The Basics: Did Gene Win Awards for His Work?

This entry is part 8 of 15 in the series Gene Kelly: The Basics.

Oh, yes, Gene won plenty of awards.

First, he was given an Honorary Academy Award “in appreciation of his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film.” This was one of the seven awards given for An American in Paris (1951). Sadly, the Oscar was lost in a house fire in 1983, but it was replaced at the 1984 Academy Awards.

In 1956, Gene won a Golden Bear from the 6th Berlin International Film Festival for his experimental film, Invitation to the Dance (1956).

Dance Magazine‘s honored Gene with an annual TV award for Dancing: A Man’s Game (1958). In this television program, he dances alongside sports figures like Mickey Mantle and Sugar Ray Robinson, and together they demonstrate the rhythm and coordination required of great athletes. [Video below.]

In 1964, Gene won a Best Actor award at the Locarno International Film Festival for his performance in What a Way to Go!, a black comedy also starring other big-name stars such as Paul Newman, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Mitchum, Dick Van Dyke, and Dean Martin.

In 1967, Gene received an Emmy for his children’s television program, Jack and the Beanstalk, and 1981, a Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globes.

Some of the most prestigious honors came in 1982, 1985 and 1989, with Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Kennedy Center, the American Film Institute, and the Screen Actors Guild. And in 1994, Gene received a National Medal of Arts in 1994 from President Bill Clinton.

Gene Kelly has garnered other recognitions as well:

  • a Best Actor Oscar nomination for Anchors Aweigh (1946)
  • a Golden Laurel Award nomination for best male musical performance in Les Girls (1958)
  • a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor (1960)
  • the subject of MOMA’s Gene Kelly Dance Film Festival (1962) and a two-week film festival in France (1981)
  • a Best Director Golden Globe nomination for Hello Dolly! (1970)

In 1991, the University of Pittsburgh created The Gene Kelly Awards, “a means to recognize and encourage [high school] student achievement and to focus the attention of the community and school districts on the importance of musical theater and arts education.” Over the last 20 years, several Gene Kelly Award winners (e.g., Heroes‘s Zachary Quinto) have made it on Broadway and in Hollywood.

In 1992, Gene was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame. In 1994 the Three Tenors performed “Singin’ in the Rain” in his presence at Dodger Stadium in LA. And 1996 brought a honorary César award (note, this site is flash-heavy, and is in French).

Posthumously, at the 1996 Academy Awards, our favorite song-and-dance man was honored with a tribute directed by Quincy Jones, and tap-dancer Savion Glover performed the “Singin’ in the Rain” number (right). [Watch the performance/tribute here.]

In 1997, Empire rated Gene as number twenty-six out of 100 in their “The Top 100 Movie Stars of all Time” list. And finally, he was honored by the American Film Institute with a ranking of fifteen out of fifty on their Greatest Legends list, between Laurence Olivier and Orson Welles.

References: Gene Kelly career timeline, PBS’ American Masters, Gene Kelly Wikipedia page, awards and honors list, and AFI’s 100 Years, 100 Stars Wikipedia page.


Fan of Gene Kelly, musicals, classic film, and pop/geek culture. She's also a geeky tech blogger and mechanical engineer. For her technical ramblings, please see her Posterous blog. For her other interests, see her Tumblr.

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