Vincente Minnelli

Vincente Minnelli (February 28, 1903 – July 25, 1986) was an American stage director and film director. He directed the classic movie musicals Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), An American in Paris (1951), The Band Wagon (1953), and Gigi (1958). An American in Paris and Gigi both won the Academy Award for Best Picture, with Minnelli winning Best Director for Gigi. In addition to having directed some of the best known musicals of his day, Minnelli made many comedies and melodramas.[1] He was married to Judy Garland from 1945 until 1951; the couple were the parents of Liza Minnelli.

Vincente Minnelli
Vincente Minnelli circa 1950s
Lester Anthony Minnelli

(1903-02-28)February 28, 1903
DiedJuly 25, 1986(1986-07-25) (aged 83)
Resting placeForest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Years active1928–1976
Notable work
Meet Me in St. Louis
An American in Paris
The Bad and the Beautiful
The Band Wagon
Judy Garland
(m. 1945; div. 1951)

Georgette Magnani
(m. 1954; div. 1958)

Danica Radosavljević (known as Denise Hale a socialite) Gay Giulianelli de Gigante
(m. 1962; div. 1971)

Margaretta Lee Anderson (m. 1980)
Children2, including Liza Minnelli

Early life

Born and baptized as Lester Anthony Minnelli in Chicago,[2] he was the youngest of four known sons, only two of whom survived to adulthood, born to Marie Émilie Odile Lebeau (stage name: Mina Gennell) and Vincent Charles Minnelli. His father was the musical conductor of Minnelli Brothers' Tent Theater.

His Chicago-born mother was of French Canadian descent with a strong probability of Native American (Anishinaabe) lineage included via her Mackinac Island, Michigan born mother.[3] The family toured small towns primarily in Ohio, Indiana and Illinois before settling permanently in Delaware, Ohio.

His paternal grandfather Vincenzo Minnelli and great-uncle Domenico Minnelli, both Sicilian revolutionaries, were forced to leave Sicily after the collapse of the provisional Sicilian government that arose from the 1848 revolution against Ferdinand II and Bourbon rule. Domenico Minnelli had been Vice-Chancellor of the Gran Corte Civile in Palermo at the time he helped organize the January 12, 1848 uprising there.[4] After the Bourbon return to power Vincenzo reportedly hid in the catacombs of Palermo for 18 months before being successfully smuggled onto a New York-bound fruit steamer.[5]

While traveling as a piano demonstrator for Knabe Pianos, Vincenzo met his future wife Nina Picket during a stop in Delaware, Ohio. Vincenzo was a music teacher and composer. Both the U.S. Library of Congress and the Newberry Library in Chicago have Vincenzo (aka Vincent) Minnelli compositions in their collections.


Following his high school graduation, Minnelli moved to Chicago, where he lived briefly with his maternal grandmother and an aunt. His first job was at Marshall Field's department store as a window dresser. He later worked as a photographer for Paul Stone, who specialized in photographing actors from Chicago's theater district. His interest in the theater grew and he was greatly interested in art and immersed himself in books on the subject. Minnelli's first job in the theater was at the Chicago Theatre where he worked as a costume and set designer.

Owned by Balaban and Katz, the theater chain soon merged with a bigger national chain of Paramount-Publix and Minnelli sometimes found himself assigned to work on shows in New York City. He soon left Chicago and rented a tiny Greenwich Village apartment. He was eventually employed at Radio City Music Hall shortly after its 1932 opening as a set designer and worked his way up to stage director – he was also tasked to serve as a color consultant for the original interior design of the Rainbow Room.[6]

After leaving Radio City Music Hall, the first play Minnelli directed was a musical revue for the Shuberts titled At Home Abroad which opened in October 1935 and starred Beatrice Lillie, Ethel Waters, and Eleanor Powell. The revue was well received and enjoyed a two-year run. Minnelli later worked on The Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, Hooray for What!, Very Warm for May, and The Show is On. Minnelli's reputation grew and he was offered a job at MGM in 1940 by producer Arthur Freed.[7]

