Stanley Donen dies at 94

The death of Stanley Donen at the age of 94 gives us an occasion to reflect on the descent of Hollywood from the heights not so very long ago — within the lifetime and under the hand of Donen himself — toward absolute nullity. The New York Times has a good obituary of Donen here. Variety has an obituary with the traditional eccentricities here, recognizing Donen as “the last surviving helmer of note from Hollywood’s golden age[.]” The Times obit recalls:

Mr. Donen’s filmography is studded with some of Hollywood’s most loved and admired musicals. “Royal Wedding” (1951), in which Astaire defied gravity, and “Singin’ in the Rain” (1952), in which Kelly defied the weather, were just two of his crowd-pleasers.

Among many others were the Leonard Bernstein-Betty Comden-Adolph Green collaboration “On the Town” (1949) — which, like “Singin’ in the Rain,” Mr. Donen co-directed with Kelly — as well as “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” (1954), with Jane Powell; “Funny Face” (1957), with Hepburn and Astaire; and “Damn Yankees” (1958), with Tab Hunter and Gwen Verdon.

The famous scene from Royal Wedding is below.

Donen received a long overdue Academy Award for life achievement in 1998 (below).

My list of five all-time favorite movies certainly includes Two For the Road. Directed by Donen, written by Frederic Raphael, starring Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn, it is a glorious work of art. Beautiful, stylish, funny, moving, it memorably takes up the theme of love and marriage. It is one of the highlights of Donen’s incredibly distinguished career and one of the wittiest films ever made.