How Gene Kelly (1912-1996) Stood Up for Communists!

Gene Kelly – Wikipedia

Gene Kelly was one of the most talented dancers ever to come out of the United States of America. Although born in the US, Gene Kelly was of Irish ethnicity and acquired Citizenship of the Republic of Ireland later in his life. Unlike his contemporaries Fred Astaire, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby (who were all rightwing Republicans), Gene Kelly was a left-leaning member of the Democratic Party. Although the Democrats had been rightwing at various times during the 19th century, during the 20th century, particularly after the 1917 October Russian Revolution, the Democrats moved to the left and were perceived as the party of choice for leftists of all kinds living in America. During the McCarthy era (1947-1956), Gene Kelly was a member of the Committee for the First Amendment, which was composed of many leftist and Communist Hollywood actors and entertainers. The First Amendment of the US Constitution states:

‘First Amendment – Religion and Expression. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.’

The point being made as a means to combat the fascistic and Washington-based ‘House Committee of unAmerican Activities’ (and its Hollywood equivalent), was that every American Citizen has a right to think or believe whatever they want (guaranteed in law), and that the US Government had no right censure (or censor) the viewpoints of its Citizens. Gene Kelly (although never directly suspected of being a Communist in the formal sense), travelled to Washington as part of a campaign opposing fascistic US Government activities, which were often directed by the rightwing and racist ‘American Legion’. As Hollywood personalities had access to the media through cinema and radio, many of them fell victim to these McCarthyist witch hunts, this included Gene Kelly’s wife – Betsy Blair – who was declared a ‘Communist sympathiser’. The problem the US government had was that although it could bully and side-line many Hollywood personalities, Gene Kelly was far too popular for any decisive action to be taken against him. Indeed, when the United Artists were ordered by the ‘American Legion’ to drop Betsy Blair from a planned film (Marty – 1955), Gene Kelly used his influence at MGM to force her restoration to the part (which was successful). Furthermore, Gene Kelly was in favour of Unions, and often used his influence to represent Union grievances to those who ran Hollywood.

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