With his background in theatre, Minnelli was known as an auteur who always brought his stage experience to his films. The first film that he directed, Cabin in the Sky (1943), was visibly influenced by the theater. Shortly after that, he directed I Dood It (also 1943) with Red Skelton[8] and Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), during which he fell in love with the film's star, Judy Garland. They had first met on the set of Strike Up the Band (1940), a Busby Berkeley film for which Minnelli was asked to design a musical sequence performed by Garland and Mickey Rooney.[9] They began a courtship that eventually led to their marriage in June 1945. Their one child together, Liza Minnelli, grew up to become an Academy Award-winning actress and singer. The Minnelli family is thus unique in that father, mother and child all won Oscars.[10]

Known as the director of musicals, including An American in Paris (1951), Brigadoon (1954), Kismet (1955), and Gigi (1958), he also directed comedies and melodramas, including Madame Bovary (1949), Father of the Bride (1950), The Bad and the Beautiful (1952), Lust for Life (1956), Designing Woman (1957), and The Courtship of Eddie's Father (1963). His last film was A Matter of Time (1976).

During the course of his career he directed seven different actors in Oscar-nominated performances: Spencer Tracy, Gloria Grahame, Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Arthur Kennedy, Shirley MacLaine and Martha Hyer. Grahame and Quinn won. Minnelli received an Oscar nomination as Best Director for An American in Paris (1951) and later won the Best Director Oscar for Gigi (1958). According to Peter Bart in his book The Gross, Minnelli's films having 11 first-place finishes on Variety's opening release box office rankings.[11]

He was awarded France's highest civilian honor, Commandeur of the Legion of Honor, only weeks before his death in 1986.

Minnelli's critical reputation has known a certain amount of fluctuation, being admired (or dismissed) in America as a "pure stylist" who, in Andrew Sarris' words, "believes more in beauty than in art."[12] Alan Jay Lerner (of Lerner and Loewe) described Minnelli as, "the greatest director of motion picture musicals the screen has ever seen."[13]

His work reached a height of critical attention during the late 1950s and early 1960s in France with extensive studies in the Cahiers du Cinéma magazine, especially in the articles by Jean Douchet and Jean Domarchi, who saw in him "a cinematic visionary obsessed with beauty and harmony", and "an artist who could give substance to the world of dreams". Minnelli served as a juror at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival. The MGM compilation film That's Entertainment! showed clips from many of his films.

On February 8, 1960, Minnelli received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his contributions to the motion pictures industry at 6676 Hollywood Boulevard.[14][15]

Personal life

Minnelli's marriages were as follows:

  • Judy Garland (June 15, 1945 – March 29, 1951), the marriage ended in divorce – one child, Liza May Minnelli (born 1946)
  • Georgette Magnani (February 1, 1954 – January 1, 1958), the marriage ended in divorce – one child, Christiane Nina Minnelli (born 1955)
  • Danica ("Denise") Radosavljević Gay Giulianelli de Gigante (January 15, 1962 – August 1, 1971), the marriage ended in divorce
  • Margaretta Lee Anderson (April 1, 1980 – July 25, 1986), his fourth and final marriage; they remained married for six years until Minnelli's death in 1986. She died in 2009 at the age of 100.

For years, there was speculation in the entertainment community that Minnelli was gay or bisexual.[16][17][18] A biography by Emanuel Levy, Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer, claims evidence that Minnelli did, in fact, live as an openly gay man in New York prior to his arrival in Hollywood, where the town that made him a film legend also pressured him back into the closet.[19] According to Levy: "He was openly gay in New York – we were able to document names of companions and stories from Dorothy Parker. But when he came to Hollywood, I think he made the decision to repress that part of himself or to become bisexual."[20][21] Lester Gaba, a retail display designer who knew Minnelli in New York, was reported to have frequently claimed having an affair with Minnelli, although the same person who related Gaba's claim also admitted that Gaba "was known to embellish quite a bit."[22] Minnelli reportedly had an affair with Lena Horne while making Cabin in the Sky.


