Eugene Curran “Gene” Kelly was an American dancer, actor, singer, film director and producer, and choreographer. A major exponent of 20th century filmed dance, Kelly was known for his energetic and athletic dancing style, his good looks and the likeable characters that he played on screen.
Although he is known today for his performance in Singin’ in the Rain, he was a dominant force in Hollywood musical films from the mid 1940s until this art form fell out of fashion in the late 1950s. His many innovations transformed the Hollywood musical film, and he is credited with almost single-handedly making the ballet form commercially acceptable to film audiences.
Kelly was the recipient of an Academy Honorary Award in 1952 for his career achievements. He later received lifetime achievement awards in the Kennedy Center Honors, and from the Screen Actors Guild and American Film Institute; in 1999, the American Film Institute also numbered him 15th in their Greatest Male Stars of All Time list.
He was the third son of James Kelly, a phonograph salesman, and Harriet Curran, who were both children of Irish Roman Catholic immigrants. He was born in the Highland Park neighbourhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and, at the age of eight, was enrolled by his mother in dance classes, along with his elder brother James. They both rebelled, and, according to Kelly: “We didn’t like it much and were continually involved in fistfights with the neighborhood boys who called us sissies.I didn’t dance again until I was fifteen.” He thought it would be a good way to get girls. Kelly returned to dance on his own initiative and by then was an accomplished sportsman and well able to take care of himself. He attended St. Raphael School Elementary School In the Morningside neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. He graduated from Peabody High School in 1929. He enrolled in Pennsylvania State College to study journalism but the economic crash obliged him to seek employment to help with the family’s finances. At this time, he worked up dance routines with his younger brother Fred in order to earn prize money in local talent contests, and they also performed in local nightclubs.