Sunday, February 24, 2008

Gene's sister, Louise Kelly Bailey, dies at age 93

I received word today that Gene's sister, Louise Kelly Bailey, has passed away. She died on Friday in Dothan, Alabama, at age 93 and was the last of the Kelly brother and sisters. In the words of her niece, "What a dancing good time they must be having in heaven!" The "Five Kelly's" are shown above - from left to right, Jay, James, Gene, Louise, and Fred.
According to her obituary in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "While Gene -- and younger brother Fred, who became a New York producer -- had more fame, it was Mrs. Bailey who kept the family dance tradition alive in Pittsburgh. For nearly 50 years she ran the dance studio that the Kelly family founded."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Cyd Must Be in Brigadoon

The lovely Cyd Charisse must have taken some Brigadoon-like magic potion...visit Movies Til Dawn and take a look at a current photo of her and her husband, Tony Martin. Doesn't she look fabulous? She will be 87 years old on March 8th!

That particular post is more about Tony Martin, but here's a funny one about Cyd.

For more on Cyd, here is her official site.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Gene's 'Eternal Verities'

Donna kindly asked me to be a guest blogger. I was thrilled because there is nothing I enjoy more than researching and writing about the gorgeous Gene. So here goes.

Gene’s Eternal Verities.
Who was the man behind the movie star persona and bone-melting smile? I guess we will never really know, but we can catch glimpses of the ‘real’ Gene Kelly by reading his own words and those of people who knew and loved him, as well as by observing his actions. I have two magazine articles written by Betsy Blair, around 1949, which give a little insight into his ideals and his philosophy of life.
The first is called I Married A Dynamo. We have to remember that Gene and Betsy were happily married at this time, so she was in honour bound to say positive things about him, but it seems clear that Betsy continued to admire and respect and love Gene greatly throughout his life, and that his principles were ‘set in stone’ when he was very young, and he never wavered.

These are Betsy’s own words:
“Gene has worked so hard and so long that it’s now reached a point where working is a regular habit with him. He simply couldn’t do without it...
Next to his family he likes work best. He’d rather dance than eat, think than loaf, labor than relax. Sometimes, I must admit that after eight years of marriage it’s still a little difficult for me to distinguish between his states of relaxation and deep meditation.
When Gene is working on the choreography for a new picture, he sits absolutely quiet – sometimes for hours at a time – with that handsome Irish forehead of his furrowed in lines of thought. He is a man capable of losing himself in complete concentration...
…Another of Gene’s characteristics is neatness. Whenever he leaves a room, it’s infinitely more orderly than when he entered...
He also happens to be a great tease…
Gene seems to remember every book he has ever read. When we were first married, his memory seemed to me positively amazing: but now I take it more or less for granted...
The only thing he ever stumbles over is finances. He never spends any of his spare time studying the stock market or investing in oil wells. He is not interested in amassing a fortune...
In spite of Gene’s apparent sophistication…my husband has a very simple philosophy of living. He believes in what he calls “The eternal verities”. These truths deal with love, honor, and the protection of one’s family. Now this is the sort of guide for basic living, the primary sort of philosophy that saves a man from ulcers, anxiety and doctors. Gene’s calm evaluation of what is important and what is not, his fundamental sense of values have always been my rock of Gibraltar.”

