Gene Kelly: Lessons in Confidence or Arrogance?

The face of confidence?

When song and dance man Gene Kelly was invited to perform in Las Vegas in 1970, he agreed on one condition: that he be paid more than anyone else.

Kelly was anything but shy.

From his start in show business in 1938 to his final piece of work, directing a cartoon in 1994, Gene Kelly was the embodiment of confidence.

You may view Kelly’s opinion of himself as arrogant, egotistical and unattractive. But one thing cannot be denied. Gene Kelly believed in Gene Kelly.

It’s a lesson we can learn today when embarking upon a career, special project or even just tackling life on a daily basis.

I wasn’t worried about getting a job on Broadway. In fact, I got one the first week.

Kelly took the attitude that things would be easy for him.

He would often tell people that, because he danced in his youth, even teaching in a dance school he ran with his mother, he could just walk into theaters, and later Hollywood, and get a job almost instantly.

And he did.

I have often thought about this strategy and applied it recently in, of all places, the gym. For years, I would look at weights and say to myself “This is going to be really hard.” Now, I look at weights I should be able to lift and say “This will be easy.”

To my amazement, I can easily lift weights previously beyond me.

Of course, life isn’t easy just because we say it is.

But if we can look at things as “doable” – and yes, maybe even easier than we think – then, often, we can tackle them without the pain we feared.

I’ll never starve

Kelly’s belief in himself bordered on classic egotism.

At the start of his professional dancing career, he boasted that he was as strong as an ox. He claimed to be a better dancer than anyone else in the 1940s and 1950s.

But many of his contemporaries agreed with him.

So did his fans who numbered in the millions. Today, Kelly still has many fans who can watch him in the legendary musicals “An American in Paris” and “Singin’ in the Rain.”

Kelly’s appeal endures.

A big part of that appeal stems from the effortless confidence he displayed in every public appearance.

His rock solid belief in himself is something we can all emulate.

Because, after all – if we don’t believe in ourselves, who will?

When we feel good about ourselves, see things as easy, and believe we can do a lot – that’s not arrogance.

It’s living life as the adventure it was meant to be.

Not everything Gene Kelly did was a success. He had his fair share of failures including a number of movies he directed. But for the most part, Kelly could do no wrong – directing the 1969 smash hit movie “Hello Dolly!” and dancing his way to stardom through the 1950s.

Kelly is probably best known for singing the title song of the movie “Singin’ in the Rain” now celebrating its 65th anniversary. Kelly did the 1952 performance while sick. The actress at the start of this clip is the recently deceased Debbie Reynolds. 

4 thoughts on “Gene Kelly: Lessons in Confidence or Arrogance?

  1. Glad to see that you are still ‘dancing’ yourself, Coach! I remember one famous female dancer explaining the difference between Astaire and Kelly: “Astaire was strictly a tie and tails dancer; Kelly was strictly a blue-collar dancer; you would be ‘black and blue’ after a rehearsal session with him!” Get a copy of ‘That’s Dancing’, which Kelly made in the same vein as the popular ‘That’s Entertainment’ trio by MGM. Great stuff!

    Liked by 2 people

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