In 1930, his family started a dance studio on Munhall Road in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.
Eventually, though, he decided to pursue his career as a dance teacher and entertainer full-time and so dropped out of law school after two months.
He began to focus increasingly on performing, later claiming: "With time I became disenchanted with teaching because the ratio of girls to boys was more than ten to one, and once the girls reached sixteen the dropout rate was very high." After a fruitless search, Kelly returned to Pittsburgh, to his first position as a choreographer with the Charles Gaynor musical revue Hold Your Hats at the Pittsburgh Playhouse in April, 1938.
Kelly appeared in six of the sketches, one of which, "La Cumparsits," became the basis of an extended Spanish number in Anchors Aweigh eight years later.
He was born in the Highland Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U. and, at the age of eight, was enrolled by his mother in dance classes, along with his older brother James.
They both rebelled, and, according to Kelly:" We didn't like it much and were continually involved in fistfights with the neighborhood boys who called us sissies...
I didn't dance again until I was fifteen." Kelly returned to dance on his own initiative and by then was an accomplished sportsman and well able to take care of himself. He enrolled in Pennsylvania State College to study journalism but the economic crash obliged him to seek employment to help with the family's finances.At this time, he worked up dance routines with his younger brother Fred in order to earn prize money in local talent contests.Kelly was a major exponent of twentieth century filmed dance, known for his energetic and athletic dancing style, his good looks and the likable characters that he played on screen.Although he is probably best known today for his performance in Singin' in the Rain, he dominated the Hollywood musical film from the mid 1940s until its demise in the late 1950s.In 1999, the American Film Institute named Kelly among the Greatest Male Stars of All Time, ranking at No. Kelly was especially influential in encouraging men to dance, since his style was perceived as masculine and manly which attracted men to what has often been regarded as an effeminate art.Gene was the third son of James Kelly, a phonograph salesman, and Harriet Curran, who were both children of Irish Roman Catholic immigrants.