Starting out as a song-and-dance man on Broadway, he ultimately found success as one of the screen's most famous gangsters, electrifying audiences with his machine-gun line delivery and aggressive stance.
An influential, chart-topping pop crooner and the world's first multimedia star, he brought his laid-back musical style to the big screen, infusing roles both comic and serious with an endearing warmth and intimacy.
The first great action star, introducing both Robin Hood and Zorro to the screen, his high energy and charisma carried over into his real life trailblazing as a founding father of Hollywood's movie industry.
The clown prince of Hollywood, he seldom got the girl but always got the laughs, making an art of self-deprecating quips in Road capers and tirelessly hitting the road for five decades to entertain America's armed forces.
Umbrella and lamppost have never been the same since this lovestruck hoofer splashed his way into the hearts of moviegoers in Singin' in the Rain, creating an iconic movie moment and proving that real guys do dance.
With a successful career on both stage and screen, he ventured far beyond his successful romantic roles to tackle an extraordinary range of challenging, often anguished characters with sublime craftsmanship and nuance.
More interested in the quality of his work than in box office success, he was a master of screen biography, immersing himself in the lives of history's most driven men with an unsurpassed vigor and intensity.
His name has become synonymous with virtuosity for stage and screen accomplishments that are revered among fellow actors, including groundbreaking interpretations, as actor and director, of Shakespeare.
The first black actor to win the Oscar for Best Actor and the first top box office star of color, he blazed a trail into the Hollywood mainstream with his charismatic portrayals of intelligent, self-possessed men of profound dignity.
Just over five feet tall, he filled the screen with larger-than-life energy and spunk, performing inspired duets with Judy Garland and topping the box office charts as everybody's favorite kid brother in MGM's Andy Hardy films.
He played forthright, good-hearted individualists with such ease that he seemed not to be acting, whether in dark dramas or the crackling romantic comedies that paired him with his longtime offscreen companion, Katharine Hepburn.