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Vincente Minnelli (February 28, 1903 – July 25, 1986) was an American stage director and film director, famous for directing such classic movie musicals as Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Gigi (1958), The Band Wagon (1953), and An American in Paris (1951). 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 most famous and well-remembered musicals of his time, Minnelli made many comedies and melodramas. He was married to Judy Garland from 1945 until 1951; they were the parents of Liza Minnelli.
Producer Arthur Freed, who was not gay, never had as his purpose the creation of a team of gay artists for MGM, nor were all the members of the Arthur Freed unit gay. Freed did want a first-rate team, however, and hired without regard to sexual orientation. A large number of the gifted people on it turned out to be gay, including composers Cole Porter, Frederick Loewe, Robert Wright, and Chet Forrest, choreographers Robert Alton and Jack Cole, and directors Charles Walters and the closeted Vincente Minnelli.
Minnelli's marriages were as follows:
For years, there was speculation in the entertainment community that Minnelli was gay or bisexual. 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. 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." 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 embroider quite a bit."
Minnelli and Judy Garland, starting out as antagonists on Meet Me in St. Louis, were brought together by matchmaker Don Loper, Arthur Freed's assistant and a gay friend of Minnelli's. Garland and Minnelli put aside their differences and were married.
Mark Steyn has reported that Judy Garland's first suicide attempt came after she found Minnelli in bed with another man. And Minnelli reportedly had an affair with Lena Horne while making Cabin in the Sky.
Writer Matthew Tinkcom pointed to the "Great Lady" sequence in Ziegfeld Follies (1946) in which Judy Garland, parodying a star, enters with an entourage of obviously gay male admirers who dance with themselves as much as with her. Ziegfeld Follies was directed by Vincente Minnelli. Indeed, there is a definitive "queer read" to much of the director's work. George Cukor had nothing but disdain for Minnelli's work. "Take away his cranes and you've got nothing there," Cukor would say to Gavin Lambert. This despite the fact that Minnelli, a former Broadway costume and set designer, was far more effeminate in manner and style than either Cukor or his colleague Charles Walters.
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. He reportedly also suffered from Alzheimer's disease. He was survived by his two daughters, two grandchildren, and his fourth wife, Lee (1909–2009). He is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
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