STANLEY Donen – director of Singin’ in the Rain – has died at the age of 94, his family has confirmed.
Donen, who often teamed with Gene Kelly but also worked with Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire, died on Thursday in New York from heart failure, his sons Joshua and Mark Donen said today.
Donen was asked in 2002 whether the filmmakers knew that “Singin’ in the Rain,” released in 1952 and also starring Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, would be revered decades later.
He told the Associated Press (AP): “You can’t get through a movie if you don’t think it’s good.
“Certainly we thought it was good. More than that? I don’t know.
“You don’t think about that. You just think about how you can do it.”
Both the film and Donen were at first underrated.
Singin’ in the Rain was initially seen as high entertainment rather than art and was not even nominated for a best picture or directing Academy Award, says AP.
Donen, overshadowed by Kelly early in his career, never received a competitive Oscar nomination and waited until 1998 for an honorary award, presented to him by Martin Scorsese.
He was more than ready.
Donen danced cheek-to-cheek with his Oscar statuette, which he called “this cute little fella.”
The crowd yelled and applauded as he crooned, “Heaven, I’m in heaven,” from Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek.”
During his acceptance speech, he explained his formula for a great musical.
Bring in songwriters like Adolph Green and Betty Comden, and performers like Kelly or Astaire or Sinatra.
He added: “And when filming starts, you show up and you stay the hell out of the way.”
Born in Columbia, South Carolina, Donen would remember movies especially those with Astaire and Ginger Rogers as a needed escape from the tensions of being one of the few Jews in his community.
Donen took tap dancing lessons in his teens and began his show business career as a performer, dancing in the original Broadway production of “Pal Joey” at age 16.
The title role was played by Kelly, and the show’s success propelled Kelly into the movies.
Donen received his first Hollywood break when Kelly got him a job helping choreograph the 1944 Kelly film “Cover Girl.” Over the next few years, he worked on choreography for such films as “The Kissing Bandit,” starring Sinatra, and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” starring Sinatra and Kelly, who teamed with Donen on choreography.
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