Yes, he sang in the rain. But Gene Kelly brought his pumped-up elegance to the screen in more than 45 films as more than just a genius dancer. Here, a lineup of five of his most moving feats (all available on video):
ON THE TOWN
Kelly adapted Leonard Bernstein’s Broadway romp about gobs on leave for his directorial debut and became the first (along with codirector Stanley Donen) to film a musical on location — a bustling postwar New York, New York.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
Arguably the greatest musical ever made (again, codirected by Kelly and Donen), this affectionate spoof of Hollywood at the dawn of the talkie era has it all, from Donald O’ Connor’s slapstick ”Make ‘Em Laugh” to Kelly’s immortal splashing-down-the-sidewalk title number. In a word, exhilarating.
Lerner and Loewe’s Broadway dream about a magic village in the Scottish highlands is at its most magical whenever Kelly dances (usually with Cyd Charisse). Waltzing o’er the hills as if walking on air, Kelly embodies joy as a jaded American who rediscovers his romantic soul.
INVITATION TO THE DANCE
Kelly’s pet project, an ambitious omnibus of dance pieces without a word spoken — not even in song. As usual, dancer Kelly was director Kelly’s best interpreter. Cavorting through the animated ”Sinbad the Sailor” sequence, he invests this arty experiment with that irrepressible Kelly spirit.
INHERIT THE WIND
As a cynical reporter covering the Scopes ”Monkey Trial,” Kelly shows his mettle in a drama, holding his own with no less than Spencer Tracy (in the Clarence Darrow role) and Fredric March (as the William Jennings Bryan character). He couldn’t fall back on that famous grin, but he showed he could sneer with the best.