Widow reveals Gene Kelly’s Cold War mission for JFK

Paris - He starred in one of the most iconic musical moments in film history, but his wife told AFP that Gene Kelly also had a cameo in the Cold War.
Patricia Kelly (nee Ward) was just 26 when she was sent to make a documentary about the legendary dancer, then 73. She soon became his biographer, and his third and final wife. Among the surprising tales she gathered about Kelly’s eventful life was his time as a cultural ambassador to Africa at the peak of the Cold War. Kelly was close to US president John F Kennedy. “They were buddies,” Patricia told AFP. “Gene used to sing Irish rebel songs with him in the White House.” After performing at Kennedy’s inauguration in 1964, he fell into conversation in fluent French with singer Yves Montand and first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
It led to an invitation to Ghana and French-speaking Senegal, where the United States was trying to check the growing influence of the Soviet Union.
Kelly found himself competing for attention with Moscow’s envoy, a female astronaut.
It was not a fair fight, since Kelly’s movie “The Three Musketeers” had just been shown in Accra and he ended up being chased down the street by people shouting “Dartagnan!” and had to take refuge in a public library, jumping onto the stacks.

ePaper - Nawaiwaqt