Gotta dance! And sing, and jump for joy (especially if there's an available puddle): That's the usual reaction to Singin' in the Rain, considered by many to be the greatest American musical ever made. A charming, often quite realistic look at the difficult transition from silent to sound cinema at the end of the 1920s, this sly backstage story has far more going for it than the brilliantly giddy, love-soaked Gene Kelly dance scene that will remain forever lodged in Hollywood's collective memory. It features a deliciously witty and original script by Betty Comden and Adolph Green; a hummable score consisting of period songs by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown; and, of course, high-flying choreography that ranges from vaudeville hoofing to ballroom to ballet, courtesy of Gene Kelly and director Stanley Donen. Kelly was simply born to play the egotistical but lovable Don Lockwood, star of the silent screen, who falls hard for a sweet chorine (Debbie Reynolds) he meets while trying to escape from some overly enthusiastic fans. Jean Hagen, who does a show-stopping turn as Lockwood's gorgeous but vocally challenged and vindictive costar, actually dubbed Reynolds's singing voice -- the exact reverse of what happens in this most delightful of all movie musicals.
Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly's Singin' in the Rain is usually lumped together with the other MGM "songbook" musicals of its era, An American in Paris and The Band Wagon. In contrast to those two outstanding works of music and motion, however, Singin' in the Rain had an additional layer of importance and appeal as one of Hollywood's relatively rare feature films about itself. The Arthur Freed/Nacio Herb Brown songbook is on one level the center of the movie, but it's also a backdrop for a humorous and delightfully stylized look back at the crisis that engulfed the movie mecca and its inhabitants once synchronized sound came to films. The musical was made in 1952, only 25 years after the beginning of the series of events depicted and satirized in the script, so recent in time that there were still plenty of old studio hands (including sound department head Douglas Shearer) who had firsthand memories of the actual events. The fit was natural for the music, too, since Freed and Brown had been on hand (and even onscreen) for the arrival of sound to MGM in 1929. The film is full of delightful in-jokes about its subject and the people who lived through the era: Jean Hagen's Lina Lamont is a burlesque of silent-movie sex symbol Clara Bow, whose decidedly urban style of diction never really fit her image or what the public wanted, while Millard Mitchell's R.F. Simpson was a gently jocular satire of Freed himself, who could never quite visualize the elaborate musical numbers whose scripts and budgets he was approving as producer. Donald O'Connor's Cosmo Brown was an onscreen stand-in for men like Franz Waxman and dozens of other musicians, who moved from writing arrangements or conducting the major theater orchestras to heading the music departments of the studios. The resulting musical, in addition to offering a brace of memorable songs and performances (with a startlingly sultry featured spot for Cyd Charisse in the "Broadway Melody" sequence, as a bonus), gave audiences a short-course pop-history lesson about how the movies learned to talk, sing, and dance.
|Source:||Warner Home Video|