Showing an early aptitude in both gymnastics and dance, Eugene Curran Kelly had devoured everything he could about dance in general and ballet in particular while still a teenager. He was already a successful dance teacher in his hometown when he began his ascent in the original Broadway production of Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey. This led to a film contract with David O. Selznick, which was sold to MGM before Kelly even reported to Hollywood. The allegiance with MGM proved a godsend for both the studio and Kelly, who (with the help of producer Arthur Freed) came to energize the film company's musical output for the next 15 years. Kelly quickly revealed himself to be a quintuple threat: dancer, actor, singer, choreographer, and director. Beginning with his first film, For Me and My Gal, he showed an engaging personality onscreen and his voice, while never strong, was equally pleasing. As his influence at the studio grew, Kelly began proposing more ambitious projects as a director as well as a choreographer and performer. Kelly was never a popular singer, despite the fact that he acquitted himself onscreen alongside even the likes of Frank Sinatra in several films, but his onscreen geniality and overall popularity — as a younger, more masculine, and more conventionally handsome rival to Fred Astaire (who was at MGM at exactly the same time) — allowed him to effectively re-popularize many songs by George Gershwin, Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown, and others through his performances of them in films such as An American in Paris and Singin' in the Rain. His most popular and influential work as a singer can be found on the soundtracks for those films, plus Brigadoon, It's Always Fair Weather, Summer Stock, and the compilation soundtrack That's Entertainment Part 2.
As the '50s wore on and the public's taste for musicals waned, Kelly turned increasingly toward directing (Gigot, Hello Dolly!) and producing, allowing his acting — which he had never entirely forsaken but had never built into great prominence before the public, either — to become the focus of his film work in movies such as Marjorie Morningstar and Inherit the Wind. He proved to be as adept at drama as he had been at dance and in the '70s, spurred on by the growing interest in America's cinematic past that coalesced around MGM's compilation feature That's Entertainment, Kelly directed the equally fine follow-up, That's Entertainment Part 2.