Today marks the 107th birthday of Gene Kelly. I can’t think of anyone who was quite like him. He truly was a remarkable individual, an economy graduate, a teacher,a dancer,choreographer,actor,singer,producer,director and lieutenant, junior grade in the US Navy stationed in D.C. at the U.S. Naval Photographic Center where he served from 1944-1947.
Whilst working for the U.S. Naval Photographic Center. he was involved in writing and directing a range of documentaries, and this stimulated his interest in the production side of film making.
He directed and starred in the US Navy training movie”Combat Fatigue Irritability” which was released in 1945.
In thetraining film, Gene Kelly plays a Navy enlisted man suffering from “combat fatigue irritability.” During WWII, psychologists first established a strong presence in American military hospitals, and the military began to recognize “combat fatigue” as a normal and common psychological response to the stress of war. This film reflects both of these shifts.
Gene Kelly’s character, Lucas, is a fireman who works in his ship’s engine room. Lucas feels helpless when the ship is torpedoed: “How the hell you going to do anything about it when you’re just standing there, twisting a little valve?” However after he ends up in the water as the ship sinks, a strange feeling of relief comes over him, glad to be out of the confined space and away from the limited scope of his job. But a feeling of guilt soon takes over when he sees the rest of the crew, some dead or injured, floating around him in the water.
Gene Kelly may not have been actively involved in combat, but his work was important nonetheless.
I don’t think there will ever be a star like him again.
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