"Singin' In The Rain" (1952)

Production:

Arthur Freed

Direction:

Gene Kelly and Stanly Donen

Screenplay:

Adolph Green and Betty Comden

Editing:

Adrienne Fazan

Choreography:

Gene Kelly and Stanly Donen

Music:

Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown

Music Direction:

Lennie Hayton

Starring:

Don Lockwood

Gene Kelly

Lena Lamont

Jean Hagen

Cathy Seldon

Debbie Reynolds

Cosmo Brown

Donald O'Conner

 

 

"Singin' In The Rain" is regarded by most critics and film historians as the penultimate of Hollywood musicals, a classic example of what it looks like when things go right. It is a thoroughly enjoyable film that is unified by an inspired idea (the change over from silent films to talking pictures). It was produced by Arthur Freed, a veteran lyricist who headed the Freed Unit at MGM that was responsible for some of the best musicals of the era ("Meet Me In St. Louis" and "An American In Paris"). Freed recruited veteran scriptwriters Betty Comdon and Adolph Green to craft a screenplay that would utilize previously crafted songs. He then teamed Gene Kelly and Stanley Donnen to serve as directors of the project.

"Singin' In The Rain" is at its heart a satire of show business and Hollywood. It is also an expose of the ruthless ambition that lurks behind many of Hollywood's idolized stars. It was build around the comic possibilities of the transition from silent films to talkies in the 1920's. It has often been said that Hollywood is never better than when it satirizes itself and this is certainly no exception. Some of the film's best moments occur in sequences that were filmed on sound stages that were recreated to look like they had during the silent era.

"Singin' In The Rain" is notable for a number of reasons, but is included in many film courses because it includes some of the most memorable production numbers ever filmed. In addition to the fact that these numbers were well crafted, they also represent many of the classic styles of production numbers. While there are numerous noteworthy numbers, four stand out as truly memorable. The film's title number, "Singing in the Rain," is a simple, emotionally direct solo performed in the Garlandesque style by Gene Kelly. Considered by many to be Kelly's finest performance (it was - according to Kelly - the most requested one), this is the epitome of grace and spontaneity. "You Were Meant for Me," featuring Kelly and Debbie Reynolds (who was only 19 at the time), is a classic romantic duet performed in the Astire-Rogers tradition of soft lighting and even softer moves. A critical favorite (this segment frequently shows up in highlights reels that focus on great Hollywood moments) is the brilliantly comic performance by Donald O'Conner in "Make 'em Laugh." This astounding performance features O'Conner at his athletic and comic best, literally into and up the sides of walls with no technical assistance. Trust me, it doesn't get any better than this. The show's grand finale, "Broadway Ballet," is in many respects the mother of all big production numbers. This is a surrealistic Busby Berkly type extravaganza filled with unexpected transitions, a huge cast, and spectacular uses of light, color, costumes, and sets. This number features a cast of thousands and notable performances by Kelly and Cyd Charisse (as a silver dollar flipping gangster's moll).

As a final note, it would be inexcusable not to mention the contributions of Jean Hagen as the delightfully vindictive Lena Lamont. Hagen is one of the driving forces behind "Singin In The Rain." Her simpering mannerisms and strident voice are simultaneously humorous and appealing.

"Singin' In The Rain" is a joyous musical that no film devotee should miss. It remains a classic example of what a musical looks like when everything comes together.