24 January, 2006

You were made for me, Gene Kelly...

So, a Gene Kelly-heavy weekend - on Friday I watched Les demoiselles de Rochefort which was charming but me oh my Gene Kelly is old. He shouldn't ever be old. He should be always young, in a sailor suit or a white t-shirt and jeans. Also Catherine Deneuve's wig is a bit much, frankly, but she is so pretty anyway.

I read Singin' in the rain, a short study of the film (so short I read most of it in the bath) by Peter Wollen. Interesting but not much there - the most interesting part was a shot-by-shot analysis of the famous Singin' in the rain routine, which pionted out some of the film techniques for making the whole thing flow. I'd never thought about the way a cinema dance routine has to be so carefully co-ordinated between camera, choreographer, music arranger, performer and so on. The rest of the book was mostly things I knew, but I liked the emphasis on how many of the people involved in the making of the film suffered under the blacklist. [4]

I also finished the awful biography of Gene Kelly, Gene Kelly: a life of dance and dreams by Alvin Yudhof (see previous posts). It was truly dreadful, probably the worst biography I have ever read. In addition to the stupid conceit I already mentioned, I picked out a few factual inaccuracies, including the point where Mr Yudhof states that 'Betsy Blair had been a member of the Communist party up until the Nazi-Soviet pact'. Now, he's already suggested that BB was introduced to left-wing politics by Gene Kelly. I find it hard to believe that she was a teenage member of the CP in her small-town youth in New Jersey - especially as she says that she was never in the CP*. Furthermore, the Nazi-Soviet pact was signed in 1939, when Betsy was sixteen.

Oh, the whole book was just stupid and annoying. Mr Yudhof has no idea of the real motivations of real people, which meant that Gene Kelly and everyone around him came across as paper figures being moved on a stage to create whatever impression Mr Yudhof was after. I might, one day, try Clive Hirschhorn's Biography of GK, which was written in his lifetime and included material from interviews with GK. But this was a great disappointment. [5]

* Betsy Blair, in her autobiography, says that she wanted to join the Communist Party and approached them after she and Gene had moved to Hollywood. According to her, they refused, saying that as the wife of a prominent man who was known for his left-liberal sympathies, she would do more good outside the party. This seems more plausible to me than Mr Yudhof's teenage communist idea.

1 comment:

weierstrass said...

hi there
you can read the us navy's report into gene kelly's 'alleged communist activity' at
it includes a letter he wrote to the navy explaining his left-wing allegiances etc.