Although he is known today for his performances in Singin' in the Rain
and An American in Paris
, he was a dominant force in Hollywood musical films from the mid 1940s until this art form fell out of fashion in the late 1950s.
At 14, I discovered girls. At that time, dancing was the only way you could put your arm around the girl. Dancing was courtship. Only later did I discover that you dance joy. You dance love. You dance dreams.
I didn't want to be a dancer... I just did it to work my way through college. But I was always an athlete and gymnast, so it came naturally.
I [was] twenty pounds overweight and as strong as an ox. But if I put on a white tails and tux like Astaire, I still looked like a truck driver... I looked better in a sweatshirt and loafers anyway. It wasn't elegant, but it was me.
I wasn't very nice to Debbie. It's a wonder she still speaks to me.
If Fred Astaire is the Cary Grant of dance, I'm the Marlon Brando.
In the 1930s, when I started, Martha Graham|Martha Graham was the only dancer doing anything modern, but she did it all to classical music. I couldn't see myself doing Swan Lake every night, and I wanted to develop a truly American style. The only dancer in the movies at that time with any success was Fred Astaire, but he did very small, elegant steps in a top hat, white tie, and tails.
The way I look at a musical, you are commenting on the human condition no matter what you do. A musical may be light and frivolous, but by its very nature, it makes some kind of social comment.