Singin' In The Rain has been called the greatest musical ever produced. It has everything - great cast, great songs and dance routines and a wonderful story which is actually based on the real life changeover in Hollywood from Silent Movies to Talkies. It is undoubtedly and is often referred to as one of the best films in the history of Hollywood. Two of the musical sequences have passed into folklore for their brilliance - Gene Kelly's classic title song sequence, and Donald O'Connor's remarkably athletic and genuinely funny 'Make 'em Laugh'.
More than anyone else it is Gene Kelly who contributes most to the delightful, happy atmosphere of the movie and he provides some of the most captivating choreography ever filmed. Debbie Reynolds, plays a version of herself in the film, being an aspiring young actress in real life as well as in a movie, and plays an excellent foil to Kelly. The thankless job of being the only villain in the movie was superbly done by Jean Hagen who earned the supporting role "Oscar" nomination in the process. Hagen also dubbed Debbie Reynolds in some scenes of the film, quite the opposite of the characters in the movie. It is rather ironic, since the script of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN satirically explored the conflict between on-screen and off-screen life reality.
The film is even funnier for those who are more familiar with the Hollywood history, with lot of references to real life personalities, situations, rituals and, last but not least, very accurate portrayal of the difficulties experienced by Hollywood during the period when the movie industry had to adapt to the use of sound. The movie contains even some scenes that could be seen as a way for Gene Kelly, its leading star, to spoof his own role in THREE MUSKETEERS, 1948 swashbuckling classic.
Made in the time when Hollywood was able to produce great art and even satirically look at itself, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is a timeless classic and, over half a century after being made, its appeal is as strong as ever. Its an absolute gem.
The action of the film takes place in the late 1920s when silent films were starting to give way to Talkies.
Gene Kelly plays Don Lockwood, a popular silent film star who started out as a music hall singer and dancer. For publicity purposes Don's Studio has concocted a fake romance between him and his leading lady, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), who is not gifted with great brainpower and who has convinced herself that the romance is real. Don, unfortunately, can barely tolerate her.
Don meets Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) who tells him she is a stage actress and appears to look down on his career and skills. Later, at a party, the head of Don's studio, R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell), shows a short demonstration of a talking picture, and Don runs into Kathy again. To his amusement and her embarrassment, he discovers that Kathy is only a chorus girl, part of the entertainment. Furious, she throws a pie at him, only to hit Lina right in the face. Later, Don makes up with Kathy and they begin falling in love.
After the first talking picture, The Jazz Singer, proves to be a smash hit, R.F. decides he has no choice but to convert Don and Lina's new film, The Dueling Cavalier, into a talkie. The production is beset with difficulties (most, if not all, taken from real life), by far the worst being Lina's comically grating voice and thick New York accent. A test screening is a disaster. In one scene, Don repeats "I love you" to Lina over and over, to audience's derisive laughter (a reference to a scene by John Gilbert in his first talkie).
Don's best friend, Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor), comes up with the idea to overdub Lina's voice and they persuade R.F. to turn The Dueling Cavalier into a musical called The Dancing Cavalier. Kathy is to provide the voice for Lina in the new talkie, without Lina's knowledge. When Lina finds out, she is furious and does everything possible to sabotage the romance. She maliciously demands that Kathy continue to provide her voice in all future films, but remain uncredited. An irate, but desperate R.F. is forced to agree; Kathy has no choice because she is under contract.
The premiere is a tremendous success. When the audience clamors for Lina to sing live, Don and Cosmo improvise and get Lina to lip-synch while Kathy sings into a second microphone while hidden behind the curtain. Unbeknownst to Lina, as she starts "singing", Don, Cosmo and R.F. gleefully raise the curtain behind her, revealing the deception. Lina flees in embarrassment and Don stops Kathy running away and introduces the audience to the real star of the film. Ahh, a happy ending.
Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood.
Born in Pittsburgh in 1912, Kelly was a multitalented performer. Actor, singer, choreographer and above all Dancer. Only Fred Astaire compares and they had vastly different styles.
Although his performance in the song Singin' in the Rain is now considered iconic, Gene Kelly was not the first performer chosen for the role - Howard Keel was the original choice to play Lockwood. Keel was replaced by Kelly as the screenwriters evolved the character from a "Western actor" to a "song-and-dance vaudeville" performer.
Debbie Reynolds as Kathy Seldon
Debbie Reynolds was born Mary Frances Reynolds in El Paso, Texas on April 1, 1932. The family moved to Burbank, California around 1940. When Debbie was sixteen years old, she entered the Miss Burbank beauty contest and won the title of "Miss Burbank of 1948." Warner Brothers immediately put her on contract. It was Jack Warner who gave her the name "Debbie." She very quickly became a popular leading lady of the 50's and 60's musicals and comedies. She married Eddie Fisher in 1955 and is the mother of Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame.
