Behind-the-scenes of classic films: Inside Debbie Reynolds' contentious relationship with Gene Kelly

Their on-screen chemistry became iconic in film history, but filming "Singin' in the Rain" was anything but blissful for Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds.

The two actors have both since passed, but in the decades following their hit 1952 movie, both Kelly and Reynolds opened up about a working relationship spotted with tears, blood and an alleged sexual advance that forever stuck with Reynolds.

"I had just turned 19 when filming started ... Gene was 37," Reynolds said in 2013. "He never wanted me in 'Singin' In The Rain.' When studio chief Louis B Mayer told him I was going to be his leading lady, Gene stared at me and said, 'What have you done before?'"

Despite Kelly's apparent resistance, the studio had made its decision. But that didn't mean Kelly, who directed the film while also starring in it, would soften: "My feet were bleeding from all that dancing and when I pointed it out, Gene would say, 'Clean it up,'" Reynolds recalled. "He was very sentimental like that."

33 PHOTOS
Debbie Reynolds' active life
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Debbie Reynolds' active life
CANADA - CIRCA 1900: Debbie Reynolds (Photo by Boris Spremo/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds ice skating at Grossinger's where they were married.
(Original Caption) When Eddie Fisher first looked at Debbie Reynolds, the girl of his choice, writes Louella O. Parsons in her story of the Eddie-Debbie romance, he though she 'looked good enough to eat with a spoon.' See why?
Bettmann
American actors Gregory Peck and Debbie Reynolds on the set of How the West Was Won, directed by John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall and Richard Thorpe. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)
The American actress, singer and dancer Debbie Reynolds fishing by the sea, during a break in the shooting of 'Three little words'. USA, 1950 (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - UNDATED: Singer and actress Debbie Reynolds poses for a photo circa mid 1950's in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Educated plaid...Hollywood: For summer school days and right into Fall, young actress Debbie Reynolds wears a button-front plaid cotton dress with demure, rounded collar and three-quarter sleeves. Combining jade and grass-green for the plaid, the dress can be worn with white accessories now - dark green or black when the Fall term begins.
(GERMANY OUT) 23.08.1912, Schauspieler, Tänzer, USA, mit Debbie Reynolds in, 'Du sollst mein Glücksstern sein', ( Singin' in the rain ), Regie: Stanley Donen und G.Kelly, - 1952 (Photo by ullstein bild via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Leap Year Valentines...Never, never pretend you're this type of helpless female, cautions Deborah Reynolds, demonstrating how not to behave at the beach. 'Makes men shy away,' she explains.
(Original Caption) Film star Debbie Reynolds is in a position to laugh off April showers, as she adds an umbrella to the wearing of a slicker, hat and boots. Then to top it off, she climbs into a big cardboard box, which leaves her high and dry. The April rain hasn't a chance here.
(Original Caption) Not Thinking of a White Christmas...Olympic star Bob Mathias enjoys the company of film stars Debbie Reynolds and Celeste Holm on the beach at Acapulco during vacation at this Mexican tropical resort. Besides enjoying the warm surf the trio tried out a paddle board for thrills in Caleta Bay. One thing for sure- they'll have to look at the calendar when Christmas comes -- the weather will never tip them off that it's that time of year.
1953: Actors Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds pose for a potrait session next to a car and she jumps in 1953 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frank Worth, Courtesy of Capital Art/Getty Images)
Debbie Reynolds dancing on football set in a scene from the film 'I Love Melvin', 1953. (Photo by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Getty Images)
Actress Debbie Reynolds gets ready to throw a pass to kick off the football season, Hollywood, California, 1953. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 'Simply' sophisticated. Glamour-plus...A dress for cover-girls. Linen sheath perfect for the afternoon sun. Sheer organdy for the cover-up wrap makes the dress a perfect convertible for evening dinner-and-dancing at the country club.
(Original Caption) The young man of might with his arms full of Jane Powell and Debbie Reynolds (right) is Steve Reeves, better known as 'Mr. America of 1947'; 'Mr. World of 1949' and 'Mr. Universe of 1950.' He will appear with the two beauties in a forthcoming film.
