Friday, November 06, 2020

My Ten Favorite Gene Kelly Movies

Gene Kelly has been a favorite of mine since my teens.  There was a time when he was one of my top favorite actors, and he's still in my personal pantheon, just a little farther down now.  Today, I present to you my ten favorite movies of his.  They're obviously mostly musicals... but not all!

1. An American in Paris (1951)  An American GI (Gene Kelly) stays in Paris after WWII and pursues his dream of being a great painter.  He gets tangled up with two women, one (Nina Foch) who buys his art and things that means she can buy him too, and one who is a quiet dancer (Leslie Caron) engaged to another man.  I love the music in this movie so much -- George Gershwin is one of my favorite composers, and I love seeing how they fit so many of his famous songs into the story, making Ira Gershwin's lyrics move it along.  For many years, I didn't realize the songs weren't written FOR the movie, they fit so well!

2. Singin' in the Rain (1952)  A famous silent movie star (Gene Kelly) and his best friend (Donald O'Connor) and a nobody dancer (Debbie Reynolds) muddle their way through the transition from silents to talkies while trying to avoid the machinations of a scheming actress (Jean Hagen).  I got to take my kids to see this in the theater a few years ago, thanks to the TCM Fathom Events program of showing classics in theaters once a month, and now they love it too :-)

3. Brigadoon (1954)  Two Americans (Gene Kelly and Van Johnson) on a hunting trip in Scotland stumble into the enchanted village of Brigadoon, which appears on earth only once every hundred years.  Naturally, one of them falls in love with a girl (Cyd Charisse) from the village.  It's a soft, magical, mysterious movie, and I used to think it was boring when I was a kid, but I've grown into it.

4. It's Always Fair Weather (1955)  Three ex-GIs (Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey, and Michael Kidd) plan to reunite at their favorite NYC bar ten years after the war ends.  When they do, they discover than none of them is happy with who he's become.  As they get to know each other all over again, they come to realize what they do and don't like about themselves. Gene Kelly co-directed this gem, and it's one of the few times you get to see legendary choreographer Michael Kidd dance onscreen.  The dancing in this is spectacularly inventive -- Gene Kelly performs one glorious number by tap-dancing in roller skates!  This was supposed to make a sort of trilogy with Anchors Aweigh and On the Town, but Sinatra wasn't available, so it didn't.

5. The Three Musketeers (1948)  D'Artagnan (Gene Kelly) and his new musketeer pals (Van Heflin, Gig Young, Robert Coote) try to stop the evil Richelieu (Vincent Price) from taking over France.  This is not a musical.  Gene Kelly does not dance in it.  But he's the most graceful sword-fighter you'll ever see.

6. The Pirate (1948)  A young woman (Judy Garland) growing up in the Caribbean is obsessed with pirates, especially the infamous Macoco.  She meets some circus performers, one of whom (Gene Kelly) falls in love with her and pretends to be Macoco so she will fall in love with him too.  This is meant to be a spoof of the great pirate movies of the '30s that starred people like Errol Flynn, and if you don't take it seriously, it's great fun!

7. Anchors Aweigh (1945)  Two sailors (Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra) are on leave in New York City.  And they have adventures.  Gene Kelly dances with the cartoon mouse Jerry.  That's pretty much all you need to know to make you want to see it, right?

8. On the Town (1949)  Three sailors (Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Jules Munshin) are on leave in New York City.  They have adventures.  They fall in love.  They are NOT the same people from Anchors Aweigh.  It is NOT the same movie.  But to tell the truth, I can never really remember what adventure happens in which movie.

9. For Me and My Gal (1942)  Two vaudeville entertainers (Gene Kelly and Judy Garland) fall in love.  He deliberately injures himself so he won't be drafted for WWI, but later joins up anyway.  It's lots of American patriotism wrapped up in song and dance, meant to encourage WWII audiences to support the new war effort, and I really like movies like that, to be honest.  This is also Gene Kelly's screen debut!

10. Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949)  Two baseball players (Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra) who are vaudeville performers when they're not playing baseball, get mixed up with gamblers trying to fix the World Series.  And there's romance involving the new lady owner (Esther Williams) of their baseball team.  This is a very fun and cheerful sort of movie, and I really should watch it more often.

This has been my contribution to the With Glamour and Panache: A Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly Musicals Blogathon hosted by Along the Brandywine.  What do you think of my picks?  Do you have different favorites?

18 comments:

  1. Gene Kelley is very handsome but I don't love his movies, I'm more a screwball comedy sort of person. But a spoof of famous movies sign me up.

