by Tony Karp
An evening with Gene Kelly
 - Gene Kelly, in a quiet moment during rehearsal. - Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Carol Lawrence -photography for NBC TV - - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Gene Kelly, in a quiet moment during rehearsal.
In the summer of 1959, I got an assignment from NBC to do all the still photography for the TV shows of the fall season. I flew to Los Angeles in July and stayed there for about four months, on my own. I'd photographed a few NBC shows in New York, so I knew my way around a TV studio.

The reason that NBC chose me is that while their other photographers still used larger cameras, I was working with 35mm cameras, which gave my work a more intimate look, more in the style of Life Magazine. While the other photographers posed their shots, I only shot live action, usually during rehearsals and dress rehearsals.

On my very first day in Los Angeles, I went to the NBC studios in Burbank, where they were taping an hour-long show starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Carol Lawrence. The rehearsals that day lasted until around three in the morning.

On the set, I ran into a photographer named Ernst Haas, a well-known member of Magnum, who also worked for Life magazine. He gave me a piece of advice: "Get some tennis shoes, and you'll make less noise walking around the set." He was right. (You can see Ernst Haas' pictures from this shooting on his estate's web site.)

As I've mentioned earlier, I lost much of my early work in the fifty-odd years since these pictures were taken. The pictures here were made from the prints that survived. The good news is that, thanks to the magic of digital photography, I was able to actually improve the quality of the images.

 - Gene Kelly rehearsing a Spanish number - Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Carol Lawrence -photography for NBC TV - - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Gene Kelly rehearsing a Spanish number
 - Gene Kelly with a light step - Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Carol Lawrence -photography for NBC TV - - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Gene Kelly with a light step
 - Gene Kelly dancing with Carol Lawrence - Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Carol Lawrence -photography for NBC TV - - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
Gene Kelly dancing with Carol Lawrence
 - The finale with Gene Kelly and Carol Lawrence - Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Carol Lawrence -photography for NBC TV - - - art  - photography - by Tony Karp
The finale with Gene Kelly and Carol Lawrence
Some technical notes: The original pictures were shot with either Canonflex R single lens reflex cameras or Canon Model P rangefinder cameras. The film was most likely Tri-X or Plus-X, developed in UFG. The prints were photographed with a Sony DSC-R1 camera and post processing was done with LightZone 3.
Copyright 1958-2015 Tony & Marilyn Karp