Posts Tagged ‘Gene Kelly’

Mitzi Gaynor: A leading lady of light musicals

 

“Dancing is still the hardest profession. Gene Kelly said dancing is a man’s game. Women have to do the same thing in heels, and have to sing and smile at the same time. Professional athletes don’t even have to do that… and they get to wear sneakers.”  ~ Mitzi Gaynor

 

Mitzi Gaynor is an American actress, singer and dancer. A leading lady of light musicals, the beautiful bright-eyed Gaynor is best remembered for “South Pacific” (1958) for which she recieved a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.

 

Mitzi Gaynor

Mitzi Gaynor

Mitzi Gaynor was born as Francesca Marlene de Czanyi von Gerber on September 4, 1931 in Chicago, Illinois to Pauline Fisher, a dancer, and Henry von Gerber, a violinist, cellist, and music director. When Gaynor was eleven her family moved to Hollywood. She trained as a ballerina as a child and began her career as a chorus dancer. At age thirteen she was singing and dancing with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera company and signed a seven year contract with Twentieth Century-Fox at age seventeen. It was there she changed her stage name from Mitzi Gerber to Mitzi Gaynor. She sang, acted and danced in a number of film musicals, often paired with some of the biggest male musical stars of the day. Gaynor made her film debut in “My Blue Heaven”, a 1950 Technicolor musical film directed by Henry Koster and starring Betty Grable and Dan Dailey. Her most notable roles include: “We’re Not Married” (1952) in which Gaynor co-starred alongside Ginger Rogers, Fred Allen, Victor Moore, Marilyn Monroe, David Wayne, Eve Arden, Paul Douglas, and Eddie Bracken; “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (1954) which featured Irving Berlin’s music and also starred Ethel Merman, Dan Dailey, Marilyn Monroe, Donald O’Connor, and Johnnie Ray; “Les Girls” (1957) with Gene Kelly and Kay Kendall and directed by George Cukor; the remake of “Anything Goes” (1956), co-starring Bing Crosby, Donald O’Connor, and Zizi Jeanmaire; and “Surprise Package” (1960), a musical comedy with Yul Brynner and Noël Coward.

 

Mitzi Gaynor, Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall, Gene Kelly, Taina Elg from "Les Girls" (1957)

Mitzi Gaynor, Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall, Gene Kelly, Taina Elg from “Les Girls” (1957)

 

Mitzi Gaynor’s biggest international fame came from her starring role as Ensign Nellie Forbush in the 1958 film version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” . For her performance, she was nominated for a Best Actress Golden Globe Award.

 

Mitzi Gaynor with Rossano Brazzi in "South Pacific" (1958)

Mitzi Gaynor with Rossano Brazzi in “South Pacific” (1958)

 

Mitzi Gaynor’s last film was “For Love or Money”, a 1963 romantic comedy film also starring Kirk Douglas and Thelma Ritter. Following her film work, Mitzi Gaynor remained a popular favorite. On October 14, 1968, Gaynor starred in her first television special, “Mitzi”. Throughout the 1960s/70s she starred in nine acclaimed television specials that garnered sixteen Emmy nominations. Gaynor appeared between two sets by The Beatles when they made their second appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show of February 16, 1964. She performed for an unprecedented nine-minute segment from the stage of the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach, separated with one commercial break. She sang “Too Darn Hot” and a blues medley.

 

Mitzi Gaynor

Mitzi Gaynor

 

Mitzi Gaynor often performed songs at Academy Awards ceremonies. In what many consider to be Gaynor’s best live performance was her show-stopping appearance at the 39th Academy Awards in 1967 where her singing and dancing “Georgy Girl” literally stopped the show. The Academy had a hard time getting the audience to sit down and stop applauding.

Mitzi Gaynor

Mitzi Gaynor

 

Mitzi Gaynor recorded two albums for the Verve label, one called Mitzi and the second called Mitzi Gaynor Sings the Lyrics of Ira Gershwin. It is estimated that she earned more from the record royalties on the South Pacific soundtrack album than her salary for the movie. She also recorded the title song from her film, Happy Anniversary for the Top Rank label. For several decades, Gaynor appeared regularly in Las Vegas and at nightclub and concert venues throughout the United States and Canada. During the 1990s, Gaynor also became a featured columnist for the influential newsmagazine The Hollywood Reporter.

