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Remembering his growing up, brother Fred remembered, "We three little boys (James, Gene, and Fred) would leave home for dancing class dressed up beautifully, and we'd come home in rags.Dancers were thought of as sissies, and the neighborhood guys would lay in wait for us. Fighting, that was the style in Pittsburgh in those days." His mother finally gave in and did not send them back to dancing school.
They married in 1990 and were together until his death in 1996. Kelly serves as Trustee of The Gene Kelly Image Trust and Creative Director of The Gene Kelly Legacy, Inc., a corporation established to celebrate Gene Kelly’s artistry worldwide.
She lives in Los Angeles where she curates the Gene Kelly Archives and is completing the book about her late husband.
One year later, he entered the University of Pittsburgh, studying law, graduating in 1933 with a B. By senior year he was known for his performances in the university's Cap and Gown productions.
After graduation, he joined his mother in running a dance school, later named the Gene Kelly Studios of the Dance.
The production ran twenty-two weeks, won a Pulitzer Prize, and established Kelly as an actor-dancer; the role made him realize he could make a characterization dancing.
Kelly's first job on Broadway as a choreographer was Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshow; directed by John Murray Anderson; Kelly choreographed for sixteen chorus girls, one of whom, Betty Blair, he would later marry.Jim was very tough and he'd fight, or Gene would start the fight and Jim would finish it. After spending his first year of high school at the Sacred Hearts Academy, Kelly then went to Peabody High School, where he was a star halfback on the football team and also played basketball and hockey.He wanted to be a ball player, a priest, a lawyer, but was a natural dancer and had a great singing voice and (before his voice changed) had a wonderful tenor singing "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling." His interest in dancing did not gel until he was fifteen and became interested in girls, whom he noticed favored boys who could dance.The collaboration set in motion, says Donen biographer Stephen Silverman, "a magical combination of Gene Kelly's charisma and Stanley Donen's chutzpah." Anchors Aweigh (1945) starred Kelly and Frank Sinatra as two sailors (they danced one song and tap dance routine that Kelly taught Sinatra, with seventy-three takes for the scene.Kelly was next seen in a segment of the musical extravaganza Ziegfeld Follies (1946) dancing with Fred Astaire in "The Babbitt and the Bromide," playing a pair of glib gentlemen who meet from time to time throughout their lives to trade clichés of greetings and challenge each other in tap dance steps.in 1985, when he was the host/narrator for a television special and she was a writer.Soon after, he invited her to California to write his memoir, a job which she recorded his words nearly every day for over ten years.The "Alter Ego" dance, which used double-exposure film technique to create the effect of Kelly in conflict with himself, was a technical tour de force in which Kelly invented two dances that could be synchronized, using a fixed-head camera in order to get the precision, and with Donen calling out the timings for the cameraman.They worked a month on the dance and shot it in four days, with more time spent editing the double-printed footage.Next came Du Barry Was A Lady (1943), in which he played the role of a nightclub dancer who becomes involved in a dream sequence which transforms him into a French revolutionary swashbuckler.For the wartime all-star musical Thousands Cheer (1943), Kelly choreographed his own material, portraying an army private who, confined to his barracks and given cleanup duties; he lightens the job by imagining the mop to be a girl and waltzes around the floor with the mop to the tune, "Let Me Call You Sweetheart." During his early years in film, Kelly was compared with James Cagney who had played the role of George M. The comparison was apt, as both dancers of Irish descent had been influenced by the strutting song-and-dance style of Cohan. Cohan was the American Theatre up until the impact of Eugene O'Neil, and I have a lot of Cohan in me.