TCM host Osborne to help ArtsRock mark Gene Kelly’s 100th
Robert Osborne, the host of Turner Classic Movies, is a walking encyclopedia of movie history, able to speak extemporaneously about movies and stars from Fred Astaire to Zasu Pitts.
On Oct. 6, Osborne will bring that considerable wealth of knowledge to Suffern’s spectacular Lafayette Theatre, joining ArtsRock’s Elliott Forrest for a conversation about one subject: Gene Kelly, whose centennial is this year.
They’ll be showing clips from “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Anchors Aweigh” and Kelly’s last film, “Xanadu.”
For Osborne, Kelly’s legacy was to “make dancing acceptable for guys.”
“He had such a masculinity about him and he was so athletic,” says Osborne. “His whole style of dancing was not effete. It was something that men liked and made it appealing as a profession that men could go into and not be called a sissy and all that.
“Before that, men who danced were not as respected as much as they should have been. Fred Astaire helped with that, too, but there was something light and elegant about him. Not Gene Kelly. Gene Kelly was, as he liked to say, the Marlon Brando of the dance.”
Born in Pittsburgh, Pa., on Aug. 23, 1912, Kelly made a name for himself on Broadway in “Pal Joey” before heading to Hollywood in 1942 for what he thought would be one film. He died Feb. 2, 1996, a world-famous dancer, actor, singer, director and producer.
For Osborne, there is film dancing before Kelly — and after him.
“Before Gene Kelly came along, dancers got up and they danced on film. Even Fred Astaire. But there weren’t a lot of really tricky numbers. Fred Astaire solos were well-danced, but they were still dances. Gene Kelly’s solos had a real ruggedness to them. I think he was very creative as a filmmaker and because he always pushed the envelope in making musicals, it helped others to push the envelope.”
In 1944’s “Cover Girl,” for example, Kelly was the first to use double-exposure, to make it seem like he was dancing with himself in a number called “Alter Ego.” That had never been done before, Osborne says, “and it’s still an extraordinary number.”
The years 1950-52 were extraordinary for Kelly, says the 80-year-old Osborne. “He was the right age and everything was working for him, when he made ‘An American in Paris’ and ‘Singin’ in the Rain.’”
His collaboration with Stanley Donen, with whom he co-directed 1952’s “Singin’ in the Rain,” was a great mix of Kelly’s dance skills and Donen’s ideas, Osborne says. The movies Kelly directed on his own — including “Hello, Dolly!” — were lumbering affairs.
“Singin’ in the Rain” has found new life again on the big screen, with one-night-only screenings regularly selling out whenever they are arranged.
“It wasn’t that popular when it came out,” Osborne adds. “It did well when it came out, but nobody really realized what it was until several years later.”
It’s one of Osborne’s favorites.
“It’s such a joyous movie that you can’t not be addicted to it,” he says. “It just makes you feel good. It’s what movies were all about it at one time.”
Robert Osborne in Conversation with Elliott Forrest, discussing Gene Kelly. 8 p.m. Oct. 6. Lafayette Theatre, 97 Lafayette Ave., Suffern. $20. 855-278-7762. www.artsrock.org