A lot of people, often critics, will say something to the effect of, "They don't make movies like they used to." And usually I'll disagree with them. There are new, incredible films being made every year and just because times may have changed it doesn't mean that film standards have dropped with them. However, this film is a prime example of the theory that they don't make them like they used to, because there has never been, nor will there be anything quite like Singin' in the Rain.
Don Lockwood is a silent film actor in a world which is all too rapidly making the transition to talking pictures: "talkies." His newest film, The Dancing Cavalier, is going to prove a bigger problem due to his co-star's complete lack of singing talent. Or just the fact that when she talks you'd swear there was a cat in a blender somewhere.
First, there's the performances. Gene Kelly plays Don Lockwood who somehow worked his way up from stuntman to leading man and is now struggling to keep it that way. Kelly is amazing: charming, smart and funny as well as having a godlike talent in a pair of tap shoes. He has the innate ability to endear himself to you the moment he opens his mouth, an old world movie star if there ever was one. Despite his natural talent, he's also able to slip into the character perfectly, keeping traces of his humble beginnings about him despite being the biggest silent film star on the planet. His double act partner, Donald O'Connor, plays Cosmo Brown, one of the musicians for the films his friend stars in. He is an absolute gem in the film, his slapstick mugging working perfectly for his over-the-top character. He and Kelly are amazing together, their lines flying by quicker than you can catch them and affecting the sort of friendship which makes you believe that they really are the best of friends. With a duller script his shameless mugging would be annoying or pathetic but here it works brilliantly. Debbie Reynolds is Kathy Selden, Don Lockwood's love interest as well as his secret weapon for the upcoming film. She's an incredible talent, not just a pretty face and a good voice but able to hold her own with the two other leads, a feat in itself. The other performers in the piece play their parts well but are merely backgrounding for the big three already mentioned. Special mention, however, goes to Jean Hagen for her woman-scorned/dullard portrayal of Lina Lamont who is hilarious and incredibly memorable for her part. However, it's the way these performers come together which is truly great to watch. Each of the three mains work together so well that it's just a joy to have them onscreen.
Musicals often face the danger of putting everything into the songs while forgetting about story or character. But, thanks to Adolph Green and Betty Comden's screenplay, the dialogue sparkles just as brightly as the musical set-pieces. Treading the line between farce and drama, these two writers pack as much character and humour as it's possible to put into a script, creating realistic and loveable characters which have lasted the test of time. They also manage to avoid the cliched storylines and dilemmas which so often plague films of the same genre, creating something entirely original and fresh, refreshing even after fifty years of cinema.
Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's direction is flawless. Rather than the quick cutting and intense camera movement which is supposed to create more excitement but is really just proof of the director's lack of confidence, Kelly and Donen are content to simply enjoy the spectacle of each amazing set-piece. Their restraint is on display throughout the entire film, trusting that the audience is feeling each moment without the need for explicitly telling them.
But despite the fact that the plot and character work is so good, the real draw of the film is the musical set-pieces. Make 'em Laugh, Good Morning, Singin' In The Rain, Gotta Dance, each piece incredible in its own right and completely awe-inspiring. The cast's astonishing ability is in full throttle here, tapping and singing like their lives depend on it. The songs themselves are brilliant but combined with the spectacle onscreen, they are simply astounding. And it's this joyous vision onscreen which is the film's biggest achievement. Singin' in the Rain is so wonderfully light and refreshing that it is a literal breath of fresh air and has been since its creation. 50 years on and it's still one of the greatest movies of all time.
Gene Kelly sings in the rain.
Oh Donny! You couldn't kiss me like that and not mean it just a teensy bit!
Meet the greatest actor in the world! I'd rather kiss a tarantula.
You don't mean that.
I don't - - Hey Joe, get me a tarantula.
What's wrong with the way I talk? What's the big idea? Am I dumb or something?
Cosmo, call me a cab.
Ok, you're a cab.
Talking pictures, that means I'm out of a job. At last I can start suffering and write that symphony.
You're not out of job, we're putting you in as head of our new music department.
Oh, thanks, R.F.! At last I can stop suffering and write that symphony.
I happen to be in love with her.
That's ridiculous. Everbody knows your in love with me.
Lina, you were gorgeous.
Yeah, Lina, you looked pretty good for a girl.
What's the matter with that girl? Can't she take a gentle hint?
Well haven't ya heard? She's irresistible. She told me so herself.
Short people have long faces, and long people have short faces. Big people have little humor, and little people have no humor at all.
The price of fame. You've got the glory, you gotta take the little heartaches that go with it. Now look at me: I've got no fame, I've got no glory, I've got no big mansions, I've got no money! But I've got - what have I got?
I don't know, what have you got?
I gotta get out of here.
Lina, you're a beautiful woman. Audiences think you've got a voice to match. The studio's gotta keep their stars from looking ridiculous at any cost.
Nobody's got that much money.
Don't tell me, it's a flat tire.
I can't undertand it. This car hasn't given me a lick of trouble in nearly 6 hours.