Gwen Verdon

Gwenyth Evelyn “Gwen” Verdon (January 13, 1925 – October 18, 2000) was one of Broadway’s biggest stars during its “golden” era and beyond. She was an actress and dancer who won four Tony awards for her musical comedy performances. With flaming red hair and an endearing quaver in her voice, Verdon was a critically acclaimed dancer on Broadway in the 1950s and 1960s. She is also strongly identified with her second husband, director–choreographer Bob Fosse, remembered as the dancer–collaborator–muse for whom he choreographed much of his work and as the guardian of his legacy after his death.

Verdon was born in Culver City, California, the second child of Gertrude Lilian (née Standring; October 24, 1896 – October 16, 1956) and Joseph William Verdon (December 31, 1896 – June 23, 1978), who were British immigrants to the United States by way of Canada.[1] Her brother was William Farrell Verdon (August 1, 1923 – June 10, 1991). The Verdon family could be described as “showpeople.” Her father was an electrician at MGM Studios, and her mother was a former vaudevillian of the Denishawn dance troupe, as well as a dance teacher.[2]

As a toddler, Gwen had rickets, which left her legs so badly misshapen she was called “Gimpy” by other children and spent her early years in orthopedic boots and rigid leg braces. Her mother put the three-year-old in dance classes. Further ballet training strengthened her legs and improved her carriage.

By the time she was six, the redhead was dancing on stage. She went on to study multiple dance forms, ranging from tap, jazz, ballroom and flamenco to Balinese. She even added juggling to her repertoire. At age 11, she appeared as a solo ballerina in the musical romance film The King Steps Out (1936), directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Grace Moore and Franchot Tone. She attended Hamilton High School in Los Angeles and studied under famed balletomane Ernest Belcher. While in high school, she was cast in a revival of Show Boat.

Gwen with Chita Rivera on the Mike Douglas Show.

Verdon shocked her parents and instructors when she abandoned her budding career aged 17 to elope with reporter James Henaghan in 1942. In 1945, she appeared as a dancer in the movie musical The Blonde From Brooklyn. After her divorce, she entrusted her son Jimmy to the care of her parents.

“Whatever Lola Wants” from Damn Yankees

Early on, Verdon found a job as assistant to choreographer Jack Cole, whose work was respected by both Broadway and Hollywood movie studios. During her five-year employment with Cole, she took small roles in movie musicals as a “specialty dancer”. She also taught dance to performers who eventually became stars, such as Jane Russell, Gene Kelly, Fernando Lamas, Lana Turner, Betty Grable and Marilyn Monroe.

Verdon started out on Broadway as a “gypsy”, going from one chorus line to another. Her breakthrough role finally came when choreographer Michael Kidd cast her as the second female lead in Cole Porter‘s musical Can-Can (1953), starring French prima donna Lilo. Out-of-town reviewers hailed Verdon’s interpretation of Eve in the Garden of Eden ballet as a performance that upstaged the show’s star, who jealously demanded Verdon’s role be cut to only two featured dance numbers. With her role reduced to little more than an ensemble part, Verdon formally announced her intention to quit by the time the show premiered on Broadway. But her opening-night Garden of Eden performance was so well received that the audience screamed her name until the startled actress was brought from her dressing room in her bathrobe to take a curtain call. Verdon received a pay increase and her first Tony Award for her triumphant performance.

With her short shock of flaming red hair, exquisite body of a pin-up girl and a guileless vulnerability on stage and off, Verdon was considered the best dancer on Broadway in the 1950s and 1960s. That reputation solidified during her next show, George Abbott‘s Damn Yankees (1955), based on the novel The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant. She would forever be identified with her role as the vampish Lola, and it was on this show that she first worked with Bob Fosse as her choreographer. In the story, Verdon’s Lola is a woman who was once “the ugliest woman in Providence, Rhode Island” but sold herself to the Devil to be the beauty we see in the play. The Devil (played by a wryly comic Ray Walston) convinces a baseball fan to sell his soul so he can play and win the World Series for the Washington Senators. The Devil then employs the seductive Lola to keep the guy (“Joe”) from escaping his grasp. The hitch is that Lola falls for the guy and has to choose between her love for him and her beauty pact with the Devil. The musical ran for 1019 performances. Vernon won another Tony and went to Hollywood to repeat her role in the 1958 movie version Damn Yankees, memorably singing “whatever Lola wants, Lola gets”. (Fosse can be seen partnered deliciously with her in the witty mambo duet “Who’s Got the Pain”.)

Another Tony came when Verdon memorably played a role associated with Greta Garbo, Eugene O’Neill‘s Anna Christie, the hard-luck girl fleeing from her past as a prostitute, in the musical New Girl in Town. When Fosse directed as well as choreographed his first Broadway musical, it was Redhead. In 1960, Fosse and Verdon wed.

On the Ed Sullivan Show. “If They Could See Me Now”

In 1966, Verdon returned to the stage in the role of Charity in Sweet Charity, which like many of her earlier Broadway triumphs was choreographed and directed by husband Fosse. The show is based on Federico Fellini‘s screenplay for Nights of Cabiria. But whereas Fellini’s black-and-white Italian film concerns the romantic ups and downs of an ever-hopeful prostitute, the musical makes the central character a hoofer-for-hire at a Times Square dance hall. The trademark Fosse showmanship, a dynamite musical score and theatregoers’ affection for the exuberant, 41-year-old Verdon put the show over, despite Fellini’s source material straining against the sanitized, Broadway-ized storyline. It was followed by a movie version starring Shirley MacLaine as Charity, featuring Ricardo Montalban, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Chita Rivera, with Fosse at the helm of his very first film as director and choreographer. Characteristically generous, Verdon helped with the choreography. The numbers include the famed “Big Spender”, the fast-paced “Rhythm of Life”, the witty “If My Friends Could See Me Now” and “I’m a Brass Band”, in which MacLaine’s Charity marched down the middle of Manhattan’s Wall Street district. Verdon would also travel to Berlin to help Fosse with Cabaret, the musical film for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director.

Retrospective

Although estranged as a couple, Verdon and Fosse continued to collaborate on projects such as Chicago (1975) (in which she originated the role of murderess Roxie Hart) and the musical Dancin’ (1978), as well as Fosse’s autobiographical movie All That Jazz (1979). The helpmeet/peer played by Leland Palmer in that film is based on the role Verdon played in Fosse’s real life. She also developed a close working relationship with Fosse’s lover, Broadway dancer Ann Reinking, and she instructed for Reinking’s musical theatre classes. Reinking can be seen in All That Jazz playing the protagonist’s lover, as she was in Fosse’s real life. She, as much as Verdon, would become responsible for keeping Fosse’s trademark choreography alive after Fosse’s death. Reinking played Roxie Hart in the highly successful Broadway revival of “Chicago” that opened in 1996. She choreographed the dances “in the style of Bob Fosse” for that revival.

Bob and Gwen and Sweet Charity

After originating the role of Roxie opposite Chita Rivera in Chicago, Verdon focused on film acting, playing character roles in movies such as The Cotton Club (1984), Cocoon (1985) and Cocoon: The Return (1988). She continued to teach dance and musical theater and to act. She receiving three Emmy Award nominations for appearances on Magnum, P.I. (1988), Dream On (1993) and Homicide: Life on the Street (1993). Verdon appeared as Alice’s mother in the Woody Allen movie Alice (1990) and as Ruth in Marvin’s Room (1996), co-starring Meryl Streep and Hume Cronyn. In 1999, Verdon served as artistic consultant on a plotless Broadway musical designed to showcase examples of classic Fosse choreography. Called simply Fosse, the revue was conceived and directed by Richard Maltby Jr and Ann Reinking and choreographed by Reinking and Chet Walker. Verdon’s daughter Nicole received a “special thanks” credit. The show received a Tony for best musical.

Verdon played Alora in the movie Walking Across Egypt (1999) and appeared in the film Bruno, released in 2000′

Verdon received a total of four Tonys, for best supporting actress for Can-Can (1953) and best leading actress for Damn Yankees (1955), New Girl in Town (1957) and Redhead (1959), a murder-mystery musical. She also won a Grammy Award for the cast recording of Redhead.

Gwen Verdon was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981.[3] In 1998, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts.[4]

Verdon had two husbands, tabloid reporter James Henaghan (married 1942, divorced 1947) and Bob Fosse (married 1960, his death 1987). She and Henaghan had one son, Jim Henaghan (born 1943); she and Fosse had a daughter, Nicole Fosse (born 1963).

In 1971, Verdon filed a legal separation from Fosse (but never divorced) because of his extramarital affairs. She held him in her arms as he suffered a fatal heart attack on the sidewalk outside the Washington theatre where Sweet Charity [5] was being revived.