Minnelli died in his Beverly Hills home, on July 25, 1986, aged 83, of emphysema and pneumonia, which had caused him to be repeatedly hospitalized in his final year.[23] He reportedly also suffered from Alzheimer's disease.[24][25] He is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Minnelli left an estate valued at US$1.1 million, the bulk of which was left to his daughter Liza Minnelli. Minnelli bequeathed US$100,000 to his widow. All of Minnelli's property was bequeathed to his daughter Liza.[26]


Year Title Studio Genre Notes
1943Cabin in the SkyMetro-Goldwyn-MayerMusical
1943I Dood ItMetro-Goldwyn-MayerMusical-comedyAlternate title: By Hook or by Crook
1944Meet Me in St. LouisMetro-Goldwyn-MayerMusical
1945The ClockMetro-Goldwyn-MayerRomantic dramaAlternate title: Under the Clock
1945Ziegfeld FolliesMetro-Goldwyn-MayerMusical-comedyFred Astaire and Judy Garland segments
1945Yolanda and the ThiefMetro-Goldwyn-MayerMusical-comedy
1946UndercurrentMetro-Goldwyn-MayerFilm noir
1946Till the Clouds Roll ByMetro-Goldwyn-MayerMusicalJudy Garland segments
1948The PirateMetro-Goldwyn-MayerMusical
1949Madame BovaryMetro-Goldwyn-MayerRomantic drama
1950Father of the BrideMetro-Goldwyn-MayerComedy
1951Father's Little DividendMetro-Goldwyn-MayerComedy
1951An American in ParisMetro-Goldwyn-MayerMusical
1952Lovely to Look AtMetro-Goldwyn-MayerMusicalUncredited (fashion show sequences)
1952The Bad and the BeautifulMetro-Goldwyn-MayerMelodrama
1953The Story of Three LovesMetro-Goldwyn-MayerAnthology"Mademoiselle" segment
1953The Band WagonMetro-Goldwyn-MayerMusical-comedy
1954The Long, Long TrailerMetro-Goldwyn-MayerComedy
1955The CobwebMetro-Goldwyn-MayerDrama
1956Lust for LifeMetro-Goldwyn-MayerBiographical
1956Tea and SympathyMetro-Goldwyn-MayerDrama
1957Designing WomanMetro-Goldwyn-MayerRomantic comedy
1957The Seventh SinMetro-Goldwyn-MayerDramaUncredited
1958The Reluctant DebutanteMetro-Goldwyn-MayerComedy
1958Some Came RunningMetro-Goldwyn-MayerDrama
1960Home from the HillMetro-Goldwyn-MayerDrama
1960Bells Are RingingMetro-Goldwyn-MayerRomantic comedy-musical
1962The Four Horsemen of the ApocalypseMetro-Goldwyn-MayerDrama
1962Two Weeks in Another TownMetro-Goldwyn-MayerDrama
1963The Courtship of Eddie's FatherMetro-Goldwyn-MayerRomantic comedy
1964Goodbye Charlie20th Century FoxComedy
1965The SandpiperMetro-Goldwyn-MayerDrama
1970On a Clear Day You Can See ForeverParamount PicturesMusical comedy-drama
1976A Matter of TimeAmerican International PicturesMusical fantasyMinnelli later disowned this film

Theatre credits

Year Title Theatre Notes
July 1, 1930 - January 3, 1931Earl Carroll's Vanities of 1930New Amsterdam TheatreCostume Designer
August 27, 1931 - April 9, 1932Earl Carroll's Vanities of 193144th Street TheatreCostume Designer, Set Designer
September 27, 1932 - December 10, 1932Earl Carroll's Vanities of 1932Broadway Theatre (53rd Street)Costume Designer, Set Designer
November 22, 1932 - February 4, 1933The DuBarryGeorge M. Cohan's TheatreCostume Designer, Set Designer
September 19, 1935 – March 7, 1936At Home AbroadWinter Garden TheatreDirector, Set Designer
January 30, 1936 - May 9, 1936 & September 14, 1936 - December 19, 1936Ziegfeld Follies of 1936Winter Garden TheatreCostume Designer, Set Designer
December 25, 1936 – July 17, 1937 & September 18, 1937 - October 2, 1937The Show is OnWinter Garden TheatreDirector, Set Designer
December 1, 1937 – May 21, 1938Hooray for What!Winter Garden TheatreDirector, Set Designer
November 17, 1939 – January 6, 1940Very Warm for MayAlvin TheatreDirector, Set Designer
January 20, 1950 - February 18, 1950Dance Me a SongRoyale TheatreSketches

Published works

  • Minnelli, Vincente (1974). Vincente Minnelli's I Remember It Well. Doubleday & Co. ISBN 978-0573606076.

