Singin' in the Rain Reviews
In the filmmaking pantheon there are a few romantic pairings in American cinema that are totally iconic from start to finish, and Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds make up one of the very best.
Directed by Stanley Donen (1924-) and Gene Kelly (1912-1996), the Hollywood Golden Age's most widely acclaimed virtuosos of the musical genre, it's odd to think that there was a time in which "Singin' in the Rain" was deemed as something minor, an entertaining but otherwise forgettable piece of work from talented people. Only 28 upon release, Donen, who later went on to make such classics as "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and "Charade," had only directed two other films, 1949's "On the Town" (also a joint effort with Kelly) and 1951's Fred Astaire showcasing "Royal Wedding." Kelly was already established as the musical's alternative to the aforementioned singer/dancer, his iconhood coming only a year previously with "An American in Paris."
So perhaps "Singin' in the Rain" was an accidental masterpiece, with a soundtrack consisting mostly of established songs, and that it, for the time, contained no major stars besides Kelly. But time is a telling tale, and the immortal charisma of the film only heightens with each passing year. Is it its story, which, though period, is ageless in its comedy, romance, and theatrics? The art direction (slightly, and colorfully, Broadway), the music (classic), the dance sequences (wondrous), the imperial tint of the Technicolor photography?
The film has an ensemble to cement the impressive goods. Set in 1927, it stars Kelly as Don Lockwood, a silent movie star whose fame very much depends on Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), the Garbo to his Gilbert in terms of onscreen partnership. We first meet them at the premiere of their latest movie, "The Royal Rascal," where it's clear that Don is tiring of being anchored to the woman, whose diva behavior and selfish wiles leave him craving something more fulfilling in his career.
So maybe it's fate when it's later announced that audiences are going gaga for "The Jazz Singer," a "talking picture" that very well might change the film industry as a whole. Studio heads are eager to make the switch, and Don, along with his musical sidekick, Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor), are ecstatic to showcase their singing and dancing talents that have gone unnoticed in an age where silence has literally silenced their many abilities.
There's a catch, though. Despite her immense fame, Lina has a voice more whiney, more grating, than anything Fran Drescher could ever dream of. It's unlikely that she'll make the transition into the talking era, and executives worry that her downfall could also result in Don's. An ingenious plan is soon devised - what if Lina's voice were dubbed by someone with a more fetching, seductive voice? They find the perfect candidate in Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), an aspiring starlet who has everything Lina doesn't: a comely voice, enviable dancing skills, and girl-next-door charm. If only Don didn't fall in love with her, and if only Kathy didn't have star quality. Then things would be much, much, simpler.
For incorporating a storyline that easily could be deemed autobiographical for many onscreen duos of the 1920s (the inclusion of sound in film really did end quite a few careers), "Singin' in the Rain," though witty in ways only musical-comedy dream team Adolph Green and Betty Comden could write, is not a cruel satire. It is, rather, a dreamy excursion into Hollywood lite that cares more about the spotlight put onto the rousing array of its song-and-dance numbers, romance and comedy fitting like a silken glove around its kinetic parts. The film is aberrant in that in never overstimulates and is never lacking in what it has to offer - it all comes together so accordingly that comparing it to other musicals doesn't feel right. It is a musical experience, not willing to conform to genre normalities.
Its spectacle, for starters, is far more ambitious than other offerings of the decade. In a film comprised of some of the best dance sequences ever, we'd like to call everything a highlight, but playing favorites is, understandably, not an impossibility. Standing out is Donald O'Connor's masterful "Make 'Em Laugh," a deft combination of physical comedy, acrobatics, and dance, the O'Connor/Kelly tap-dancing duet "Moses Supposes," the light-hearted but bewitching "Good Morning," the ten-minute "Broadway Melody Ballet" (featuring the always underrated Cyd Charisse), and, inevitably, Kelly's rain-drenched rendition of the titular tune (performed with a 102 degree fever, no less).
These performances are all brilliantly choreographed and executed, but the way they stay forever tucked away in our minds is due to its actors, whose playfulness is as authentic as playfulness can come in the artificial setting of film. Kelly's energy and congeniality is boundless, O'Connor's comedic timing and musical skill outrageous, Reynolds's ingenuity convincing and savory. Charisse's appearance is my favorite cameo of all-time, a classic case of the Who Is She? phenomenon, and Hagen is a riot as the movie musical's greatest quasi-villain.
Endless praise is what "Singin' in the Rain" deserves, but to watch it again might do me better. It never loses its freshness, and it never tires - never does our fondness for its musical aspects, as well as its comic ones, wither away. I recall watching it for the first time some five-and-a-half years ago, only thirteen and feeling very alone in the grips of puberty and school-based misery. Little did I know how much it would end up meaning to me, and little did I know that I would watch it a second time almost immediately after that initial viewing. You don't want its delicious escapism to conclude. What a joy life would be if it were more like "Singin' in the Rain."
Saw this on 25/1/16
An intelligent and terrific film ruined by rather unnecessary overlong songs with repetitive lyrics that are so irritating that I felt it would have been so good had this not been a musical. The only enjoyable songs are Make em' laugh and Singin' in the rain where even the latter is overlong. The actors, especially the male show terrific athleticism and both the female actors are terrific, though the one that seems to be on top of the rest is Donald O'Connor. The film is really funny, it has a terrific story about 1920s Hollywood and whenever there are no lyrics, the movie seems to fly.
So I watched it again and in my film class I realized that Singing in the Rain is purposely artificial because the film's underlying theme focuses on the disparity between Hollywood's appearance and the truth. When I discovered this, I suddenly found a deep connection with the movie. Don is a very showy and fake character, but that's because Hollywood's stripped him of his true nature. His singing and dancing throughout the film are his efforts to shed his theatric, Hollywood persona and return to old, happy dancing Don at the beginning of the film and Kathy helps him do that. Peeling the old Hollywood veneer off the movie is difficult and even here it is very present, but Singing in the Rain remains an enchanting tale of love and redemption for Don.