Stanley Donen, Director of Classic Movie Musicals, Dead at 94 | Playbill

Obituaries Stanley Donen, Director of Classic Movie Musicals, Dead at 94 Donen brought to life Singin' in the Rain, On the Town, and more.
Gene Kelly in Singin' in the Rain MGM

Stanley Donen, who co-directed Singin' in the Rain and On the Town with Gene Kelly and went on to direct Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Charade, Two for the Road, and more solo, has died. The director was 94.

Donen was the man behind the most acclaimed movie musicals of the 1950s. In addition to his credits with Kelly (which included It's Always Fair Weather), Donen also co-directed The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees; solo, he helmed Royal Wedding, Funny Face, Charade, and many more.

His sole Broadway outing as director was the short-lived The Red Shoes in 1993, though he appeared in the ensembles of Pal Joey and Best Foot Forward early in his career.

It was on his first job in Pal Joey that he met Kelly, who would shortly after hire him to assist in choreographing Best Foot Forward. When MGM bought the rights to the show, Donen came along as assistant choreographer.

From there, he worked with the Freed Unit, MGM's fabled musicals department, helping to usher to life such films as Cover Girl, Anchors Away, and Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Starting with 1949's On the Town, Donen moved from assistant choreographer to co-director; his first solo credit was Royal Wedding, in which Fred Astaire memorably tap danced on the ceiling.

He worked extensively for the next 30 years, in genres ranging from the madcap Bedazzled and the chic Charade to the gay drama Staircase and a musical episode of Moonlighting. His final directorial credit was Love Letters, a 1999 TV adaptation starring Steven Weber and Laura Linney.

Donen was born April 13, 1924, in Columbia, South Carolina. He is survived by his partner, writer, actor, and director Elaine May, and sons Josh Donen and Mark Donen.

A Look at the Paris Production of Singin' in the Rain at Théâtre du Châtelet


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