The Vintage Card of the Month this month is more for the person, Gene Kelly, who would have turned 100-years old today. When someone says “Dancers” a couple of names come to mind, Gene Kelly is one of those names, along with Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Michael Jackson, Mikhail Baryshnikov and maybe Michael Flatly The list is pretty short so it takes someone special to make it.
From the 1940s onward Gene Kelly was everywhere, if there was dancing involved he was one of the men who appeared, even dancing with Jerry (from Tom & Jerry) in Anchors Aweigh (later the scene was brilliantly re-created by Seth MacFarlane to include Stewie in Jerry’s place). In the 1950s and 1960s he made a number of appearances in various Hollywood related card sets but did not show up again until the 1992 Hollywood Walk of Fame set.
But then there is the seedy side of card manufacturing… (Queue mysterious detective music)
In 2008 Donruss included Gene Kelly in their Celebrity Cuts release and this led to a problem for them when Patricia Kelly (Gene’s widow) filed a lawsuit in 2010 claiming that her signature was forged on a licensing agreement and they had used Gene’s likeness in a way that she would not have approved.
As the story goes Patricia Kelly stated that Stephen Bogart, Humphrey Bogart’s son, was the President of a management/agent company (MODA) and had approached Patricia in 2008 with a contract from Donruss, who wanted to include Gene Kelly in the upcoming 2008 Donruss Americana Cinema Stars. The contract stated that Patricia would be required to approve any images or text of any cards containing Gene Kelly before they were included in the set. Donruss never released the insert set but did in fact use Kelly’s image in the Hollywood Icons insert from the 2008 Celebrity Cuts set, which Patricia never agreed too.
When Patricia approached Donruss to complain she was told that while her agreement with them only covered the unreleased Cinema Stars they had an open agreement with the Gene Kelly Trust that allowed them to make Gene Kelly cards without her approval. So what is the problem? Patricia Kelly is the Gene Kelly Trust, she is the sole trustee and makes all of the decisions and signs all of the contracts for the Trust.
Even though what would seem like an obvious situation where Donruss had a questionable contract they decided to stand by their statement that they have an agreement with the Trust and continued to produce Gene Kelly cards.
To add to the “Dafuq?” situation Stephen Bogart filed a lawsuit (and won by default) against MODA claiming that the CEO of the company assaulted Bogart after he overheard a discussion regarding Patricia Kelly’s forged signature on the questionable contract.
Interestingly I am unable to find any further information regarding the Patricia Kelly vs. Donruss case since mid-2010, without knowing the facts I am guessing that when Panini bought out Donruss they made things right with Patricia Kelly and agreed to not include any other Gene Kelly cards in their sets. To note, there have been no other Gene Kelly cards included in Donruss/Panini sets since the 2008 releases.
No matter what, in my eyes, Gene Kelly will always be singing in the rain.