What a glorious feeling! Singin’ in the Rain, the 1952 musical starring Gene Kelly, is one not to be missed. Those who have seen the magnificent The Artist will no doubt draw many comparisons, but do remember Singin’ in the Rain was here first in beautiful Technicolor.
The musical is set in 1927 where two silent film stars Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are the most famous in the country. Everyone falls for their on-screen romance, however the story is very different in real life. Lamont has a face of Hollywood beauty but sadly the character and voice of a shrill girl and mistakenly thinks on screen love is real love, with her leading man being played by the always charismatic and handsome Gene Kelly. Further complications are thrown into the mix when Lockwood happens by chance to meet Kathy Seldon (Debbie Reynolds) who has a face like Grace Kelly and girl next door charm. She’s a bright spark who puts Don’s actor ego into place, making him question whether he is an actor at all.
The romance in the film isn’t even really the leading story – it all focuses on the end of the silent movie era and the introduction of the ‘talkies’. R.F (Millard Mitchell), the head of the film studio, is having a crisis as new talkie The Jazz Singer is earning all the money. He must move his films and his silent movie actors forwards. After a disastrous preview of The Duelling Cavalier it quickly becomes clear that a face for film doesn’t go hand in hand with a voice for film. It’s here that Lockwood’s best friend Cosmo, brilliantly played by Donald O’Connor, comes up with the idea of turning the film into a musical and dubbing Lamont’s voice with Seldon’s. Does everything go according to plan? It’s best to watch and find out.
Everything about this film is enjoyable including the plot, the characters, the musical numbers and, of course, the dancing. Kelly is more of a dancer than a singer but is still strong in all the musical numbers. Always seen as a very different dancer from the likes of Fred Astaire, Kelly was more of an ‘everyman’ with what he wore and how he performed. Every step is perfect and all played out with a smile on his face, oozing the Kelly charm and charisma.
One of the best scenes is of course the “Singin’ in the Rain” scene which, according to rumours, Kelly performed in one take while suffering a 103 degree fever. The whole Broadway dream number of “Gotta Dance” is breathtaking and full of relentless constant twists, turns, taps, snaps and vaudeville. The energy fired from Kelly is nothing short of unbelievable.
Donald O’Connor as Cosmo Brown is one of the great characters in this film, his comic one-liners are hilarious and he performs some of the best physical comedy while singing and dancing. His routine on “Make ‘Em Laugh” is outstanding. It’s funny, entertaining and you cannot help but watch him. Look out for the famous Kelly walking up the wall trick as Connor performs this twice in this number… after which he had to be hospitalized and rested for three days due to the physical demands of this number alone.
Debbie Reynolds is simply stunning as Kathy. A very likable and lovable character not only because she gives Don a piece of her mind but because you also end up rooting for her to get the guy. Her dancing is faultless and she is so easily watchable. Jean Hagen who portrays Lina Lamont is funny too, her shrill voice and tones and almost childlike quality are more humorous than annoying.
Overall Singin’ in the Rain is not only a joy to watch but complete escapism to a time when Hollywood was enjoying its golden age. Thoroughly entertaining throughout, it shows that the hard task master that Kelly was proved valuable in creating nothing short of a perfect dance film extravaganza.
Best line: “Finally I start suffering and write that symphony” – Cosmo Brown.
Best performance: Gene Kelly, closely followed by Donald O’Connor