Gene Kelly was never very popular as a singer, even though he did cut records and was seen in movie roles in which he sang -- rather, it was his work onscreen as a dancer, choreographer, and director that allowed him to exert a key influence over the popularity of certain song catalogs in the mid-20th century. Showing an early aptitude in both gymnastics and dance, Eugene Curran Kelly, as he was named at birth, had devoured, by his early teens, everything he could about dance in general and ballet in particular. He was already a successful dance teacher in his hometown of Pittsburgh when he began his ascent in the original Broadway production of Richard Rodgers' and Lorenz Hart's Pal Joey. This led to a film contract with David O. Selznick, which was sold to MGM before Kelly even reported to Hollywood. The allegiance with MGM proved a godsend for both the studio and Kelly, who (with the help of producer Arthur Freed) began a process of energizing the film company's musical output for the next 15 years. The studio had been doing notable musicals almost since the dawn of sound, going back to the original 1929 musical comedy/drama The Broadway Melody, and was gradually moving -- under the guidance of Freed and the people with whom he surrounded himself -- to the next level; by the time Kelly arrived, the "Broadway Melody" series of movies had seen their day, and the rapidly maturing presences of Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney would soon bring a halt to their cycle of youth-oriented musicals built around standardized formulas and the two young stars' seemingly boundless enthusiasm.