Vincente Minnelli

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Vincente Minnelli
Vincent Minelli - 1950s.jpg
c. 1950s
Born Lester Anthony Minnelli
(1903-02-28)February 28, 1903
Chicago, Illinois. U.S.
Died July 25, 1986(1986-07-25) (aged 83)
Beverly Hills, California, U.S.
Years active 1942-1976
Spouse(s) Judy Garland
(m.1945–1951; divorced)
Georgette Magnani
(m.1954–1958; divorced)
Danica "Denise" Radosavljevic
(m.1962–1971; divorced)
Margaretta Lee Anderson
(m.1980–1986; his death)
Children Liza Minnelli
Christiane Minnelli

Vincente Minnelli (February 28, 1903 – July 25, 1986) was an American stage director and film director, famous for directing such classic movie musicals as Meet Me in St. Louis, Gigi, The Band Wagon, and An American in Paris. In addition to having directed some of the most famous and well-remembered musicals of his time, Minnelli made many comedies and melodramas.[1] He was married to Judy Garland from 1945 until 1951; they were the parents of Liza Minnelli.

Early life[edit]

Born and baptized as Lester Anthony Minnelli in Chicago,[2] he was the youngest of four known sons, only two of whom survived to adulthood, born to Marie Émilie Odile Lebeau (stage name: Mina Gennell) and Vincent Charles Minnelli. His father was musical conductor of Minnelli Brothers' Tent Theater. His Chicago-born mother was of French Canadian descent with a strong probability of Native American (Anishinaabe) lineage included via her Mackinac Island, Michigan born mother. [3] The family toured small towns primarily in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois before settling permanently in Delaware, Ohio.

Paternal grandfather Vincenzo Minnelli and great-uncle Domenico Minnelli, both Sicilian revolutionaries, were forced to leave Sicily after the collapse of the provisional Sicilian government that arose from the 1848 revolution against Ferdinand II and Bourbon rule. Domenico Minnelli had been Vice-Chancellor of the Gran Corte Civile in Palermo at the time he helped organize the January 12, 1848 uprising there.[4] After the Bourbon return to power Vincenzo reportedly hid in the catacombs of Palermo for 18 months before being successfully smuggled onto a New York-bound fruit steamer.[5] While traveling as a piano demonstrator for Knabe Pianos, Vincenzo met his future wife Nina Picket during a stop in Delaware, Ohio. Although there's no confirmation of Vincenzo working at Ohio Wesleyan University, he was indeed a music teacher and composer. Both the US Library of Congress and the Newberry Library in Chicago, IL have Vincenzo (aka Vincent) Minnelli compositions in their collections.

Paternal grandmother Nina Picket, with whom Minnelli lived during his school days while his parents were touring their shows, descended from a line of teachers and civil servants, most notably early American educator Albert Picket. Albert Picket, reportedly once a student of Noah Webster's, conducted a girls' school in 1810s Manhattan and was an early member of the New York Historical Society. In 1811 he was an incorporator of The Society of Teachers of the City of New York. With his son John W. Picket he published an educational journal, The Academician, and a number of school books, including The Juvenile Expositor in 1816. After relocating to Cincinnati he was a founder of the Western Literary Institute and College of Professional Teachers, was a contemporary of William McGuffey (educator & author, McGuffey Readers) and Calvin and Harriet Beecher Stowe (author, Uncle Tom's Cabin) and played a role in establishing the public school system in the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys. In his later years he retired to Delaware, Ohio and died there in 1850.

Career[edit]

Following his high school graduation, Minnelli moved to Chicago, where he lived briefly with his maternal grandmother and an aunt. His first job was at Marshall Field's department store as a window dresser. He later worked as a photographer for Paul Stone, who specialized in photographing actors from Chicago's theater district. His interest in the theater grew and he was greatly interested in art and immersed himself in books on the subject.

