Gene Kelly & Jack Palance Movies: From 'Les Girls' to 'The Big Knife'

Gene Kelly Les Girls Mitzi Gaynor Kay Kendall Taina Elg
Gene Kelly in Les Girls with Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall, and Taina Elg.

Gene Kelly and Jack Palance: Sunday-Monday, Aug. 17–18, highlights on Turner Classic Movies.

Gene Kelly and Jack Palance are two Hollywood creations that couldn't be more different. Unlike Greer Garson and Peter Lorre, however, they would not make a lovely pair. Jack Palance's menacing smirk would engulf Gene Kelly's gee-whiz grin so the duo would be swallowed into toothy oblivion. In all honesty, I can't say I'd miss either one.

Gene Kelly danced and smiled his way to stardom in the early 1940s. I wish he'd only danced. I've always found that grin of his not only distracting but downright irritating. Kelly had H-A-M engraved on every one of his shiny-white teeth – all 3,600 of them. He was, I must admit, an agile dancer – even if his tap-tap-tapping oftentimes looked as mechanical as his grin – and a talented dance director.

On the Town, which Kelly co-directed with Stanley Donen, is – by far – my favorite MGM musical. The sailor-garbed men – Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin – aren't all that exciting, but the womenAnn Miller, Betty Garrett, Vera-Ellen – are all great (that includes Alice Pearce in a small role), while the zesty songs, the vibrant color (cinematography by Harold Rosson), and the snappy dialogue (Adolph Green and Betty Comden, from their stage show) are everything they should be in a comedy-musical.

Singin' in the Rain may be considered the greatest musical of all time, but in my view this mild Hollywood parody is nothing more than an agreeable romp that, even if overlong, works (to a certain extent) in spite of Kelly, not because of him. (Watching Kelly grinning in the rain is like watching Marlon Brando whining that he couldabinacontanduh. Aren't there any other goddamned 1950s film clips available anywhere?) In my view, the Singin' in the Rain highlights are the performances of Debbie Reynolds and Jean Hagen (as a glamorous but crow-voiced silent film star), and Cyd Charisse's legs.

I generally like villains of the Jack Palance sort – in fact, I tend to root for those guys whenever they go against the likes of John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, et al. Strangely, Palance has never been one of my favorites; for that reason, I've seen only a handful of the scheduled films for next Monday. Of those, my chief recommendation would be Once a Thief, Ralph Nelson's largely forgotten and generally disliked downbeat tale about a handsome ex-con in distress. Palance is one of the distressing elements in the ex-con's life, but I only had eyes for ex-con Alain Delon and the woman in his life, Ann-Margret.

The Big Knife is appallingly poor. In Robert Aldrich's highly theatrical film version (adapted by James Poe) of Clifford Odets play, Rod Steiger plays a nasty movie mogul (Harry Cohn/Louis B. Mayer as one) and Palance an actor who has chosen box office over art. Steiger shamelessly gobbles up the scenery, fully abetted by Palance and another master overacter, Ida Lupino. Recommended to those who enjoy watching performers sink their teeth into both their roles and the scenery around them.

Richard Brooks' Western The Professionals has its moments, but it's quite overlong. I haven't watched Second Chance, yet, but since Linda Darnell is in it, it can't be all bad. The same goes for Ten Seconds to Hell, which co-stars handsome Jeff Chandler and the stunning Martine Carol. Robert Aldrich, who handled Palance in a number of films, directed.

Schedule (Pacific Time) and synopses from the TCM website:

17 Sunday

3:00 AM Thousands Cheer (1943)
An egotistical acrobat joins the Army and falls in love with his commander's daughter. Cast: Gene Kelly, Kathryn Grayson, Judy Garland. Dir.: George Sidney. Color. 125 min.

5:30 AM Gene Kelly: Anatomy of a Dancer (2002)
Documentary with clips and commentary from fellow actors on the life and career of Gene Kelly. Interviews with Cyd Charisse, Leslie Caron and Betty Garrett. Dir.: Robert Trachtenberg. Black and white. 85 min.

7:00 AM Les Girls (1957)
Three showgirls recall different versions of their time together touring Europe. Cast: Gene Kelly, Mitzi Gaynor, Kay Kendall, Taina Elg. Dir.: George Cukor. Color. 114 mins. Letterbox Format

9:00 AM Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949)
A beautiful woman takes over a turn-of-the-century baseball team. Cast: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Esther Williams, Betty Garrett. Dir.: Busby Berkeley. Color. 93 min.

11:00 AM For Me and My Gal (1942)
An unscrupulous song-and-dance man uses his partner and his best friend to get ahead. Cast: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, George Murphy. Dir.: Busby Berkeley. Black and white. 104 min.

1:00 PM Summer Stock (1950)
A farmer gets sucked into show business when a theatrical troupe invades her farm. Cast: Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Phil Silvers, Gloria DeHaven. Dir.: Charles Walters. Color. 109 min.

3:00 PM An American in Paris (1951)
An American artist finds love in Paris but almost loses it to conflicting loyalties. Cast: Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron, Oscar Levant, Nina Foch. Dir.: Vincente Minnelli. Color. 114 min.

