Thursday, February 15, 2018
THE FILMS OF GENE KELLY
This heavily illustrated tome is an excellent introduction to and authoritative dissection of the career of the man who was best known as a dancer, but who also made his mark with dramatic performances and as a film director of note. Kelly had a different style than that of his "rival," Astaire, one that might be described as more athletic, but both men were tops in their profession. Thomas delves into Kelly's musicals, such as Anchors Aweigh, Brigadoon, and Living in a Big Way; his "straight" performances in non-musicals such as The Black Hand, Christmas Holiday, and Inherit the Wind (in which he was excellent); and his hit-or-miss directorial assignments such as Gigot with Jackie Gleason, A Guide for the Married Man, and Hello Dolly with Barbra Streisand. Along the way we get Kelly's impressions of each film as well as behind-the-scenes details, and lots and lots of photographs. Although I was never an especially big admirer of Kelly's, this book made me look at him differently. Kelly originally made his mark starring in Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey on Broadway -- much better casting than Frank Sinatra in the film version -- and it could be argued that he was one of those lucky people who got better-looking as they got older. Also included are Kelly's interesting remarks about gay dancers.
Verdict: Top-notch, informative, and intelligent look at the career of a great hoofer. ***1/2.