IT is one of the most famous Hollywood dance routines ever created, a scene beloved by millions for its classic mix of joy, humour and ingenuity

However, the sight of Gene Kelly splashing through puddles in Singin’ in the Rain has a secret ingredient: Scottish country dance.

Kelly knew and practised Scottish dance, his widow Patricia Ward Kelly has revealed for the first time, and incorporated moves into the routine in the classic 1952 film.

Mrs Kelly, in Scotland to perform the premiere of a special symphonic tribute to Kelly with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, said her husband's use of Scottish dance drew from his love of the nation’s culture, and his ability to synthesise many cultural influences into his unique performance style.

In particular, in the scene where Kelly, with umbrella, crosses his feet over as he taps and skirts the sodden kerb, Kelly drew on his Scottish dance studies.

Mrs Kelly said: “He had studied all the Scottish folk dances, well before he came to Scotland.

“In fact, and in this is one of the things that I get to reveal in the show, is that Scottish dance is actually in Singin’ in the Rain, people don’t know this.

“It’s Scottish folk dance, in the iconic number, it is a crossing foot movement.

“It is a combination: there is Mr Bojangles - it’s Bill Robinson, the black dancer - Scottish folk dancing, Irish dancing, you get a bit of everything in there.

“So he was like a massive sponge, he just absorbed and loved all of the folk dances from around the world, but he specially had an affinity for Scotland - obviously the sword dance goes into Brigadoon [the 1954 MGM musical], that he choreographed.”

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Often described as the best musical of all time, Singin’ in the Rain was one of the first 25 films selected by the Library of Congress for its National Film Registry.

Kelly, who died in 1996 at the age of 83, is to be remembered in Gene Kelly: A Life in Music, which premieres on April 13 at the Usher Hall in Edinburgh and April 14 at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall with the RSNO conducted by Neil Thomson.


The two hour show combines the music of a live symphony orchestra with clips from some of Kelly’s best-known movies, including Singin’ in the Rain, An American in Paris, Brigadoon, Summer Stock, Les Girls, It’s Always Fair Weather, his joyful dance with Jerry the Mouse in Anchors Aweigh, plus rarely-seen numbers from Kelly’s television specials.

It is written and hosted by Mrs Kelly.

She added: “Gene had a very deep relationship with Scotland, and coincidentally he was here in April 1953, this time just a few years ago.

“He was searching for locations for [the movie] Brigadoon, and he stayed at the Caledonian Hotel in Edinburgh and then the Central Hotel in Glasgow, and he loved the country, the beauty of it.

“He was really passionate about Scottish literature, he had absorbed so much of that, and I think he was really disappointed that he wasn’t able to shoot the movie here, because he had this vision that he always talked about, seeing the clans coming over the hills in a very majestic way.”

In Brigadoon, Kelly plays an American on a hunting trip in Scotland who becomes lost in woodlands.

He happens upon Brigadoon, a miraculously blessed village that rises out of the mists every hundred years.

Kelly travelled by train from London to Edinburgh in 1953, hoping to shoot Brigadoon on location.

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MGM ultimately opted to film the movie on stages at their Culver City studio, in California.

Kelly returned to Scotland in 1956, when his film Invitation to the Dance was chosen to open the Edinburgh Film Festival, a gala event at the New Victoria Cinema attended by The Queen.

Born Eugene Curran Kelly in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1912, his films included Singin’ In the Rain, An American in Paris, Brigadoon, Summer Stock, and his homage Invitation to the Dance. An American in Paris won the Academy Award as Best Film of the Year for 1951.