In 1942, following work as a dancer and choreographer in Best Foot Forward
and Beat the Band
, Donen moved to Hollywood to become a dancer in MGM musicals. Gene Kelly convinced the MGM to lend the 19-year-old Donen to Columbia so they could work together on the choreography for Cover Girl
Donen’s first job as a co-director with Gene Kelly was for producer Arthur Freed’s On the Town. Next, he directed Fred Astaire in Royal Wedding, followed by such landmark musicals as Singin’ in the Rain (co-directed with Gene Kelly), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, It’s Always Fair Weather (also with Gene Kelly), and Funny Face, starring Astaire and Audrey Hepburn. Donen also directed comedies like The Pajama Game (co-directed with George Abbott) and the thriller Charade, with Hepburn and Cary Grant.
Stanley Donen’s work has garnered many awards and much critical acclaim. The Directors Guild of America honored him with 5 nominations for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures, including Singin’ in the Rain (shared with Gene Kelly), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Funny Face, Damn Yankees (shared with George Abbott), and Two for the Road. Funny Face was also nominated for the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival; Two for the Road won the San Sebastian International Film Festival’s Golden Seashell Award; and Movie Movie was nominated for the Berlin International Film Festival’s Golden Bear.
Donen has also received Lifetime Achievement and Career Awards from ASCAP, the American Cinema Editors, the American Society of Cinematographers, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the National Board of Review, the Palm Beach International Film Festival, the San Francisco International Film Festival, and the Venice Film Festival. In 1998, Donen was awarded an honorary Academy Award "in appreciation of a body of work marked by grace, elegance, wit and visual innovation."