Stars of Vaudeville #218: Gene Kelly (the Five Kellys)
Originally posted in 2010
Gene Kelly (born in Pittsburgh this day in 1912) started out in a kid act with his four dancing brothers and sisters — The Five Kellys. Gene was the middle child. Sometimes, when the booking called for it, the act would be comprised of a smaller “away team”, often pairing Gene with his brother Fred. They played local vaudeville and social gigs throughout the 1920s. Once they even got to go on as a disappointment act for the 7 Little Foys. In 1928, the family took over a dance school. Gene was the head teacher. He was a busy guy, teaching, attending college (majored in economics) and still performing. (he got to sub once for the Nicholas Brothers in a Cab Calloway revue in Altoona during these years). But the depression made the scarcity of regional show biz work even scarcer. Gene went to New York, auditioned, and there followed the legendary string of Broadway and Hollywood hits he is now known for. He was still acting into the mid-eighties, and passed away in 1996.
Here he is one of his most classic routines, dancing with another MGM star Jerry the animated mouse in Anchors Aweigh (1944)
To find out more about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
And check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc