Making a second visit to Glasgow ( the first time was in 2006) ,Patricia Ward Kelly, widow of Gene Kelly (1912-1996), had a full house at the new auditorium at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on 23rd November, 2017.
With unreserved seats , many of us started queuing outside the entrance to the hall and were pleasantly surprised when Patricia walked along the queue,introducing herself and shaking hands.
On a marvellously large screen, the evening opened with a 20 minute clip montage of famous Kelly numbers. The picture quality and sound were simply first class.
Patricia Kelly proceeded to tell us about her ten years with Gene (1986 – 1996) as she introduced a dozen or so individual song and dance numbers, with insightful comments about each one.
The wonderful ‘Newspaper Dance’ ( Summer Stock), with Gene’s only props, a squeaky floorboard and a newspaper page.
‘Long Ago and Far Away’ (Cover Girl).
Patricia told us that Gene wasn’t confident with his singing of the classic song , but he received a compliment from the song’s composer,Jerome Kern who sent him a note which said, “GK is OK with me, JK.”
The wonderful opening scene of ON THE TOWN, and the first time a musical was filmed outside Hollywood.
Patricia mentioned how difficult it could be to film shots in New York as Frank Sinatra was so well known.
The ‘Alter Ego’ number from COVER GIRL, when Gene was filmed dancing with his reflection thanks to double exposure and an exhaustive exact repetition of the dance by Gene.
‘The Hat My Father Wore” (Take Me Out to the Ball Game).
Patricia later produced the very hat from one of several boxes she had on the stage.
Patricia Kelly has been described as a college professor giving a specialised cinema class. And that’s the way I felt. Her knowledge of her husband’s life and career would take up several books.
She told us that she was initially employed by Gene to assist him in writing his memoirs. They were together for ten years and she recorded Gene in some way nearly every day.
She said, “Gene really wanted to be known more for being behind the camera than in front.”
She told us of his love of poetry and languages; of how he wanted to play Sky Masterson in Guys and Dolls; and how he was persuaded to take a role in Inherit The Wind when the producer Stanley Kramer mentioned two names – Spencer Tracy and Fredric March.
Patrcia explained how David O. Selznick had brought Gene out to Hollywood and immediately loaned him out to MGM for his first film, For Me and My Gal opposite Judy Garland. (I don’t know which Hitchcock film the article refers to, maybe Suspicion?)
MGM then bought Gene’s contract and put him in two non-musicals, Pilot #5 and The Cross of Lorraine.
They also loaned him out twice, to Columbia for Cover Girl and to Universal for Christmas Holiday with Deanna Durbin.
But there were no more loan outs after that.
I liked the story of Gene coming to Glasgow in 1953 to scout locations for Brigadoon. My local paper, the Herald photographed Gene at Glasgow Central Station when he arrived by train from London.
This week, the Herald presented Patricia with a framed photo of Gene and took a picture of her standing on the same spot at the station. (It’s Glasgow, so it’s raining!)
( MGM decided that the cost of shooting in Scotland was too expensive.)
Patricia said Gene loved the Scottish Highlands.
I remember back in 2006 , on her previous Glasgow visit , that Patricia said she was working on a book about Gene, but there is still no sign of it. I think the latest book on Gene is by the Brideson sisters called “He’s Got Rhythm” (2017)
The official website GeneKelly.com is not yet up and running. Patricia can be contacted at email@example.com
Patricia will be back in Glasgow ( and Edinburgh) in April 2018 for a world premiere, WARNER BROS PRESENTS GENE KELLY: A LIFE IN MUSIC, a new live symphonic cinema tribute.
Gene’s dances for Singin’ In the Rain , Brigadoon, An American in Paris, Les Girls will be accompanied by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.- I’ m already booked!
It was a great evening. Patricia Kelly has an eloquent, conversational style – and her knowledge is limitless.
I like the quote from Gene when Arthur Freed asked him what he was going to do with the title song, Singin’ In The Rain’. (Freed wrote the song in the 1920s with Nacio Herb Brown.)
Gene said simply, “ It’s going to be raining, and I’m going to be singing.”