Stanley Donen, the phenomenally talented director and choreographer whose Hollywood career started in the early 1940s, passed away last week at the age of 94. After a brief stint working onstage and behind-the-scenes on Broadway, the movie industry soon beckoned, and he began a career that saw him involved in the creation of many of the greatest films from the golden age of Hollywood musicals in the 1940s and 1950s. Here are some wonderful images from the Warner Bros. archives that showcase his work during this period.
At the age of twenty, Donen was a choreographer on Anchors Aweigh (1945). Here he is at far right with (R-L) producer Joe Pasternak, director George Sidney, and designer Lemuel Ayers.
Donen performed choreography and screenwriting duties on 1949’s Take Me Out to the Ball Game. Here he is seen behind-the-scenes with Frank Sinatra, Jules Munshin, and Gene Kelly.
Later in 1949, Donen reunited with Sinatra and Kelly for his directorial debut (co-directing with Kelly) in On the Town. This movie was noteworthy for its location filming in New York City, as can be seen in this production still.
Jane Powell, Donen, and Fred Astaire on the set of Royal Wedding (1951), Donen’s first solo directing assignment.
Producer William H. Wright, Donen, and Elizabeth Taylor on the set of Love Is Better Than Ever (1952).
Donald O’Connor with co-directors Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly are prepared for some Singin’ in the Rain (1952), probably Hollywood’s greatest original movie musical.
(L-R) Director Stanley Donen, Kurt Kasznar, Gower Champion, Bob Fosse, Debbie Reynolds, and Lurene Tuttle on the set of Give a Girl a Break (1953).
Another career highlight for Donen was Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, the only film he directed that earned a Best Picture Academy Award nomination. It’s hard to think of any dance sequences in other movies that are as astonishing as the “Barn-Raising” number pictured here.
Stanley Donen’s final collaboration with Gene Kelly, as well as his final film for MGM, was the cynical but often brilliant It’s Always Fair Weather (1955). (Foreground, L-R) Michael Kidd, Cyd Charisse, Dan Dailey, co-directors Kelly and Donen, and Dolores Gray.
Legendary Broadway director George Abbott had given Donen his start in show business in 1940. Therefore, it was fitting that Abbott turned to his protégée to help him co-produce and co-direct the Warner Bros. adaptations of two of his biggest musical stage hits of the 1950s: The Pajama Game (1957) and Damn Yankees (1958).