Top 10 Best Gene Kelly Dance Scenes
VOICE OVER: Emily Brayton
WRITTEN BY: Owen Maxwell
These Gene Kelly dance scenes will have you tapping your toes every step of the way. We're looking at the most spectacular dance numbers that Gene Kelly ever committed to celluloid. We're basing our choices on a blend of stunning choreography, the colorful personality he injects into each piece and the movie magic that pulled it all together. MsMojo ranks the best Gene Kelly dance scenes. Which Gene Kelly dance sequence is your favorite? Let us know in the comments!
Every movie Gene Kelly appeared in was better for his presence. Welcome to MsMojo and today we're counting down our picks for the Top 10 Gene Kelly Dance Scenes.
For this list, we're looking at the most spectacular dance numbers that Gene Kelly ever committed to celluloid. We're basing our choices on a blend of stunning choreography, the colorful personality he injects into each piece and the movie magic that pulled it all together.
#10: "Ballin' the Jack"
"For Me and My Gal" (1942)
In this musical following 2 aspiring Vaudeville performers during World War I, we see Gene Kelly and Judy Garland starting their new dance by making fun of other steps and changing rhythm every few bars. Once they start 'Ballin' the Jack', however, Kelly and Garland deliver an impressive swing of their own. The narration of each move is exceptional in its own right, but then they really blow us away by speeding up. The two performers also maintain a surprising level of synergy through rapid tap breaks and huge spins. Considering how difficult the entire routine looks by the end, it's a wonder how seamlessly Garland and Kelly switch tempos throughout their dance.
#9: "Let Me Call You Sweetheart"
"Thousands Cheer" (1943)
As his coworkers slip away, Gene Kelly turns a mop into his personal dance partner for a moment in this romantic comedy meant to boost the morale of World War II soldiers. Gene acts genuinely love-struck with this fake “woman,” and adds plenty of delightful touches to help her feel more animated. Soon Kelly is having a whole cast of brooms passed to him, as he fills in beats with sweeps. After a little bass drum kick, Gene also fits in a surprising little military tap walk. Kelly brings every item in the room into the dance, whether it's a pail, a pole or even a faucet. Though there's certainly a lot fancy footwork in this scene, it's Gene's creative use of props that steals the show.
#8: "Alter-Ego Dance"
"Cover Girl" (1944)
In this musical following a chorus girl turned cover girl, Gene Kelly walks down an alleyway before his own self-image manifests itself in a reflection. Once it leaps from the glass, Gene and his mirror image are pulling each other in a tense dance. Whether he's performing duelling solos or dashing through each other with power moves, Kelly creates great chemistry with himself. He also maintains a symmetry in the choreography while still giving each version of himself a unique character. Though Kelly works steps around several different partners in 'Put Me To The Test,' his footwork is far more intriguing here. Along with the technical know-how to assemble this scene, Kelly pushes his abilities to the limit to bring a little magic to the screen as well.
#7: "La cumparsita"
"Anchors Aweigh" (1945)
In this musical comedy, Susan is an aspiring singer who stares out from her balcony, while Joseph, who is one of 2 Navy Sailors on leave, does all he can to impress her with a tango. After a quick sword toss, Gene Kelly gets to work, adding dozens of quick taps between the steps of a Latin swing. He works in plenty of stylish spins and arm-work too, before some aggressive clapping off the beat. The dance becomes a massive stunt when Gene climbs up a tree, runs around a castle and swings on a curtain in one extended take. Though there's a lively energy to Kelly's “I Begged Her” duet with Frank Sinatra in the film, it doesn't match the grandeur of his romantic moves. By mixing technique and some larger-than-life antics, Gene easily impresses us - and Susan.
#6: "The Babbitt and the Bromide"
"Ziegfeld Follies" (1944)
After Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire both realize they've met a fellow dancer in this collection of unconnected musical numbers and comedy sketches, they break into a duet that pantomimes a friendly chat. All their unbelievable tapping stays synchronized, while Kelly shows off his personality in the way he executes his moves. His playfulness is hilarious to watch, as he manages to kick and trip Astaire without ever stopping their routine. Fred and Kelly also switch into Lindy-Hop and ballet sections naturally, thanks to their unique chemistry and talent as performers. 'The Babbitt And The Bromide' is so delightful to watch due to the personal touches Gene fits into his dance with Astaire.
