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Stanley Donen, Codirector of Singin' in the Rain With Gene Kelly, Has Died

The pair also collaborated on On the Town.

(© Adam Schartoff / Wikimedia Commons)

Stanley Donen, a film director and choreographer remembered for having helmed some of Hollywood's best-loved musical movies, died February 21. The cause was heart failure. He was 94.

Donen was born in Columbia, South Carolina, on April 13, 1924. He took dance lessons and performed in the local theater as a child, and after graduating from high school at 16, Donen attended the University of South Carolina. There he studied psychology for one semester before moving to New York City to pursue a career as a dancer.

In 1940, Donen made his Broadway debut as a performer in the original production of Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey, directed by George Abbott and starring Gene Kelly. Donen went on to appear in Abbott's Best Foot Forward in 1941, and in 1943 he moved to California to appear in the movie version of the show. Donen continued to work in Hollywood as a choreographer and assistant choreographer, and in 1945, he choreographed, with Kelly, Anchors Aweigh (starring Kelly and Frank Sinatra).

Donen and Kelly continued to collaborate, and in 1949 the pair directed On the Town, an adaptation of the Broadway musical. In 1954 they teamed up again for Singin' in the Rain. On his own, Donen went on to direct movie musicals including Give a Girl a Break (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Funny Face (1957), The Pajama Game (1957), and Damn Yankees (1958). Donen continued making films, especially during the '60s, many of them comedies because of the waning in popularity of the musical genre.

Donen returned to Broadway for the last time in 1993 to direct a stage version of the 1948 film The Red Shoes. The production closed after five performances. In 1998, Donen was awarded an Honorary Academy Award "in appreciation of a body of work marked by grace, elegance, wit and visual innovation." His final film was a made-for-TV version of A.R. Gurney's play Love Letters, starring Steven Weber and Laura Linney. In 2002, he directed the Elaine May comedy Adult Entertainment off-Broadway at the Variety Arts Theatre.

Donen married and divorced five times and had three children. From 1999 until his death, Donen's longtime partner was the actor and director Elaine May. He is survived by his sons, Mark and Joshua Donen.


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