Verdon died in her sleep in 2000 of a heart attack at the home of her daughter, Nicole, in Woodstock, Vermont,[6] at the age of 75. At 8 p.m. on the night she died, all marquee lights on Broadway were dimmed in a tribute to the actress.[5]

Sources: imdb.com, wikipedia, nndb.com, youtube

Filmography

Stage

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Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple (born April 23, 1928) is an American film and television actress, autobiographer, and public servant. She began her screen career in 1932 at the age of three, and in 1934, skyrocketed to superstardom in Bright Eyes, a feature film designed specifically for her talents. She received a special Academy Award in February 1935, and blockbusting super hits such as Curly Top and Heidi followed year after year during the mid to late 1930s. Licensed merchandise that capitalized on her wholesome image included dolls, dishes and clothing. Her box office popularity waned as she reached adolescence, and she left the film industry at the age of 12 to attend high school. She appeared in a few films of varying quality in her mid to late teens, retiring completely from the silver screen in 1950 at the age of 21. She was the top box-office draw four years in a row (1935–38) in a Motion Picture Herald poll.[1][2]

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In 1958, Temple returned to show business with a two-season television anthology series of fairy tale adaptations. She made guest appearances on various television shows in the early 1960s and filmed a sitcom pilot that was never released. She sat on the boards of many corporations and organizations including The Walt Disney Company, Del Monte Foods, and the National Wildlife Federation. In 1967, she ran unsuccessfully for United States Congress, and was appointed United States Ambassador to Ghana in 1974 and to Czechoslovakia in 1989. In 1988, she published her autobiography, Child Star. Temple is the recipient of many awards and honors including Kennedy Center Honors and a Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.

In 1945, 17-year-old Temple married Army Air Corps sergeant John Agar, who, after being discharged from the service, entered the acting profession. The couple made two films together before Temple divorced him on the grounds of mental cruelty in 1949. She received custody of their daughter Linda Susan and the restoration of her maiden name in the process. In January 1950, Temple met the conservative scion of a patrician California family and United States NavySilver Star recipient Charles Alden Black. She married him in December 1950 following the finalization of her divorce and retired from films the same day, to become a homemaker. Her son, Charles Alden Black, Jr. was born in 1952 and her daughter, Lori Alden Black was born in 1954.

Birth

Weighing six pounds eight ounces, Shirley Temple was delivered without complications on Monday April 23, 1928, at the Santa Monica Hospital in Santa Monica, California by Dr. Leonard John Madsen to George Francis Temple and his wife Gertrude Amelia Krieger Temple.[3]

“Animal Crackers In My Soup”

Early home influences

Mrs. Temple tried to influence her daughter’s future by prenatal association with music, art and natural beauty. During her pregnancy, she listened to phonograph records, read books aloud, and attended dance recitals and concerts.[4] In the child’s first years, Mrs. Temple read storybooks to her toddler, altering the pitch of her voice according to the character’s gender and enacted the story and characters. Her daughter began to mimic her.[5]

The early years of the Great Depression had little impact on the Temples. Their house and car were paid in full and Mr. Temple had been cautious with investments. Mrs. Temple began focusing her attention upon her daughter. She taught the tot words to favorite popular songs, noted the child was able to bring expression to the words, had perfect pitch, and could easily repeat simple dance steps.[6]

Dance lessons

Early in the 1930s, Mrs. Temple took the first steps in bringing her daughter to the screen. She was convinced her three-year-old daughter had exceptional talent,[7] and, at the prompting of her husband,[8] enrolled the youngster in the highly competitive Meglin’s Dance School in Los Angeles, California on the Mack Sennett lot (leased at the time to Educational Pictures, a Poverty Row studio) for twice weekly dance lessons[9][10] beginning on September 13, 1931.[11]

Bill Bojangles Robinson and Shirley Temple

Mrs. Temple initiated the morning ritual of styling her daughter’s lengthening and thickening hair into precisely 56 ringlets in imitation of the hairstyle worn by the young Mary Pickford. The process involved dampening the hair with a wave solution, wrapping a length of hair around a finger, securing it with a bobby pin, and gently combing the ringlet when dry.[12]

First screen audition

Shortly after Temple’s third birthday, Educational Pictures planned a series of one-reelers called Baby Burlesks to compete with the popular Our Gang comedy shorts.[note 2] Charles Lamont, a film director with Educational, conducted a talent search among the children at the Meglin School, found Temple hiding behind a piano and encouraged her to audition for the series. She did and was signed to a two-year contract in January 1932 at $10 a day for a typically four-day shooting schedule.[13][14][15]

First films

Two-reelers and first feature films

Temple appeared in all eight films in the series, and graduated to a series of Educational two-reelers called Frolics of Youth portraying Mary Lou Rogers, a youngster in a contemporary suburban family.[16] She was paid $15 a day or $50 a picture.[17] In order to underwrite film production costs at Educational, Temple and her juvenile co-stars were peddled as models for chewing gum, breakfast cereal, cigar and candy bar promotional gimmicks.[18][19]

While under contract for Educational, Temple was loaned to other studios. Her first appearance in a feature film was a conspicuous supporting role in Red Haired Alibi for Tower Productions, Inc. in 1932.[20][21] In 1933, she made several short films for Educational and was loaned for bit parts in feature films at Universal, Paramount, and Warner Bros..[22][23]

“Good Ship Lollypop”

Fox Films

In February 1934, she signed a contract with Fox Films after Educational declared bankruptcy in September 1933.[24][25] She appeared in bit parts for Fox and was loaned for a two-reeler and two feature films at Paramount and a feature film for Warner Bros.-First National.[26] Fox publicists did their best to promote Temple as a wunderkind of some sort, but Mrs. Temple conducted her own interviews, often correcting the hyperbole of others and requiring interviewers to submit copy for her approval.[8]

In April 1934, Stand Up and Cheer! became Temple’s breakthrough film. Fox became aware of her charisma while the film was in production and began promoting Temple well before the film’s release. She was billed third, preparing critics and film goers to give her their undivided attention. Within months, she represented wholesome family entertainment.[27] She received widespread critical acclaim and truckloads of fan mail.[28] Her salary was raised to US$1,250 a week, and her mother’s to $150 as coach and hairdresser.[29] In June, Temple garnered more critical and popular acclaim for her performance in Paramount’s Little Miss Marker.[30][31]

Bright Eyes and Academy Award

She finished 1934 with the December 28 release of Bright Eyes—the first feature film crafted specifically for her talents and the first in which her name was raised above the title.[32][33] In the film’s one musical number, she introduced what would become her signature song, On the Good Ship Lollipop. The song was an instant hit and sold 500,000 sheet music copies. The film (more than any other Temple film up to that time) demonstrated her ability to portray a fully dimensional character and established a formula for future roles of a lovable, parentless waif mellowing a gruff older man.[34]

In February 1935, Temple received a special miniature Oscar statuette in recognition of her contributions to film entertainment in 1934.[35][36][37][note 3] A month later, she added her foot and hand prints to the forecourt at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.[38]

Twentieth Century-Fox

1934

When Fox Films merged with Twentieth Century Pictures to become Twentieth Century-Fox in 1934, producer and studio head Darryl F. Zanuck focused his attention and resources upon cultivating Temple’s superstar status. With four successful films behind her, Temple was the studio’s greatest asset.[39][note 4] Top priority at the studio became developing projects, vehicles, and stories for Temple, and, to that end, 19 writers known as the Shirley Temple Story Development team created 11 original stories and adaptations of the classics for the actress.[40]

“We Should Be Together”

Analysis

Under the development team, Temple’s films proposed a simple solution to the Great Depression’s woes: open one’s heart and give of oneself. Temple characters would melt the hearts of cold authority figures and would touch the lives of the grumpy, the wizened, the rich, the bratty, the miserly, and the criminal with positive results.[40]

Award Presentation in 2006

Temple films were seen as generating hope and optimism, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “It is a splendid thing that for just a fifteen cents an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.”[41][note 5]

Most Temple films were cheaply made at $200,000 or $300,000 per picture and were comedy-dramas with songs and dances added, sentimental and melodramatic situations aplenty, and little in the way of production values. Her film titles are a clue to the way she was marketed—Curly Top and Dimples, and her “little” pictures such as The Little Colonel and The Littlest Rebel. Temple often played a fixer-upper, a precocious Cupid, or the good fairy in these films, reuniting her estranged parents or smoothing out the wrinkles in the romances of young couples. She was very often motherless, sometimes fatherless, and sometimes an orphan confined to a dreary asylum.[42] Elements of the traditional fairy tale were woven into her films: wholesome goodness triumphing over meanness and evil, for example, or wealth over poverty, marriage over divorce, or a booming economy over a depressed one.[43] As Temple matured into a pre-adolescent, the formula was altered slightly to encourage her naturalness, naïveté, and tomboyishness to come forth and shine while her infant innocence, which had served her well at six but was inappropriate for her tweens, was toned down.[42]

1935–1936

At Zanuck’s request, Temple’s parents agreed to four films a year from their daughter (rather than the three they wished), and the child star’s contract was reworked with bonuses to sweeten the deal. A succession of films followed: The Little Colonel, Our Little Girl, Curly Top, and The Littlest Rebel in 1935. Curly Top and The Littlest Rebel were named to Varietys list of top box office draws for 1935.[44] In 1936, Captain January, Poor Little Rich Girl, Dimples,[note 6] and Stowaway were released.