#5: “You Wonderful You (Reprise)”
"Summer Stock" (1950)
Telling the tale of a theatre troupe who use a farm as their rehearsal space, this musical’s standout dance scene sees troupe director Joe Ross getting a bit of inspiration from a noisy floorboard when he is left alone in a barn. After incorporating the wood into a few taps, he does the same thing by sliding a piece of newspaper with his foot. There's a sense of giddy joy in the way Kelly floats through this routine, and uses different props in unusual ways. With the music growing behind him, Gene starts splitting sections of newspaper in half. While it lacks the interactions and romance of the previous 'You Wonderful You' numbers and 'Portland Fancy,' Kelly's solo is full of ecstatic energy. This excitement and humor carry the squeaky floor routine as much as Gene's unbelievable skill.
#4: “An American in Paris” Ballet
"An American in Paris" (1951)
With a title that says it all, this post-World War II flick sees Gene Kelly walking into a flower market that is seemingly frozen in time, with colorful blooming flowers around him. When a woman wanders over to him however, the pair embrace in an elegant and loving twirl. Soon the woman is bending in strange ways, as Kelly shows a sense of worry in his body language. Gene brings a lot of raw emotion to the minimalist dance, and he's visibly upset when he's carrying his partner around. 'I Got Rhythm' is a great showcase of Kelly's versatility, but his movement is refreshingly modest in this quiet ballet. Through his emotive performance, Gene turns one of his slowest dances into one of his most impactful ones.
#3: "The Worry Song"
"Anchors Aweigh" (1945)
“Anchors Aweigh” appears again on our list, this time with a number that Kelly uses to inspire Jerry Mouse (yes, of the Tom and Jerry cartoon!) to quit worrying. Soon the pair are moving around in tandem, with Jerry doing all he can to keep up with Kelly's footwork. The routine reaches a whole other level when Gene starts incorporating Jerry into several of his own moves. Through a little movie magic, Kelly even bounces the mouse off his muscles. While Kelly's choreography is already stunning, it's wondrous to imagine how he coordinated around a dancer who wasn't actually there. By building an entire duet without a partner, 'The Worry Song' is a triumph of both Gene's imagination and the animators' hard work.
#2: "I Like Myself"
"It's Always Fair Weather" (1955)
Kelly gives the camera a gleeful smile, before he slides around the street with roller skates on in this sequence from a film about 3 former American soldiers who reunite after the Second World War. As smooth as his skating is in any direction, he also manages to whistle, sing and play to the camera while he's on wheels. Though this scene incorporates a lot of the performer's classic arm-spreading and tapping, he sets the bar higher by doing all of this with such unusual footwear. Kelly somehow solos on and off the sidewalk seamlessly, and even moves completely sideways at one point. There's a contagious feeling of fun that Gene exudes as he moves from place to place. It's this blend of personality and magical abilities that have us watching 'I Like Myself' again and again.
Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:
"Why Am I So Gone (About That Gal)?"
"Les Girls" (1957)
"Be a Clown"
"The Pirate" (1948)
"Whenever You're Away from Me"
"On the Town" (1949)
"The Heather on the Hill"
#1: "Singin' in the Rain”
"Singin' in the Rain" (1952)
This classic musical-romantic comedy set in 1920s Hollywood features what’s arguably one of the most famous dance scenes ever; let alone Kelly’s most iconic moment. With a kiss from his lover, Don is so euphoric that he's swinging his umbrella and clinging to light posts. The camera work highlights Kelly's poses and uses its own movement to enhance the scene above more straightforward dance numbers, like 'You Were Meant For Me.' 'Singin' In The Rain' also blends Kelly's technical skill with more emotional choreography to go beyond the purely impressive footwork of 'Fit As A Fiddle.' Despite the spectacular dancing found in songs like 'Good Morning,' 'Moses Supposes' and 'Broadway Melody,' it's the cinematic marriage of music and acting that separates the title track from the rest. Gene's dual choreography and performance result in a scene that is still celebrated to this day.