On-Stage Memories of Gene and Jack

Patricia Ward Kelly and Chris Lemmon pay tribute to two iconic performers.

Films may be about 90 minutes long, or the occasional two-plus hours, but a movie maven can name an iconic work, and iconic performance, in a few frames.

Let Gene Kelly and his umbrella flicker before your mind's eye, or Jack Lemmon using a tennis racquet as a spaghetti strainer, and the words "Singin' in the Rain" and "The Apartment" are out of your mouth in an instant.

How a performance for the ages is achieved starts with a masterful performer, which, of course, has much to do with who the performer is when the cameras stop rolling. Both Gene Kelly and Jack Lemmon have been pondered by historians at length, and written about, but hearing memories from those who loved the great movie men only deepens the fan's appreciation of performer and person.

Patricia Ward Kelly, Mr. Kelly's widow, will spend Valentine's Day evening at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts paying tribute to the quintuple-threat legend. (Gene Kelly danced, acted, sung, directed, sparkled, witticized, and did about a hundred other amazing things no mere mortal ever could hope to achieve.) Photos, music, and behind-the-scenes-y tidbits pepper Ms. Kelly's colorful from-the-stage stories, anecdotes that should fill out any "Singin'" aficionado's well of Kelly knowledge.

Those who love Jack Lemmon do not have to wait for Feb. 14 to learn more about the winning everymanness that the comedic actor perfected so very well: His son Chris Lemmon is at the Broad Stage in Santa Monica from Friday, Jan. 23 through Sunday, Feb. 1 chatting about this father and his father's long and lively cinema run. 

"The Apartment" was clearly a game-changer for moviedom, but so was "Some Like It Hot" and "Days of Wine and Roses" and a half dozen other films starring Mr. Lemmon. How many actors hope to be in just one work that alters the course of the art form? Answer: Every actor wants that.

And every person who has ever donned a polo-style shirt has likely looked in the mirror and thought "I'll never be Gene Kelly in 'An American in Paris.'" And that's OK. Thank the powers of cinema, and the charming family members of these men, that we get to revisit not just their best movies, whenever we want, but who they were off the set, too.

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