Happy 104th Birthday, Gene Kelly!

Gene Kelly was born 104 years ago today in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which seems apt, given that he was something of a blue-collar hoofer. As Kelly once put it, “Fred Astaire represented the aristocracy, I represented the proletariat.” Here are 10 GK Did-You-Knows:

  • Kelly’s father was of Irish descent, and his mother was Irish and German.
  • Kelly’s father was Al Jolson‘s road manager in the 1920s.
  • He attended Penn State University for a while before graduating from the University of Pittsburgh with a degree in economics.
  • At Pitt, Kelly was a member of the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity.
  • He and his younger brother, Fred, had a dance act in vaudeville. Fred eventually replaced Gene as Harry the Hoofer in the 1939 Broadway production of The Time of Your Life.
  • While Kelly was starring in Pal Joey on Broadway, he signed a contract with producer David O. Selznick. Selznick, after struggling to find a suitable role for Kelly, sold his contract to MGM.
  • Kelly was fighting a high fever while filming the iconic rain scene in Singin’ in the Rain.
  • The first two of Kelly’s three wives were dancers.
  • He was a dance consultant for Madonna‘s 1993 Girlie Show tour.
  • Kelly was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton in 1994.

Happy birthday, Gene Kelly, wherever you may be!

Gene Kelly

Singing and Dancing in the Rain

Gene Kelly“It’s the difference between seeing Gene Kelly dance, who makes you think you could do it, and seeing Rudolf Nureyev, who makes you realize you couldn’t. It’s very, very different.”—David Rakoff

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gene Kelly. He was an unbelievably talented performer who moved with such ease, grace and casual flair that he managed, as David Rakoff once observed, to “make you think you could do it.”

There are artists who make it quite clear that what they’re doing is beyond the reach of mere mortals, and others who almost convince us to leap out of our chairs and sing or dance or act or paint or write (well, if we’re going to write, there’s no real need to leave our chairs, but you get the idea). The world benefits from both kinds of artists, but we have a soft spot for the latter type.

Happy birthday, Mr. Kelly, wherever you are.