Friday, February 24, 2012

Gene Kelly Won't Dance...

.....At least not in this post, which is devoted to the films made with Gene Kelly, journeyman actor, not the dazzling dancer. Kelly himself denigrated his own dramatic efforts, but a few of us really like the man when he puts the dancing slippers away and takes on a few roles that required him to be a mere mortal.
Above: Gene Kelly in one of his earliest and best non-musical films, The Cross of Lorraine (1943).

To begin, here's a subjective list of my favorite non-musical Gene Kelly movies in order of preference. None of them are ever going to make any critics "best of" lists, but Kelly was better than he knew in some of these movies (while some really make you wonder). Too bad it is difficult to find some of these on DVD or on the TCM schedule:

Cross of Lorraine (1943)
Marjorie Morningstar (1958)
The Devil Makes Three (1953)
Black Hand (1950)
Christmas Holiday (1944)
Pilot #5 (1943)
The Three Musketeers (1948)
The Happy Road (1957)
Inherit the Wind (1960)
Crest of the Wave (1954)
Love Is Better Than Ever (1952) - cameo
Viva Kneivel (1977)
40 Carats (1973)

I shall try to share views here about these movies in detail in the near future, but I hope you'll compose your own lists and comments about this neglected side of Gene Kelly's storied career. To get us started, there is one almost totally unknown movie that Kelly made while serving in the U.S. Navy-- Combat Fatigue Irritability (1945), or, as I like to call it, "Aw--For Chrissake!"'ll see why, and hear our Gene swearing like a...sailor! But not like the one he played in Anchors Aweigh or On the Town. Cover the ears of Jerry the Mouse, and enjoy the way a movie about post traumatic stress disorder might have sounded at the end of WWII without those buttinskys at the Production Code office. Btw, Gene is believable as a simple swabbie whose emotions are roiling after his exposure to war and his return to life in "These United States" but the Navy medicos seem determined to cheer the guy up. Maybe this then-innovative approach to combat fatigue really helped a few people.:


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