"I never wanted to be a dancer. It's true! I wanted to be a shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates."

American dancer and actor (1912-1996). Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he loved dancing even as a child, but he studied economics at Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh. Upon graduation, he had to work menial jobs for a while -- the country was in the middle of the Depression, and jobs for economists were hard to come by. He'd once been a dancing teacher and was now able to get some jobs with the chorus of various Broadway productions.

Kelly choreographed a number of hit plays and finally had his big break in 1940 when he was cast as the lead in Rodgers and Hart's "Pal Joey." Hollywood soon came calling, and Kelly was cast opposite Judy Garland in "For Me and my Gal" in 1942. He was a sailor during World War II, serving at the US Naval Photographic Center -- in other words, he was making movies for the Navy, which allowed him enough leave time to make movies for MGM and other studios.

After WWII, Kelly's career continued to soar, thanks both to his dancing prowess (his athletic style of dancing helped set him apart from more elegant dancers like Fred Astaire) and to a number of high-profile films like "Christmas Holiday," "Cover Girl" (in which a double exposure technique was used to allow Kelly to perform a dance number with himself), and "Anchors Aweigh," where one of his partners was Jerry, the cartoon mouse from the "Tom and Jerry" cartoons. "Anchors Aweigh" also earned Kelly a Best Actor nomination and gave him the opportunity to teach co-star Frank Sinatra how to dance.

Other pictures Kelly appeared in during the 1940s included "Ziegfeld Follies" (he had a dance number with Astaire), "Words and Music," "The Pirate," the 1948 version of "The Three Musketeers" (the film was a straightforward swashbuckler, not a musical), "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," in which Kelly and his longtime collaborator Stanley Donen received screen credit for contributing to the film's story, and "On the Town," with Kelly and Donen credited as directors.

Two of Kelly's biggest pictures came in the early 1950s. "An American in Paris," directed by Vincente Minnelli in 1951, was wildly popular (and deservedly so) and earned him a special Academy Award for his dancing and particularly for his lengthy Gershwin ballet. Only a year later, he starred in what is probably the best musical ever, "Singin' in the Rain," which he and Donen again co-directed. Kelly's exuberant performance of the title song has taken its place among the biggest moments in film history and has, to some degree, overshadowed the rest of the movie, which is funny and engrossing and fun in ways that the stereotypical movie musical can't match. Kelly's performance, both as a dancer, an actor, and a choreographer, is top-notch.

Not long afterwards, however, the Hollywood musical began to die off. The most notable musicals Kelly appeared in after 1952 included "Brigadoon," "Invitation to the Dance," "Les Girls," and, decades later, "Xanadu."

Kelly is less noted for his non-musical acting, though he's had several prominent roles that didn't require singing and dancing, including the aforementioned "Three Musketeers," "Black Hand," "Marjorie Morningstar," and "Inherit the Wind." He also directed quite a few movies, including "The Happy Road," "The Tunnel of Love," "Gigot," "Woman of the Year," "A Guide for the Married Man," "Hello, Dolly!", and "The Cheyenne Social Club."

He died in Beverly Hills on Groundhog Day, 1996 after suffering a pair of strokes.

Research from the Internet Movie Database (www.imdb.com)

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