With his street-smart dance style, Gene Kelly enchanted audiences with the way he moved. But the way he won over Patricia Ward, his third wife, was with words.

When they met in 1985, the Singin’ in the Rain star was narrating a special about the Smithsonian that linguistics scholar Patricia, then 26, was co-writing. “Poetry was one of Gene’s pet studies, and we quoted poems back and forth,” Patricia tells Closer in an exclusive interview. “I was absolutely enchanted.”

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Gene and Patricia in June 1994.

Gene invited Patricia to co-write his memoir, and five years later, they married (he had previously wed actresses Betsy Blair and Jeanne Coyne). And in the decade they spent together before Gene’s death in 1996, the actor never stopped wooing her.

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“He was a true romantic,” says Patricia, who tours with a one-woman tribute show, Gene Kelly: The Legacy. “He was like a little kid — he would leave Valentine’s or birthday notes all around the house for me starting at midnight.”

To read the full story on Gene, pick up the new issue of Closer Weekly, on newsstands now!