“At The Codfish Ball”

1937

Based on Temple’s many screen successes, Zanuck increased budgets and production values for her films. In 1937, John Ford[note 7] was hired to direct the sepia-toned Wee Willie Winkie (Temple’s own favorite)[45] and a top-drawer cast was signed that included Victor McLaglen, C. Aubrey Smith, and Cesar Romero.[45][46] The film was a critical and commercial hit,[45] but British film critic Graham Greene muddied the waters in October 1937 when he wrote in a British magazine that Temple was a “complete totsy” and accused her of being too nubile for a nine-year-old:

Her admirers—middle-aged men and clergymen—respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire.[47]

Temple and Twentieth Century-Fox sued for libel and won. The settlement remained in trust for Temple in England until she turned twenty-one, at which time it was used to build a youth center in England.[48][49]

The only other Temple film released in 1937 was Heidi, a story suited to her maturing personality.[48] Her blond hair had darkened to ash blond and the ringlets brushed back into soft curls. Her theatrical instincts had sharpened and she suggested the Dutch song and dance dream sequence and its placement within the film.[50] After minor disagreements about the dance steps with the other children in the scene, director Allan Dwan had badges made with ‘Shirley Temple Police’ inscribed upon them. Every child was issued one after swearing allegiance and obedience to Temple.[51]

“When I Grow Up”

1938–1939

In 1938, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Little Miss Broadway, and Just Around the Corner were released. The latter two were critically panned with Corner the first Temple film to falter at the box office.[52] The following year, Zanuck secured the rights to the children’s novel, A Little Princess, believing the book would be an ideal vehicle for Temple. He budgeted the film at $1.5 million (twice the amount of Corner) and chose it to be her first Technicolor feature. The Little Princess was a 1939 critical and commercial success with Temple’s acting at its peak. Convinced Temple would make the transition from child star to teenage actress,[53] Zanuck declined a substantial offer from MGM to star Temple as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and cast her instead in the banal Susannah of the Mounties, her last money-maker for Twentieth Century-Fox.[54][55] The film dropped Temple from number one box-office favorite in 1938 to number five in 1939.[56]

1940

In 1940, Temple starred in two consecutive flops at Twentieth Century-Fox (The Blue Bird and Young People).[note 8] It was obvious the child star’s career was finished.[57] Temple’s parents bought up the remainder of her contract and sent her at the age of 12 to Westlake School for Girls, an exclusive and pricey country day school in Los Angeles.[58] At the studio, Temple’s bungalow was renovated, all traces of her tenure expunged, and the building reassigned as an office complex.[57]

“Swing Me An Old Fashioned Song”

Last films and retirement

MGM

Within a year of her departure from Twentieth Century-Fox,[note 9] MGM signed Temple for her comeback. Plans were made to team her with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney for the Andy Hardy series, but her comeback film became Kathleen (1941), a story about an unhappy teenager, her busy, rich Dad, and her female psychologist. The film flopped and her MGM contract was cancelled after mutual consent.

Other studios

Miss Annie Rooney (1942, United Artists) followed, but it bombed.[note 10] The actress retired for almost two years from films, throwing herself into school life and activities.[59] In 1944, David O. Selznick signed Temple to a personal four-year contract. She appeared in two wartime hits for him: Since You Went Away and I’ll Be Seeing You. Selznick however became involved with Jennifer Jones and lost interest in developing Temple’s career. She was loaned to other studios with Kiss and Tell (1945, Columbia), The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947, RKO),[note 11] and Fort Apache (1948, RKO) being the few good films among a string of duds.[60]

Although her 1947–49 films did not lose money, most had a cheap B look about them and her performances were colorless and apathetic.[61] Selznick suggested she move to Italy with his daughter, study the culture, gain maturity as an actress, and even change her name.[61][62] He made it clear she had been detrimentally typecast in Hollywood and her career was in perilous straits.[61] After auditioning (and being rejected) in August 1950 for the role of Peter Pan on the Broadway stage,[63] Temple took stock, admitted her recent movies had been poor fare, and announced her official retirement from films on December 16, 1950—the same day she married Charles Alden Black.[61][64]

“Shirley Temple Bedtime”

Temple-related merchandise and endorsements

Many Temple-inspired products were manufactured and released during the 1930s. Ideal Toy and Novelty Company in New York City negotiated a license for dolls with the company’s first doll wearing the polka-dot dress from Stand Up and Cheer!. Shirley Temple dolls realized $45 million in sales before 1941.[65]

A mug, a pitcher, and a cereal bowl in cobalt blue with a decal of Temple were given away as a premium with Wheaties. Successfully-selling Temple items included a line of girls’ dresses and accessories, soap, dishes, cutout books, sheet music, mirrors, paper tablets, and numerous other items. Before 1935 ended, Temple’s income from licensed merchandise royalties would exceed $100,000, doubling her income from her movies. In 1936, her income would top $200,000 from royalties. She endorsed Postal Telegraph, Sperry Drifted Snow Flour, the Grunow Teledial radio, Quaker Puffed Wheat,[65] General Electric, and Packard automobiles.[34][note 12]

Lifetime achievement award

Marriages and children

First marriage: John Agar

In 1943, Temple met John George Agar (January 31, 1921, Chicago, Illinois – April 7, 2002 Burbank, California), an Army Air Corps sergeant, physical training instructor, and scion of a Chicago meat-packing family.[66][67] Two years later on September 19, 1945, at 8:59 p.m., they were married before Pastor Willsie Martin and five hundred guests in a twelve-minute, double-ring Episcopal ceremony at Wilshire Methodist Church.[25][68][69] Two and a half years later on January 30, 1948, Temple gave birth to a daughter, Linda Susan.[25][70][71]

Divorce

Agar entered the acting profession and the couple made two films together: Fort Apache (1948, RKO) and Adventure in Baltimore (1949, RKO).[71] In time, Agar tired of being ‘Mr. Shirley Temple’, he began drinking.[71][72] Temple divorced Agar on the grounds of mental cruelty on December 5, 1949,[34][71] and, in the process, received custody of their daughter and the restoration of her maiden name.[71][73][74] The divorce was finalized one year later on December 5, 1950.

1939 Radio Broadcast

Second marriage: Charles Alden Black

While vacationing in Hawaii in January 1950, Temple met thirty-year-old WWII Naval hero and Assistant to the President of Hawaiian Pineapple, Charles Alden Black (March 6, 1919, Oakland, California – August 4, 2005, Woodside, California).[75][76][note 13] Following a romance that lasted almost a year, Temple wed Black in his parents’ Del Monte, California home on December 16, 1950, at 4:30 p.m. before Superior Court Judge Henry G. Jorgensen and a small assembly of family and friends.[25][76][77] The family relocated to Washington, D.C. when Black was recalled to the Navy at the outbreak of the Korean War.[78] Temple Black gave birth by Caesarean section to a son, Charles Alden Black, Jr., at the Bethesda Naval Hospital on April 28, 1952.[25][79][80]

Following war’s end and Black’s discharge from the Navy, the family returned to California in May 1953. Black managed television station KABC-TV in Los Angeles, and Temple Black became a homemaker. Their daughter Lori was born at the Santa Monica Hospital on April 9, 1954.[25] In September 1954, Black became director of business operations for the Stanford Research Institute and the family moved to Atherton, California.[81]

Television

Shirley Temple’s Storybook and The Shirley Temple Show

Temple returned to show biz in January 1958 with a one-season television anthology series of live-action fairy tale adaptations called Shirley Temple’s Storybook.[82] Temple opened each episode before a background of draperies and chandeliers dressed in a Don Loper ballgown (a different one for each show and none costing less than $600) singing “Dreams Are Made for Children” by David Mack and Jerry Livingston. She narrated the episodes in a singsong voice and acted in three of them.[83][84] All three of Temple’s children made their acting debuts on the show in the episode “Mother Goose”, but none pursued acting careers later in life.[85][note 14] The show attracted celebrity performers such as Claire Bloom and Charlton Heston.[86] The show was a great success with one critic declaring Temple could, if she wished, “steal Christmas from Tiny Tim“.[85]

Motivated by the popularity of Storybook, Temple persuaded the Ideal Toy Company to release a new version of the Shirley Temple doll,[note 15] made a deal with clothing manufacturer Rosenau Brothers to issue a version of the Baby Take a Bow polka-dot dress, and arranged with Random House to publish three anthologies of fairy tales under her name.[85]

Although the show was popular, it faced problems. Each episode was presented as a special in no particular time-slot and consequently the show had difficulty generating a following. Temple’s acting was criticized, story adaptations were found wanting, sets were considered little better than those in high school productions, and the series lacked the magic of special effects.[87] After its January to December 1958 season, the show was reworked, retitled The Shirley Temple Show, and returned to television in September 1960.[88][89] Unlike Storybook, the revised edition was broadcast in color every Sunday evening in a regular time-slot but it faced stiff competition from a popular western and eventually a Disney program. The show became the victim of the ratings race and was cancelled after its one season.[90]

Shirley Temple Black’s Inauguration 1976

Other television

Temple made guest appearances on The Red Skelton Show, Sing Along with Mitch, The Dinah Shore Show, and The Mike Douglas Show.[91] In January 1965, she portrayed a social worker in a sitcom pilot called Go Fight City Hall that was never released.[92] In 1999, she hosted the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Stars awards show on CBS, and, in 2001, served as a consultant on an ABC-TV production of her autobiography, Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story.