Donald O'Connor as Cosmo Brown
Having grown up in a theatrical family with whom he played vaudeville as a child, Donald O'Connor made his film debut at the age of eleven in the late 1930s. His carer took off and he made a name for himself as an A-list dancer and comedian in the 1950s. Though his film career faded quickly at the end of the decade with the decline of the studio system, O'Connor is best remembered for his six comedies opposite "Francis, the Talking Mule" as well as his movie musical appearances in which he wowed audiences with his tremendously energetic and acrobatic dance numbers. His incredible 'Make 'em Laugh ' routine has guaranteed O'Connor a permanent place in showbusiness history.
Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont
Millard Mitchell as R.F. Simpson. The initials of the fictional Monumental Pictures' owner are a reference to producer Arthur Freed. R.F. also uses one of Freed's favorite expressions when he says that he "cannot quite visualize it" and has to see it on film first, referring to the Broadway ballet sequence, a joke, since the audience has just seen it.
Cyd Charisse as Kelly's dance partner in a dream sequence
Rita Moreno as Zelda Zanders, Lina's friend
Song and Dance Numbers
The most recognisable elements of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN are the song and dance numbers. They were directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, both of them in their artistic prime and able to use huge MGM resources in order to create spectacular, memorable scenes.
All the numbers are superb, perfectly staged and some of them became essential part of modern popular culture. Some are comical, like cartoon-like farce by Donald O'Connor when he sings "Make Them Laugh". But the most important, most influential and most remembered of them all is, of course, a scene featuring Gene Kelly singing and dancing in the rain. When we take into account that Gene Kelly was actually ill when he made those scenes, we must really appreciate his talent and dedication. Another scene, the seduction of Kathy in an abandoned studio, is a triumph of simplicity.
Much more elaborate and not quite so well known is the marvelous "Broadway Ballet" sequence with a wonderful guest appearance by surly Cyd Charisse and her "crazy veil," a 25-foot long piece of white China silk that streamed about her, kept afloat by three airplane motors whirring off-camera. This sequence took a month to rehearse, two weeks to shoot, and cost $600,000, almost a fifth of the overall budget of the movie. Some have argued that the sequence looks out of place in the film but its sheer breathtaking quality justifies its inclusion.
The Movie posters proclaimed "What a glorious feeling!'' and they were right.
Great Hollywood Star Sites
- Judy Garland, The Complete Entertainer
- Clark Gable The King of Hollywood
- Gregory Peck
- Grace Kelly, Beautiful Serenity
Classic Hollywood Movies
- 42nd Street, Musical Genius
A behind the scenes musical story of life on Broadway. It was nominated for a Best Picture Oscar and features Busby Berkeley's fantastic choreography and production design. It is fast moving, refreshing and a sheer joy to watch.
- Citizen Kane, Movie Masterclass
The world's most famous and highly-rated film, with many remarkable scenes and innovative cinematic techniques. Its director, star, and producer were all the same remarkable genius - Orson Welles - who was making his film debut at the age of 25.
- Casablanca, You Must Remember This
Its as near to perfection as you can get with a film. Placed at the top or near the top of every list of Great Movies and universally loved. Great story, fizzing chemistry between Bogart and Ingrid Bergmann, wonderful music, and unforgettable ending.
- It's a Wonderful Life, Its a Wonderful Film
One of the most popular American films of all-time and a perennial holiday favorite, It's A Wonderful Life is one of the most popular and heartwarming films ever made by James Stewart and director Frank Capra.
- The Wizard of Oz
The Wizard of Oz is a classic, much loved film musical and is generally ranked among the top ten best movies of all-time. Its signature song, "Over the Rainbow," which was almost cut from the film as being too sophisticated for the teenaged Judy Garl
The title Song
Make 'em Laugh
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Hollywood's Golden Age.com
- Hollywood's Golden Age
Unique profile and information site about the actors, the actresses, the directors and the great films they made in Hollywood's Golden Age.
- Singin' in the Rain
From 'Hollywood's Golden Age.com', a short description and appreciation of the film.
Susette Horspool from Pasadena CA on September 30, 2012:
Cool analysis. I'm linking this to my hub about water as a theme in music. I think my readers would be interested. Thanks for writing it!
kimfaner from Makati, Philippines on February 02, 2011:
wonderful hub! i love this movie!
AJHargrove from USA on June 05, 2010:
They got some really great cast members here!
MrMarmalade from Sydney on December 17, 2007:
I very willingly endorse the film
We both loved it
gunsock (author) from South Coast of England on December 17, 2007:
Thanks for the compliment Vickey. Yes I used to take these musicals for granted. Not now. I can really appreciate the breathtaking skill.
VickeyK on December 17, 2007:
Excellent hub! With such fond memories of the movie seen on Saturday afternoons, I'd forgotten how incredible the dancing was. Seeing it in clips really drives it home.