Gene Kelly’s Widow|Sues to Stop Book

     LOS ANGELES (CN) — Gene Kelly’s widow sued the University Press of Mississippi to stop it from publishing the book “Gene Kelly: Interviews,” claiming she holds the copyright to all the interviews and other intellectual property of the famous dancer.
     Patricia Ward Kelly was married to Gene Kelly from 1990 until he died in 1996. In her federal lawsuit against the university press and DePaul University Professor Kelli Marshall, she describes herself as a “writer, performer and public speaker in her own right.”
     During their marriage, she says, she was “designated as Mr. Kelly’s official biographer and archivist of his materials, including letters, interviews, manuscripts, holograph notes, photographs, memorabilia, and related items. Plaintiff is the sole, official authority entrusted by Gene Kelly to promote and protect his legacy.”
     She says the university press and Marshall know that, and she has told them they do not have the right to use copyrighted interviews with her late husband, yet Marshall told her by email on March 29 that she “is in the process of editing a book of Gene Kelly interviews” for the university press, and that she “intends to use various Gene Kelly interviews” in the book, including several he did with the BBC.
     Through counsel on March 31, Ward Kelly told the defendants to cease and desist, but the university press responded on April 11 “that University Press was going ahead with the book upon obtaining permission from unidentified third parties and would use the interviews in the infringing book, except for the interviews with the BBC,” according to the lawsuit.
     No, you won’t Ward Kelly says in the lawsuit. Her attorney told the defendants again, on April 18, that she “owns the copyrights to all of the interviews, not just interviews with the BBC, and that defendants have no permission to use any of the interviews for the book or for any other purpose.” If they do, her attorney warned, she will sue them for willful infringement of copyright.
     The defendants have not responded, Ward Kelly says. And on the date this lawsuit was filed, April 29, Marshall was still advertising the book on her website: “‘Her book “Gene Kelly: Interviews” … is forthcoming from the University of Mississippi Press,'” according to the complaint. (Ellipsis in complaint.)
     She asks the court to restrain publication of the book if it “in any manner us(es) the interviews or any other copyrighted matter belonging to plaintiff,” and to order the destruction or deletion of any protected material from the book and/or promotional material for it, plus statutory damages and costs.
     Ward’s attorney Mitchell Reinis with Thompson Coburn said Marshall has been “ducking” service of the lawsuit, though the University Press of Mississippi was served more than a week ago.
     Marshall did not reply to requests for comment made via telephone, to her DePaul University email address, and via her website.
     Marshall’s website indicates she is a Gene Kelly fan, curates the Gene Kelly Fans website, has a doctorate degree in humanities from the University of Texas at Dallas, and teaches film and television courses for DePaul University’s College of Communication.
     Her listed areas of expertise are the “star image and work of Hollywood song-and-dance man Gene Kelly” and “Shakespeare in film and popular culture.”
     University Press of Mississippi did not return telephone and email requests for comment.
     Gene Kelly was one of five children born into a working-class Pittsburgh family, on Aug. 23, 1912. He took dance lessons while his friends played baseball, taught dance to help pay his college tuition and began performing on Broadway in the late 1930s.
     Louis B. Mayer saw him perform in the musical comedy “Pal Joey,” and signed him to a contract with MGM in 1942. His likable screen persona helped make him a star, and he was often compared to Fred Astaire, though Kelly’s style was more athletic than Astaire’s. He is best known for his star turns in “An American in Paris” and “Singin’ in the Rain.”

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