The Remarkable Gene Kelly: My Interview with Patricia Ward Kelly

Patricia Ward Kelly and Shannon Allen
Gene Kelly is the Renaissance man of Hollywood's Golden Age. Listen to my interview with Gene's wife, Patricia Ward Kelly, for all about his remarkable legacy.
Listen to my Classic Hollywood podcast, Vanguard of Hollywood, available everywhere you listen to podcasts. Episode 78 is my interview with Patricia Ward Kelly.

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A photo of Gene Kelly wearing an Irish flat cap, flashing his signature smile, hangs from a cabinet with care.  Atop the cabinet sit various accolades and a beer mug, a gift from Frank Sinatra. Suspended above the cabinet are drawings of Kelly by the great Al Hirschfeld, which frame an aisle of carefully labeled boxes, each filled with memorabilia and original items from Gene’s films.  Flanking the aisle is another cabinet displaying, among other things, the roller skates Gene wore in Xanadu (1980). 

Gene Kelly wearing a fedora
A stunning portrait of Gene. Photo courtesy of Patricia Ward Kelly.

Across from the cabinet, above a desk, is the cup hilt rapier Gene expertly flourished in The Three Musketeers (1948).  On the desk itself are Gene’s Singin’ in the Rain (1952) script and sheet music for the film’s title number, complete with Gene’s handwritten choreography annotations in the margins and above the music notes. 

These are but a few of the priceless treasures that greeted me as I stepped into the Gene Kelly Archives at the home of Gene’s widow, film historian Patricia Ward Kelly.

Gene Kelly and wife Patricia Kelly
Gene and Patricia attend the Carousel Ball. Photo courtesy of Patricia Ward Kelly.

Becoming a Gene Kelly Fan

I was seven-years-old when I first saw Singin’ in the Rain at the home of a friend, whose mother offered to look after me while my parents helped my grandma through another round of chemotherapy.  It was a sad time for my family.  Singin’ in the Rain was the distraction I needed.  Gene Kelly’s contagious smile and showmanship lifted my spirits.  And, as a young dancer myself, his dancing was a revelation.

Gene Kelly Singin' in the Rain
Gene Kelly performs the signature title number in Singin’ in the Rain (1952). Photo courtesy of Patricia Ward Kelly.

I never dreamed that after nearly a lifetime of admiring Gene on screen, of being inspired by his incomparable dancing and multi-dimensional creative talent, I’d have the chance to sit down with Patricia amidst the cherished belongings that seem to whisper Gene’s story.  It was a powerful experience to discuss Gene’s life and legacy with the woman he loved, the woman who knew Gene like no one else.  

Gene Kelly and wife Patricia Ward Kelly
Patricia and Gene Kelly in 1994, photo by Albane Navizet.

An Interview with Patricia Ward Kelly

Patricia is generous in sharing about her life with Gene, and her vast knowledge of his life and career. Gene Kelly’s legacy is a rich one.  As Patricia reflected during our interview:

Gene Kelly On the Town (1949).
A portrait of Gene Kelly from On the Town (1949). Photo courtesy of Patricia Ward Kelly.

“Gene’s legacy is important on so many levels.  Not only for the history of classic film–and his immense contribution to the history of classic film and dance on film, but also for the type of man he was.  It’s important that people understand that you can be one of the most famous people in the world, and you can still be decent and caring and respectful…and you can value your art and not take your stardom for granted.” 

Gene Kelly Hello Dolly 1969
Gene Kelly directing Hello Dolly! (1969). Photo courtesy of Patricia Ward Kelly.

The Gene Kelly Legacy

Patricia’s goal is to inspire fans and future generations with Gene’s remarkable legacy.  Through the two shows she’s written about Gene, her soon to be published book, keynote speeches around the world, and interviews like this one, Patricia is doing just that.

Patricia Ward Kelly
Patricia at the TCM Film Festival in 2011 for the world premiere of the newly restored An American in Paris (1951). Photo courtesy of Patricia Ward Kelly.

Listen to episode 78 of Vanguard of Hollywood for what you didn’t know about Gene Kelly, and be inspired by the legacy that Patricia so generously shares.

Gene Kelly and wife Patricia Ward Kelly and Van Johnson
Patricia and Gene with Van Johnson. Photo courtesy of Patricia Ward Kelly.

Follow Patricia Ward Kelly

And be sure to keep up with Patricia and The Gene Kelly Legacy on social media and her website, and on the official Gene Kelly website

Patricia Ward Kelly and Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly
Patricia and Gene with Cyd Charisse. Photo courtesy of Patricia Ward Kelly.
Gene Kelly and wife Patricia Ward Kelly 1992
Gene and Patricia in 1992. Photo courtesy of Patricia Ward Kelly.

25 Responses

  1. Excellent. Didn’t know that Gene was so involved behind the camera. Really informative and enjoyable listen!

  2. So enjoyed this. “Renaissance man” is indeed the best description for Gene. I never knew he was such an intellectual. Thank you Patricia for sharing, and thank you Shannon for asking the right questions.

    1. Thanks for your kind words Barb! It is amazing how diverse Gene’s knowledge, interests, and talents were. To hear about this aspect of Gene from Patricia is such a privilege. Thanks so much for commenting and listening Barb!

    1. Yes! Please spread the word Eric, this is such a great opportunity to get the facts out, and put the myths to rest. I was so happy to get the facts from Patricia. Thanks for listening Eric!

    1. Hi Danica! Will do! Keep checking back, I’ll include it at the end of the article as soon as I get a chance. Gene is absolutely hilarious in it. Thanks so much for listening!

    1. I am so happy to hear Bill! Gene’s legacy is remarkable, and I can’t thank Patricia enough for sharing her insights and knowledge with us. Thanks for commenting Bill, and for listening!

    1. That’s awesome Candy! I can’t think of a better way to spend the weekend, especially after hearing Patricia’s insights. There’s so much to appreciate in Gene’s performances and work behind the camera. Thanks so much for listening!

  3. What a beautiful, thoughtful, and sweet-spirited interview, Shannon! Excellent! Patricia, you are so gracious and articulate! Thank you for the great insights into Gene’s personality and life work!

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words Roberta, and for listening! I appreciate it so much. It was a dream come true to interview Patricia. I feel so blessed. How lucky we are that Patricia is so generous in sharing about her life with Gene, and her extraordinary knowledge of his life and career. Thanks again Roberta!

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