 

Mitzi Gaynor ca.1951

Mitzi Gaynor ca.1951

 

On July 30, 2008, Gaynor, along with Kenny Ortega, Elizabeth Berkley, Shirley MacLaine and cast members from High School Musical, So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars, and a host of others, participated in the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences TV Moves Live, a celebration of 60 years of dance on television. Gaynor appeared performing the final few bars of “Poor Papa”, a song-and-dance number from her 1969 TV spectacular, Mitzi’s 2nd Special. Four months later, on November 18, 2008, City Lights Pictures released “Mitzi Gaynor Razzle Dazzle: The Special Years”, a new documentary celebrating Gaynor’s annual television specials of the 1960s/70s. The film, which was broadcast on public television and released on DVD, includes showstopping moments from the original specials along with newly-taped interviews with Gaynor colleagues, friends, and admirers. Gaynor’s one-woman show, “Razzle Dazzle: My Life Behind the Sequins”, toured the United States throughout 2009 and 2010, including an acclaimed 2 week engagement in New York City. The tour resumed in 2011. (for info on upcoming shows and appearances, go to missmitzigaynor.com )

 

Mitzi Gaynor - promo for "Razzle Dazzle"

Mitzi Gaynor – promo for “Razzle Dazzle”

 

On November 18, 1954, Mitzi Gaynor married Jack Bean, a talent agent and public relations executive for MCA.  After their marriage Bean quit MCA and started his own real estate business and managed Gaynor’s career. Mitzi and Jack remained married until his death on December 4, 2006. They had no children.

 

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Gene Kelly – A Pictorial

 

“I never wanted to be a dancer. It’s true! I wanted to be a shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates.” ~ Gene Kelly

 

Gene Kelly Portrait 1958

Gene Kelly (1958 portrait)

 

“I got started dancing because I knew it was one way to meet girls.” ~ Gene Kelly

 

Gene Kelly

Gene Kelly

 

“I’d studied dance in Chicago every summer and taught it all winter, and I was well-rounded. I wasn’t worried about getting a job on Broadway. In fact, I got one the first week.” ~ Gene Kelly

 

Gene Kelly from "Summer Stock" (1950)

Gene Kelly from “Summer Stock” (1950)

 

“I arrived in Hollywood twenty pounds overweight and as strong as an ox. But if I put on a white tails and tux like Fred Astaire, I still looked like a truck driver.” ~ Gene Kelly

 

Gene Kelly with Esther Williams and Frank Sinatra in a promo for "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" (1949)

Gene Kelly with Esther Williams and Frank Sinatra in a promo for “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (1949)

 

“I took it as it came and it happened to be very nice.” ~ Gene Kelly on his career.

 

Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly arrive in New York 1958

Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly arrive in New York 1958

 

“Kids talk to me and say they want to do musicals again because they’ve studied the tapes of the old films. We didn’t have that. We thought once we had made it, even on film, it was gone except for the archives.” ~ Gene Kelly

 

Gene Kelly with daughter Kerry 1942

Gene Kelly with daughter Kerry 1942

 

“There is a strange sort of reasoning in Hollywood that musicals are less worthy of Academy consideration than dramas. It’s a form of snobbism, the same sort that perpetuates the idea that drama is more deserving of Awards than comedy.” ~ Gene Kelly

 

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Debbie Reynolds – A Pictorial

 
“I stopped making movies because I don’t like taking my clothes off. Maybe it’s realism but, in my opinion, it`s utter filth.” ~ Debbie Reynolds
 

Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds


 

“I think one of my favourite films is ‘Dark Victory’ with Bette Davis. Why? She was so wonderful in that film. And maybe I just want a good cry once in a while without having to go through a divorce.” ~ Debbie Reynolds when asked what her favourite movie was.
 

Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds


 

“I miss the movies. Still, I understood that my kind of movie has had its day. I thought it was over for me.” ~ Debbie Reynolds
 

Debbie Reynolds

Debbie Reynolds


 

“I gave it all that I had, and it’s gratifying that others seem to be receiving it so well.” ~ Debbie Reynolds
 

Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, and Gene Kelly in "Singin' In The Rain" (1952)

Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, and Gene Kelly in “Singin’ In The Rain” (1952)


 

“‘Singin` in the Rain’ (1952) and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life.” ~ Debbie Reynolds
 

Elizabeth Taylor, Eddie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds in Las Vegas in 1958

Elizabeth Taylor, Eddie Fisher, and Debbie Reynolds in Las Vegas in 1958


 

“I do twenty minutes every time the refrigerator door opens and the light comes on.” ~ Debbie Reynolds
 

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Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly

 

Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly were the two most popular and best known male dancers in the history of cinema. They have both co-starred and danced with many of the most beautiful actresses/dancers of their time. The only time they ever danced together on the big screen was in “Ziegfeld Follies” (1946 – MGM).

 

Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire rehearsing for "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946)

 

Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire rehearsing for "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946)

 

Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire in "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946)

 

Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire in "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946)

 

Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire in "Ziegfeld Follies" (1946)

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Donald O’Connor – An American dancer, singer, and film actor

 

“I was born and raised to entertain other people. I’ve heard laughter and applause and known a lot of sorrow. Everything about me is based on show business – I think it will bring me happiness. I hope so.” – Donald O’Connor in 1955

 

Donald O’Connor was an American dancer, singer, and actor who came to fame in a series of movies in which he co-starred alternately with Gloria Jean, Peggy Ryan, and Francis the Talking Mule. He is best remembered today for his role as Gene Kelly’s friend and colleague in “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952).

 

Donald O'Connor  (August 28, 1925 – September 27, 2003)

Donald O’Connor
(August 28, 1925 – September 27, 2003)

Donald O’Connor was born August 28, 1925 in Chicago, Illinois. His parents were Irish-American vaudeville entertainers. When O’Connor was only a few years old, he and his sister Arlene were in a car crash outside a theater in Hartford, Connecticut. O’Connor survived, but his sister was killed. Several weeks later, his father died of a heart attack while dancing on stage in Brockton, Massachusetts. O’Connor began performing in movies in 1937. He appeared opposite Bing Crosby in “Sing, You Sinners” (1938) at age 12. Paramount Pictures used him in both A and B films, including “Tom Sawyer, Detective” (1938) and “Beau Geste” (1939). In 1940, when he had outgrown child roles, he returned to vaudeville. In 1942 O’Connor joined Universal Pictures where he played roles in four of the Gloria Jean musicals, and achieved stardom with “Mister Big” (1943). In 1944 O’connor was drafted into the Army. Before he reported for induction, Universal Pictures rushed him through three feature films, done simultaneously and released when he was overseas. After his discharge, Universal cast him in lightweight musicals and comedies. In 1949, O’Connor played the lead role in “Francis”, the story of a soldier befriended by a talking mule. The film was such a huge success that he made one Francis movie a year until 1955. In what is his most famous role, O’Connor starred opposite Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds in “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952) . His role as Cosmo the piano player in “Singin’ In The Rain” earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy or Musical. He also starred opposite Marilyn Monroe and Ethel Meriman in “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (1954).

 

Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly in "Singin' In The Rain" (1952)

Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly in “Singin’ In The Rain” (1952)

 

Donald O’Connor was a regular host of NBC’s “Colgate Comedy Hour”. He hosted a color television special on NBC in 1957 and he had his own television series in the late 1960s.  After overcoming alcoholism in the 1970s, he got a career boost when he hosted the Academy Awards, which earned him two Primetime Emmy nominations. He appeared as a gaslight-era entertainer in the 1981 film “Ragtime”, notable for similar encore performances by James Cagney and Pat O’Brien. O’Connor appeared in the short-lived “Bring Back Birdie” on Broadway in 1981, and continued to make film and television appearances into the 1990s. Donald O’Connor’s last feature film was the Jack Lemmon-Walter Matthau comedy “Out to Sea” (1997). O’Connor was still making public appearances well into 2003.

 

Donald O'Connor and Marilyn Monroe in "There's No Business Like Show Business" (1954)

Donald O’Connor and Marilyn Monroe in “There’s No Business Like Show Business” (1954)

 

O’Connor was married twice. In 1944 he married Gwen Carter. They had one child and were divorced in 1954. He married Gloria Noble in 1956 and they remained married until his death in 2003. Donald and Gloria had three children.

 

Donald O'Connor in "Francis" (1950)

Donald O’Connor in “Francis” (1950)

 

Donald O’Connor died from congestive heart failure on September 27, 2003 in Calabasas, California. He was 78 years old. As some of his last words O’Connor is reported to have expressed tongue-in-cheek thanks to the Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement that he expected to receive at a “future date”. His remains were cremated and buried at the Forest Lawn–Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles. He is survived by his wife, Gloria, and four children.

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