Stanley Donen - Director

Nationality: American. Born: Columbia, South Carolina, 13 April 1924. Education: Studied dance at Town Theater, Columbia, then University of South Carolina, until 1940. Family: Married actress Yvette Mimieux, 1972. Career: Broadway debut in Pal Joey , 1940; choreographer for MGM musicals, Hollywood, 1943–49; co-directed

Stanley Donen with Ingrid Bergman on the set of Indiscreet
Stanley Donen with Ingrid Bergman on the set of Indiscreet
(with Gene Kelly) first film, On the Town , 1949. Awards: Academy Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1998.

Films as Director:


On the Town (co-d, co-chor)


Royal Wedding ( Wedding Bells )


Singin' in the Rain (co-d, co-chor); Love Is Better than Ever ( The Light Fantastic ); Fearless Fagan


Give a Girl a Break (+ co-chor)


Seven Brides for Seven Brothers ; Deep in My Heart (+ co-chor)


It's Always Fair Weather (co-d, co-chor)


Funny Face ; The Pajama Game (co-d, co-pr); Kiss Them For Me


Indiscreet (+ pr); Damn Yankees ( What Lola Wants ) (co-d, co-pr)


Once More with Feeling (+ pr); Surprise Package (+ pr); The Grass Is Greener (+ pr)


Charade (+ pr)


Arabesque (+ pr)


Two for the Road (+ pr); Bedazzled (+ pr)


Staircase (+ pr)


The Little Prince (+ pr)


Lucky Lady (+ pr)


Movie Movie (+ pr)


Saturn 3 (+ pr)


Blame It on Rio


Moonlighting (series for TV)


Love Letters (for TV)

Films as Choreographer or Co-Choreographer:


Best Foot Forward (Buzzell)


Hey Rookie (Barton); Jam Session (Barton); Kansas City Kitty (Lord); Cover Girl (Vidor)


Anchors Aweigh (Sidney)


Holiday in Mexico (Sidney); No Leave, No Love (Martin)


This Time for Keeps (Thorpe); Living in a Big Way (La Cava); Killer McCoy (Rowland)


A Date with Judy (Thorpe); The Big City (Taurog); The Kissing Bandit (Benedek)


Take Me out to the Ball Game (Berkeley) (+ co-sc)


By DONEN: articles—

"Giving Life an Up-Beat," in Films and Filming (London), July 1958.

"What to Do with Star Quality," in Films and Filming (London), August 1960.

Interview with Bertrand Tavernier and Gilbert Palas, in Cahiers du Cinéma (Paris), May 1963.

"Talking in the Sun," an interview with Colo and Bertrand Tavernier, in Positif (Paris), December 1969.

Interview with S. Harvey, in Film Comment (New York), July/August 1973.

Interview with Peter von Bagh, in Filmihullu (Helsinki), no. 4, 1994.

"La mise en scène, c'est intangible!" in Positif (Paris), July-August 1997.

On DONEN: books—

Comden, Betty, and Adolph Green, Singin' in the Rain (script) New York, 1972.

Charness, Casey, Hollywood Cine-Dance: A Description of the Interrelationship of Camerawork and Choreography in the Films of Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly , Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1978.

Casper, Joseph Andrew, Stanley Donen (Filmmakers, No 5) , Lanham, 1983.

Casper, Joseph Andrew, Stanley Donen , Metuchen, New Jersey, 1985.

Altman, Rick, The American Film Musical , Bloomington, Indiana, 1989.

Silverman, Stephen M., Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen and His Movies , with Audrey Hepburn, New York, 1996.

On DONEN: articles—

Knight, Arthur, "From Dance to Film Director," in Dance (New York), August 1954.

Johnson, Albert, "The Tenth Muse in San Francisco," in Sight and Sound (London), Summer 1956.

Knight, Arthur, "Dance in the Movies," in Dance (New York), October 1958.

"Musical Comedy Issue" of Cinéma (Paris), August/September 1959.

McVay, Douglas, "Moanin' for Donen," in New York Film Bulletin , no.9, 1961.

Luft, Herbert, "Donen at Work," in Films in Review (New York), February 1961.

"Stanley Donen," in Film Dope (London), June 1977.

Telotte, J.P., "Ideology and the Kelly-Donen Musicals," in Film Criticism (Meadville, Pennsylvania), Spring 1984.

Sloman, Tony, "Feet First: Kelly and Donen," in National Film Theater Booklet , London, May 1990.

Karban, Thomas, "Linien, die die Bewegung verschieben," in Film-Dienst (Cologne), 4 August 1992.

McVay, Doug, "Applause, Applause," in Bright Lights (Cincinnati), no. 14, 1995.

Silverman, Stephen M., "Billy Wilder and Stanley Donen," in Films in Review (New York), March-April 1996.

* * *

Stanley Donen is most frequently remembered for his work as a musical director/choreographer at MGM under the Arthur Freed Unit, a production team that Donen claims existed only in Arthur Freed's head ( Movie , Spring 1977). With Gene Kelly, he co-directed three of the musical genre's best films: On the Town, Singin' in the Rain , and It's Always Fair Weather. Kelly was, in a sense, responsible for giving Donen his start in Hollywood; their first collaboration being the doppelganger dance in Cover Girl. Donen followed a path typical of that time, from Broadway dancer to Hollywood dancer and choreographer to director. As solo director, he won recognition for Royal Wedding (his first effort), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Funny Face, The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees. Andrew Sarris believes that Donen always seems to function best as a hyphenated director or a genial catalyst; that any personal style he may possess is usually submerged under that of the performer (Kelly, Astaire, Fosse) or choreographer (Michael Kidd, Eugene Loring, Bob Fosse) and hence is difficult to assess. This view may simply reflect that period of studio production (mid-1940s to late 1950s), when there was a constant melding of creative personnel. As Jerome Delamater explains: "Performers, choreographers, and directors worked together and in many instances one cannot discern the auteur, as it were, or—more accurately—there seem to be several auteurs." Donen credits Astaire for his inspiration and it comes as no surprise that he feels his musical work is an extension of the Astaire/Rogers format (which itself is derived from the films of Clair and Lubitsch). This format is not logically grounded in reality, but functions more or less in the realm of pure emotion. Such a world of spontaneous singing and dancing can most accurately be presented in visual terms through forms of surrealism.

Donen's oeuvre demonstrates a reaction against the presentation of musical numbers on the stage, choreographing them instead on the streets of everyday life. It is this combination of a visual reality and a performing unreality (a performing reality is some type of stage that is clearly delineated from normal, day–to–day activity) that creates the tension inherent in surrealism. Donen geared the integrated musical towards the unreal; our functional perception of the real world does not include singing and dancing as a means of normal interpersonal communication. As he said in an interview with Jim Hillier, "A musical . . . is anything but real."

Musicals possess their own peculiar internal reality, not directly connected to everyday life. Leo Braudy points out that Donen's musical films explore communities and the reaction/interaction of the people that dwell within. Even though Donen left the musical genre after Damn Yankees (returning to it in 1973), he continued to explore the situation of the individual in a social community, and the absurd, occasionally surrealistic experiences that we all face, in such deft comedies as Bedazzled, Two for the Road , and Charade (the last in homage to Hitchcock).

—Greg Faller

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