The Coronado Island Film Festival (CIFF), which will be held November 9-12, hosted a special evening last week with Patricia Ward Kelly. Patricia is the wife of the late, legendary Gene Kelly. She will be bringing her production “Gene Kelly: The Legacy” to CIFF this November. Not only will guests be invited to view her production, CIFF will be honoring Gene Kelly with the festival’s Legends Award.
Village Theatre, the host theater for CIFF, has been showing The Festival Classic Movie Series with monthly presentations of classic movies. The September movie presented last week was Cover Girl, starring Gene Kelly and Rita Hayworth. This 1944 movie was a pivotal film for Gene Kelly, as he was just beginning his career in Hollywood and was able to showcase his dancing, choreography and talent.
At the Cover Girl screening, Patricia not only introduced the movie in which her late husband starred in, but she spoke to the audience about Gene, and about her production which will be a special presentation at CIFF. After Cover Girl played, Patricia took a seat on the stage to speak and hold a brief Q&A session where I gained quite a bit of insight about Gene Kelly. I now am very much looking forward to learning more from her documentary. Patricia first told us that she’d never been to Coronado previously but was loving it. Gene had been stationed in San Diego, he went to boot camp here. She told us that “he did not enjoy that experience,” as the crowd let out a chuckle. Patricia met Gene when he was in Los Angeles and had hired her to write his memoir. She said that she was only supposed to come out for two weeks, but five years into that process they got married. She joked about how she would write about everything he said, or would constantly record him…even to the point that they would be eating dinner, and he would say, “you aren’t writing anything down,” and she replied “I’m eating!” She would write on cocktail napkins or sugar packets, whatever was available at the time as he revealed more about himself or she discovered another side to him. She asked us, “Have you ever wondered how he got his scar?” Well, wouldn’t you know, it was from a tricycle accident when he was young. No detail was too small to remember. She also talked about Gene Kelly’s first kiss, and who it was. I won’t say…you’ll have to go to watch “Gene Kelly: The Legacy” at the festival to find out. Another surprise you’ll learn about is why Fred Astaire danced in place of Gene Kelly in “Easter Parade” (the volleyball story isn’t exactly the way it’s often told, but it is a great story). Patricia went on to discuss the additional roles he would play on the set. Not only did he act, sing, and dance, he also helped the cameraman understand his language of dance and explained how knowing that would allow him to get better shots, and he was known to alter the set to have more space in which to dance and move.
What I enjoyed hearing about the most is how different it was to film back then, and how Gene was able to accomplish some of the more difficult things he did. For example, in “Cover Girl,” there is a scene where Gene Kelly is dancing with an alter ego version of himself.
Back then, obviously, they did not have a green screen or computer-aided effects. So, to make that scene, Kelly had to perfect the dance, shoot it (they used a black curtain to block out the background), and then do it a second time, with slight changes, but so that most moves would match up with the first dance and hit the exact same spots at the exact same time. It is absolutely amazing to think of how much talent and work went into just that one scene. There are so many wonderful stories that Patricia shared about her late husband. I could have sat there all night. Gene Kelly was a superb dancer, choreographer, singer and actor. It’s no surprise that he will be honored with the Legends Award this year at CIFF.
Be sure to catch a screening of one of the upcoming Festival Classic Movies at Village Theatre, and get your passes for the Coronado Island Film Festival.
Plan to attend A Morning with Patricia Ward Kelly, during CIFF, on Saturday, November 11 at 10am at the CoSA Theatre, where she will present her behind-the-scenes production “Gene Kelly: The Legacy.”
Visit the CIFF website for information on tickets, films, parties and panels, venues, and more.