Vincente Minnelli was the director of such classic Hollywood films as "An American in Paris," "Gigi" and "Meet Me in St. Louis" who was praised by critics for his daring use of color, innovative camera work and skill at advancing a story through dance and song.
Minnelli, who won an Oscar for "Gigi" (1958), made his last film, "A Matter of Time" starring daughter Liza Minnelli, in 1976.
He directed Judy Garland — his first wife and Liza's mother — in three films, including "Meet Me in St. Louis," a project that neither Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer nor Garland was enthusiastic about at the outset. But the 1944 film, perhaps best remembered for Garland's singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" to her weeping younger sister, Margaret O'Brien, became a critical and commercial success.
Although Vincente Minnelli's name was synonymous with sophisticated musicals (others included "Cabin in the Sky," "The Band Wagon" and "The Pirate"), he didn't limit himself to that genre.
His 37 credits included comedy ("Father of the Bride"), drama ("The Bad and the Beautiful," "The Clock" and "Madame Bovary") and a biography of Vincent Van Gogh ("Lust for Life"). His personal favorite was "Lust for Life," starring Kirk Douglas as the haunted painter.
Born in Chicago in 1903, Minnelli toured the Midwest as a child actor with his parents' company, Minnelli Bros. Dramatic and Tent Shows.
Eventually, the tent show went out of business, partly due to the growing popularity of a new art form — motion pictures. And so Minnelli retired as an actor at the age of 8.
During summer vacations, he worked for a billboard painter and began to show a talent for drawing. It was while studying at the Chicago Art Institute that he became fourth apprentice to the head of window displays at the Marshall Field's department store.
To supplement his income, Minnelli sketched actors at the local theater and sold the drawings to them backstage. He also learned photography.
Young Minnelli then persuaded a Chicago vaudeville chain to form its own costume department, with him in charge. When the chain moved to New York, he moved too. A big break came when producer Earl Carroll signed him to design a 300-foot curtain for the 1931 "Vanities" show.
Minnelli began to design costumes and stage productions at Radio City Music Hall, where his reputation led to a chance at directing — on Broadway. He had three straight hits, including "Ziegfeld Follies," a sort of surrealist ballet.
Then Hollywood beckoned.
Minnelli's autobiography, "I Remember It Well," was published in 1974, the wry title taken from the lyric uttered by a forgetful Maurice Chevalier in "Gigi."
In the book, Minnelli forthrightly recounted his stormy five-year marriage to Garland, including her drug problem and suicide attempts, her "desire for constant approval which was pathological." But a critic called it a "benign, gentlemanly" book, which avoided the gossipy backbiting that is characteristic of more recent Hollywood memoirs. (Garland died of an overdose of sleeping pills in 1969 at the age of 47.)
Minnelli died at age 83 after becoming ill at his Beverly Hills home with a respiratory problem.
He was married to his fourth wife, Lee, at the time of his death.
|1951||Best Director||An American in Paris||Nomination|