He was a Shabbos Goy who spoke Yiddish. He studied economics, memorized and wrote poetry, spoke fluent French, and frequently read a book in a single day. He did the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink.
These are the little treasures about an American legend that are shared by his biographer and widow Patricia Ward. The legend is Gene Kelly.
“Gene Kelly: The Legacy” is presented by the Pasadena Playhouse for two days only, March 1st and 2nd. Patricia Ward Kelly will show rare and familiar film clips, previously unreleased audio recordings, personal memorabilia, and “insights culled from her hours of interviews and conversations with her husband.”
Patricia and Gene met in the capital in 1985 when he (at the age of 73) was a host and a narrator for a TV special on the Smithsonian and she (at the age of 26) was a writer for the show. Patricia was a “nerdy” Melville scholar working on her PhD. She didn’t go to movies; her family hardly watched television. She didn’t even know who Gene Kelly “was” when she first met him.¹ After the television special was finished, he invited her back to the Golden State to write his memoirs. Love flourished, a wedding was held, and the couple were together until Gene’s death in 1996.
“I recorded Gene in some format almost everyday for over a decade. When I first started interviewing him, he was extremely reserved. I always say that what you know about Gene Kelly is what he allowed you to know, which is very, very little. I was privileged in that he gave me that story, so I wanted to share some of that with you.”
Mrs. Kelly says that Gene wanted to be known as a creator and he realized it would be very different to choreograph for film than to choreograph for the stage. He chose to stay in Hollywood, to “lick that thing with the camera,” and “change the look of dance on film.”
“It is an honor to collaborate with the Pasadena Playhouse in presenting ‘Gene Kelly: The Legacy,’ since this historic venue was something that Gene and I shared,” says Mrs. Kelly. “I remember particularly going backstage to see our dear friend Barbara Rush after her performance of Steel Magnolias. Gene’s roots were in the theater and it is through his work in plays of his pals Bill Saroyan and John O’Hara that he honed his skills and first began to understand the use of dance to further the plot.”
Variety calls “Gene Kelly: The Legacy” a real treat, deeply moving, and mesmerizing. (We call Gene Kelly all of those things, and a whole lot more.)
Gene Kelly: The Legacy
Saturday, March 1st, 8 p.m.
Sunday, March 2nd, 2 p.m.
Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave. 91101
Cost: $15-$70, general; $150, VIP ticket with pre-show meet & greet and reception
For more info, visit PasadenaPlayhouse.org or call 626.356.7529
¹Richard Skipper Celebrates – richardskipper.blogspot.com from July 8, 2012