The movie director Stanley Donen died Thursday at 94. From the moment he and Gene Kelly rose up together from dance choreography to film direction with “On the Town,” Donen specialized in constructing bright, Technicolor productions around top Hollywood talent, including Kelly, Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, and Cary Grant.

He also showed a willingness to expand the form, whether venturing off the studio backlot to shoot in real locations or experimenting in new techniques.

[Read our obituary of Stanley Donen.]

More than anything, though, Donen can lay claim to a wealth of joyous and innovative dance sequences, from the title number to “Singin’ in the Rain” to Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling in “Royal Wedding” to the raucous, CinemaScope barn-raising showdown in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.” Here are 11 films that follow the trajectory of his colorful, cosmopolitan career.

Donen’s first feature, co-directed by Gene Kelly, extended their collaboration as choreographers on 1944’s “Anchors Aweigh,” which was also about sailors on leave and also starred Kelly and Frank Sinatra.

While a top-of-the-line studio production — adapted from Betty Comden and Adolph Green’s Broadway musical, with a Leonard Bernstein score — Donen and Kelly nonetheless made baby steps away from the lot, staging its most famous number (“New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town/ The Bronx is up but the Battery’s down”) on location and making the camera itself a fluid partner in the choreography.

As sailors who spend 24 sleepless hours touring New York City, each with a dame on his arm, Kelly, Sinatra and Jules Munshin sing and dance with an unfettered enthusiasm that the city, in its mercy, never punctures.

How to watch: Rent or purchase on iTunes, Vudu, Google Play and YouTube.

As a pretense to romance and song-and-dance numbers, Donen’s first solo feature is awfully thin, following a brother-sister dance act on a ship from New York to London, where their theatrical bow will coincide with the Royal Wedding.

But the frivolity yields two signature Fred Astaire solo numbers: “Sunday Jumps,” in which he rehearses in the gym, with a coat rack as his partner, and “You’re All the World to Me,” which finds his character so lovestruck that he dances on the walls and ceilings. In both cases, Donen keeps the camera at enough of a distance to appreciate and complement the fullness of Astaire’s performance.

How to watch: Rent or purchase on iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, Google Play and YouTube.

Donen and Kelly reunited for what has grown into the consensus favorite for the greatest musical ever made, and for good reason. At least three of the numbers in “Singin’ in the Rain” are all-time greats, divvied up evenly among its stars: Kelly splashing around, with and without an umbrella, in the title number; Donald O’Connor clowning through the vaudeville silliness of “Make ‘Em Laugh;” and Debbie Reynolds cheerfully greeting a new day with “Good Morning.”

Yet there’s unusual richness in the plotting, too, which ingeniously and often hilariously parodies Hollywood’s awkward transition from silents to sound. Kelly, O’Connor, and Reynolds are a joyous team, and Jean Hagen, as a silent star with an unfortunate voice, plays their glamorous foil to perfection.

How to watch: Rent or purchase on iTunes, Vudu, Google Play and YouTube.

Look past the absurdly sexist premise of swarthy backwoodsmen abducting women for marriage — the source material can be traced back to Ancient Roman legend “The Rape of the Sabine Women” — and there’s plenty of admire about Donen’s robust CinemaScope musical.

Working with choreographer Michael Kidd, Donen scales up “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” by accommodating its large, color-coded ensemble with ambitious, screen-filling dance sequences, set against a handsome backlot frontier. A barn-raising contest between the backwoodsmen and their gentlemen rivals, for example, turns into half-balletic, half-acrobatic display of one-upmanship.

How to watch: Rent or purchase on iTunes, Vudu, Google Play and YouTube.

Three years after “Singin’ in the Rain” set the standard for Technicolor buoyancy, Kelly and Donen shifted gears with this surprisingly sober treatment of World War II veterans which subverts the three-buddies-in-the-city dynamic of “On the Town” by having Kelly and his two friends experience a more fraught reunion 10 years after the war. Bonds made in wartime have frayed in peacetime, and the men have each had their troubles adapting to civilian life.

Nonetheless, the film packs in some wonderful musical sequences, including Cyd Charisse setting tongues wagging in a boxing hall with “Baby You Knock Me Out” and Kelly performing “I Like Myself” on roller-skates.

How to watch: Rent or purchase on iTunes, Vudu, Google Play and YouTube.

Audrey Hepburn. Fred Astaire. George and Ira Gershwin. Sometimes filmmaking needn’t be so difficult. Reprising his role from the Broadway musical 30 years earlier, Astaire stars as a Richard Avedon-like fashion photographer who sees potential in Hepburn’s modest bookstore clerk from the Village.

Astaire and Hepburn are an odd romantic pair to say the least — they were decades apart in age — but Donen underplays that aspect of their relationship to focus on their musical partnership, which is exuberant at times and gently swooning whenever Gershwin pops up on the soundtrack. The location shooting that brought “New York, New York” to life in Donen’s “On the Town” is doubly effective in “Bonjour, Paris,” a number that hits every tourist spot in the city.

How to watch: Rent or purchase on iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, Google Play and YouTube.

In retrospect, “Indiscreet” feels like a warm-up for the later film “Charade,” with Cary Grant cast in both as a diabolically charming cad who wins over a skeptical heart.

Working as usual in beautiful Technicolor, Donen adapts Norman Krasna’s play “Kind Sir” into a handsome chamber piece about a popular actress (Ingrid Bergman) who takes a chance on a married man (Grant), only to discover that he’s not telling her the full truth, either. While Donen luxuriates in the glamour of two Hollywood stars in evening wear, Grant and especially Bergman trade on more than their charm, digging into characters whose romantic chemistry hinges precariously on trust.

How to watch: Rent or purchase on iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play and YouTube.

Poised somewhere between a Hitchcockian thriller like “North by Northwest” and a classic screwball comedy, Donen’s wildly entertaining play on the spy movie is a Technicolor bauble that feels aligned with the emerging spirit of the French New Wave.

The deliriously clever story whisks Audrey Hepburn’s heroine into danger and adventure when her husband dies under dubious circumstances and three of his former OSS associates come looking for a missing $250,000. Cary Grant plays a mystery man who comes to her aid and may or may not be in cahoots with the men on her trail.

How to watch: Rent or purchase on iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu, Google Play and YouTube.

With international cinema undergoing radical changes in the mid-to-late ‘60s, Donen opened up to a more experimental form with “Two for the Road,” a British road drama that dissects a relationship across multiple timelines.

When the film begins, Albert Finney and Audrey Hepburn are a feuding couple driving their Mercedes roadster on a scenic route to Saint-Tropez, which naturally recalls other road trips from the past, when they were more optimistic about their future together. Working from a script by Frederic Raphael (“Darling,” “Eyes Wide Shut”), Donen cuts freely and intuitively across various points in their romantic history, collapsing time into a complex jumble of happy memories and sour portents of things to come.

How to Watch: Rent or purchase on Amazon Prime.


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