ISSN: 17503159
First published in 2007
3 issues per volume
Volume 10 Issue 2
Cover Date: June 2016
The Time of Your Life: Gene Kelly, working-class masculinity, and music
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Authors:  Julianne Lindberg 
DOI: 10.1386/smt.10.2.177_1

Gene Kelly,William Saroyan,Reginald Beane,American theatre,working-class masculinity,ethnicity

William Saroyan’s The Time of Your Life (1939) is typically discussed alongside the works of great American playwrights. Music and dance, however, are major symbolic and structuring devices in the narrative of the play. Two characters in the play purposely embody music and dance: the pianist Wesley (a ‘colored boy’ who plays a ‘mean and melancholy boogie-woogie piano’), played by Reginald Beane, and Harry (a ‘natural born hoofer’), played by the then-stage novice Gene Kelly. Though no records remain of Kelly’s original choreography, he often spoke of the importance of music to his conception of the character Harry. I suggest that Kelly/Saroyan’s Harry is a product of the mainstream acceptance of working-class masculinities, an outgrowth of the progressive politics of the 1930s. Kelly’s relationship to the music of marginalized identities, I argue, informed the development of his iconic ‘average Joe’ persona.
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