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Boy, Gene Kelly Was A Real Jerk!!


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'Singin' In The Rain,' On The Town,' 'Anchors Aweigh,' 'An American In Paris.' These are all great films that showcase the talent of Gene Kelly. And he WAS a talented dancer, actor & director. But the more I read about the guy, the less I think of him as a person. First of all he dated & married a sixteen year old girl(which I suppose in Hollywood or other regions is not a completely terrible thing), he would frequently shove his tongue down his na?ve leading ladies throats during a scene (recounted by Debbie Reynolds who was like 17 when she worked with him). And he was a complete **** to the great Busby Berkeley who was attempting a comeback as director late in in the forties after suffering several personal problems that he overcame, humiliating the guy in front of the crew, blacklisting him at MGM. Even his long time friend & co-director of 'Singin' In The Rain' broke off their partnership because he couldn't deal with Kelly's ego. I love the movies but not a fan!

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gary1939 wrote:

First of all he dated & married a sixteen year old girl

 

When was this? My understanding is that Kelly was married to Betsy Blair - Clara of *Marty* - and Stanley Donen to Jeanne Coyne. Kelly and Coyne took up with each other leaving their spouses behind. They married and stayed so until her death but the Donen/Kelly partnership was obviously destroyed. I know he remarried and was until his death. I also respect his talent but as a person he was morally challenged.

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Personally, I'd like to know where the OP got their info. Was it revealed before, or after Kelly died and had no chance to refute it, if indeed it could be?

 

I take no stock in salicious "facts" about anybody that's released AFTER the person died, when anybody can say anything. Especially when it's by someone who wasn't acquainted with the person in question

 

Sepiatone

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"I take no stock in salicious "facts" about anybody that's released AFTER the person died, when anybody can say anything. Especially when it's by someone who wasn't acquainted with the person in question"

 

Well, that's kind of a tricky sea to navigate, Sepiatone.

 

We all know the adage "Don't speak ill of the dead" but there's also "If you don't have anything nice to say, say nothing" while a person is alive. Often it's a classier move to NOT spread unfavorable comments or stories around while a person is with us.

 

There are and have been tales of Kelly's less than sweet demeanor as an artist. It shouldn't be hard to find some, legitimately sourced, via google if you choose. To his credit he owned up to a lot. The man was a perfectionist, a harsh taskmaster and had his own ideas on motivational methods. His disdain (less so as he aged) for Busby Berkley's style is fairly well known.

 

FWIW I couldn't care less. Nothing he did was so wretched it would sour me on his work. If every boorish anecdote proved true it's not like he was torturing puppies or worse.

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I believe Esther Williams wrote in her autobiography that Kelly and Donen made life miserable for her during the filming of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game." She figured it had something to do with how tall she was.

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While Gene Kelly was known for his ego and perfectionism, I'm a little concerned about some of the other aspersions cast on his character. His first wife, Betsy Blair, was a highly precocious and politically involved young woman, not a na?ve school girl (in fact, more political than Kelly, to the extent that she may have been subject to the blacklist). She was 17 when they married, but you must remember that many young women married at that age in the 40s and 50s. They divorced in the mid-50s because she could no longer stand in his "shadow," but even after the divorce he went to bat for her when the blacklist tried to keep her from getting her role in Marty. Gene began seeing Jean Coyne Stanley Donen's ex-wife after the divorce; also, Donen was no saint, having been married 5 times and been involved in numerous affairs. Gene and Jean Coyne stayed together until her death from cancer in the 1970s.

 

The reason Kelly and Donen disliked Busby Berkeley was that his philosophy of choreography and filming dance was completely different from theirs. Donen admitted as much in his interview in "The Story of Film," although he also admitted to admiring Berkeley later. Berkeley was more focused on what the camera was doing than on the dancers themselves, which was the opposite of both Kelly and Donen's ideas about dance on film.

 

A good deal of the above information is in Alvin Yudoff's bio, Gene Kelly: Life of Dance and Dreams. According to Yudoff, he was as hard on himself and his own performance as he was on others. In that respect, he was like another dancer, Fred Astaire, who apparently was also a perfectionist, but Astaire was a more likeable and modest personality.

 

 

I'm of the opinion that Kelly (and Donen as well) was one of the great artists of musical film. He created some of the most wonderful musical moments in film history. If he was a man of ego, so be it. Are we going to tear Orson Welles apart because he had a huge ego and criticize his work based on how he treated Rita Hayworth ?

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For several years in the early 90's I had the good fortune to work for Sydney Guilaroff, someone I had known for a number of years previously.

 

Sydney rarely spoke unkindly about any of the hundreds of people he had worked with at MGM and elsewhere. Two he did make unflattering remarks about were Cecil Beaton and Gene Kelly.

 

"People who worked with Gene at Metro called him 'Smelly Kelly' because as a human being he stunk." Sydney remarked in a recorded interview.

 

Sydney found Gene manipulative and was especially incensed while working with him on a 1940's musical during which Gene deliberately flirted with and led on the film's bi-sexual director in order to get an advantage in scenes and preferential treatment from the director.

 

When Sydney worked with friend Shirley MacLaine in the 60's on "What a Way to Go", in which Kelly was featured, Sydney noted that if anything, Gene was even more obnoxious.

 

Ginger Rogers came to Boston in October, 1991 with respect to the release of her autobiography. We spent some time together in between her doing Tom Bergeron's television show in Boston and her book signing at the Harvard Coop.

 

Despite being slightly impaired from a stroke, she was sharp and alert and talked about an event in L.A. she had been honored at around the 50th anniversary of her Oscar win. Sydney had also attended.

 

She remarked to me, on tape, that the most mortifying moment of her career had been caused by Gene Kelly.

 

She and Kelly were to jointly present Fred Astaire with an award and when they were announced while standing in the wings, Gene shoved Ginger out of the way causing her to almost fall backwards, so that he could make his entrance first, grab the award and make the presentation while Ginger just stood there.

 

Edited by: Paulio on Nov 28, 2013 9:00 AM

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>Paulio wrote: When Sydney worked with friend Shirley MacLaine in the 60's on "What a Way to Go", in which Kelly was featured, Sydney noted that if anything, Gene was even more obnoxious.

 

 

Are you saying that Kelly really was Pinky Benson, the character who lets fame go to his head in "What a Way to Go!"?

 

Edited by: jakeem on Nov 28, 2013 2:50 PM

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Probably uncomfortably close.....

 

:)

 

I am not denying the man had talent because he did but there were and are many people with talent who are gracious, kind, and appreciative of the value and contributions of others. Stories I heard from Sydney, Ginger and many others have sometimes made it difficult for me to forget the "back story" and focus solely on the celluloid presentation.

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Aside from some great musical numbers and a couple good performances, Kelly now strikes me as being a terrible actor. Watching him in films like THE THREE MUSKETEERS, 40 CARATS, MARJORIE MORNINGSTAR ... he's just plain lousy.

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Debbie Reynolds has said many times how badly Gene Kelly treated her during the filming of "Singing in the Rain." After all, she was only a teenager at the time and was still learning her craft. Like most others who have responded, I would never deny his tremendous talent, but I'm disappointed that he wasn't a very nice human being.

 

Terrence.

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