Minnelli's first job in the theater was at the Chicago Theatre where he worked as a costume and set designer. Owned by Balaban and Katz, the theater chain soon merged with a bigger national chain of Paramount-Publix and Minnelli sometimes found himself assigned to work on shows in New York City. He soon left Chicago and rented a tiny Greenwich Village apartment. He was eventually employed at Radio City Music Hall shortly after its 1932 opening as a set designer and worked his way up to stage director – he was also tasked to serve as a color consultant for the original interior design of the Rainbow Room.[6]

After leaving Radio City Music Hall the first play Minnelli directed was a musical revue for the Shuberts titled At Home Abroad which opened in October 1935 and starred Beatrice Lillie, Ethel Waters, and Eleanor Powell. The revue was well received and enjoyed a two year run. Minnelli later worked on The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, Hooray for What!, Very Warm for May, and The Show is On. Minnelli's reputation grew and he was offered a job at MGM in 1940 by producer Arthur Freed.[7]

With his background in theatre, Minnelli was known as an auteur who always brought his stage experience to his films. The first movie that he directed, Cabin in the Sky (1943), was visibly influenced by the theater. Shortly after that, he directed Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), during which he fell in love with the film's star, Judy Garland. The two had first met on the set of Strike Up the Band (1940), a Busby Berkeley film for which Minnelli was asked to design a musical sequence performed by Garland and Mickey Rooney.[8] The two began a courtship that eventually led to their marriage in June 1945. Their one child together, Liza Minnelli, grew up to become an Academy Award-winning singer and actress. The Minnelli family is thus unique in that father, mother and child all won Oscars.[9]

Though widely known for directing musicals, including An American in Paris (1951), Brigadoon (1954), Kismet (1955), and Gigi (1958), he also directed comedies and melodramas, including Madame Bovary (1949), Father of the Bride (1950), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Designing Woman (1957) and The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963). His last film was A Matter of Time (1976). During the course of his career he directed seven different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Spencer Tracy, Gloria Grahame, Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Arthur Kennedy, Shirley MacLaine and Martha Hyer. Grahame and Quinn won Oscars for their performances in one of Minnelli's movies. He received an Oscar nomination as Best Director for An American in Paris (1951) and later won the Best Director Oscar for Gigi (1958). According to Peter Bart in his book "The Gross" , Minnelli is among the most successful film directors of all time and unquestionably the most successful director in the 1940’s and ‘50’s, his films having 11 first place finishes on Variety’s opening release box office rankings. [10] He was awarded France's highest civilian honor, the Commander Nationale of the Legion of Honor, only weeks before his death in 1986.

Minnelli's critical reputation has known a certain amount of fluctuation, being admired (or dismissed) in America as a "pure stylist" who, in Andrew Sarris' words, "believes more in beauty than in art."[11] Alan Jay Lerner (of Lerner and Lowe fame) described Minnelli as, "the greatest director of motion picture musicals the screen has ever seen."[12] His work reached a height of critical attention during the late 1950s and early 1960s in France with extensive studies in the Cahiers du Cinéma magazine, especially in the articles by Jean Douchet and Jean Domarchi, who saw in him a cinematic visionary obsessed with beauty and harmony, and an artist who could give substance to the world of dreams. Minnelli served as a juror at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival. The MGM compilation film That's Entertainment! showed clips from many of his films.

Personal life[edit]

Minnelli's marriages ran as follows:

  • Judy Garland (June 15, 1945 – March 29, 1951), the marriage ended in divorce – one child, Liza May Minnelli (born 1946)
  • Georgette Magnani (February 1, 1954 – January 1, 1958), the marriage ended in divorce – one child, Christiane Nina Minnelli (born 1955)
  • Danica "Denise" Radosavljevic (January 15, 1962 – August 1, 1971), the marriage ended in divorce
  • Margaretta Lee Anderson (April 1, 1980 – July 25, 1986),[13] his fourth and final marriage; they remained married for six years until Minnelli's death in 1986. Anderson died in 2009 at the age of 100.

For years, there was speculation in the entertainment community that Minnelli was gay or bisexual.[14][15][16] A biography by Emanuel Levy, Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer, claims evidence that Minnelli did, in fact, live as an openly gay man in New York prior to his arrival in Hollywood, where the town that made him a film legend also pressured him back into the closet.[17] According to Levy: "He was openly gay in New York – we were able to document names of companions and stories from Dorothy Parker. But when he came to Hollywood, I think he made the decision to repress that part of himself or to become bisexual."[18][19] Lester Gaba, a retail display designer who knew Minnelli in New York, was reported to have frequently claimed having an affair with Minnelli, although the same person who related Gaba's claim also admitted that Gaba "was known to embroider quite a bit."[20]

Death[edit]

Minnelli died in July 1986, aged 83, of emphysema and pneumonia, which caused him to be repeatedly hospitalized in his final year.[21] He reportedly also suffered from Alzheimer's disease.[22][23] He was survived by his two daughters, two grandchildren, and his fourth wife, Lee (1909–2009). He was interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park.

