This post is an entry in the Gene Kelly Centennial Blogathon, hosted by the Classic Movie Blog Association. Please visit the CMBA site to read all the other great entries.
I was fortunate to become a member of the CMBA earlier this year, and when I discovered they were hosting a blogathon honoring Gene Kelly, I jumped at the chance to participate.
I mean who wouldn’t want a ready made excuse to watch another Gene Kelly movie? Well okay, I guess people who don’t know or like Gene Kelly. But thankfully that’s not me. I love him as an actor, and he is my favorite dancer. I truly could watch him dance all day long!
When I saw that all of the Gene Kelly movies I was interested in covering had already been spoken for, I chose to watch the movie Deep in My Heart (1954) just because I had never seen it before. Excited to see Gene in something new, I was disappointed to say the least when I checked out the DVD from the library and realized that he is only in the movie for a whopping 2 minutes!
So I admit, I struggled with what to do for this post since it is meant to honor Gene Kelly, and to devote the whole post to a movie he barely appeared in didn’t seem to make a lot of sense. Yes, I know I could have picked a different movie, but as long as I had it in my possession and didn’t have much time to find something else, I decided to stick with it, especially when I discovered all the talented actors, dancers, and singers that star in the movie.
So I decided to write the following review of the movie and then follow it up with a list of some of my favorite Gene Kelly dance partners.
“To all those who love the music of Sigmund Romberg”
Those words appeared on the screen at the beginning of the movie as an orchestra played the beautiful piece, “Deep in My Heart, Dear” from the operetta The Student Prince.
I have to admit I had never heard of him before watching this movie, but after hearing this song as well as several others in the movie, I am a little closer to being one of “those who love the music of Sigmund Romberg”.
Directed by Stanley Donen and based on the 1949 biography written by Elliott Arnold, Deep in My Heart is a biographical movie about the life of Sigmund Romberg, who was a Hungarian born composer known mostly for his operettas, but who also wrote for Hollywood and Broadway as well.
Romberg, who was played in the movie by José Ferrer, found work as a pianist in cafés and as an orchestra conductor shortly after he arrived in the United States in 1909. Some of his best known works are the operettas The Student Prince, The Desert Song, and The New Moon.
Despite a running time of 2 hours, 12 minutes, the movie doesn’t cover much of Romberg’s life but instead features cameos by many well known singers and dancers from MGM as they sing and dance to some of his popular songs.
We do learn about his introduction to the Shubert brothers (J.J. Shubert was played by Walter Pidgeon), theater owners and producers who would eventually establish the largest theatrical empire in the United States and who hired Romberg to write music for some of their Broadway shows.
The movie also explores his relationship with Dorothy Donnelly (played by Merle Oberon), a stage actress and producer who collaborated with him on several musicals including The Student Prince, and with his wife Lillian, played by Doe Avedon. As an interesting side note, Avedon’s early career as a model was the inspiration for the musical Funny Face (1957), starring Audrey Hepburn.
Given what I’ve heard about other biopics about musical figures, it’s hard to know how accurate the movie is. The story was very interesting at times and moved a little too slow at others. Some of the sets looked very artificial and were distracting yet others were beautiful and/or charming.
However, it was the song and dance numbers I mentioned before that made the movie worth watching in my opinion. Some of the highlights for me included:
José Ferrer singing and dancing with his then wife, Rosemary Clooney, Jane Powell and Vic Damone singing “Will You Remember Sweetheart?” in front of a beautiful back drop of pink trees, Ann Miller’s Charleston inspired tap dance to the song “It”, a very beautiful and sensual number with Cyd Charisse and James Mitchell singing and dancing to the song “One Alone”, and of course, the star of this blogathon, Gene Kelly who sang and danced to the song “I Love to Go Swimmin’ with Wimmen” along with his brother Fred Kelly, in their only screen appearance together.
Gene Kelly’s Favorite Dance Partner
Looking around the web for inspiration for something else to write about for this post, I found a video of Gene Kelly’s AFI Lifetime Achievement Award acceptance speech. In his speech, he answered the question that I’m sure he was asked quite often, who was his favorite dance partner?
Initially he would joke that it was Jerry the Mouse (who he danced with in the movie Anchors Aweigh), but then he gave a more serious and profound answer when he said, “Your favorite dancing partner happens to be the one you are playing with, and acting with, and dancing with at that particular time, because the director and choreographer found out that she was the best for that part.”
He went on to mention some of his former dancing partners, including Leslie Caron and Debbie Reynolds who were in the audience at the time, which must have made them feel very special.
My Favorite Gene Kelly Dance Partners
Like Gene Kelly, I can’t pick just one favorite dance partner of his. But for this post, I did narrow it down to a few of my absolute favorites including:
- Fred Kelly in Deep in My Heart - I found it very interesting to discover that it was actually Fred who taught Gene how to tap dance. By all accounts, the two brothers were very close and were always supportive of each other, never letting jealousy get in the way of their relationship. As someone who is also very close to my siblings, seeing the two of them dance so joyfully together in this movie was wonderful to watch.
- Judy Garland in For Me and My Gal – This pairing was very special because it was Gene’s Hollywood movie debut, and he credited Judy with helping him learn to be comfortable in front of the camera, something he always remembered her for. One of my favorite scenes from the movie was their charming song and dance number to the title song.
- Debbie Reynolds in Singin’ in the Rain - I have so much respect for what Debbie did in this movie given that she was not a trained dancer before the making of the film and Gene Kelly was known to be a bit of a perfectionist and taskmaster. I can only imagine the incredible amount of hard work that went into the wonderful “Good Morning” dance routine.
- Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain - Donald O’Connor was a terrific dancer in his own right and the “Moses Supposes” dance number he did with Gene Kelly is one of my all time favorite dance routines and movie scenes in general.
- Rita Hayworth in Cover Girl - I don’t think Rita Hayworth gets enough credit for her wonderful dancing ability. In my opinion, she is one of the most beautiful dancers to ever grace a movie screen as is evidenced by her dance with Gene Kelly to the song “Long Ago (and Far Away) in the movie Cover Girl and in her dances with Fred Astaire in the movie You Were Never Lovelier.
There are so many other special dancers that I could add to this list, but these are just a few of the dancers who really stand out to me.
Who was your favorite Gene Kelly dance partner?