Cover image for Gene Kelly : a life of dance and dreams
Gene Kelly : a life of dance and dreams
Yudkoff, Alvin.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Back Stage Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
viii, 262 pages : illustrations 24 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PN2287.K64 Y83 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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In this biography, the dancer, choreographer, actor and director is depicted as the complex and difficult man his family, friends and colleagues knew. The text investigates not only his triumphs, but also his late career struggles, stormy relationships and political ideas.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

The major strength of this accessible biography of the great stage and film dancer, choreographer, actor and director is Yudkoff's detailed treatment of Kelly's early years and his struggle to achieve professional success, although Kelly's later years devolve into something of a muddle. Kelly's mother enrolled her five children in dancing school and enjoined them to use their talent to supplement the blue-collar Irish Catholic family's income. Young Gene (1912-1996) complied by teaching children to dance at the local synagogue in Pittsburgh, before working his way through college by dancing in clubs. Later, he jettisoned law school to establish a family business, the Gene Kelly Studio of Dance. Kelly's big break came with the title role in the 1940 musical Pal Joey; he caught the eye of David O. Selznick, who brought him to Hollywood and gave him a part in For Me and My Gal (1942) with Judy Garland. Yudkoff vividly re-creates the famous Hollywood parties that Kelly and his first wife, Betsy Blair, hosted, featuring cutthroat charades and all night political discussions. His treatment of Kelly's personal life is less compelling, however: too much of it is based on speculation. Yudkoff touches on Kelly's left-wing politics during the red scare, but never really explains why Kelly was able to continue working while Blair was blacklisted. Unfortunately, he compresses into one chapter the last 45 years of Kelly's life, in which he remarried twice after a divorce from Blair, raised two children and undertook many creative projects. B&w illus. Agent, Linda Kroner. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Gene Kelly fans will relish this absorbing biography. Yudkoff (a writer and film producer) deftly narrates Kelly's journey from Pittsburgh to Broadway to Hollywood, sensitively telling behind-the-scenes stories and relating the details of Kelly's personal life--from his troubled first marriage, to the highly competitive game parties he held at his house, to his experiences during the McCarthy era. But it is the enormously fascinating material Yudkoff discovered about Kelly's early life that's most impressive. It was, we learn, the determination and intense work ethic he got from his mother as a child that carried him far from poverty in Pittsburgh. He and his siblings spent their youth performing at an impossible number of gigs to fulfill their mother's dreams and, later, to help make ends meet during the Depression. This is the real heart of the story--one of guts and triumph--that sets the stage for Kelly's creative achievements and lasting fame. A well-researched, honest, and respectful work, this is essential for fans and students of film history.--Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Yudkoff brings to this engaging biography of one of the 20th century's most important film dancer/choreographers his years of experience as a producer of fact-based films and videos. He draws on the reflections of Lois McClelland, Kelly's personal secretary for more than 40 years, and of numerous film and dance luminaries. The result is a marvelous read--a book that creates a vibrant, full-spectrum picture of Kelly's life, aspirations, successes, and failures. Yudkoff presents the biography as a remarkably credible free-associative chain of thoughts that might have been Kelly's on the night of the videotaping of ceremonies to honor his receipt of the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award: the "memories" take the reader through chapters on Kelly's years in Pittsburgh, New York, Los Angeles, and Switzerland; a "fast forward" covers 1951 to 1996. Yudkoff intersperses these memories with sections of Kelly's probable thoughts, italicized, at the 1985 videotaping, thus providing an uncanny sense of intimacy with that occasion and Kelly's whole life. Throughout the book, small, clearly reproduced photographs sparkle like little jewels, but the lively text carries the real vitality. This book will appeal to a very broad readership, from the general public to students and scholars of the performing arts. C. W. Sherman; College of William and Mary