Selected theatre credits[edit]

Filmography[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Obituary Variety, July 30, 1986.
  2. ^ Church records, 1864–1929, Catholic Church. Notre Dame (Chicago, Illinois), Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1990 FHL US/CAN Film 1704688
  3. ^ Griffin, Mark (2010). A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-7867-2099-6. 
  4. ^ Cospirazioni e rivolte di Francesco Bentivegna e compagni. tipografia del "Giornale di Sicilia". 1891. pp. 23–24. 
  5. ^ "A Delaware Saga Moves From Torchlit Tent Show to Broadway", Columbus Dispatch; November 10, 1935
  6. ^ Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center. New York: Viking. 2003. p. 368. ISBN 978-0-670-03169-6. 
  7. ^ Minnelli's early years are described in Minnelli, Vincente; Hector Arce (1974). I Remember It Well. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-09522-8. 
  8. ^ Levy, Emanuel (2009). Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-312-32925-9. 
  9. ^ Noted by Robert Osborne in an interview with Liza Minnelli, broadcast on TCM, December 11, 2010
  10. ^ Bart, Peter (1999). The Gross: The Hits, The Flops (First ed.). St. Martins Press. p. 257. ISBN 0312198949. 
  11. ^ Sarris, Andrew (1998). You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 55. ISBN 0-19-503883-5. 
  12. ^ Minnelli, Vincente (1974). "I remember it well" (First ed.) Angus and Robertson publishers. Foreword. ISBN 027956383.
  13. ^ http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0591486/bio
  14. ^ Musto, Michael. "Vincente Minnelli and Gene Kelly Had an Affair?". Village Voice. Village Voice. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  15. ^ Musto, Michael. "Was Vincente Minnelli A Gay?". Village Voice. Village Voice. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  16. ^ McElhaney, Joe. "Images of Magic and Transformation". Senses of Cinema. Senses of Cinema. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  17. ^ Levy, Emanuel (2009). Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0312329253. 
  18. ^ "The Real Vincente Minnelli". Advocate.com. Here Media, Inc. Retrieved 7 July 2012. 
  19. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/26/books/review/Stevens-t.html?_r=0
  20. ^ Griffin 2010, pp. 15-16
  21. ^ "Director Vincente Minnelli, 83, dies", Chicago Tribune; July 26, 1986; p. 2
  22. ^ Daughter Christiane Minnelli quoted in Wendy Leigh's Liza: Born a Star. New York: Signet. 1993. p. 270. ISBN 978-0-451-40406-0. 
  23. ^ Luft, Lorna (1998). Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir. New York: Pocket Books. p. 280. ISBN 978-0-671-01899-3. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Casper, Joseph Andrew (1977). Vincente Minnelli and the Film Musical. South Brunswick, NJ: A.S. Barnes. ISBN 978-0-498-01784-1. 
  • Griffin, Mark (2010). A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-7867-2099-6. 
  • Harvey, Stephen; Museum of Modern Art (NYC) (1989). Directed by Vincente Minnelli. New York: Museum of Modern Art; Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-87070-474-1. 
  • Levy, Emmanuel (2009). Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer. New York: St. Martins Press. ISBN 0312329253. 
  • McElhaney, Joe. The Death of Classical Cinema: Hitchcock, Lang, Minnelli. Albany: SUNY Press, 2006.
  • McElhaney, Joe (ed). Vincente Minnelli: The Art of Entertainment. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2009.
  • Minnelli, Vincente; Hector Arce (1974). I Remember It Well. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-09522-8. 
  • Schickel, Richard (1975). The Men Who Made the Movies. New York: Atheneum. 
  • Wakeman, John (ed.) (1987). World of Film Directors, Volume One, 1890–1945. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company. 
  • Naremore, James (1993). The Films of Vincente Minnelli. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-38770-5. 

External links[edit]