Vincente Minnelli

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Pioneering musical film director known for his unusual use of color and choreography.
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b. 28 February 1903, Chicago, Illinois, USA, d. 25 July 1986, Los Angeles, California, USA. A distinguished film director with a sophisticated style and flair, particularly in the use of colour and the innovative filming of the most exquisite dance sequences. Minnelli is credited, in collaboration with Gene Kelly, with being the main influence on the classic MGM musicals of the 50s. As a young child Minnelli appeared in plays produced by the family Minnelli Bros. Tent Theatre, which toured the American Midwest. After leaving school at 16 he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, and worked as a window and costume designer before moving to New York to design the scenery and costumes for two 1932 Broadway shows, the Earl Carroll Vanities and The DuBarry. From 1933-35 Minnelli was art director at the Radio City Music Hall where he staged a series of ballets and musicals. In 1935 he directed as well as designed the Beatrice Lillie musical At Home Abroad, and throughout the 30s worked successfully on productions such as Ziegfeld Follies, The Show Is On, Hooray For What! and Very Warm For May (1939). From 1940-42, under the aegis of MGM producer Arthur Freed, Minnelli trained in various aspects of Hollywood film techniques and supervised speciality numbers in a number of films including Strike Up The Band, Babes On Broadway and Panama Hattie. He made his debut as a director in 1943 with the all-black musical Cabin In The Sky, which was followed by I Dood It a year later. Then came Meet Me In St. Louis (1944), a delightful piece of nostalgic Americana that became one of the most beloved musicals of all time. Minnelli married its star, Judy Garland, in 1945 (divorced 1951), and in the following year their daughter, Liza Minnelli, was born. Over the next 25 years Minnelli directed a number of musicals that met with varying degrees of success. Yolande And The Thief (1945), which starred Fred Astaire, was followed by the all-star spectacular Ziegfeld Follies (1946), and two films with Gene Kelly, the underrated The Pirate (1948), and An American In Paris (1951), which is often considered to be Minnelli’s masterpiece. However, many would argue that another of the director’s collaborations with Astaire, The Band Wagon (1953), or the delightful Gigi (1958), were equally important events in the director’s distinguished career. Certainly, whatever their merits - and they were not inconsiderable - few would suggest Brigadoon (1954), Kismet (1955), Bells Are Ringing (1960) or On A Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970) as being prime examples of Vincente Minnelli’s art. The latter film was made for Paramount after he had ended an association with MGM that had lasted for more than 25 years. However, the majority of Minnelli’s films were not musicals. Over the years he made many other pictures in a wide variety of styles and moods, and finally achieved his ambition to work with daughter Liza Minnelli in 1976 on his last film, A Matter Of Time. By then, Minnelli’s style of films - particularly musicals - were anachronistic, and he lived quietly in retirement until his death at his home in Beverly Hills in 1986. The year of his birth has always been the subject of speculation. The one cited above is that which was printed in the excellent obituary notice in Variety. In 1993 the young cabaret entertainer Jeff Harnar presented his solo revue Dancing In The Dark - Vincente Minnelli’s Hollywood in New York.