KENNEDY CENTER HONORS 5 IN ARTS
By Irvin Molotsky, Special To the New York Times
Aug. 16, 1982
George Abbott, Lillian Gish, Benny Goodman, Gene Kelly and Eugene Ormandy were named today as the recipients of the 1982 Kennedy Center Honors for their contributions to the performing arts.
”I’m in such good company – that’s marvelous,” said Mr. Kelly when told the names of his co-winners. ”It’s a gang I feel very comfortable with.”
Mr. Kelly, who was cited in his award for his work as a dancer, choreographer and director, was reached by telephone near Nogales, Mexico, where he is vacationing with his family, and his designation will mean his second trip this year to the White House for a meeting with President Reagan, an old friend.
This year Mr. Kelly was the host for a nationally televised performance by young dancers at the White House.
Youngest of the Five
”Nothing could have pleased me more than to have been selected,” Mr. Kelly said. ”I was very moved and touched when informed of it.” At the age of 70, Mr. Kelly, who has retired from dancing, is the youngest of this year’s recipients. The oldest is Mr. Abbott, who is 95.
Just a week ago Mr. Abbott announced that he would stage a revival in December at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts of ”On Your Toes,” a musical he wrote in 1936. His collaborator for the revival will be George Balanchine, who choreographed ”On Your Toes,” his first Broadway musical.
Mr. Abbott thus joins Mr. Balanchine as a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors; the choreographer was in the first group of winners in 1978.
Mr. Abbott’s other Broadway writing credits include ”Three Men on a Horse,” ”The Boys From Syracuse,” ”Where’s Charley?,” ”The Pajama Game” and ”Damn Yankees.” The plays he has directed include ”Sweet Charity,” ”A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and ”Call Me Madam.”
Broadway and Hollywood
Mr. Kelly’s career includes movies as well as the stage. He appeared on Broadway in ”The Time of Your Life” and ”Pal Joey” and in such movies as ”Singin’ in the Rain” and ”An American in Paris.”
Miss Gish and Mr. Goodman will also be making their second Washington appearances in less than a year when they accept their awards. Miss Gish appeared at Wolf Trap recently at a screening of ”La Boheme,” the silent film classic in which she played. She spoke of her long career, which included such other silent movies as ”The Birth of a Nation” and ”Orphans of the Storm.” Her modern films include ”Duel in the Sun,” ”The Night of the Hunter” and ”The Wedding.”
In a Broadway production of ”Hamlet” she played Ophelia opposite John Gielgud.
Swing and Bartok, Too
Mr. Goodman, a clarinetist who is as comfortable with a concerto by Karl Maria von Weber as he is with a jazz composition by Fletcher Henderson, performed at a White House party this year.
His swing band was among the country’s most popular in the 1930’s and 40’s, and he formed a quartet with Lionel Hampton, Teddy Wilson and Gene Krupa; at the same time he was commissioning works for the clarinet by Bela Bartok, Aaron Copland and Paul Hindemith.
Mr. Ormandy, now conductor laureate of the Philadelphia Orchestra, was the Philadelphians’ music director for 44 years. During his long tenure, the orchestra developed its distinctive style and a specialization in late Romantic works, and it became the most recorded symphony orchetra in the United States.
Mr. Ormandy conducted the orchestra during its 1973 visit to China, the first appearance by an American symphony orchestra in China since Peking’s resumption of relations with the United States.
‘Rich Harvest’ Ahead
The five recipients are to receive their awards at a Kennedy Center ceremony next Dec. 4, and President and Mrs. Reagan will honor them at a White House reception the following night. After the reception a performance will be given in their honor at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House. The performance will be be broadcast at a later date by CBS-TV.
Roger L. Stevens, chairman of the Kennedy Center, said that the awards, now in their fifth year, were intended to demonstrate that ”this nation does recognize the intrinsic value of the arts.”
He added: ”There are still so many who deserve to be honored that the years ahead promise a rich harvest.” Previous winners of the Kennedy Center honors were: 1978 – Marian Anderson, Fred Astaire, Richard Rodgers, Arthur Rubinstein and Mr. Balanchine. 1979 – Ella Fitzgerald, Henry Fonda, Martha Graham, Tennessee Williams and Mr. Copland. 1980 – James Cagney, Leonard Bernstein, Agnes de Mille, Lynn Fontanne and Leontyne Price. 1981 – Count Basie, Cary Grant, Helen Hayes, Jerome Robbins and Rudolf Serkin.