Life after Hollywood

Shirley Temple Black in Prague in 1990, Czecho...

Image via Wikipedia

Shirley Temple Black, United States Ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1990)

Political ambitions

Following her venture into television, Shirley Temple became active in the Republican Party in California, where, in 1967, she ran unsuccessfully for the United States House of Representatives in a special election to fill a vacant seat.[93][94] She ran as a conservative and lost to liberal Republican Pete McCloskey, a staunch opponent of the Vietnam War.[95]

Breast cancer

In the autumn of 1972, Temple was diagnosed with breast cancer. The tumour was malignant and removed, and a modified radical mastectomy performed. Following the operation, she announced it to the world via radio, television, and a February 1973 article for the magazine McCall’s. In doing so, she became one of the first prominent women to speak openly about breast cancer.[96]

International activities and ambassadorships

Temple was appointed Representative to the 24th General Assembly of the United Nations by President Richard M. Nixon (September – December 1969),[97][98] and was appointed United States Ambassador to Ghana (December 6, 1974 – July 13, 1976) by President Gerald R. Ford.[99] She was appointed first female Chief of Protocol of the United States (July 1, 1976 – January 21, 1977), and was in charge of arrangements for President Jimmy Carter‘s inauguration and inaugural ball.[99][100] She was appointed by President George H. W. Bush as United States Ambassador to Czechoslovakia (August 23, 1989 – July 12, 1992).[34]

The Shirley Temple Show

Corporation commitments

Temple Black has served on numerous boards of directors of large enterprises and organizations including The Walt Disney Company, Del Monte, Bank of America, the Bank of California, BANCAL Tri-State, Fireman’s Fund Insurance, the United States Commission for UNESCO, the United Nations Association, and the National Wildlife Federation.[101]

Awards and honors

Temple is the recipient of many awards and honours including a special Academy Award,[25] the Life Achievement Award from the American Center of Films for Children,[99] the National Board of Review Career Achievement Award,[102] Kennedy Center Honors,[103][104] and the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.[105] In 2002, a life-size bronze statue of the child Temple was erected on the Fox lot.[106]

Sources: Wikipedia, youtube, imdb, nndb, shirleytemple.com

Gene Kelly

Eugene Curran “Gene” Kelly (August 23, 1912 – February 2, 1996) was an American dancer, actor, singer, film director and producer, and choreographer. A major exponent of 20th century filmed dance, Kelly was known for his energetic and athletic dancing style, his good looks and the likeable characters that he played on screen.

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Although he is known today for his performance in Singin’ in the Rain, he was a dominant force in Hollywood musical films from the mid 1940s until this art form fell out of fashion in the late 1950s. His many innovations transformed the Hollywood musical film, and he is credited with almost single-handedly making the ballet form commercially acceptable to film audiences.[1]

“Singing in the Rain”

Kelly was the recipient of an Academy Honorary Award in 1952 for his career achievements. He later received lifetime achievement awards in the Kennedy Center Honors, and from the Screen Actors Guild and American Film Institute; in 1999, the American Film Institute also numbered him 15th in their Greatest Male Stars of All Time list.

He was the third son of James Kelly, a phonograph salesman, and Harriet Curran, who were both children of Irish Roman Catholic immigrants. He was born in the Highland Park neighbourhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and, at the age of eight, was enrolled by his mother in dance classes, along with his elder brother James. They both rebelled, and, according to Kelly: “We didn’t like it much and were continually involved in fistfights with the neighborhood boys who called us sissies…I didn’t dance again until I was fifteen.” He thought it would be a good way to get girls.[2] Kelly returned to dance on his own initiative and by then was an accomplished sportsman and well able to take care of himself. He attended St. Raphael School Elementary School [3] In the Morningside neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. He graduated from Peabody High School in 1929 at the age of sixteen. He enrolled in Pennsylvania State College to study journalism but the economic crash obliged him to seek employment to help with the family’s finances. At this time, he worked up dance routines with his younger brother Fred in order to earn prize money in local talent contests, and they also performed in local nightclubs.[2]

In 1930, Kelly’s family started a dance studio on Munhall Road in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh. In 1931, he enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh to study economics where he joined the Phi Kappa Theta fraternity and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Economics in 1933.[4] In 1932, the dance studio was renamed The Gene Kelly Studio of the Dance. A second location was opened in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1933. While still an undergraduate student and later as a student at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, Gene was a teacher at the dance studio. In 1931, he was approached by the Rodef Shalom synagogue in Pittsburgh to teach dance and stage the annual Kermess and was so successful that his services were retained for seven years until his departure for New York.[5] Eventually, though, he decided to pursue his career as a dance teacher and entertainer full-time and so dropped out of law school after two months. He began to focus increasingly on performing, later claiming: “With time I became disenchanted with teaching because the ratio of girls to boys was more than ten to one, and once the girls reached sixteen the dropout rate was very high.”[2] In 1937, having successfully managed and developed the family’s dance school business, he moved to New York City in search of work as a choreographer.[2]

An American in Paris, “I Got Rhythm”

After a fruitless search, Kelly returned to Pittsburgh, to his first position as a choreographer with the Charles Gaynor musical revue Hold Your Hats at the Pittsburgh Playhouse in April, 1938. Kelly appeared in six of the sketches, one of which, “La Cumparsita”, became the basis of an extended Spanish number in Anchors Aweigh eight years later.

His first Broadway assignment, in November 1938, was as a dancer in Cole Porter‘s Leave It to Me! as the American ambassador’s secretary who supports Mary Martin while she sings “My Heart Belongs to Daddy“. He had been hired by Robert Alton who had staged a show at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and been impressed by Kelly’s teaching skills. When Alton moved on to choreograph One for the Money he hired Kelly to act, sing and dance in a total of eight routines. His first career breakthrough was in the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Time of Your Life, which opened on October 25, 1939, where for the first time on Broadway he danced to his own choreography. In the same year he received his first assignment as a Broadway choreographer, for Billy Rose‘s Diamond Horseshoe. His future wife, Betsy Blair, was a member of the cast. They began dating and married on October 16, 1941.

In 1940, he was given the leading role in Rodgers and Hart‘s Pal Joey, again choreographed by Robert Alton, and this role propelled him to stardom. During its run he told reporters: “I don’t believe in conformity to any school of dancing. I create what the drama and the music demand. While I am a hundred percent for ballet technique, I use only what I can adapt to my own use. I never let technique get in the way of mood or continuity.”[2] It was at this time also, that his phenomenal commitment to rehearsal and hard work was noticed by his colleagues. Van Johnson who also appeared in Pal Joey recalled: “I watched him rehearsing, and it seemed to me that there was no possible room for improvement. Yet he wasn’t satisfied. It was midnight and we had been rehearsing since eight in the morning. I was making my way sleepily down the long flight of stairs when I heard staccato steps coming from the stage…I could see just a single lamp burning. Under it, a figure was dancing…Gene.”[2]

“Moses Supposes”

Offers from Hollywood began to arrive but Kelly was in no particular hurry to leave New York. Eventually, he signed with David O. Selznick, agreeing to go to Hollywood at the end of his commitment to Pal Joey, in October 1941. Prior to his contract, he also managed to fit in choreographing the stage production of Best Foot Forward.

Selznick sold half of Kelly’s contract to MGM and loaned him out to MGM for his first motion picture: For Me and My Gal (1942) with Judy Garland. Kelly was “appalled at the sight of myself blown up twenty times. I had an awful feeling that I was a tremendous flop” but the picture did well and, in the face of much internal resistance, Arthur Freed of MGM picked up the other half of Kelly’s contract.[2] After appearing in the B-movie drama Pilot #5 he took the male lead in Cole Porter’s Du Barry Was a Lady opposite Lucille Ball. His first opportunity to dance to his own choreography came in his next picture Thousands Cheer, where he performed a mock-love dance with a mop.

He achieved his breakthrough as a dancer on film, when MGM loaned him out to Columbia to work with Rita Hayworth in Cover Girl (1944), where he created a memorable routine dancing to his own reflection. In his next film Anchors Aweigh (1945), MGM virtually gave him a free hand to devise a range of dance routines, including the celebrated and much imitated animated dances with Jerry Mouse, and his duets with co-star Frank Sinatra.[6] Anchors Aweigh became one of the most successful films of 1945 and it garnered Kelly his first and only Academy Award nomination for Best Actor. In Ziegfeld Follies (1946) – which was produced in 1944 but not released until 1946 – Kelly collaborated with Fred Astaire – for whom he had the greatest admiration – in the famous “The Babbitt and the Bromide” challenge dance routine before leaving the studio for wartime service. Throughout this period Kelly was obliged to appear in straight acting roles in a series of cheap B-movies, now largely forgotten.

Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly

At the end of 1944, Kelly enlisted in the U.S. Naval Air Service and was commissioned as lieutenant junior grade. He was stationed in the Photographic Section, Washington D.C., where he was involved in writing and directing a range of documentaries, and this stimulated his interest in the production side of film-making.[4][7]

On his return to Hollywood in the spring of 1946, MGM had nothing lined up and used him in yet another B-movie: Living in a Big Way. The film was considered so weak that Kelly was asked to design and insert a series of dance routines, and his ability to carry off such assignments was noticed. This led to his next picture with Judy Garland and director Vincente Minnelli, the film version of Cole Porter’s The Pirate, in which Kelly plays the eponymous swashbuckler. Now regarded as a classic, the film was ahead of its time and was not well received. The Pirate gave full rein to Kelly’s athleticism and is probably best remembered for Kelly’s work with The Nicholas Brothers – the leading African-American dancers of their day – in a virtuoso dance routine.

Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor

Although MGM wanted Kelly to return to safer and more commercial vehicles, he ceaselessly fought for an opportunity to direct his own musical film. In the interim, he capitalised on his swashbuckling image as d’Artagnan in The Three Musketeers. and also appeared with Vera-Ellen in the Slaughter on Tenth Avenue ballet in Words and Music (1948). He was due to play the male lead opposite Garland in Easter Parade (1948), but broke his ankle playing volleyball. He withdrew from the film and encouraged Fred Astaire to come out of retirement to replace him.[8] There followed Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), his second film with Sinatra, where Kelly paid tribute to his Irish heritage in The Hat My Father Wore on St. Patrick’s Day routine. It was this musical film which persuaded Arthur Freed to allow Kelly to make On the Town, where he partnered with Frank Sinatra for the third and final time, creating a breakthrough in the musical film genre which has been described as “the most inventive and effervescent musical thus far produced in Hollywood.”[2]

Stanley Donen, brought to Hollywood by Kelly to be his assistant choreographer, received co-director credit for On the Town. According to Kelly: “…when you are involved in doing choreography for film you must have expert assistants. I needed one to watch my performance, and one to work with the cameraman on the timing..without such people as Stanley, Carol Haney and Jeanne Coyne I could never have done these things. When we came to do On the Town, I knew it was time for Stanley to get screen credit because we weren’t boss-assistant anymore but co-creators.”[2][9] Together, they opened up the musical form, taking the film musical out of the studio and into real locations, with Donen taking responsibility for the staging and Kelly handling the choreography. Kelly went much further than before in introducing modern ballet into his dance sequences, going so far in the “Day in New York” routine as to substitute four leading ballet specialists for Sinatra, Munshin, Garrett and Miller.[4]

t was now Kelly’s turn to ask the studio for a straight acting role and he took the lead role in the early mafia melodrama: The Black Hand (1949). There followed Summer Stock (1950) – Judy Garland’s last musical film for MGM – in which Kelly performed the celebrated “You, You Wonderful You” solo routine with a newspaper and a squeaky floorboard. In his book “Easy the Hard Way”, Joe Pasternak, head of one of the other musical units within MGM, singled out Kelly for his patience and willingness to spend as much time as necessary to enable the ailing Garland to complete her part.[2]

Julie Andrews and Gene Kelly

There followed in quick succession two musicals which have secured Kelly’s reputation as a major force in the American musical film, An American in Paris (1951) and – probably the most popular and admired of all film musicals – Singin’ in the Rain (1952). As co-director, lead star and choreographer, Kelly was the central driving force. Johnny Green, head of music at MGM at the time, described him as follows:

“Gene is easygoing as long as you know exactly what you are doing when you’re working with him. He’s a hard taskmaster and he loves hard work. If you want to play on his team you’d better like hard work too. He isn’t cruel but he is tough, and if Gene believed in something he didn’t care who he was talking to, whether it was Louis B. Mayer or the gatekeeper. He wasn’t awed by anybody and he had a good record of getting what he wanted”.[2]

An American in Paris won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and, in the same year, Kelly was presented with an honorary Academy Award for his contribution to film musicals and the art of choreography. The film also marked the debut of Leslie Caron, whom Kelly had spotted in Paris and brought to Hollywood. Its dream ballet sequence, lasting an unprecedented seventeen minutes, was the most expensive production number ever filmed up to that point and was described by Bosley Crowther as, “whoop-de-doo … one of the finest ever put on the screen.”[4]Singin’ in the Rain featured Kelly’s celebrated and much imitated solo dance routine to the title song, along with the “Moses Supposes” routine with Donald O’Connor and the “Broadway Melody” finale with Cyd Charisse, and while it did not initially generate the same enthusiasm as An American in Paris, it subsequently overtook the earlier film to occupy its current pre-eminent place among critics and filmgoers alike.[10]

Kelly, at the very peak of his creative powers, now made what in retrospect is seen as a serious mistake.[4] In December 1951 he signed a contract with MGM which sent him to Europe for nineteen months so that Kelly could use MGM funds frozen in Europe to make three pictures while personally benefiting from tax exemptions. Only one of these pictures was a musical, Invitation to the Dance, a pet project of Kelly’s to bring modern ballet to mainstream film audiences. It was beset with delays and technical problems, and flopped when finally released in 1956. When Kelly returned to Hollywood in 1953, the film musical was already beginning to feel the pressures from television, and MGM cut the budget for his next picture Brigadoon (1954), with Cyd Charisse, forcing the film to be made on studio backlots instead of on location in Scotland. This year also saw him appear as guest star with his brother Fred in the celebrated “I Love To Go Swimmin’ with Wimmen” routine in Deep in My Heart. MGM’s refusal to loan him out for Guys and Dolls and Pal Joey put further strains on his relationship with the studio. He negotiated an exit to his contract which involved making three further pictures for MGM.

With Judy Garland in For Me and My Gal

The first of these, It’s Always Fair Weather (1956) co-directed with Donen, was a musical satire on television and advertising, and includes his famous roller skate dance routine to “I Like Myself”, and a dance trio with Michael Kidd and Dan Dailey which allowed Kelly to experiment with the widescreen possibilities of Cinemascope. A modest success, it was followed by Kelly’s last musical film for MGM, Les Girls (1957), in which he partnered a trio of leading ladies, Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall and Taina Elg, fittingly ending, as he had begun, with a Cole Porter musical. The third picture he completed was a co-production between MGM and himself, the B-movie The Happy Road, set in his beloved France, his first foray in his new role as producer-director-actor. Kelly did not return to stage work until his MGM contract ended in 1957, when in 1958 he directed Rodgers and Hammerstein‘s musical play Flower Drum Song.[11] Early in 1960 Kelly, an ardent Francophile and fluent French speaker, was invited by A. M. Julien, the general administrator of the Paris Opéra and Opéra-Comique,[2] to select his own material and create a modern ballet for the company, the first time an American received such an assignment. The result was Pas de Dieux, based on Greek mythology combined with the music of George Gershwin‘s Concerto in F. It was a major success, and led to his being honored with the Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur by the French Government.

Kelly continued to make some film appearances, such as Hornbeck in the 1960 Hollywood production of Inherit the Wind. However, most of his efforts were now concentrated on film production and directing. He directed Jackie Gleason in Gigot in Paris, but the film was subsequently drastically recut by Seven Arts Productions and flopped.[4] Another French effort, Jacques Demy‘s homage to the MGM musical: Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) in which Kelly appeared, also performed poorly. He appeared as himself in George Cukor‘s Let’s Make Love (1960).

His first foray into television was a documentary for NBC‘s Omnibus, Dancing is a Man’s Game (1958) where he assembled a group of America’s greatest sportsmen – including Mickey Mantle, Sugar Ray Robinson and Bob Cousy – and reinterpreted their moves choreographically, as part of his lifelong quest to remove the effeminate stereotype of the art of dance, while articulating the philosophy behind his dance style.[4] It gained an Emmy nomination for choreography and now stands as the key document explaining Kelly’s approach to modern dance.

Three Tenors tribute to Gene

Kelly also frequently appeared on television shows during the 1960s, but his one effort at television series, as Father Chuck O’Malley in Going My Way (1962–63), based on the Best Picture of 1944 starring Bing Crosby, was dropped after thirty episodes, although it enjoyed great popularity in Roman Catholic countries outside of the United States.[4] He also appeared in three major TV specials: New York, New York (1966), The Julie Andrews Show (1965), and Jack and the Beanstalk (1967) a show he produced and directed which returned to a combination of cartoon animation with live dance, winning him an Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program.

In 1963, Kelly joined Universal Pictures for a two-year stint which proved to be the most unproductive of his career so far. He joined 20th Century Fox in 1965, but had little to do – partly due to his decision to decline assignments away from Los Angeles for family reasons. His perseverance finally paid off with the major box-office hit A Guide for the Married Man (1967) where he directed Walter Matthau and a major opportunity arose when Fox – buoyed by the returns from The Sound of Music (1965) – commissioned Kelly to direct Hello, Dolly! (1969), again directing Matthau along with Barbra Streisand, but which unfortunately failed to recoup the enormous production expenses.

