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02 August 2011

Singin' In the Rain (1952) [Musical Film-a-Thon] 21#

Directed By: Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen
Written by:  Betty Comden & Adolph Green
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Drama
Runtime: 106 Minutes

You can call my rating generic for the score I gave this film, but do not deny a classic when you see one! ‘Singin’ in the rain’ is delightfully funny, full of sing-a-long tunes and a remarkable story that has an honest flare of history. Gene Kelly the mastermind director alongside his co-director Stanley Donen definitely made the right decision in beginning this gorgeous production that has been timeless since its release almost 6 decades ago. The casting was right, the cinematography was bright and the music was a real delight! Excuse my use of rhyming. This film is one of the funniest musicals there is and is the ultimate MGM musical that is no less than a classic.

The films time zone is probably what captures film critics, historians and fans because it takes place in the roaring 20’, the time of talkie pictures rising. Hollywood, 1927: the silent-film romantic team of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) is the toast of Tinseltown. While Lockwood and Lamont personify smouldering passions on-screen, in real life the down-to-earth Lockwood cannot stand the egotistical, brainless Lina. He prefers the company of aspiring actress Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), whom he met while escaping his screaming fans. Watching these intrigues from the sidelines is Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor), Don's best pal and on-set pianist. Cosmo is promoted to musical director of Monumental Pictures by studio head R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell) when the talking-picture revolution commences. Silent cinema begins to change and from here onwards, it is a battle to get “The Duelling Cavalier”, the latest Lockwood-Lamont picture, to a success. What will happen in the end? That you can find out for yourself for you will get no spoilers from this review.

To start with, the characters were golden. First, we have Kelly’s wonderful smile and voice as Don Lockwood, a man who is a sweet and honest person. Then there is his good friend Cosmo Brown who is energetic and funny, especially in his musical number ‘Make Em’ Laugh’. Lina Lamont was just hilarious because of how honest the portrayal of the character is, in that being a spoiled egotistical (might I add brainless) movie star. She is a character you love to hate because of how stupid she really is, yet she thinks so differently. In the end, she gets what she deserves. I also cannot forget the young Debbie Reynolds who was only 17/18 at the beginning of production. She was remarkable for how early in her career this is and her character was just divine.

Kathy Selden.
On the strength of the plot alone, concocted by the matchless writing team of Betty Comden and Adolph Green, ‘Singin' in the Rain’ is a delight. What was great about the story is its honesty and it really made me laugh. Yes, silent film stars lost jobs because of their strange voices and here we have Lina whose high-pitched accent is beyond Brooklyn-esque. Just hearing the mention of Al Jolson, in ‘the Jazz Singer’ amused me so much, because not many films have based their selves around this colossal event let alone a trip back to this time zone.  The silent era came to a decline after The Jazz singer and although Charlie Chaplin stuck to his guns for a little while longer, people only wanted talkie pictures. Some of these early pictures are not what you would call unbelievable with their quality but you can see why people were impressed and surprised by it. 

Today silent films are ‘historical’, which is very true, and film fans, critics, historians and Cinephiles love watching/discovering them. Unfortunately, many have been lost and damaged and being what they are, they are rarities of the birth of an art. The other honest thing that I thought as brilliant is the problems they had using the microphone to record Lina talking. The thing happened at the time. They had difficulty with the equipment and I think that is why a few years later they created the microphone boom. It was very difficult to get voices recorded so they usually had microphones hidden everywhere. It is a piece of honest cinematographic comedy of some of the difficulties they had with sound pictures in their early days.

You think dancing and singing is for sissies? Compared to Kelly and his clowning co-star, Donald O'Connor, "extreme sports" fanatics are just phony-baloney schoolgirls. Kelly and O’ Connor both dance it off in a wonderful music number called “ Mosses Supposes” and they each do so well at what they are individually doing, it complements the other in great respect. They are both excellent dancers and that musical number was funny as it was charming. All the dancing in the film was grand and I think O’Conner in his ‘Make Em’ Laugh’ number was unbelievable. There was so much energy in that dance. In this 3 or so minute routine he runs up the wall twice doing back flips, rolls on the ground wildly, deliberately does and unsuccessful front flip and even plays with a little doll in the most hilarious way. In addition, do you know what makes this scene so impressive and wonderful? That was the first take. There are plenty of laughs in the film and it would definitely fit into my twenty favourite comedies because it is honest, bright and uses a little bit of slapstick.

Most of the songs are from previous MGM musicals and the film inherits them graciously. Despite originality, they are certainly refreshing to hear in their toned up goodness and I think it serves almost like homages to these great musical numbers let alone the dazzling style of each number. In addition, that is what makes this the ultimate MGM musical. Throwing in all different kinds of musical pieces and piecing it together was a terrific idea and the outcome was perfect. The song ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ originated from ‘Hollywood Revue of 1929’, one of the first musicals ever to exist. Although in that little musical number, it is considerably flat and only has a man in the rain playing a ukulele singing. Therefore, this is a wonderful revamp of that number with great dancing and a great set. To believe that whole set was indoors and seeing so much water pouring down it was an authentically wonderful scene that is deserving of the recognition it has today.

The film itself is the ultimate homage to movie musicals and they do not make many musicals today. I would say the 60’s was the last time you had the ‘gay’ musicals with the decade ending with ‘Hello, dolly!’ The way the film was pure genius the way it constructed together with colossal musical numbers like ‘Broadway Melody Ballet’. ‘Singin in the Rain’ has gained a huge cult status and recognition in the world of cinema. It is number 1# on “AFI’s Greatest Musicals” list. It has other awards like “AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies” as #10 and “AFI's 100 Years... 100 Laughs” as #16. The film has been on several top film lists of all kinds and made its way into the National Film registry. I cannot deny this film as a classic because it is no shorter than that. This is Gene Kelly’s masterpiece and remains timeless in the pantheon of classics. It is charming, funny, witty, and exuberant and is one of the most delightful film experiences you could ask for.
  
My Rating: 10/10
 

2 comments:

  1. Musicals really are not my thing. But I've heard how great this is, so I must make an exception. Nice review.

    ReplyDelete
  2. trust me, it is.

    ReplyDelete

 

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