Monday, October 10, 2011

#430. Singin' In The Rain (1952)

Directed By: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly

Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds

Tag line: "What a Glorious Feeling !"

Trivia:  The script was written after the songs, and so the writers had to generate a plot into which the songs would fit

Mention musicals, and the first film that pops into my head is this 1952 classic.  For me, Singin' in the Rain is as essential to the cinema as Charlie Chaplin, Casablanca, and Star Wars.

The year is 1927. Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are Hollywood’s top screen couple, and the silent films they've made together have been box-office gold. 

But the recent advent of sound threatens to change all that. 

The problem isn't so much with Don, who came up through the ranks as both a singer and dancer.  The issue is Lina, an egotistical starlet whose thick New York accent might prove a turn-off for audiences, especially those who believe her "sophisticated" screen persona. 

Sure enough, the duo's first sound film, The Dueling Cavalier, is a complete disaster. 

Enter Don’s best friend, Cosmo (Donald O’Conner), who concocts a brilliant plan: transform The Dueling Cavalier from a sappy romance into a musical comedy! Studio head R.F. (Millard Mitchell) loves the idea, and with Don’s newest flame, the young and talented Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), dubbing Lina’s harsh voice, it’s sure to be a hit. 

But will Lina accept a secondary part in her own movie, even if it is only her voice in the backseat?

Thanks to Arthur Freed, a lyricist whose tunes have brightened motion pictures since the dawn of talkies, Singin' in the Rain stages some of the most entertaining musical numbers ever to grace the screen. In fact, I can’t think of a single sequence that isn’t a showstopper. I love the vivacity of “Good Morning”, in which Kelly, O’Conner and Reynolds show off their singing talents,  complementing one another perfectly. Put this number in any other film, and it's the highlight. In Singin' in the Rain, it finishes third behind Gene Kelly’s life-affirming rendition of the title song and Donald O’Conner’s uproarious “Make ‘em Laugh”. Along with their impressive styles, each of these numbers - and the rest of them as well - boasts an infectious sense of fun.

But Singin' in the Rain isn't just song and dance; the film's depiction of Hollywood in its earliest days, 
when the introduction of sound affected the careers of many of the town’s biggest stars, is as humorous as it is fascinating. Before Al Jolsen’s The Jazz Singer sent noise streaming off the screen, actors and actresses never had to worry about high-pitched voices or thick accents. Then, all at once, they were expected to sound like royalty, and those who couldn’t keep up with the times slipped into obscurity. 

With energy, wit, and even a bit of pathos, co-directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen did their part to ensure that Singin' in the Rain was an absolute treat; a great musical that also told a great story.


Sammy V said...

I LOVE Singin' in the Rain (like most everyone). It's such a witty and fun film. In fact, I should watch it as soon as I'm done with my horror marathon. Great review.

DVD Infatuation said...

Sammy: Thanks for the comment. Singin' in the Rain is, indeed, a great, great movie! Enjoy it (and best of luck with the Horror Marathon).

SJHoneywell said...

I'm not a fan of musicals, but this one is just so damn good that I can't help but love it. It's sixty years old next year, and I wouldn't change a single frame in it.

DVD Infatuation said...

Steve: I couldn't agree with you more. SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is a movie for everyone, whether you love musicals, or hate them. I wouldn't change a frame, either.

Thanks for stopping by!

beep said...

Finally, one of the few twitter clues that I knew (but then, this one was obvious). As a boy who didn't think he liked musicals (er mom and sis loved all the Rogers and Hammerstein's, eew), it never occurred to me that The Wizard of Oz was one. Then in college I saw Cabaret and West Side Story (I'm sure mom and sis liked the second one, at least :) and I had a rethink about musicals. And then one evening a best friend came back from a movie, still practically giggling and saying, "Guys, you've GOT to come see this thing! It's a musical, but it is totally insane!!" So, since it obviously cured him from being in the dumps, we trekked off to campus to watch something called, 'The Gang's All Here' (1943). Oh boy. Is this thing nuts. It is,in fact, Busby Berkeley at his best. I swear, I think Terry Gilliam named 'Brazil' after the jaw-dropping opening to this film. The plot is the flimsiest excuse for staging mind-bending musical/dance numbers, the most memorable being (of course) Carmen Miranda singing, 'The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat' {aye yi YI!}. And then there's Benny Goodman and the contortionist. And the story ends all to soon (what little there was of it, although it DID have Edward Everett Horton). But, hey! Why stop now? Why indeed? Oh, the polka dance is dead ... but the polka dot -- LIVES ON! WWII psychedelia ensues. WHEEEEE!

Uh, actually, the musical that I first wanted to mention to you was 'Stormy Weather' again, oddly enough, l943. Lena Horne, Cab Calloway, the Nicholas Brothers and many others. This one is a bit of an oddity. An all black film {eh, I gather that the first talkie was an all black film, but it took a white (er Jewish, but we'll take 'im) in black-face no less, to bring sound to the 'masses' [pun intended]. The Jumpin Jive at the end with Cab Calloway being, well Cab and the Nicholas brothers making Fred Astaire and Gene (Gene, the Dancin' Machine; er, no; Krupa; eh wrong; Wilder? Ah! Ned Kelly, that's it!) go collectively, "OUCH!"

I bring these two gems up because they didn't seem to be on your list yet. I know you will enjoy them. The Gang's All Here almost seemed to have been lost, but it is possible to locate it now. Both would be great for Criterion.