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    1. Livia Rachelle, yeah, I do think he's quite handsome :-) And could the man ever dance! I'm not a big fan of screwball comedies, so you may have those and I'll keep his musicals. But you might find The Pirate amusing! And speaking of spoofy pirate movies, you might reeeeeally like Bob Hope's The Princess and the Pirate if you haven't seen that.

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  2. I really like parts of An American in Paris, but my attention span always falls apart during the 20 minute ballet scene. But, I do enjoy watching it from time to time! You have Singin' in the Rain on this list which makes me happy because it is my favorite movie of all time! Nothing tops it for me. <3 I also really loved For Me and My Gal. I didn't really like The Pirate, but that's because I watched it right after seeding FMaMG and I want in the right mood. I think I would find it hysterical now. Of these I've also seen Brigadoon and parts of On the Town (though it might have been Anchors Aweigh, I can never be sure). The rest of these sound really good, too.

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    1. MC, my mom feels the same way about the ballet in An American in Paris. She always wanted to fast-forward through it, and I never wanted to because I love Gershwin's music and Kelly's dancing so much. Lol!

      The Pirate is definitely an odd movie, and I think a second viewing when you KNOW what to expect makes it work a lot better.

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  3. The only one of these movies I've seen is "Singin' In the Rain"--Eva-Joy showed it to me when I visited her! I didn't like Gene Kelly's character very much, and I didn't like the romance, but the "singing in the rain" scene was pretty great, just as a dance number. Soft & magical.

    And Donald O'Connor's character was lovely, of course. ;)

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    1. Katie, I love Cosmo Brown! Donald O'Connor is the best. :D

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    2. Katie, interesting! I'm glad there were parts of Singin' in the Rain you did like, at least.

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  4. Whoohoo! This was such a happy idea. I'm so glad you were able to do it.

    Let's see...

    An American in Paris is one of my grandma's favorites and, since we're close and share a mutual love of ballet, I think that one's going on my TBW list somewhere near the top.

    After Carissa's review I definitely need to see The Pirate.

    Of the others I've seen:

    I keep trying Take Me Out to the Ballgame and it still hasn't quite clicked, but I wouldn't go so far as to say I dislike it.

    Brigadoon is sloooowly growing on me.

    (Most) all of Singin'in the Rain = Happy Feelings (and some numbers particularly are in a class of their own <3)

    Finally, I generally love Anchors Aweigh very much indeed. ;)

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    1. Heidi, I'm glad too! I keep meaning to do more of these lists (I have ideas for lots of them) and then they fall by the wayside. Sigh.

      An American in Paris is beautiful. I could watch it over and over. It and Guys and Dolls kind of bounce back and forth as my favorite musical :-)

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  5. *adds all of these to my list* Been meaning to watch more old Hollywood films.

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    1. Skye, I think you would especially like Brigadoon, out of all of these. It has a mystical eeriness that I think would appeal to you.

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  6. Great list! I have to admit that I haven't seen all of them -- yet. The Three Musketeers with Kelly stays the most true to the book out of all of the musketeers movies I've seen. As for An American in Paris -- I saw it before I went to France many years ago. One day while at the Luxembourg park in Paris, I met a guy who had done something on that show--helped on the script or something -- so I've another reason to particularly like that one.

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    1. Thanks, Stanley! Yes, this version of The 3 Musketeers is really close to the book, though they did make a few changes (and I'm glad they made d'Artagnan's romance with Constance less icky).

      HOW COOL that you got to meet someone who was involved with the American in Paris production! Wow.

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    2. It's been a while since I saw that one. What do you mean about the romance between d'Artagnan and Constance?

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    3. In the book, Constance is married, but falls in love with d'Artagnan anyway, and they carry on an illicit affair, and it's just... distastesful to me? In both this version and the 1990s, she's just a lady in waiting for the queen, not married to a guy in league with Rochefort.

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  7. Hi Rachel!
    What a great list! Gene is so great. Singin in the Rain is what first sparked my interest in classic movies as a kid. I love it so much :) Glad to have found your blog! I run one in classic movies too.

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    1. Knwiniarksi, thank you! I think Singin' in the Rain is a great "gateway" movie for getting kids interested in classics, as it's very approachable and fun.

      I'm glad you found my blog too! Where do you blog? Always great to meet another classic film fan :-)

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    2. Hi Rachel,
      I'm Kristen and I blog at knwiniarski.com :) I have a couple blogathons coming up too, if you'd be interested.
      https://knwiniarski.com/announcing-mickey-rooney-a-belated-centenary-blogathon/
      https://knwiniarski.com/announcing-the-1st-annual-frank-sinatra-blogathon/

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