Stanley Donen, ‘Master of the Musical’ Who Directed ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ Dies at 94

Stanley Donen, ‘Master of the Musical’ Who Directed ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ Dies at 94

Stanley Donen in 1958. He directed some of Hollywood’s most beloved musicals, including “On the Town” (1949).CreditCreditRonald Grant Archive, via Alamy

By Richard Severo

Stanley Donen, who directed Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling, Gene Kelly singing in the rain and a host of other sparkling moments from some of Hollywood’s greatest musicals, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 94.

His son, Mark Donen, confirmed the death.

Stanley Donen brought a certain charm and elegance to the silver screen in the late 1940s through the 1950s, at a time when Hollywood was soaked in glamour and the big studio movies were polished to a sheen.

“For a time, Donen epitomized Hollywood style,” Tad Friend wrote in The New Yorker in 2003. Mr. Donen, he wrote, “made the world of champagne fountains and pillbox hats look enchanting, which is much harder than it sounds.”

Mr. Donen worked with some of the most illustrious figures of his era: from Astaire and Kelly to Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. He also worked with Leonard Bernstein, the lyricist Alan Jay Lerner and the writing team of Comden and Green, not to mention Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor.

a body of work marked by grace, elegance, wit and visual innovation.” Many saw the award as Hollywood’s way of making amends because Mr. Donen had never been nominated for an Oscar, much less won one.

[Here’s how to watch “Singin’ in the Rain” and eight other Stanley Donen films.]

Mr. Donen also directed thrillers like “Charade,” wild comedies like “Bedazzled” and rueful romances like “Two for the Road.” But musicals were his specialty, and his fellow director Jean-Luc Godard — though it could be said that his French New Wave films borrowed virtually nothing from Mr. Donen’s work — spoke for many when he called Mr. Donen “the master of the musical.”

the famous “Alter Ego” scene, a double-exposure number in which Kelly appears to be dancing with himself.

Their association continued in “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” (1949), which starred Frank Sinatra and Esther Williams as well as Kelly. The director was Busby Berkeley, but Mr. Donen and Kelly staged the musical numbers and also provided the story line.

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Where to Watch ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ and Eight Other Great Stanley Donen FilmsFeb. 23, 2019Image


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