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Wednesday, 16 January, 2002, 17:20 GMT
Row breaks out over Kelly statue
Gene Kelly was nominated for an Oscar in 1945
Gene Kelly was nominated for an Oscar in 1945
A row has broken out in a US city over where to erect a statue to film musicals legend Gene Kelly.

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania wants to honour their native son, but a war of words has erupted over the look of the memorial and where to put it.

Kelly was one of the biggest screen stars in US film history and will be forever remembered for his show-stopping performance in the 1952 hit Singin' In The Rain.

The choreographer, director and song-and-dance man died in 1996 at the age of 83.

The proposed statue, by local sculptor Susan Wagner, is a 14-foot rendition of Kelly as Don Lockwood dancing with a lamppost in Singin' in the Rain.

Pittsburgh city council have made first step to erect statue
Pittsburgh city council have made first step to erect statue
Thomas Sokolowski, director of The Andy Warhol Museum, said in a letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that the proposed statue looks closer to the "lumbering footfalls of Fantasia's hippo ballerinas than the grace of Mr Kelly."

He also added that visitors would think of it as "a fourth-rate amateur bowling league trophy."

His comments have provoked a storm of protest with one letter writer saying Mr Sokolowski had no right to attack the statue as he was "the director of a museum dedicated to a man who made a living copying the labels of soup cans".

The next problem facing the city is whether or not to erect the memorial in the middle of a traffic island.

The Gene Kelly Statue Committee wants it there and is keen to start raising the $500,000 (348,000) needed to build it.

'Wonderful smile'

The city council has already made the first step by approving the transfer of the highly visible site to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy.

However the site has attracted criticism, with protesters saying it is too inaccessible for pedestrians.

Perry Jubelirer, a former dancer who studied with Kelly as a boy, thinks the site should be moved.

He said: "Gene had a wonderful smile. I want them to get up and see that smile."

Kelly was born in 1912 and after a variety of jobs, he started teaching dancing.

After a stint in Broadway he moved to Hollywood and eventually got roles For Me and My Gal and Pilot No.5.

In 1945 he was nominated for best actor at the Academy Awards for Anchors Aweigh and from there he became one of the most famous men in cinema.

Singin' In The Rain was the highlight of a long career, but as musicals fell out of fashion, Kelly found it increasingly difficult to find work.

His last big screen appearance was in Olivia Newton-John's Xanadu in 1980.

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