A Musical with a Story.
Some of the numbers are a bit lame, but the story, acting and sets are intriguing enough to make up for the boring parts.
American Film Institute Ranking: #10/100
Academy Awards: Nominated for two – Supporting Actress & Original Music Score
The story’s iconic scene with Gene Kelly has been burned into the collective consciousness of Americana, but what about the rest of the movie?
Singing in the Rain pairs an interesting story with some solid musical numbers to be a pretty good film. While some of the lulls can be quite treacherous to get through, there is usually enough interesting things on screen, whether talent, clothing, set, or cinematography to make it bearable.
[spoilers/story.] Set in the late 1920s, Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are silent movie star phenoms. They pretend to be in a romantic relationship to make their onscreen life even more popular. The Problem is Lina starts to think it is more real than pretend. Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Conner) has been with Don since the beginning, and is on hand during the premier of their next film The Royal Rascal.
To avoid Lina after the premier, Don escapes into the car of Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). Not one to be schmoozed by a hollywood actor, Kathy makes fun of his performances and insinuates he has no talent. Don later appears at a party celebrating his premier movie to only have Kathy show up as one of the chorus girl, getting the next laugh at someone who had just sneered at him as an undignified actor. At this party, the guests are able to see the new technology of a “talking picture.” The guests, including Don, think it is just a fad.
Lina, being jealous of the attention Kathy is garnering from Don, gets her fired. This infuriates Don who has been tracking her down for weeks. Making matters worse, The Jazz Singer, a talking picture, is a box office hit. Don’s studio closes to revamp to update their sets to be able to film this new type of movie. Unfortunately, Don and Lina aren’t cut out to be talking picture actors: Don doesn’t have the right delivery and Lina’s voice is nails on a chalkboard.
After a bomb of a premier for their first talking movie, the crew comes up with the idea of turning the film into a musical with Kathy talking over Lina’s lines with singing. The crew gets to work, trying to save all of their careers.
While this movie is a musical, it brings a lot of other vibrancy to the film. The scene above with the painted clouds, the lavender lights, and the industrial fans creating wind and smog is absolutely captivating. I can’t recall the musical number that went with the scene, but it doesn’t matter: the stage is enough to get you sucked in.
There is a long musical number near the end about broadway — quite frankly, it seemed out of place and not powerfully written. But once again: it doesn’t matter. The sets, the actors and the fill-ins are so magical on their owns that they can carry through the duller musical numbers in this movie.
As far as the good numbers:
There is an immense playfulness about this movie, and I find that its most enjoyable quality. The three leads are electric and worthy of their screen time. Cosmos, even though he is the third wheel, is immensely talented and fun to watch:
If some of the variables were different, I’m not sure I could have enjoyed this film due to the uneven musical numbers. Thankfully, you have a talented cast, a movie set in the 20s about the 50s making it somewhat historical, and beautiful scene and costume work coming all together to make one of the more memorable musicals of all time.
Other People’s Take:
- Hometowns to Hollywood: “Half a century later, this film continues to enchant audiences the world over.”
- Journeys in Classic Film: “This is the Gene Kelly performance that trumps them all and rightfully so.”
- Reel Reader: “It doesn’t need to tackle serious subject matter to be worthy of my tastes.”