See also


  1. Obituary Variety, July 30, 1986.
  2. Church records, 1864–1929, Catholic Church. Notre Dame (Chicago, Illinois), Salt Lake City, Utah: Filmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, 1990 FHL US/CAN Film 1704688
  3. Griffin, Mark (2010). A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-7867-2099-6.
  4. Cospirazioni e rivolte di Francesco Bentivegna e compagni. tipografia del "Giornale di Sicilia". 1891. pp. 23–24.
  5. "A Delaware Saga Moves From Torchlit Tent Show to Broadway", Columbus Dispatch; November 10, 1935.
  6. Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center. New York: Viking. 2003. p. 368. ISBN 978-0-670-03169-6.
  7. Minnelli, Vincente; Hector Arce (1974). I Remember It Well. Garden City, NY: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0-385-09522-8.
  8. Crowther, Bosley (November 11, 1943). "I Dood It (1943) THE SCREEN; 'I Dood It,' a One-Man Comedy, the Same Being Red Skelton, With an Assist From Eleanor Powell, Opens at Paramount". The New York Times.
  9. Levy, Emanuel (2009). Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer. New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 81. ISBN 978-0-312-32925-9.
  10. Noted by Robert Osborne in an interview with Liza Minnelli, broadcast on TCM, December 11, 2010.
  11. Bart, Peter (1999). The Gross: The Hits, The Flops (First ed.). St. Martins Press. p. 257. ISBN 0312198949.
  12. Sarris, Andrew (1998). You Ain't Heard Nothin' Yet. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 55. ISBN 0-19-503883-5.
  13. Minnelli, Vincente (1974). I Remember It Well (First ed.) Angus and Robertson; ISBN 978-0-207-95638-6
  14. "Vincente Minnelli". Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  15. "Vincente Minnelli". Retrieved June 27, 2016.
  16. Musto, Michael. "Vincente Minnelli and Gene Kelly Had an Affair?". Village Voice. Village Voice. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  17. Musto, Michael. "Was Vincente Minnelli A Gay?". Village Voice. Village Voice. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  18. McElhaney, Joe. "Images of Magic and Transformation". Senses of Cinema. Senses of Cinema. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  19. Levy, Emanuel (2009). Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer. New York: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0312329253.
  20. "The Real Vincente Minnelli". Here Media, Inc. Retrieved July 7, 2012.
  21. Stevens, Dana (April 24, 2009). "Book Review | 'Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer,' by Emanuel Levy".
  22. Griffin 2010, pp. 15-16
  23. "Director Vincente Minnelli, 83, dies", Chicago Tribune; July 26, 1986; p. 2
  24. Daughter Christiane Minnelli quoted in Wendy Leigh's Liza: Born a Star. New York: Signet. 1993. p. 270. ISBN 978-0-451-40406-0.
  25. Luft, Lorna (1998). Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir. New York: Pocket Books. p. 280. ISBN 978-0-671-01899-3.
  26. "His Wish for Cremation Ignored : Minnelli Leaves Bulk of Estate to Liza". Los Angeles Times. August 1, 1986.

Further reading

  • Casper, Joseph Andrew (1977). Vincente Minnelli and the Film Musical. South Brunswick, NJ: A.S. Barnes. ISBN 978-0-498-01784-1.
  • Griffin, Mark (2010). A Hundred or More Hidden Things: The Life and Films of Vincente Minnelli. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-7867-2099-6.
  • Harvey, Stephen (1989). Directed by Vincente Minnelli. New York: Museum of Modern Art; Harper & Row. ISBN 978-0-87070-474-1.
  • Levy, Emmanuel (2009). Vincente Minnelli: Hollywood's Dark Dreamer. New York: St. Martins Press. ISBN 0312329253.
  • McElhaney, Joe. The Death of Classical Cinema: Hitchcock, Lang, Minnelli. Albany: SUNY Press, 2006.
  • McElhaney, Joe (ed). Vincente Minnelli: The Art of Entertainment. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2009.
  • Schickel, Richard (1975). The Men Who Made the Movies. New York: Atheneum.
  • Wakeman, John (ed.) (1987). World of Film Directors, Volume One, 1890–1945. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  • Naremore, James (1993). The Films of Vincente Minnelli. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-38770-5.
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