This week in history: a star was born. Wednesday, August 23, would have been Gene Kelly’s 104th birthday. Dancer, choreographer, director, actor, father, husband, sportsman, Naval lieutenant, political activist, and one of the most beloved icons of Hollywood’s golden age. What better way to celebrate than with a book giveaway? Enter for your chance to win a copy of He’s Got Rhythm: The Life and Career of Gene Kelly by Cynthia and Sara Brideson.
In the first comprehensive biography written since the legendary star’s death in 1996, Cynthia Sara Brideson disclose new details of Kelly’s complex life. Drawing on previously untapped articles and interviews with Kelly’s wives, friends, and colleagues, Brideson and Brideson illuminate new and unexpected aspects of the actor’s life and work. Not only do they examine his contributions to the world of entertainment in depth, but they also consider his political activities—including his opposition to the Hollywood blacklist. He’s Got Rhythm is a balanced and compelling view of one of the screen’s enduring legends.
Below is an excerpt from the book. Here, we’re on the set of Singing’ in the Rain, as Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, and Gene Kelly practice the routine for “Good Morning”.
Another flare up took place after Gene relentlessly went through a tap routine with Debbie and Donald that was to accompany “Good Morning.” The scene takes place at Don’s mansion and depicts him, Cosmo, and Kathy brainstorming ideas of how to save Don and Lina’s disastrous talkie. To cheer themselves, they sing and dance everywhere from the counter of Don’s bar to his sofa. As Debbie and Donald rehearsed, Gene continually told them they were out of step. “You’re so stupid, you’re not doing the step right. You’re stupid,” he told Donald. Thirty-five years later, Donald told Debbie that Gene picked on him because he was in fact always mad at her. But, Gene knew that if he kept yelling at the young actress she would hold up production with her tears. “So he screamed at Donald, who wouldn’t cry,” Debbie concluded. Finally, Gene realized it was he who was tapping the dance steps incorrectly. This only fueled his temper; he chided his co-stars, who had noticed his fault all along, for not informing him of it.
After all the suffering involved in “Good Morning,” Gene was still unhappy with Debbie’s dancing and decided someone should dub her taps. He went into the recording room to dub the sound of her feet as well as his own. Gene’s lifelong drive for perfection and incessant dissatisfaction (which Debbie intuited was largely directed at himself) could not help but transfer to his co-stars. He did not take long to apologize to Donald O’Connor for using him as a whipping boy. “That’s okay, Gene. But next time you do it, I’ll kick you in the balls,” Donald told him with no trace of his usual clowning. There is no record that Gene ever unleashed his anger on Donald again.