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Spend Some Swell Nights on the Town With Kelly

February 09, 1996|SUSAN KING | TIMES STAFF WRITER

They don't make them like Gene Kelly anymore. Kelly, who died Feb. 2 at age 83, was sexy, dashing, athletic, innovative, charming. His choreography and dancing pushed the envelope. He was fearless. He was one in a million.

Here are some great examples of his work available on video:

After taking Broadway by storm in Rodgers & Hart's "Pal Joey," Kelly came to Hollywood and made an auspicious debut opposite Judy Garland in 1942's "For Me and My Gal" (MGM/UA, $20), a moderately entertaining musical about a struggling vaudeville team.

In 1944, Kelly teamed up with the lovely Rita Hayworth for the colorful musical comedy "Cover Girl" (Columbia-TriStar, $20). Kelly's "Alter Ego" dance and the Jerome Kern/Ira Gershwin song "Long Ago and Far Away" are the highlights.

Kelly received his only best actor Oscar nomination for 1945's "Anchors Aweigh" (MGM/UA, $20), a charming musical about two sailors (Kelly and Frank Sinatra) on leave in Los Angeles. Kathryn Grayson also stars. The film includes Kelly's classic dance with Jerry the Mouse.

Kelly is at his dashing, sexy best in 1948's delightful musical fantasy "The Pirate" (MGM/UA, $20). Set in the Caribbean, Judy Garland plays a young woman who believes circus performer Kelly is really an infamous pirate. Kelly's "Be a Clown" number with the Nicholas Brothers and his "Mack the Black" routine are gems. Cole Porter penned the score and Vincente Minnelli directed.

Kelly and Stanley Donen made their directorial debuts with 1949's landmark musical "On the Town" (MGM/UA, $20). Shot partially on location in New York--unheard of in those days--this joyous romp follows the adventures of three sailors (Kelly, Sinatra and Jules Munchin) on 24-hour leave in New York. The film includes Kelly's surrealistic ballet "A Day in New York." Based on the Comden-Green-Bernstein Broadway musical.

Minnelli's 1951 multi-Oscar winner "An American in Paris" (MGM/UA, $15) is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a song in your heart. Kelly plays the American in Paris who falls for beautiful young Parisian Leslie Caron. The Gershwin score is marvelous and the "American in Paris" ballet finale is still a joy to behold.

The following year, Kelly starred in and co-directed with Donen his greatest film, "Singin' in the Rain" (MGM/UA, $20). From his signature title number to Jean Hagen's hysterical turn as a dumb blond actress, this spoof of Hollywood is the best movie musical ever made. Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds co-star.

Kelly and Minnelli joined forces for 1954's "Brigadoon" (MGM/UA, $15), a lovely, lyrical version of Lerner & Loewe's musical fantasy. Kelly and co-star Cyd Charisse have several nice dance moments together, including "The Heather on the Hill."

The 1955 musical comedy "It's Always Fair Weather" (MGM/UA, $20) marks the final collaboration between directors Kelly and Donen. It's an underrated, acerbic tale of three sailors (Kelly, Michael Kidd and Dan Dailey) who reunite 10 years after their discharge and discover their lives have taken completely different turns. The opening trash can number is a hoot. Charisse co-stars.

George Cukor directed "Les Girls" (MGM/UA, $20), a witty 1957 Cole Porter musical about three showgirls (Mitzy Gaynor, Kaye Kendall and Taina Elg) and their relationship with a charming, womanizing hoofer (Kelly).

A frail but still endearing Kelly made his last screen appearance in 1994's "That's Entertainment, Part III" (MGM/UA, $20), a so-so trip back to the glory days of the MGM musical.

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Meadows on Film: Though best known as Alice in "The Honeymooners," Audrey Meadows also made several film comedies, including 1962's Cary Grant-Doris Day sex farce "That Touch of Mink" (Republic, $20). Meadows, who died of cancer last Saturday, sparkles as Day's cynical roommate. Episodes of "The Honeymooners" also are available on video from CBS and MPI.

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Foreign Affairs: A definite must-see is Georges Franju's creepy, compelling 1959 French thriller "Eyes Without a Face" (Interama). Pierre Brasseur and Alida Valli star. Maurice Jarre supplies the erotic score.

New This Week: Denzel Washington stars in the cyber thriller "Virtuosity" (Paramount). . . . Steven Weber and Patrick Stewart headline the gay romantic comedy "Jeffrey" (Orion). . . . Michelle Pfeiffer plays an ex-Marine turned high school teacher in "Dangerous Minds" (Hollywood). . . . Patricia Arquette is a young widow in John Boorman's drama "Beyond Rangoon" (Columbia-TriStar).

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