(Original Caption) Las Vegas, Nevada: Romance? Hollywood star Debbie Reynolds and Singer Eddie Fisher are reported headed for the altar in Las Vegas where the young couple spent the fourth of July holidays. Following their arrival, they spent the day at the pool of Wilbur Clark's desert Inn where Debbie is a guest.
circa 1955: Full-length promotional studio portrait of American actor Debbie Reynolds sitting on the base of an overturned tree with her hands on her hips, in front of a lavender backdrop. She wears a strapless black unitard lined with ermine and a muff on her arm. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
American singer, actor and entertainer Eddie Fisher (1928 - 2010) in a tree with his wife, singer and actress Debbie Reynolds, circa 1955. (Photo by Pictorial Parade/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1955: Photo of Debbie Reynolds Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images
American actress and dancer Debbie Reynolds in ballet costume, circa 1955. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images)
There's no lull between the scenes for Vic Damone and Debbie Reynolds, while they're in their element before the cameras, the two are entertainers at heart and have no trouble passing the time. Here, they make merry by kicking up their heels between shootings of Hit The Deck.
LOS ANGELES,CA - JULY 3,1955: A guest attends actress Debbie Reynolds pool party in Los Angeles,CA. (Photo by Earl Leaf/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Eddie Fishers Relax in Miami. Miami Beach, Fla.: Popular singer Eddie Fisher and his recent bride, film star Debbie Reynolds, enjoy a water-skiing jaunt on Biscayne Bay while relaxing between shows.
(Original Caption) Eddie and Debbie Vacation in Nassau. Nassau, Bahamas: Singer Eddie Fisher and his actress wife, Debbie Reynolds pose in a happy closeup while vacationing in Nassau. Fisher, an avid under-water swimmer had just come up from Davy Jones' locker to pose with his wife. The couple is vacationing at the Emerald Beach Hotel in the British Resort City.
(Original Caption) Debbie Reynolds Arrives at Idlewild Airport in Bad Weather. Queens, New York, New York: Debbie Reynolds on ramp with TWA public relations man, Paul Correri. Camille Williams, Debbie's dancer/friend, is on left. March 6, 1959.
Debbie Reynolds Playing Tennis (Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Thanks his lucky star...Smiling proudly over his brand-new football, and a picture of screen star Debbie Reynolds, 7-year-old Ritchie Schreiber is a grateful recipient of the actress' gift to his gridiron gang. As the kids were playing on a vacant lot in Detroit, a motorist ran over their football, and drove off without stopping to see the downhearted small fry to apologize. Miss Reynolds, who was driving by at the time, saw the incident, and thinking it was a low-down trick, stopped and gave the lads money for a new pigskin.
(Original Caption) Among happy spectators at opening last night 9/7 of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Memorial Sports Arena were Debbie Reynolds (left), daughter Carrie, and actor Carleton Carpenter, a friend of the family.
A team of celebrities challenged the New York Croquet Club yesterday in what may have been the first such tournament on the croquet court in Central Park near the Tavern on the Green. Lining up her shot is Jo Loesser, widow of composer Frank Loes ser. Kevin McCarthy, one of the pros from the club, prepares to blast-er croquet is the proper term-the ball played by Debbie Reynolds of the celebrity squad. September 30, 1973. (Photo by Frank Leonardo/New York Post Archives / (c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
LA MIRADA, CA - NOVEMBER 18: Entertainer Debbie Reynolds tries out some of the exercise equipment 18 November 1999 at the ceremonies opening the 'A Day Away Center', a day-health care center for patients suffering from Alzheimer's. Approximately 4 million Americans including former U.S. President Ronald Reagan suffer from the debilitating disease which is the fourth leading cause of death among older adults. (Photo credit should read JOHN T. BARR/AFP/Getty Images)
A team of celebrities challenged the New York Croquet Club yesterday in what may have been the first such tournament on the croquet court in Central Park near the Tavern on the Green. Lining up her shot is Jo Loesser, widow of composer Frank Loes ser. Kevin McCarthy, one of the pros from the club, prepares to blast-er croquet is the proper term-the ball played by Debbie Reynolds of the celebrity squad. September 30, 1973. (Photo by Frank Leonardo/New York Post Archives / (c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)
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It wasn't just the technical stunts that drew Kelly's ire, she said. "If I wasn't smiling, Gene would yell at me to smile more. During filming I thought my cheeks were going to crack from all that smiling."

