MGM at 90: Gene Kelly

Few other performers can claim the title of “triple threat” so handily as Gene Kelly did with MGM in the 1940s and ’50s as an actor, a singer, and, of course, a dancer. But his career wasn’t limited to only those three titles; throughout the course of his professional life, he was also a producer, a director, a writer, a choreographer, and, all the while, an athlete. For a studio that claimed “more stars than there are in heaven,” Kelly was one of their brightest, an indelible association with the genre MGM took to new heights: the movie musical.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949)

Baseball’s back in full swing, and as part of Forgotten Films‘ baseball blogathon, I’ve chosen to cover a very fun baseball movie that, admittedly, is perhaps not the most stellar example of actual gameplay: 1949’s Take Me Out to the Ball Game. It’s a fun, somewhat historical counterpoint to many baseball movies that choose to focus on real ball players or, you know, real ball games. But no matter, because what this one may lack in authenticity of sport, it more than makes up for in movie musical cred: it’s directed by Busby Berkeley, produced by Arthur Freed, with a story by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, and choreography by Gene himself. It’s also one of three glorious instances where we see Gene teamed up with Frank Sinatra, so, really, there’s not too much to complain about.

Cover Girl (1944)

After seeing Patricia Ward Kelly’s show, “Gene Kelly: A Legacy,” I was dismayed to find that there were still a handful of performances that his widow considered to be among his best that I had still not yet seen. For (my) reference, those were: The Three Musketeers, Thousands Cheer, Words and Music, Cover Girl, Living in a Big Way, and Brigadoon. I covered Words and Music a few weeks back—it happily doubled as a That’s Entertainment entry, which is always a plus for me—but today I decided to set my sights on a film containing Kelly working alongside one of my favorite classic actresses, Rita Hayworth.