Thursday, March 22, 2018
HE'S GOT RHYTHM: THE LIFE AND CAREER OF GENE KELLY
He's Got Rhythm explores the life and work of Gene Kelly, who could act, sing, choreograph, and direct, but always considered himself primarily a dancer. And boy could be dance! This lengthy and fairly exhaustive bio looks at his often contradictory nature; his perfectionism, which occasionally put him at odds with co-workers and frequent collaborators, such as Stanley Donen [Royal Wedding]; his three marriages, to actress Betsy Blair [A Delicate Balance] and others; his friendly "rivalry" with Fred Astaire [Carefree]; and his persistent championing of dance throughout his long life. His marriage to Blair ended in divorce when she fell in love with another man; his second wife, who had formerly worked for him, died of leukemia; and his third wife, who was working with him on his autobiography, was a much younger woman who took over his life and, according to the book, separated him from his close friends and family even as he lay dying. The authors examine every project that Kelly was involved or nearly involved in, including his star turn as Joey in the original Broadway production of Pal Joey; his plans to star in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a movie that was ultimately canceled; his turn behind the camera with Hello Dolly and other movies; his TV specials that celebrated the dance; and his appearances in such classics as Singing in the Rain and On the Town. Kelly's low-budget dramatic films such as The Devil Makes Three, are mentioned only in passing in comparison. But this book is an excellent tribute to Kelly, which makes a strong case for his art and his enduring popularity.
Verdict: First-class bio. ***1/2.