In her 2013 memoir, "Unsinkable," Reynolds described the moment she and Kelly filmed their characters' first kiss -- a kiss she expected to be chaste, as was typical in films of that era.

"The camera closed in. Gene took me tightly in his arms . . . and shoved his tongue down my throat," Reynolds wrote. 'Eeew! What was that?' I screeched, breaking free of his grasp and spitting. I ran around frantic, yelling for some Coca-Cola to cleanse my mouth. It was the early 1950s, and I was an innocent kid who had never been French-kissed."

She continued, "It felt like an assault. I was stunned that this thirty-nine-year-old man would do this to me."

Kelly died in 1996, years before Reynolds' memoir would be penned. But in the years before his death, he reportedly did once say, "I wasn't very nice to Debbie. I'm surprised she still speaks to me."

Kelly's widow, Patricia Kelly, countered some of Reynolds' assertions before they were detailed in her memoir. In 2012, when asked about her husband's attitude toward Reynolds, she said he was only hard on her with the intent of creating a great movie.

"You want your partner to look the best he or she can possibly look," she said. "And that was always his intent with Debbie, and she worked like a trouper and became a big star."

And while Reynolds stood by her memories of what transpired on set, she didn't hold a grudge against Kelly: "He was a hard taskmaster but he was also brilliant and he taught me a lot."

22 PHOTOS
Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher through the years
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Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher through the years

Circa 1956, American actor and singer Debbie Reynolds smiles and holds her infant daughter, Carrie Fisher.

(Photo by Jack Albin/Getty Images)

A newcomer to the ranks of fatherhood, Eddie Fisher was named 'Father of the Year in TV' by the National Father's Day Committee. Mrs. Fisher (Debbie Reynolds) and the children presented Fisher with a handsome photo wallet containing their pictures. Carrie Frances is 19 months and son Todd (L) is 4 months old.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Actress Debbie Reynolds, still deeply upset over separation from singer Eddie Fisher, was hospitalized here suffering exhaust indigestion. Meanwhile MGM Studios plan to shoot 'around' the actress until here where she is working in The Mating Game. Debbie holds her two children, Carrie and Todd, 8-mos, (right) in this photo made during the current shooting at the site.

(Bettmann via Getty Images)

Debbie Reynolds with her daughter Carrie Fisher, 23 months old, smiles as she leaves the house September 9, 1958 to visit friends in Los Angeles, California. Husband Eddie Fisher and Miss Reynolds later revealed their separation.

(Photo by Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Carrie Fisher, 3, gives her mother Debbie Reynolds a hug after her afternoon nap in their home November 16, 1959 in West Los Angeles, California.

(Photo by Ray Graham/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) .

Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher with daughter Carrie Frances born October 21, 1956.

(Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images)

12th February 1972

American actress Debbie Reynolds with her daughter Carrie Fisher.

(Photo by Dove/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

(Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher during 11th Annual American Comedy Awards at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States.

(Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

Debbie Reynolds with her children Carrie and Todd Fisher, on the site of the new museum that will house her collection of film costumes.

(Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images)

Actresses Debbie Reynolds (L) and Carrie Fisher (R) arrive at the premiere of 'Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,' at the Loews Cineplex Uptown Theatre May 12, 2005 in Washington, DC. Star Wars premiers are taking place across the country tonight.

(Photo by Shaun Heasley/Getty Images)

Actress Carrie Fisher (L) and her mother, actress Debbie Reynolds, arrive for Dame Elizabeth Taylor's 75th birthday party at the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas on February 27, 2007 in Henderson, Nevada.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Actress Debbie Reynolds (R) unveils the site of the new Hollywood Motion Picture Collection which will house her $30 million collection of movie costumes and props in Hollywood, June 19, 2001, with daughter Carrie Fisher at her side. The movie memorabilia museum, set to open February 2002, will be located at the Hollywood & Highland development which is also the site of the Kodak Theatre, permanent home of the Academy Awards ceremony. 

(Reuters Photographer / Reuters)

Actresses Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher arrive at the premiere of HBO's documentary 'Wishful Drinking' at Linwood Dunn Theater at the Pickford Center for Motion Study on December 7, 2010 in Hollywood, California.

(Photo by Michael Caulfield/WireImage)

Carrie Fisher (L), Debbie Reynolds, and Billie Lourd attend Paley Center & TCM present Debbie Reynolds' Hollywood memorabilia exhibit reception at The Paley Center for Media on June 7, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California.

(Photo by Brian To/FilmMagic)

Actress Debbie Reynolds (L) and her daughter Carrie Fisher (R) arrive at the 2011 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards in Los Angeles September 10, 2011.

(REUTERS/Danny Moloshok)

Actors Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher arrive at the 2011 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards held at the Nokia Theater L.A. Live.

(Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images)

Actresses Debbie Reynolds, Carrie Fisher and Joely Fisher arrive at the premiere of HBO's documentary 'Wishful Drinking' at Linwood Dunn Theater at the Pickford Center for Motion Study on December 7, 2010 in Hollywood, California.

(Photo by Michael Caulfield/WireImage)

Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds attend the all-star gala and press preview of Profiles in History's Debbie Reynolds-The Auction Finale at Debbie Reynolds's Dance Studio on May 14, 2014 in North Hollywood, California.

(Photo by Earl Gibson III/WireImage)

Actresses Debbie Reynolds (L), recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, and Carrie Fisher pose in the press room at the 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Actress Carrie Fisher (L) and actress Debbie Reynolds attend TNT's 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. 

(Photo by Charley Gallay/WireImage)

Actresses Debbie Reynolds (L), recipient of the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award, and Carrie Fisher pose in the press room at the 21st Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at The Shrine Auditorium on January 25, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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