The second article, from Motion Picture magazine, is called The Boss. It is in some ways sadly prophetic. Betsy writes about her need to resume her career after a few years of marriage.
A friend asked: “What does Gene say when you tell him you intend to go on working?”
Betsy: “I told her Gene says, ‘Fine, go ahead.’ Because that’s what he does say.”
Betsy writes of meeting Gene for the first time: “Gene was cute and exciting and I did get a crush on him right off, at first sight. But I think it was his attitude toward life, toward other people, that made me fall in love with him. In one of our first talks together, for instance, he asked me: “What do you believe in most?” Being sixteen I never thought very deeply about what I believed in most. Come to think of it, nobody had ever asked me! I just said, ‘Oh, I don’t know. What do you believe in most?’ And he answered, ‘In everyone having enough to eat.’ Simple little bombshells like that.
But as I soon learned, Gene loves people he’s never even seen. Gene loves – it’s a big word to use – Humanity. I am sure it was this attitude of his, toward life, toward people, a concept so different from any I had ever had, that made him different from anybody else and made me fall in love with him, and marry him.
…Our honeymoon was a cross-country drive – to Hollywood. And all along the way, I was fascinated to find that almost everywhere we stopped, Gene knew people not only by their given names but by their nicknames, which he had given them.
…That I didn’t work at all, or scarcely at all, after we got married, was no doing of Gene’s. He’s a ‘hands-off’ person anyhow. ‘Hands–off’ other people’s lives and the way they run them. With me he was even more so.
…He does everything around the house. Honestly you wouldn’t believe it, how clever he is. The built-in cabinets he’s made – you should see them. And he is so neat. He loves to have the place clean and shining and he does more than his fair share to keep it that way.
But when it comes to his clothes – oh my goodness! The faded blue-jeans, the tattered T-shirt...are not, as many suppose, Gene’s working clothes. They are Gene’s clothes! On the other hand he’s very observant of women’s clothes."

From an interview in the New Yorker around the time of the publication of Betsy Blair’s book.. “How could I have left Gene, this wonderful man, after sixteen years of marriage?” Blair said cheerfully. “This perfect husband, father, friend, protector, provider, hard worker. I loved and admired him as a brilliant actor and dancer as well as a good, good man! To this day, I can’t explain it.”
She went on, “It had nothing to do with sex. It was freedom. The word my grandchildren use to describe it is ‘cool.’ ” She laughed.

From Betsy Blair, The Memory of All That. 2003:
“Gene was an honorable young man. What remained of his Catholicism manifested itself in his attitude to women. There were ‘good girls’ and ‘bad girls’, and I was an exaggeratedly good girl. He never made me feel rejected, rather that he was taking care of me. He’d let me spend the night sometimes, but he didn’t make love to me... He’d kiss me gently and explain that I was too young for more than that. I was happy. I felt secure…
Gene was a wonderful father-to-be, tender, jokey, protective, loving, and interested...
You take a young man with big ideas from a working-class neighbourhood; then you add his gifts – perfect rhythm, boundless energy in an athletic body, musicality, imagination and humor, and, since we’re talking about the movies, sexiness and charm. Then add his character – hardworking and confident. And finally you mix in the unique ingredient, the one that makes all the difference – his unparalleled ability to use his own life experience and communicate it to the whole world through dance…
What I know, that’s perhaps not obvious from seeing him in the movies, is how serious he was. He managed somehow, with all the fun and games, to focus fiercely on his work. I think now that his work was never out of his mind…that for Gene his work was the most important part of his life. This is not in any sense a complaint...
He had no pretensions, no ‘society’ aspirations...
I have since heard that he could be difficult and demanding at the studio. I saw no trace of any of that. What I experienced was a man – the one I loved – who was flourishing and fulfilled. His excitement, his commitment to his work, and his pride in ‘my two girls’ as he called us, were irresistible...
A few years later I decided to join the Communist party. Gene had never objected to any of my activities; he agreed with most of them, and wouldn’t have stood in my way. But now, fresh out of the Navy, he said, ‘All regimentation is bad’…But Gene never turned into an anticommunist. He believed in unions, freedom of thought, social justice, and racial equality. He never wavered from his democratic principles. And he acted on his beliefs. …He went to Washington with the planeload of stars in support of the Hollywood Ten, and he didn’t recant as Humphrey Bogart did. For quite a few years afterwards Gene helped several of the blacklisted writers, giving money for their families and trying to get them jobs under the table...
Guts and gusto he had in everything he did…
Gene never stifled me… He never implied in any way that I had a position or special responsibility as his wife to think of his reputation. I was a free agent... He also supported and respected my professional life. He was attentive and enthusiastic.”

