b. 13 April 1924, Columbia, South Carolina, USA. The director and choreographer for a string of classic MGM musicals of the 50s, Donen was fascinated by film and theatre from an early age. After graduating from high school he worked on Broadway in the chorus of the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical Pal Joey (1940), which starred Gene Kelly, and he assisted Kelly on the choreography for Best Foot Forward (1941) and also appeared in the chorus. Signed to MGM, during the 40s he worked as choreographer, co-choreographer and/or co-director of occasional sequences (often uncredited) on musicals such as Cover Girl, Hey Rookie, Jam Session, Kansas City Kitty, Anchors Aweigh, Holiday In Mexico, No Leave, No Love, Living In A Big Way, This Time For Keeps, A Date With Judy, The Kissing Bandit and Take Me Out To The Ball Game. In 1949 Donen made his official directorial debut as Gene Kelly’s co-director on the acclaimed, groundbreaking musical On The Town, and they worked together on several more memorable films, including Singin’ In The Rain, It’s Always Fair Weather and The Pajama Game. Donen also brought his skill as a director of breathtakingly fresh and exuberant sequences to pictures such as Wedding Bells, Give A Girl A Break (also choreographed with Gower Champion), Deep In My Heart, Seven Brides For Seven Brothers, Funny Face and Damn Yankees (1958). By that time the golden age of movie musicals was over, and, with the exception of The Little Prince (1974), Donen concentrated on directing (and producing) dramatic and light-comedy films such as Indiscreet, The Grass Is Greener, Arabesque, Two For The Road, Bedazzled, Staircase, Lucky Lady, Movie, Movie, Saturn 3, and Blame It On Rio (1984). Since then, Donen has been rumoured to be trying to bring biographies of Judy Garland and Marlene Dietrich to the screen, but to date nothing has materialized. In 1988 he produced the Academy Awards show, and five years later made his directorial debut on Broadway in the Jule Styne musical The Red Shoes. After the original director, Susan Schulman, bowed out in the early stages of production, Donen took over. Unfortunately, unlike those earlier MGM musicals, there was no happy ending and the show closed after three days. However, in 1998 Donen received an Honorary Academy Award ‘in appreciation of a body of work marked by grace, elegance, wit and visual innovation’.
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