In 1970, he made another TV special: Gene Kelly and 50 Girls and was invited to bring the show to Las Vegas, which he duly did for an eight-week stint – on condition he be paid more than any artist had hitherto been paid there.[4] He directed veteran actors James Stewart and Henry Fonda in the comedy western The Cheyenne Social Club (1970) which performed very well at the box-office. In 1973 he would work again with Frank Sinatra as part of Sinatra’s Emmy nominated TV special Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back. Then, in 1974, he appeared as one of many special narrators in the surprise hit of the year That’s Entertainment! and subsequently directed and co-starred with his friend Fred Astaire in the sequel That’s Entertainment, Part II (1976). It was a measure of his powers of persuasion that he managed to coax the 77-year-old Astaire – who had insisted that his contract rule out any dancing, having long since retired – into performing a series of song and dance duets, evoking a powerful nostalgia for the glory days of the American musical film. Kelly continued to make frequent TV appearances and in 1980, appeared in an acting and dancing role opposite Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu (1980), an expensive theatrical flop which has since attained a cult following.[4] In Kelly’s opinion “The concept was marvelous but it just didn’t come off.”[2] In the same year, he was invited by Francis Ford Coppola to recruit a production staff for American Zoetrope’s One from the Heart (1982). Although Coppola’s ambition was for him to establish a production unit to rival the Freed Unit at MGM, the film’s failure put an end to this idea.[4] In 1985, Kelly served as executive producer and co-host of That’s Dancing! – a celebration of the history of dance in the American musical. After his final on-screen appearance introducing That’s Entertainment! III in 1994, his final film project was the animated movie Cats Don’t Dance, released in 1997 and dedicated to him, on which Kelly acted as uncredited choreographic consultant.

Dean Martin and Gene Kelly

When he began his collaborative film work, he was heavily influenced by Robert Alton and John Murray Anderson, striving to create moods and character insight with his dances. He choreographed his own movement, along with that of the ensemble, with the assistance of Jeanne Coyne, Stanley Donen, Carol Haney, and Alex Romero.[1] He experimented with lighting, camera techniques and special effects in order to achieve true integration of dance with film, and was one of the first to use split screens, double images, live action with animation and is credited as the person who made the ballet form commercially acceptable to film audiences.[1]

There was a clear progression in his development, from an early concentration on tap and musical comedy style to greater complexity using ballet and modern dance forms.[12] Kelly himself refused to categorize his style: “I don’t have a name for my style of dancing…It’s certainly hybrid…I’ve borrowed from the modern dance, from the classical, and certainly from the American folk dance – tap-dancing, jitterbugging…But I have tried to develop a style which is indigenous to the environment in which I was reared.”[12] He especially acknowledged the influence of George M. Cohan: “I have a lot of Cohan in me. It’s an Irish quality, a jaw-jutting, up-on-the-toes cockiness – which is a good quality for a male dancer to have.”[2] He was also heavily influenced by an African-American dancer Dancing Dotson, who he saw at Loew’s Penn. Theatre around 1929, and was briefly taught by Frank Harrington, an African-American tap specialist from New York.[13] However, his main interest was in ballet, which he studied under Kotchetovsky in the early Thirties. As biographer Clive Hirschhorn explains: “As a child he used to run for miles through parks and streets and woods – anywhere, just as long as he could feel the wind against his body and through his hair. Ballet gave him the same feeling of exhilaration, and in 1933 he was convinced it was the most satisfying form of self-expression.”[4] He also studied Spanish dancing under Angel Cansino, Rita Hayworth‘s uncle.[4] Generally speaking, he tended to use tap and other popular dance idioms to express joy and exuberance – as in the title song from Singin’ in the Rain or “I Got Rhythm” from An American in Paris, whereas pensive or romantic feelings were more often expressed via ballet or modern dance, as in “Heather on the Hill” from Brigadoon or “Our Love Is Here to Stay” from An American in Paris.[12]

Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth

According to Delamater, Kelly’s work “seems to represent the fulfillment of dance-film integration in the 1940s and 1950s”. While Fred Astaire had revolutionized the filming of dance in the 1930s by insisting on full-figure photography of dancers while allowing only a modest degree of camera movement, Kelly freed up the camera, making greater use of space, camera movement, camera angles and editing, creating a partnership between dance movement and camera movement without sacrificing full-figure framing. Kelly’s reasoning behind this was that he felt the kinetic force of live dance often evaporated when brought to film, and he sought to partially overcome this by involving the camera in movement and giving the dancer a greater number of directions in which to move. Examples of this abound in Kelly’s work and are well illustrated in the “Prehistoric Man” sequence from On the Town and “The Hat My Father Wore on St. Patrick’s Day” from Take Me Out to the Ball Game.[12] In 1951, he summed up his vision as follows: “If the camera is to make a contribution at all to dance, this must be the focal point of its contribution; the fluid background, giving each spectator an undistorted and altogether similar view of dancer and background. To accomplish this, the camera is made fluid, moving with the dancer, so that the lens becomes the eye of the spectator, your eye“.[1]

Kelly’s athleticism gave his moves a distinctive broad, muscular quality,[12] and this was a very deliberate choice on his part, as he explained: “There’s a strong link between sports and dancing, and my own dancing springs from my early days as an athlete…I think dancing is a man’s game and if he does it well he does it better than a woman.”[2] He railed against what he saw as the widespread effeminacy in male dancing which, in his opinion, “tragically” stigmatized the genre, alienating boys from entering the field: “Dancing does attract effeminate young men. I don’t object to that as long as they don’t dance effeminately. I just say that if a man dances effeminately he dances badly — just as if a woman comes out on stage and starts to sing bass. Unfortunately people confuse gracefulness with softness. John Wayne is a graceful man and so are some of the great ball players…but, of course, they don’t run the risk of being called sissies.”[2] In his view, “one of our problems is that so much dancing is taught by women. You can spot many male dancers who have this tuition by their arm movements — they are soft, limp and feminine.”[2] He acknowledged that, in spite of his efforts — in TV programs such as Dancing: A Man’s Game (1958) for example — the situation changed little over the years.[2]

“You Were Meant For Me’

He also sought to break from the class-conscious conventions of the 1930s and early 40s, when top hat and tails or tuxedos were the norm, by dancing in casual or everyday work clothes, so as to make his dancing more relevant to the cinema-going public. As his first wife, actress and dancer Betsy Blair explained: “A sailor suit or his white socks and loafers, or the T-shirts on his muscular torso, gave everyone the feeling that he was a regular guy, and perhaps they too could express love and joy by dancing in the street or stomping through puddles…he democratized the dance in movies.”[14] In particular, he wanted to create a completely different image from that associated with Fred Astaire, not least because he believed his physique didn’t suit such refined elegance: “I used to envy his cool aristocratic style, so intimate and contained. Fred wears top hat and tails to the manner born — I put them on and look like a truck driver.”[2]

Kelly was married to Betsy Blair for 15 years (1941–1957) and they had one child, Kerry. Kelly divorced Blair in 1957. In 1960, Kelly married his choreographic assistant Jeanne Coyne, who had divorced Stanley Donen in 1949 after a brief marriage. He remained married to Coyne from 1960 until her death in 1973 and they had two children, Bridget and Tim. He was married to Patricia Ward from 1990 until his death in 1996.

Gene Kelly was a lifelong Democratic Party supporter with strong progressive convictions, which occasionally created difficulty for him as his period of greatest prominence coincided with the McCarthy era in the U.S. In 1947, he was part of the Committee for the First Amendment, the Hollywood delegation which flew to Washington to protest at the first official hearings by the House Committee on Un-American Activities. His first wife, Betsy Blair, was suspected of being a Communist sympathizer and when MGM, who had offered Blair a part in Marty (1955), were considering withdrawing her under pressure from the American Legion, Kelly successfully threatened MGM with a pullout from It’s Always Fair Weather unless his wife was restored to the part.[4][15] He used his position on the board of directors of the Writers Guild of America, West on a number of occasions to mediate disputes between unions and the Hollywood studios, and although he was frequently accused by some on the right of championing the unions, he was valued by the studios as an effective mediator. In later years he voiced opposition to the Vietnam War and was critical of presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

He retained a lifelong passion for sports and relished competition. He was known as a big fan of the New York Yankees. With his first wife, he organized weekly parties at their Beverly Hills home which were renowned for an intensely competitive and physical version of charades, known as “The Game”.[15]

Kelly died in his sleep on February 2, 1996, in Beverly Hills, California after a stroke – he had also suffered a stroke the year before. His body was cremated the same day and he had left instructions that there was to be no funeral and no memorial services.[16] Kelly’s papers are currently housed at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center at Boston University.

