Answers to most frequently asked Donald O’Connor questions on this website, in order of frequency.

Question Was Donald O’Connor gay?
Answer No
Question Did Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly dislike each other?

No. They were lifelong friends. Gene Kelly occasionally took out his frustrations on his co-stars in Singin’ in the Rain, but O’Connor didn’t take offense for long and never held a grudge.

Question Who were Donald O’Connor’s family?

Parents: Mother Effie (1889-1981); Father John (1877-1927)
Siblings: John (1906-1955); Bill (1913-1939); Arline (1923-1927)
Wives: Gwen Carter (m. 1944-1954); Gloria Noble (m. 1956-2003)
Children: Gwen had Donna; Gloria had Alicia, Fred and Kevin

Question What was Donald O’Connor’s education?

Vaudeville: correspondence school
Hollywood: Hollywood Professional School and studio schools

Question Physical description of Donald O’Connor

Blue eyes, brown hair, 5′ 8" tall, between 130 and 140 lbs during Hollywood days.

Question What were O’Connor’s dance strengths and weaknesses?

He began as a hoofer (tap dancer) but became proficient in all styles of dance except ballet. He did especially strong turns and leaps with speed and lightness. His lack of extension shortened his line but as he was primarily a tapper, this was a minor inconvenience.

Question Specific dance numbers – where from?

Balloon Dance – "What Chance Have I with Love?" from Call Me Madam( 1953)

Bouncing Dance – "You Can Bounce Right Back" from Anything Goes (1956)

Laundromat Dance – "They’ve Never Figured Out a Woman" from Yes, Sir, That’s My Baby (1949)

Rollerskating Dance – "Life Has Its Little Ups and Downs" from I Love Melvin (1953)

Statue Dance – "A Man Chases a Girl (Until She Catches Him) from There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954)

Question How was "Make ‘Em Laugh" made?

MGM rehearsed musical numbers until they had been perfected (several weeks rather than days). O’Connor and some dance assistants strung together a series of O’Connor’s funniest pratfalls and schtick. Gene Kelly came in to help with musical timing and blocking. Kelly particularly liked the "gurning" (making faces) O’Connor could do. Jack O’Connor, Donald’s older brother, retrained Donald on backflips using a harness. O’Connor asked the Howard brothers (The Three Stooges) if he could use Curly’s running in circles on the floor bit. It was filmed once, but the first take was overexposed, so O’Connor had to reshoot the sequence after a few days recuperation. The second version is seen in the movie.

Question Who were Donald O’Connor’s movie costars?

Dancing Costars: Peggy Ryan, Debbie Reynolds, Vera Ellen, Janet Leigh, Mitzi Gaynor

Singing Only Costars: Gloria Jean, Suzanna Foster, Gloria DeHaven, Ethel Merman, Marilyn Monroe

Question Which Studios did Donald O’Connor work for?

In order of number of movies made for each: Universal, Paramount, MGM, Twentieth Century Fox, Columbia, Warner Bros. The only major studio O’Connor did not grace was RKO.

Question Was Donald O’Connor an alcoholic?

Yes. He began drinking in the army during WWII and his drinking increased each decade. It didn’t affect the quality of his work until the 1970s. He collapsed from alcohol poisoning in 1978, went into rehab, overcame his addiction and never drank again.

Question Why didn’t Donald O’Connor make White Christmas?

Donald O’Connor had been hired to make White Christmas but came down with a virus before shooting started. Paramount held the project for him, but he was not able to recover fully enough for the dance numbers in time to make the shooting schedule required for a December release. Danny Kaye inherited the part.