Gene Kelly, the dancer and choreographer who brought his athletic grace and Irish charm to Singin' in the Rain, On the Town and other great movie musicals of the 1940s and 1950s, died yesterday, aged 83.
"Gene died peacefully in his sleep this morning, his wife, Patricia, at his bedside," his publicist, Warren Cowan, said. Kelly had suffered strokes in 1994 and 1995 and never really recovered from them, Mr Cowan said.
Kelly's most memorable dance was the title number of Singin' in the Rain, in which he splashed joyously through puddles on a near-deserted street, for love of Debbie Reynolds. He was co-director as well as choreographer and actor in the 1952 film.
His acrobatic dance style contrasted with the more elegant steps of Fred Astaire, who began his film career a decade earlier. "People would compare us, but we didn't dance alike at all," he said in a 1994 interview. "Fred danced in tails but I took off my coat, rolled up my sleeves and danced in sweatshirts and jeans and khakis." The pair danced together twice, in Ziegfeld Follies (1946) and at the end of their careers in That's Entertainment Part II.
In the 1945 film Anchors Aweigh, he danced with cartoon characters such as Tom and Jerry, as well as Frank Sinatra and Kathryn Grayson, and won an Oscar nomination as best actor.
Kelly choreographed many of his films and began taking more control by co-directing On the Town with Stanley Donen in 1949. He said it was his favourite film: "I loved it for the ground it broke," he said. His most bravura performance came with An American in Paris. He created the dances, climaxed by the 17-minute ballet to George Gershwin's music. The film won the Oscar as best picture of 1951 and Kelly was given a special award. He then concentrated on dramatic roles.
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