……and of course the only appropriate ending……

“Singing in the Rain”

Sources: Wikipedia, youtube, imdb.com, nndb.com

Musical films

Gene Kelly appeared as actor and dancer in the following musical films. He always choreographed his own dance routines, and often the dance routines of others, and often used assistants. As was the practice at the time, he was rarely formally credited in the film titles:[1]

Year Film Role Notes
1942 For Me and My Gal Harry Palmer
1943 Du Barry Was a Lady Alec Howe/Black Arrow
Thousands Cheer Private Eddie Marsh
1944 Cover Girl Danny McGuire
1945 Anchors Aweigh Joseph Brady Nominated — Academy Award for Best Actor
Ziegfeld Follies Gentleman in ‘The Babbit and the Bromide’
1947 Living in a Big Way Leo Gogarty
1948 The Pirate Serafin
Words and Music Himself
1949 Take Me Out to the Ball Game Eddie O’Brien
On the Town Gabey
1950 Summer Stock Joe D. Ross
1951 An American in Paris Jerry Mulligan Nominated — Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy
1952 Singin’ in the Rain Don Lockwood
1954 Brigadoon Tommy Albright
Deep in My Heart Specialty in ‘Dancing Around’
1955 It’s Always Fair Weather Ted Riley
1956 Invitation to the Dance Host/Pierrot/The Marine/Sinbad
1957 Les Girls Barry Nichols
1958 Marjorie Morningstar
1960 Let’s Make Love Himself
1964 What a Way to Go! Pinky Benson
1966 Les Demoiselles de Rochefort Andy Miller
1974 That’s Entertainment! Himself (also archive footage)
1976 That’s Entertainment, Part II Himself (also archive footage)
1980 Xanadu Danny McGuire

Stage

Dates Title Role Notes
November 9, 1938 – July 15, 1939 Leave It to Me! Secretary to Mr. Goodhue
February 4, 1939 – May 27, 1939 One for the Money various roles
October 25, 1939 – April 6, 1940 The Time of Your Life Harry
September 23, 1940 – October 19, 1940 The Time of Your Life Harry
December 25, 1940 – November 29, 1941 Pal Joey Joey Evans
October 1, 1941 – July 4, 1942 Best Foot Forward Choreography
December 1, 1958 – May 7, 1960 Flower Drum Song Director
February 22, 1979 – April 1, 1979 Coquelico Producer
July 2, 1985 – May 18, 1986 Singin’ in the Rain Original film choreography
Nominated — Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Choreography

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1958 Dancing: A Man’s Game Himself Omnibus
1962–1963 Going My Way Father Chuck O’Malley (30 episodes)
1965 Gene Kelly: New York, New York Himself
The Julie Andrews Show Himself
1967 Jack and the Beanstalk Jeremy Keen, Proprietor (Peddler) Emmy Award for Best Children’s Program
1971 The Funny Side Himself Series host
1973 Frank Sinatra: Ol’ Blue Eyes is Back Himself
1978 Gene Kelly: An American in Pasadena Himself
1980 Muppet Show Himself
1985 North and South Senator Charles Edwards
1986 Sins Eric Hovland

Dudley Moore

Dudley Stuart John Moore, CBE (19 April 1935 – 27 March 2002) was an English actor, comedian, composer and musician.

Most everyone thinks of the film “Arthur” when they think of Dudley Moore. Wait till you hear some of his music. Not only was he a wonderful comedian, actor, song writer, but such an accomplished pianist. Truly amazing -you will never think of Dudley Moore the same way after hearing this!!

Moore first came to prominence as one of the four writer-performers in Beyond the Fringe in the early 1960s and became famous as half of the popular television double-act he formed with Peter Cook. His fame as a comedic actor was later heightened by his success in Hollywood movies such as 10 with Bo Derek and Arthur in the late 1970s and early 1980s, respectively. He was often known as “Cuddly Dudley” or “The Sex Thimble”, a reference to his short stature and reputation as a “ladies’ man”.

“Just In Time”

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Moore was born the son of a railway electrician in Charing Cross Hospital, London and brought up in Dagenham. His working class parents showed little affection to their son (as his elder sister publicly revealed ). He was notably short: 5 ft 2½ in (1.588 m) and was born with a club foot that required extensive hospital treatment and which, coupled with his diminutive stature, made him the butt of jokes from other children. Seeking refuge from his problems he became a choirboy at the age of six and took up piano and violin. He rapidly developed into a talented pianist and organist and was playing the pipe organ at church weddings by the age of 14. He attended Dagenham County High School where he received musical tuition from a dedicated teacher, Peter Cork. Cork became a friend and confidant to Moore, corresponding with him until 1994.

Moore’s musical talent won him an organ scholarship to Magdalen College, Oxford. While studying music and composition there, he also performed with Alan Bennett in the Oxford Revue. Bennett then recommended him to the producer putting together Beyond the Fringe, a comedy revue, where he was to first meet Peter Cook. Beyond the Fringe was at the forefront of the 1960s satire boom and after success in Britain, it transferred to the United States where it was also a hit.

Dudley with Johnny Carson

During his university years, Moore took a great interest in jazz and soon became an accomplished jazz pianist and composer. He began working with such leading musicians as John Dankworth and Cleo Laine. In 1960, he left Dankworth’s band to work on Beyond the Fringe. During the 1960s he formed the “Dudley Moore Trio” (with drummer Chris Karan and bassists Pete McGurk and later Peter Morgan). Moore’s admitted principal musical influences were Oscar Peterson and Errol Garner. In an interview he recalled the day he finally mastered Garner’s unique left hand strum and was so excited that he walked around for several days with his left hand constantly playing that cadence. His early recordings included “My Blue Heaven”, “Lysie Does It”, “Poova Nova”, “Take Your Time”, “Indiana”, “Sooz Blooz”, “Baubles, Bangles and Beads“, “Sad One for George” and “Autumn Leaves”. The trio performed regularly on British television, made numerous recordings and had a long-running residency at Peter Cook’s London nightclub, The Establishment.

The Dudley Moore Trio

Moore composed the soundtracks for the films Bedazzled, Inadmissible Evidence, Staircase and Six Weeks among others.

In the early 1970s, he had a brief relationship with British singer-songwriter Lynsey De Paul, whom he met at a party.

Pete and Dud

After following the Establishment to New York City, Moore returned to the UK and was offered his own series on the BBC. Not Only… But Also (1965). It was commissioned as a vehicle for Moore, but when he invited Peter Cook on as a guest, their comedy partnership was so notable that it became a fixture of the series. Cook and Moore are most remembered for their sketches as two working class men, Pete and Dud, in macs and cloth caps, commenting on politics and the arts, but they fashioned a series of one-off characters, usually with Moore in the role of interviewer to one of Cook’s upper-class eccentrics. The pair developed an unorthodox method for scripting the material by using a tape recorder to tape an ad libbed routine that they would then have transcribed and edited. This would not leave enough time to fully rehearse the script so they often had a set of cue cards. Moore was famous for “corpsing“—the programmes often went on live, and Cook would deliberately make him laugh in order to get an even bigger reaction from the studio audience. Regrettably, many of the videotapes and film reels of these seminal TV shows were later erased by the BBC (an affliction which wiped out large portions of other British television productions as well, such as Doctor Who), although some of the soundtracks (which were issued on record) have survived. Moore and Cook co-starred in the film Bedazzled (1967) with Eleanor Bron, and also had tours called Behind the Fridge and Good Evening.

A Gershwin Medley

In 2009 it came to light that at the time three separate British police forces had wanted them to be prosecuted under obscenity laws for their comedy recordings made during the late 1970s under the pseudonyms Derek and Clive. Shortly following the last of these, Derek and Clive – Ad Nauseam, Moore made a break with Cook, whose alcoholism was affecting his work, to concentrate on his film career. When Moore began to manifest the symptoms of the disease that eventually killed him (progressive supranuclear palsy), it was at first suspected that he too had a drinking problem. Two of Moore’s early starring roles were the titular drunken playboy Arthur and the heavy drinker George Webber in 10.

Later career

In the late 1970s, Moore moved to Hollywood, where he appeared in Foul Play (1978) with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase. The following year saw his break-out role in Blake Edwards‘s 10, which he followed up with the movie Wholly Moses! The latter was not a major success. Soon thereafter, Moore appeared in Arthur, an even bigger hit than 10, which also starred Liza Minnelli and Sir John Gielgud (who won an Oscar for his role as Arthur’s stern but compassionate manservant) and Geraldine Fitzgerald.

“My Blue Heaven”

Moore played Watson to Cook’s Holmes in 1978’s Hound of the Baskervilles. Moore was noteworthy as a comic foil to Sir Henry and played 3 other roles: one in drag and one as a one legged man. Moore also played the piano for the entire score and appears at the start and end of the film as a flamboyant and mischievous pianist. Moore also scored the film.

Moore was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award but lost to Henry Fonda (for On Golden Pond). He did, however, win a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy. In 1984, Moore had another hit, starring in the Blake Edwards directed Micki + Maude, co-starring Amy Irving. This won him another Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Musical/Comedy.

