Dean Stockwell on Gene, Frank, and Anchors Aweigh

In this article from the Winnipeg Free Press, actor Dean Stockwell, who starred alongside Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Kathryn Grayson in Anchors Aweigh (1945), recalls his experience:

“I kind of remember a little bit of contrast between [Gene and Frank] because Gene was much more involved in what he was doing and I think he felt a little threatened by a child being involved, because there’s an old adage among actors: Don’t ever work with animals or kids because they steal the scenes,” Stockwell said from his home in Taos, N.M., where he creates collage artwork. “But Frank was not that way at all. He couldn’t care less. He was very warm and very nice to me.”

Stockwell’s got a point about “stealing scenes”: after all, he was a cute little fella…

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  • That’s interesting considering Gene worked with children so often in his career. And even with animals on occasion.

    • Kathryn

      Given how often he did work with kids and animals often, I’d be very surprised if that was the true reason behind his ‘distance’ from Stockwell. As he was choreographing the dances and the animated sequence (with Donen of course), as well as the time constraints caused by his entry into the Navy immediately following filming, it could have simply been that he was rather a lot busier than Sinatra.

      • Marc

        It seems like Gene’s ‘crime’ here was not to make the kind of fuss over Stockwell to which he had become accustomed; he was, after all, the cutest creature who ever lived, apparently. This all sounds like the flimsiest of suppositions from a distant childhood memory. And, as you say, the regularity with which he worked with children undermines Stockwell’s assessment considerably.

  • Even stranger considering the comments of two of the French kids from the I Got Rhythm number, on the ‘extras’ part of the recent American In Paris DVD. They said they had never met a personality like Gene’s, it was like the sunshine came into the room when he appeared. He played with the kids and bought them candy. They adored him.
    I also read that Dean and Sharon McManus would follow Gene around like he was the Pied Piper on the set of AA. From an accumulation of evidence it would seem that Gene was never very interested in who stole scenes or got the most credit. He was interested only in how he could make the movie as good as it could be. He chose to work with kids, animals and old ladies because he knew they would be good fun for audiences and steal the scenes!
    Maybe Dean – it was a long time ago – is confusing Gene with Stanley Donen!
    Or maybe it is as Kathryn says, he was very deeply involved in finishing the film, knowing the deadline was fast approaching.
    And if this sounds like a besotted fan making excuses for Gene’s shortcomings, it’s not at all. My comments and those above are based on sound evidence from numerous sources. Sure he could be a pain, but Inever once heard or read that he was deliberately cold or distant to a child.
    I listened to Debbie Reynolds at the TCM showing of SITR – of which more later – and her recollections probably have very little to do with what actually occurred, and she was almost grown-up! She actually said that her version of certain events contradicted Gene’s own, but she liked her story better. She was great fun. First-hand recollections of anyone can be less than perfect over time.

    • “Sure he could be a pain, but I never once heard or read that he was deliberately cold or distant to a child.” Truth.