RIP Stanley Donen, Director of Golden Age Musicals Still All Over TV, 94

Vincent Rossell/Universal Pictures/Photofest
Stanley Donen with Audrey Hepburn on the set of the 1963 film ‘Charade.’

He helmed ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ and ‘On the Town’ with Gene Kelly as well as ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ and ‘Funny Face,’ taking his films beyond studio walls.

Stanley Donen, who co-directed Singin’ in the Rainwith Gene Kelly and helmed two of the most acclaimed musicals of the 1950s, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and Funny Face, has died. He was 94.

One of Donen’s sons confirmed the news, according to the Chicago Tribune‘s Michael Phillips. “Confirmed by one of his sons this morning: Director Stanley Donen has died at 94 … A huge, often neglected talent,” Phillips tweeted Saturday morning. No further details were immediately provided.

Donen was a dynamic part of the legendary MGM Studios creative force, directing and choreographing several of the great studio musicals. No other director, with the possible exception of Vincente Minnelli, contributed more aesthetically to the American musical. With George Abbott, he co-directed two excellent film adaptations, The Pajama Game (1957) and Damn Yankees (1958). With Kelly, he also co-directed On the Town (1949) and It’s Always Fair Weather (1955).

In 1998, the director-choreographer was awarded an honorary Oscar “in appreciation of a body of work marked by grace, elegance, wit and visual innovation.”

Donen accepted his statuette from Martin Scorsese, then sweetly sang Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek,” first performed by his Royal Wedding star Fred Astaire in 1935’s Top Hat, and danced with Oscar: “Heaven, I’m in heaven, any my heart beats so that I can hardly speak …”

Incredibly, Donen never received an Academy Award nomination and never won a regulation Directors Guild of America trophy. He was the last surviving director of Hollywood’s Golden Age.



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