His subsequent films, including Arthur 2: On the Rocks, a sequel to the original, and an animated adaptation of King Kong, were inconsistent in terms of both critical and commercial reception; Moore eventually disowned the former. In later years, Cook would wind up Moore by claiming he preferred Arthur 2: On the Rocks to Arthur.

In addition to acting, Moore continued to work as a composer and pianist, writing scores for a number of films and giving piano concerts, which were highlighted by his popular parodies of classical favourites. In addition, Moore collaborated with the conductor Sir Georg Solti to create a 1991 television series, Orchestra!, which was designed to introduce audiences to the symphony orchestra. He later worked with the American conductor Michael Tilson Thomas on a similar television series from 1993, Concerto!, likewise designed to introduce audiences to classical music concertos. He also appeared as Ko-Ko in a Jonathan Miller production of The Mikado in Los Angeles in March 1988.

In 1987, he was interviewed for the New York Times by the music critic Rena Fruchter, herself an accomplished pianist. They became close friends. At that time Moore’s film career was already on the wane. He was having trouble remembering his lines, a problem he had never previously encountered. He opted to concentrate on the piano, and enlisted Fruchter as an artistic partner. They performed as a duo in the U.S. and Australia. However, his disease soon started to make itself apparent there as well, as his fingers would not always do what he wanted them to do. Symptoms such as slurred speech and loss of balance were misinterpreted by the public and the media as a sign of drunkenness. Moore himself was at a loss to explain this. He moved into Fruchter’s family home in New Jersey and stayed there for five years, but this, however, placed a great strain on both her marriage and her friendship with Moore, and she later set him up in the house next door.

“Back Home In Indiana”

Moore was deeply affected by the death of Peter Cook in 1995, and for weeks would regularly telephone Cook’s home in London just to get the telephone answering machine and hear his friend’s voice. Moore attended Cook’s memorial service in London and at the time many people who knew him noted that Moore was behaving strangely and attributed it to grief or drinking. In November 1995, Moore teamed up with friend and humorist Martin Lewis in organising a two-day salute to Cook in Los Angeles which Moore co-hosted with Lewis.

Moore is the main subject of the play Pete and Dud: Come Again, by Chris Bartlett and Nick Awde. Set in a chatshow studio in the 80s, it focuses on Moore’s comic and personal relationship with Peter Cook and how their careers took off after the split of the partnership.

He was intended to star in a number of movies that never came into fruition. When his future Santa Claus The Movie producer Ilya Salkind planned his original Superman III in 1982, Dudley was the main choice to play the villainous Mr Mxyzptlk. He was again considered by the Superman producers to play the part of Zaltar in Supergirl, the role subsequently went to Peter O’Toole. When United Artists tried to restart The Pink Panther movie series following the death of Peter Sellers, Moore was offered a lucrative contract to play Inspector Clouseau in Romance of the Pink Panther. The studio brought Blake Edwards back to direct this latest instalment at Moore’s request. He eventually decided not to take up the studio offer to play Clouseau when it became apparent that they wanted to sign him to a four picture deal. Over ten years later he was linked to the role of Jacques Gambrelli, Clouseau’s son in Son of the Pink Panther, the role eventually went to Roberto Benigni. Frank Sinatra acquired the rights to remake La Cage aux Folles and wanted Moore to play the part of flamboyant transvestite “Frank” in this American movie, however Moore could not see himself in the role and turned down Sinatra’s offer. In 1987, Moore agreed at a lunch meeting in London to play Doctor Who in the never made Doctor Who: The Movie from producers Peter Litten and George Dugdale, Moore being the top choice of potential director Richard Lester. The role of Doctor Who would have re-ignited his waning star in the US, and many British tabloids carried front page news of Moore’s casting. Before agreeing to make Rhinestone with Dolly Parton, Sylvester Stallone was prepping an action comedy movie at Paramount Pictures called Jitterbugs which would have seen him cast as a New York Cop hired to protect classical musical conductor Moore, who is caught up in a world of espionage, mafia death threats, and computer chip warfare. Richard Donner was in talks to direct. Around 1983-1984 it was widely rumoured Moore and Arnold Schwarzenegger would team up for an Asterix movie to be produced by Dino De Laurentiis, with Moore playing Asterix and Schwarzenegger as his sidekick Obelix. He and Moore shared the same agent, Lou Pitt, and years later it was again rumoured the two would team up for an action/comedy. The character of Gwildor played by Billy Barty in Masters of the Universe was originally intended to be the character of Orko and likewise was intended for Moore. In 1989, the James Bond producers wanted to cast Moore in the role of Q in Licence To Kill. Moore travelled to Mexico to have a costume fitting, but apparently had a last minute change of heart and left the project. Likewise in 1995 he was again linked to the Bond franchise to be playing a character in Goldeneye. It is thought[who?] that his agent Lou Pitt lobbied hard for Dudley to get the role of The Penguin in Batman Returns, but Danny Devito was director Tim Burton‘s number one choice. Films he turned down aside from these include Splash, Beetlejuice, Short Circuit, Turner and Hooch, Trading Places and Empire of the Sun.

With Julie Andrews

Entrepreneur

Moore co-owned a fashionable restaurant in Venice, California [1980s-2000]. The restaurant was named 72 Market Street. Moore played piano in the restaurant whenever he dropped by the premises.

Personal life

Moore was married and divorced four times: to actresses Suzy Kendall, Tuesday Weld (by whom he had a son, Patrick, in 1976), Brogan Lane and Nicole Rothschild (one son, Nicholas, born in 1995).

He maintained good relationships with Kendall particularly, and also Weld and Lane. However, he expressly forbade Rothschild to attend his funeral. At the time his illness became apparent, he was going through a difficult divorce from Rothschild, despite sharing a house in Los Angeles with her and her previous husband.

Moore dated and was a favourite of some of Hollywood’s most attractive women, including the statuesque Susan Anton. In 1994, Moore was arrested after Rothschild claimed he had beaten her before that year’s Oscars; she later withdrew her charges.

Illness and death

In September 1997 Moore underwent quadruple heart bypass surgery in London, and subsequently suffered four minor strokes.

Comical interpretation of classical music

In June 1998, Nicole Rothschild was reported to have told an American television show that Moore was “waiting to die” due to a serious illness, but these reports were denied by Suzy Kendall.[1]

On 30 September 1999, Moore announced that he was suffering from the terminal degenerative brain disorder progressive supranuclear palsy, some of whose early symptoms were so similar to intoxication that he had been accused of being drunk, and that the illness had been diagnosed earlier in the year.[2]

He died on 27 March 2002, as a result of pneumonia, secondary to immobility caused by the palsy, in Plainfield, New Jersey. Rena Fruchter was holding his hand when he died, and she reported his final words were, “I can hear the music all around me.” Moore was interred in Hillside Cemetery in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. A video of his tombstone is on YouTube. Fruchter later wrote a memoir of their relationship (Dudley Moore, Ebury Press, 2004).

In December 2004, the Channel 4 television network in the United Kingdom broadcast Not Only But Always, a television movie dramatising the relationship between Moore and Cook, although the principal focus of the production was on Cook. Around the same time the relationship between the two was also the subject of a stage play called Pete and Dud: Come Again.

Dudley and Cleo Laine singing “When I Take My Sugar To Tea”

Honours and awards

In June 2001, Moore was appointed a Commander of the Order of The British Empire (CBE). Despite his deteriorating condition, he attended the ceremony, mute and wheelchair-bound, at Buckingham Palace to collect his honour.

Filmography

Discography

UK chart singles

  • “Goodbye-ee” (1965) Peter Cook and Dudley Moore
  • “The L.S. Bumble Bee” (1967) Peter Cook and Dudley Moore
  • “Song for Suzy” (1972) Dudley Moore Trio — upbeat jazz.

Jazz discography

  • From Beyond The Fringe (Atlantic Standard 2 017, 1966)
  • The Dudley Moore Trio (Decca Records (LK UK) / London Records (US) PS558) 1969
  • Dudley Moore plays The Theme From Beyond The Fringe and All That Jazz – Atlantic 1403 (1962)
  • The World of Dudley Moore – Decca SPA 106
  • Genuine Dud – Decca LK 4788
  • The Music of Dudley Moore – EMI Australia (Cube Records)TOOFA.14-1/2
  • Dudley Down Under – Cube ICS 13
  • Dudley Moore at the Wavendon FestivalBlack Lion Records BLP 12151
  • Smilin’ Through – Cleo Laine & Dudley Moore – – Finesse Records FW 38091
  • Dudley Dell – Parlophone 45R 4772
  • Strictly For The Birds – Cleo Laine & Dudley Moore – CBS A 2947
  • The Theme From “Beyond The Fringe” & All That Jazz – Collectibles COL 6625
  • Live From an Aircraft Hangar – Martine Avenue Productions MAPI 8486
  • Songs Without Words – GRP/BMG LC 6713
  • The First Orchestrations – Dudley Moore & Richard Rodney Bennett – Played by John Bassett and his Band – Harkit Records HRKCD 8054
  • Jazz Jubilee – Martine Avenue Productions MAPI 1521