singin' in the Rain? It's no surprise that SITR is our favorite - it makes "top ten" lists regularly and it's the one movie I've never heard a Gene fan say they don't like. So, what's more interesting from the poll results is...what's the deal with Brigadoon?

Now, I didn't put much thought into the five selections to be honest - it was our first poll here on the blog. Truth be told, Brigadoon doesn't even make my personal top 5 favorite Gene Kelly films. But, I didn't realize that it wasn't nearly as loved as Gene's other films. Why is that? Part of the reason is that it was not filmed on location in Scotland - that would have gone a long way in changing the look and feel of the movie. In fact, if they had at least shot it outdoors in California it would have helped. Instead, it was filmed on an indoor set and it shows, despite the hard work of the talented artists and set designers at MGM. I think that this has to be the main reason that it isn't on everyone's top five list, because it certainly isn't because of the actors!

Gene gives one of his better performances as Tommy Albright, a man who gets the idea that his life isn't what he thought it would be. The ever-lovely Cyd Charisse is beautiful as Fiona, although her Scottish accent isn't always as convincing as her acting. And the Lerner and Loewe songs are stunning - is there a fan out there that doesn't melt with "Almost Like Being in Love"? In fact, the fantasy-plot has to take its rightful place as Gene's most romantic. Falling in love at first sight? Sure, Gene's brash characters have done it before (On the Town, An American in Paris, Singin' in the Rain, The Pirate...I could go on with a few more if you're not convinced by now!), but would Gaby, Jerry, Don, or Serafin have given up their lives-as-they-knew-it to live forever with their gal? Not even forever, just for one day every hundred years. That's what make the story of Brigadoon so magical! Maybe it looks like they are dancing in front of paintings, or maybe Van Johnson's character is just a bit too cynical, but in terms of pure story, Tommy's the kind of dreamer that a gal can fall in love with! So, maybe for this new year it deserves another look...I doubt it will wind up as our absolute favorite, but it's definitely worth re-watching! For a rather un-conventional "review" of the movie, be sure to visit Tom and Lorenzo for their comical take on the movie.

Stay tuned for a new poll soon! Also, feel free to comment on why you picked the favorite you did, or why you DO or DO NOT like Brigadoon!