Monday, November 29, 2010

Friday Night Films: Singin' In The Rain (1952)

Singin' In the Rain always brings me back to the 6th grade. We were assigned to do a music project on a musician, singer or dancer and present it to the class. While most students were busy planning how best to brag about their good music taste by using Bob Marley or The Beatles--I was busy gluing pictures of Gene Kelly onto my poster board. I brought in Singin' In the Rain to show the class a clip, opting for the less well known dance number "Moses Supposes". The clip was a huge hit, and I found I won over all those "cool" kids who thought I was lame for picking a male singer and dancer. Still, it's been such a long time since I had seen Singin' In the Rain and after the film got some recent credit on an episode of Glee, I thought it the perfect opportunity to share it with my sister.

Singin' In the Rain is still as wonderful as it ever was. The bright tantalizing colors, the extravagant costumes and of course the dancing. The film is a time capsule of so many different things that it becomes hard to keep track of them all. There's the glimpse into the 20s when movies were transitioning from silent films to talkies.

A glimpse into the hey-day of musicals, when it was socially acceptable for big stars to waltz around a studio set singing and smiling.

And then there's also the ever changing glimpse into how quickly Hollywood trends can change. Here is something I had never really given thought to before, but in this most recent viewing I was floored by how poignant the idea was. With every passing decade new trends are made, new stars are born and ways of doing things become obsolete against the ever growing presence of technology. When silent films were transitioned into talkies there was an uproar, and today as people try to tell us that one day all films will be in 3-D---there is also an uproar.We find the idea of all movies switching to 3-D to be ludicrous just as folks in the 20s found the idea of talkies to be outrageous and silly. Sadly we really have no control over the ever changing trends of Hollywood. Singin' In the Rain's prevalent theme however gets even more sad and perhaps even a little bit ironic when you stop and think about how quickly Gene Kelly's career fell apart once musicals also became a declining trend.

Aside from the parallels between then and now, Singin' In the Rain continues to be a crowd pleaser because it is just too darn entertaining. It's a musical for people that hate musicals. It's a spectacle and a glimpse into a time when people could do amazing things without green screens, and wires. Gene Kelly glides effortlessly around the stage while Donald O'Connor walks up walls. Singing' In the Rain will never fail to make me smile and that's why I love it so much.

There is just so much to love. From the costumes, to the perfect comedic timing of Donald O'Connor, to the sets, to the songs, to the shrieking voice of Lina Lamont, to the behind the scenes look at Hollywood in the 1920s, to the impeccably adorable face of Debbie Reynolds,

to the dancing. Oh the dancing.

Singin' In the Rain has enough dancing to make your head seriously spin. It tricks you into thinking that you too can perform an effortless dance routine by just putting on a pair of tap shoes and a cute outfit. The dancing makes you float out of your body and puts you right smack dab in the action. For that hour and 39 minutes, we are a part of the 1920s and submersed in a land of happiness.

Of course not all is happiness in Singin' In the Rain land as the levels of irony run deep in this movie. Just as it was a movie largely about the behind the scenes area of film and about tricking the audience--Singin' In the Rain held a few secrets of its own. In what is perhaps the most disheartening, we find that ironically Debbie Reynolds did not sing her own songs in this--nor was that her voice dubbing over Lina's in the Dancing Cavalier. Additionally, Gene Kelly was what is commonly referred to today as an "asshole". He insulted Debbie Reynolds for not being able to dance, and Donald O'Connor hated working with him because he never felt like he was good enough. In fact, Fred Astaire found Debbie Reynolds crying underneath a piano on the set and then helped her improve her dancing himself.

Donald O'Connor was smoking 4 packs a day while filming this--4 packs! Debbie Reynolds feet were bleeding after the "Good Morning" scene. Gosh, it's like several bombs keep exploding in my perfect dream world of Singin' In the Rain. A word to the wise--if you find that you are in tickled pink by Gene Kelly, try to avoid reading anything about him, because it will probably cause you to cry somewhere alone and feel let down. Finding out that the real world of Singin' In the Rain isn't as happy as we thought--and further more realizing that it was just not any fun for the people doing it, is extremely upsetting.

Which is why we will not focus on that, because Singin' In the Rain teaches us to focus on the spectacle, on the finished product. We can still live in that happy rain cloud and no one has to know the truth right? What it really comes down to is that Singin' In the Rain is just one of those delightful movies that makes us smile right away and allows us to keep that smile on throughout the film's duration. It has all the necessary ingredients to do what any great film should do--entertain us. And for that, we love it.


Pax Romano said...

One of my faves! I love this film, and Gene Kelly was so damn sexy...he was, I don't care if he was a bastard. My dad told me that he had such a crush on Debbie Reynolds with this film came out (aint that sweet?). My fave scene is "Good Morning" - I want to do that sofa move just once.

Great review, now let's all sing, "Fit as a Fiddle, and Ready for Love"!

Andre Dumas said...

I've been singing Good Morning all day today!
I really was pretty wrecked after I read all that juice about Gene Kelly waaaah Pax whhyyyy!
Debbie Reynolds was only 19 when she made this! Cute as a button.