5:00 PM On the Town (1949)
Three sailors wreak havoc as they search for love during a whirlwind 24-hour leave in New York City. Cast: Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Betty Garrett, Ann Miller, Vera-Ellen, Jules Munshin. Dir.: Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen. Color. 98 min.

6:45 PM Singin' in the Rain (1952)
A silent-screen swashbuckler finds love while trying to adjust to the coming of sound. Cast: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Jean Hagen. Dir.: Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen. Color. 103 min.

8:30 PM Cover Girl (1944)
A nightclub dancer makes it big in modeling, leaving her dancer boyfriend behind. Cast: Gene Kelly, Rita Hayworth, Phil Silvers. Dir.: Charles Vidor. Color. 107 min.

10:30 PM It's Always Fair Weather (1955)
World War II buddies get mixed up with gangsters and an egotistical TV star when they hold a 10-year reunion. Cast: Gene Kelly, Dan Dailey, Cyd Charisse. Dir.: Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen. Color. 102 mins. Letterbox Format

12:30 AM That's Entertainment! (1974)
An all-star cast, including Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra, introduces clips from MGM's greatest musicals. Cast: Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, Debbie Reynolds, James Stewart, Peter Lawford. Dir.: Jack Haley, Jr. Color. 135 mins. Letterbox Format

18 Monday

3:00 AM Man in the Attic (1953)
A landlady suspects her mysterious new tenant is Jack the Ripper. Cast: Jack Palance, Constance Smith, Frances Bavier. Dir.: Hugo Fregonese. Black and white. 82 min.

4:30 AM The Spy in the Green Hat (1966)
Secret agents fight to keep a criminal mastermind from altering the course of the Gulf Stream. Cast: Robert Vaughn, David McCallum, Jack Palance, Janet Leigh. Dir.: Joseph Sargent. Color. 93 min.

6:15 AM Ten Seconds to Hell (1959)
Six German veterans take on the task of disposing of unexploded bombs. Cast: Jack Palance, Jeff Chandler, Martine Carol. Dir.: Robert Aldrich. Black and white. 93 min.

8:00 AM Attack (1956)
A cowardly captain leads his men into danger in WWII Belgium. Cast: Jack Palance, Eddie Albert, Lee Marvin. Dir.: Robert Aldrich. Black and white. 108 min.

10:00 AM The Man Inside (1958)
A detective tracking a stolen gem begins to suspect there's more to the case than just theft. Cast: Jack Palance, Anita Ekberg, Anthony Newley. Dir.: John Gilling. Black and white. 97 min.

11:45 AM House of Numbers (1957)
A man tries to spring his twin brother from prison. Cast: Jack Palance, Barbara Lang, Harold J. Stone. Dir.: Russell Rouse. Black and white. 92 mins. Letterbox Format

1:30 PM Once a Thief (1965)
A young ex-con trying to go straight gets caught up in another criminal scheme. Cast: Ann-Margret, Alain Delon, Jack Palance, Van Heflin. Dir.: Ralph Nelson. Black and white. 106 mins. Letterbox Format

3:30 PM Second Chance (1953)
A crooked boxer falls for a gangster's moll on the run in Mexico. Cast: Robert Mitchum, Linda Darnell, Jack Palance. Dir.: Rudolph Mate. Color. 82 min.

5:00 PM The Big Knife (1955)
An unscrupulous movie producer blackmails an unhappy star into signing a new contract. Cast: Jack Palance, Ida Lupino, Rod Steiger, Shelley Winters. Dir.: Robert Aldrich. Black and white. 114 min.

7:00 PM Monte Walsh (1970)
An aging cowboy faces changes in the West with the rise of civilization. Cast: Lee Marvin, Jeanne Moreau, Jack Palance. Dir.: William A. Fraker. Color. 99 mins. Letterbox Format

9:00 PM The Professionals (1966)
A corrupt rancher hires four soldiers of fortune to rescue his wife from kidnappers. Cast: Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Claudia Cardinale, Jack Palance, Woody Strode. Dir.: Richard Brooks. Color. 118 mins. Letterbox Format

11:00 PM The Mercenary (1968)
An idealistic patriot hires a gunman to lead the fight against a crooked mine-owner. Cast: Jack Palance, Franco Nero, Tony Musante. Dir.: Sergio Corbucci. Color. 106 mins. Letterbox Format

1:00 AM Kill a Dragon (1967)
Chinese villagers hire a team of karate fighters to rid their home of a gangster. Cast: Jack Palance, Fernando Lamas, Aldo Ray. Dir.: Michael D. Moore. Color. 91 mins. Letterbox Format

Gene Kelly & Jack Palance Movies: From 'Les Girls' to 'The Big Knife' © 2004–2018 Alt Film Guide and/or author(s).
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1 Comment to Gene Kelly & Jack Palance Movies: From 'Les Girls' to 'The Big Knife'

  1. I think that Gene Kelly was a very handsome talented man that did great work, he danced, acted, director, producer, sing, he have such a smile that i would feel weak in the knees. and his singing, when i close my eyes, it sounds like he is singing to be. i relax and it calms me. i wish that i could have met him.