WASHINGTON – Tributes poured in on Saturday for Stanley Donen, the director of classic films like “Singin’ in the Rain” and “Charade,” who died on Saturday at the age of 94.
The Chicago Tribune first reported the news, saying that one of the filmmaker’s sons confirmed that he had died on Thursday in New York City of a heart attack.
Donen, who was also a choreographer, is best known for directing “Singin’ in the Rain,” a 1952 film with Gene Kelly in the starring role.
He also was responsible for several other iconic musicals, including the 1949 movie “On the Town” starring Kelly and Frank Sinatra, the 1954 picture “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and “Funny Face,” a 1957 film starring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn.
He moved to the United Kingdom in the 1960s and made two of his most popular films there – the 1963 movie “Charade” and the 1967 picture “Two for the Road,” both of which starred Audrey Hepburn.
Despite having made several historically significant films, he was never nominated for an Oscar. However, Donen was the recipient of the Academy Award for lifetime achievement in 1998 “in appreciation of a body of work marked by grace, elegance, wit and visual innovation.”
American filmmaker Martin Scorcese presented Donen with the award at that year’s Oscars ceremony in Los Angeles.
During his acceptance speech, Donen humbly told Scorcese that the ceremony was “backwards” and he should be giving that award to him.
He then received a standing ovation when he tap-danced and sang some lines from the Irving Berlin song “Cheek to Cheek.”
Born in South Carolina in 1924, Donen began dancing at the age of 10 after seeing Fred Astaire (1899-1987) on the big screen.
“I saw Fred Astaire in ‘Flying Down to Rio’ when I was nine years old, and it changed my life. It just seemed wonderful, and my life wasn’t wonderful. The joy of dancing to music!” Donen said in a 2013 interview with Vanity Fair.
Among those paying tribute to Donen on Saturday was American filmmaker Steven Spielberg.
“Stanley Donen was a friend and an early mentor,” Spielberg wrote in a statement. “His generosity in giving over so many of his weekends in the late 60’s to film students like me to learn about telling stories and placing lenses and directing actors is a time I will never forget.”
Mexican filmmaker Guillermo del Toro described Donen as a “brilliant storyteller.”
“Elegant, exuberant, a master of color and top crane choreographer. He had so much style and so much joy in him ... We are indebted to him for as long as there is Cinema.”