Gotta Dance: Gene Kelly at the Stanford

For some time now, I’ve been hoping that some local rep house would do a series on MGM musicals from the 40s and 50s. They could call the series The Lion Dances.

For the next four weeks, we have something close. Starting this Friday, the Stanford will run what they’re calling the Gene Kelly Film Festival. Running only two double bills a week, it doesn’t fit my definition of a festival. But it gives you a chance to enjoy some of the most entertaining movies made – and all presented in 35mm. (Not that I wouldn’t enjoy them just as much in DCP; maybe more.)

Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly followed Fred Astaire to become the second great male dancer of mid-century Hollywood. While Astaire’s onscreen persona was the aristocrat, Kelly’s was the regular guy. Kelly often choreographed his musicals with his behind-the-camera collaborator, Stanley Donan. The two sometimes shared director chores, as well.

Here’s what’s coming up in the series:

October 26-28: Singin’ in the Rain & Brigadoon.
Singin’ in the Rain just may be the most entertaining movie ever made; you can read my A+ appreciation. Kelly and Donan directed and choreographed. I saw Brigadoon, an early Cinemascope musical, once at the UC Theatre in the 90s. I hated it.

Singin’ in the Rain

October 31-November 1: The Pirate & The Three Musketeers.
I haven’t seen The Pirate in ages, and of all the films here, this is the one that might tempt me to drive all the way to Stanford. I saw it decades ago and loved it. Kelly plays an actor who pretends to be a pirate to win Judy Garland’s love. The Three Musketeers is a rare non-musical for Kelly, but for a performer, dancing and sword-fighting are very similar skills. I saw it once a long time ago and thought it is okay.

November 2-4: On the Town & Take Me Out to the Ball Game.
After Singin’ in the Rain, On the Town is my favorite Gene Kelly movie. Three sailors on leave in New York have 24 hours to see the sights, enjoy the nightlife, and fall in love. It’s also Kelly and Donan’s first try as directors. I haven’t seen Take Me Out to the Ball Game.

The Pirate

November 7-8: Anchors Aweigh & For Me and My Gal.
Anchors Aweigh is a so-so movie with a couple of good dances, and one technically amazing scene where the real Kelly dances with the animated Jerry Mouse. I haven’t seen For Me and My Gal.

November 9-11: Cover Girl & Les Girls.
No comments. Haven’t seen either movie.

November 14-15: It’s Always Fair Weather & Summer Stock.
Again, I haven’t seen them and won’t comment on them.

Anchors Away

November 16-18: An American in Paris & The Young Girls of Rochefort.
Great Gershwin songs come to life through Gene Kelly’s magnificent talent both as choreographer and star in An American in Paris. But when no one is singing or dancing, it’s just okay. Jacques Demy’s Young Girls of Rochefort has similar problems, but the songs aren’t anywhere near as good and the dances are more derivative.

What’s missing? Kelly’s attempt at serious ballet, Invitation to the Dance, along with films he directed but did not star in later in life, such as A Guide for the Married Man and Hello, Dolly!

An American in Paris