From Betsy’s testimony alone it seems clear that Gene was a special guy, a most unusual man for the time and place in which he lived. Maybe she was looking at him through rose-tinted glasses, but I don’t think so. There is a huge body of documentary evidence on my website ( )which confirms, from innumerable other sources, most of what she has said about him. He was honorable, warm-hearted, thoughtful, generous, honest, a man of strong beliefs and principles who was willing to stand up and be counted no matter what the cost.
Gene Kelly’s 'verities’ are indeed eternal, encompassing the very essence of what it means to be human. He was a human being of the very best kind. A man to be admired for more than his beautiful face and body, and his professional abilities. He not only danced but also lived and communicated Love, Joy and Dreams.

Sue Cadman (auntsuzy)

Monday, February 4, 2008

"Slaughter" Slaughters the Competition

The polls have closed (no, not those polls...) and we have another winner. While not nearly as many folks voted as last time, your voices were loud and clear. I admit, this wasn't exactly a fair contest. But, I needed a new post and wrote in a hurry. The topic posed: "Aside from the popular all-time favorites, my favorite less-celebrated dance is..." The results: 29 votes total, with 16 (55%) for the "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" number from Words and Music, 6 votes (20%) for Serafin's "Nina" from The Pirate, 5 votes (17%) for "I Like Myself" from It's Always Fair Weather, 2 votes (6%) for "The Hat My Dear Old Father Wore" from Take Me Out to the Ballgame, and an amazing zero votes for a number I like a lot, "Why Am I So Gone About That Girl?" from Les Girls. More on the loser later, but for now, let's find out more about our winning number.

Again, this wasn't a fair competition, because "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" actually is a popular all-time favorite. As part of the 1948 film Words and Music, it created the only exciting part of the entire Rodgers and Hart biopic as one of their numbers performed on stage. The number was originally written by Rodgers for Broadway in 1937 as the ballet-finale for a musical called On Your Toes. Unlike Gene Kelly's rendition, the original was a comedic ballet choreographed by George Balanchine, and it featured Ray Bolger, as any comedic dance routine should. For the film, Gene shortened the piece by about four minutes, and he changed the tone considerably. The number you see is far from comedic...

Set in a sleazy New York neighborhood, Kelly's Dancer encounters the wonderful Vera-Ellen as The Blonde. The couple dance seductively, and their mutual interest seems to grow as the music changes to a breezy, cheerful melody. Together they enter a saloon that seems to be populated by the city's finest gangsters and prostitutes. The music grows jazzy...the couple is smitten with each other. Vera-Ellen is the epitome of sensuality with her short skirt and seductive manner. Gene is equally seductive in what could possibly be his sexiest outfit as he dances a very masculine "ballet" to win the girl over. But, a rival cuts in...a fight breaks out! All does not end well for this couple in one of the most innovative dance routines ever to grace the screen. It's only seven minutes long, but Gene and Vera manage to convey a wealth of emotion in that short time, all through dance. No words, but plenty of acting through dance. It's a creative celebration of the music, and it shows how effective dance can be at presenting emotion.

And now, join me in watching the masterpiece... And please comment on your vote in the poll! Why do you love this number or not like the others as much?

Saturday, February 2, 2008

We Miss You, Gene!

Today is the 12th anniversary of Gene Kelly's death. His legacy lives on through the magic of his movies, and today there are just as many fans who love him and his work as there were back when he was making movies. To honor Gene today, I offer a poem that he wrote. This was printed on the "thank you" notes sent to everyone who offered words of sympathy after his death.

Some streets wind crookedly between long rows
Of dingy, dirty houses
That frown upon them with their lank, long faces.
Some streets flow gracefully along, bordered by stately trees
And calm, palatial mansions
That smile at them in silent, tranquil peace.
One street I know climbs roughly up a rugged hill,
Surmounting many huge, impeding boulders
Until it gains the top;
And then slopes gently down the other side,
Finally merging into the cool mist
Of a blossomed, green-turfed valley.
A man I know is like that street,
Who having climbed the rough and rugged hill and reached the summit,
Now steps upon the springy, carpet-grass and steadily makes his way down into the valley;
There to pause, a-wearied of his tiresome, toilsome trek,
And lying down upon the moist loam, allow the cool, damp mist to cover him
And he will sleep.

Gene Kelly
1929, age 16