Reprising Singin' In The Rain
Watching this movie makes me wish it would rain more in Los Angeles.
The best musicals are the ones strong enough to exist without their musical numbers—even though you can’t imagine the movie without them.
Singin’ In the Rain (1952) would function perfectly as a comedy even if all the songs and dances got cut. And yet having them in there makes the film so much more fun!
The story takes the essence of one of those summer-stock let’s-put-on-a-show musicals and transplants it to late 1920s Hollywood.
It is the end of the silent era. The show they’re working on is fictional studio Monumental Pictures’ first talkie.
Stars Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are the studio’s biggest and seem like the perfect team to launch the sound era…except for Lamont’s voice, which sounds like Eliza Doolittle before the singing lessons, only worse.
Luckily, Don has recently fallen for ingénue Kathy Selden, and she’s got a great singing voice—which she ultimately substitutes for Lina’s in the wrapped movie-within-the-movie.
Gene Kelly as Don, Debbie Reynolds as Kathy, and Donald O’Connor as Cosmo Brown, Kelly’s childhood best friend—form the trio at the center of the action.
You’d expect a love triangle, but the movie wisely avoids this unnecessary complication and instead just focuses on giving the audience as much time with these three very likeable and lively actors as possible.
They aren’t characters, per se, but simply extensions of the personalities we would expect from all the classic musicals. But that’s not meant as criticism. After all, you go to this type of film mostly for the actors’ charisma, right?
There are some excellent musical set-pieces, with O’Connor bringing down the house (literally) in “Make ‘em Laugh.” His physical comedy is spot on, and I rewound the DVD several times over the course of the number. And he and Kelly are a delightful duo in “Moses Supposes.”
Reynolds (Princess Leia’s mom in real life) was 19 from El Paso, Texas and all of 5-foot-2 when the movie was shot. She’d never been a dancer before partnering up with Kelly, but you’d never guess it. Her two top numbers are “All I Do Is Dream of You,” where she pops out of a cake, and the rousing up-all-nighter “Good Morning, Good Morning to You.”
And then there’s Kelly performing and tap-dancing the unforgettable title song in a rain-drenched street. Throughout the whole movie, he displays an exuberance that makes it appear much more effortless than it actually must have been, and he proves here he’s in top form in a thunderstorm. He is one of the wonders of the civilized world.
Jean Hagan as Lina with the squeaky voice comes close to stealing the show, playing the dumb blonde who turns into the villain. It’s fun to hate her. She’s got many of the movie’s best lines, though the screenplay is jam-packed with genuine wit and fun for all the characters.
I view most of the classic musicals as small pieces of one big whole, and there’s something I genuinely like about the familiarity of this genre. Sitting down with an MGM-style musical is the equivalent of enjoying a piece of cherry pie with lemonade on a hot summer day.
Singin’ in the Rain is better than most musicals because the main cast really gels and because Hagan is such a stunner as the villain.
It’s really is a love letter to Hollywood without the usual cynicism or heartbreak. Executives, directors, screenwriters, actors…everyone in the industry can watch this movie and come out of it feeling better about our beautiful business.
- Writers: Betty Comden, Adolph Green
- Directors: Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen
- Actors: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchell, Rita Moreno, King Donovan
Robert Taylor is a graduate of A.F. I. with a Masters in Screenwriting. He’s our Admission Rep in Burbank.