Gene started flexing his directorial muscles in On the Town (1949). This film, which he co-directed with Stanley Donen, was particularly innovative because it was the first musical to shoot on location. Because of Gene’s (and Donen’s) persistence, New York City’s most famous sites (rather than the usual replicated studio sets) are featured in the film’s ground-breaking opening number, “New York, New York.”
Gene’s second shot at co-directing with Stanley Donen was 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain (right). This film is held up as a shining version of the American Film Musical and is probably Gene’s most famous film.
Next came It’s Always Fair Weather (1955), the third and last Kelly-Donen musical. This one features Gene’s dance on roller skates.
In 1956, Gene directed a string of films. He went to France to create, star in, and direct Invitation to the Dance. Unfortunately, this experimental film wasn’t as successful as his others, but Gene pressed on with The Happy Road (1957), The Tunnel of Love (1958), Gigot (1960), and A Guide for the Married Man (1967).
When 1969’s Hello Dolly came along, Gene was looking for a hit. The Streisand-helmed musical wasn’t widely praised critically and its budget soared, but it was the fifth highest grossing film of 1969 (right).
Next was The Cheyenne Social Club from 1970.
Finally, Gene directed That’s Entertainment, Part II in 1976. Hoping to capitalize on the success of That’s Entertainment (1974), this compilation film pulled on nostalgia of the viewers who enjoyed musicals from the golden age of Hollywood.
Gene Kelly, An Anatomy of a Dancer; article on PBS’s American Masters website.
Gene Kelly: Career Timeline on PBS’s American Masters website (warning, uses adobe flash).