Director Stanley Donen, the last surviving director from Hollywood’s Golden Age, has died, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was a trailblazer for American musicals, adding his own flair and personality to them. His creativity shaped the musicals of the 50s and 60s. Moreover, he devised ingenious filming techniques in an era when digital manipulation was absent.
He is largely known for co-directing Singin’ in the Rain with Gene Kelly and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. He brought the camera beyond the fixed studio sets, directing complex routines in various locations. When Donen directed On The Town with Kelly in New York, they included aerial shots from the top of the Empire State Building and the docks.
While his main career in film was as a director, he was also a dancer. USC professor, Drew Casper, Donen’s biographer, said, “He was a dancer and knew that movement was everything: the beat of the image, the movement of the image, the rhythm of the image — he makes the camera dance.” Because of Donen’s background in dance, his collaboration with Kelly was a strong and fruitful one, even more so since Kelly himself was a choreographer. An iconic moment for both of them was during the famous dance number when Kelly dances through the rain in Singin’ in the Rain. It was an intensive process that took months to prepare.
Donen told ABC’s Diane Sawyer that Kelly “danced in puddles, which had to be in the exact spot, and the exact timing. We had to dig the cement out and make it for him to splash at that point…so you have to rehearse it very much.” Donen is survived by his partner, the writer-director, Elaine May.