Stanley Donen, the last surviving filmmaking icon of Hollywood’s Golden Age, who helmed classics such as 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain, has died. He was 94.
Chicago Tribune writer Michael Phillips confirmed the news through one of his children on Saturday morning, calling Donen: “A huge, often neglected talent.”
Born April 13th, 1924 in Columbia, South Carolina to a Jewish family, Donen was occasionally bullied by anti-semitics growing up. His escape was often the local cinema, where he became especially fond of Westerns, comedies, and thrillers.
As both a filmmaker and choreographer, Donen amassed an iconic filmography. Among the many highlights include 1949’s On the Town and 1952’s Singin’ in the Rain, both of which he co-directed with Hollywood icon Gene Kelly, in addition to 1951’s Royal Wedding, 1954’s Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, 1957’s Funny Face, 1958’s Indiscreet, 1958’s Damn Yankees!, 1963’s Charade, and 1967’s Two for the Road.
Considered a pioneer in Hollywood, Donen set new standards for special effects, animation, editing, and cinematography. His work with Kelly is often credited for evolving the Hollywood musical, or rather the “cine-dance”, which film scholar Casey Charness described as “a melding of the distinctive strengths of dancing and filmmaking that had never been done before.”
Although he never formally won an Oscar, Donen was given an Honorary Academy Award in 1998 by director Martin Scorsese. During his acceptance speech, which many critics have already cited in the wake of his death, Donen danced with his statue, all while singing Irving Berlin’s “Cheek to Cheek”, a song first popularized by his childhood hero and idol Fred Astaire.
Donen married and divorced five times and had three children. He is survived by his partner, writer and director Elaine May, who he had dated since 1999 and had claimed to have proposed to “about 172 times.”