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as taken from Reel to Real:

Gene Kelly was America's leading man on the dance floor, and much more. His grace made American men feel good about singing and dancing.

He charmed audiences for decades in films such as "An American in Paris" and "Singing In the Rain," and showed his dramatic chops in films such as "Inherit the Wind." He remained in the public eye through appearances in "That's Entertainment," and its subsequent sequels.

Gotta Dance! -- June 1978 -- Kelly's home on Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, CA.

One of Beverly Hills' most solid citizens, Kelly has owned the same red-shuttered home done in the style of a French farmhouse, for the last 34 years. During the late 1940s and early '50s, Kelly's house was the weekend focal point of some of the most famous parties in Hollywood. MGM stars of the magnitude of Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, and Bob Fosse would play touch -- football in the backyard, sing impromptu duets at the piano and gorge themselves on an assortment of coldcuts and sandwiches. Kelly would readily dispense alcohol to "all comers" behind the ba

r.

Once inside his living room, Kelly quick-stepped over to greet us with an athletic bounce not too far removed from a dance step. He was casually dressed in a blue short-sleeved shirt, blue slacks, black leather slip-on shoes and tinted prescription glasses. "I was just reading in my library -- it's my favorite room," he said.

FANTLE: What was it like working with Judy Garland in Summer Stock? You also make The Pirate and For Me And My Gal with her at MGM.

KELLY: Wonderful, wonderful Judy. She was the greatest. She was such a hard worker. I particularly remember out dance to "The Portland Fancy." It took place in the barn and was not an easy number-there were some tough turns at the end, but she was magnificent.

FANTLE: How do you react to critical appraisals of your work?

KELLY: Most critics really fail to see all the hard work that goes into a musical film, especially the numbers. For instance, the "Moses Supposes" tap dance that Donald O'Connor and I do in Singin' in the Rain. Most critics dismiss it as a zany Marx Brothers romp. They remember the clowning around we did that preceded the dance, but not the dance itself.

FANTLE: Do you own any of your old movies?

KELLY: I don't own any of my movies. I know I could probably get prints, but that would involve film piracy which is against the law. *** Gene Kelly-Setting the Record Straight!-- July 1994 -- Kelly's home on Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, CA. Hollywood isn't cherished for its long memory. In fact, it's often derided as incestuous and infested with a particular brand of shark that jealously devours those whose movies don't excel at the box office. However, even a town as insecure as Hollywood can sometimes reach a meaningful consensus about real art. That happens to be the case concerning the legacy of song-and-dance man Gene Kelly. He is venerated everywhere in the film capitol as a true original -- no small achievement in a place with more than its fair share of poseurs and mere technicians. since Fred Astaire's death in 1987, Kelly has stood alone as the reigning high priest of a joyous and uniquely American art form -- the movie musical. For almost half a century, Kelly has lived in the same French colonial house with red window shutters on Rodeo Drive in the Beverly Hills flatlands. It was there, on Oscar night, that we chatted about old movies and future aspirations. Dressed in chinos, a white Ralph Lauren polo shirt and leather loafers, Kelly, now 81, slowly made his way over to greet us. His steps were halting and measured due to "nursing a bum leg." Shortly after the interview, he was hospitalized in San Francisco with cellulitas (a potentially dangerous infection) in his leg. He's now back home on the mend. For an instant, it was hard to reconcile Kelly's enduring movie image of explosive athleticism with the reality before us -- that of a slightly enfeebled octogenarian. But if the march of time has slowed Kelly's machine gun footwork to a slow shuffle, age has also sharpened his wit and deepened his memory.

FANTLE: How do you react to the plethora of posthumous books being published these days about the Golden Age of MGM; and particularly your place in it?

KELLY: Historically speaking, I'm one of the last ones left who can correct inaccuracies about MGM musicals is show biz books these days. You remember the book by Hugh Fordin about the Freed Unit at MGM (The World of Entertainment: The Arthur Freed Unit at MGM)? it was published, I think in the 1970s. I, along with Vincente Minnelli, Judy Garland and dozens of others, was part of that unit in the 1940s and '50s. You'd think that when Mr. Fordin was compiling facts, he'd have wanted to consult me. He didn't, and there are several mistakes as a result.

FANTLE: There is an old story that Louis B. Mayer "foisted" Debbie Reynolds on you as your love interest in Singin' in the Rain. Also untrue?

KELLY: Patently untrue. Mayer wasn't even at the studio in 1952 when we shot the picture. I think a German journalist came up with that one. But it doesn't stop there. In one biography of my life, my birthdate is wrong. So it goes.

FANTLE: Are we going to see any more musical compilations after That's Entertainment III comes out?

KELLY: Truthfully, the best musical material has been pretty well used in the prior That's Entertainment films. There are some historical oddities -- like footage of vocal dubbing-that MGM would never have released to the public during its heyday. Then again, MGM doesn't exist like it did in the past when it was a studio located in Culver City. Now, the MGM corporate offices are over in a gleaming office building in Santa Monica that looks like some Assyrian ziggurat. That's MGM today.

FANTLE: Is On the Town still your favorite musical?

KELLY: Yes. It was my directorial debut at MGM and we broke new ground by doing some on-location shooting in New York; mainly the establishing shots that run with the song, "New York, New York." That was no small achievement back in 1949, especially when you consider that the studio had a standing New York set that looked more authentic than parts of the real city.

FANTLE: In a recent story in The New Yorker, John Updike lamented the fact that you rarely seemed to pair up with a female partner to good advantage the way Fred Astaire did in his movies.

KELLY: My number with Rita Hayworth in Cover Girl to "Long Ago and Far Away" was akin to the kind of dancing Astaire did.

FANTLE: Do you think that, overall, movie musicals are icons of the past?

KELLY: Yes, for the most part. MTV, with its quick-cut camera work geared to short attention spans is the modern-day spawn of old-time musical numbers. Film editors have become the choreographers today. Everything is bam! ... a tight shot of a shoulder ... a leg ... half a pirouette ... an ass. In my day, editors were simply called cutters. Now a whole musical can succeed or fail based on the editing.

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