Singin in the Rain (1952) is one of the all time great movies about the movies, as well as being a fantastic musical. I am not the biggest fan of musicals, but there is an undeniable joy about this film and the song & dance numbers that populate it are impossible not to love.
The film charts that incredible revolutionary time in the film industry as it stumbled from the sound era to the era of the ‘talkie’. In real life there were artists who seamlessly made this transition like Charlie Chaplin as well as those who found this change a hard one to master for various reasons, like his close contemporary Buster Keaton. Singin in the Rain follows Gene Kelly’s Don Lockwood, a stuntman turned huge silent star as he struggles to move into this brave new world. Joining him for the ride are his newfound love interest ‘every girl’ Kathy Seldon played by Debbie Reynolds and his hilarious, all singing all dancing offsider Cosmo Brown played by Donald O’Connor.
It is a simple story well told, populated by great songs and great characters. The script does lag a little through the centre, especially when developing the central romance, but one of the good things about a musical is that a fantastic song can ratchet things back up a few levels and make you forget about all of that – something this film does on numerous occasions. The musical aspects of the film are nicely complemented by a rich vein of humour, especially for film fans. Try not to adore a scene where Kelly’s Lockwood is shooting a love scene for a silent film, whilst talking shit to his co-star who he cannot stand. Brilliant.
The performance by Debbie Reynolds is one of my favourites in all of film. She is brilliant, with her initial rapid fire dialogue putting the egotistical star Don Lockwood in his place. As good as the other two leads are, and they are very good, for me Reynolds steals the show with her charisma and ability to make the audience care very deeply about what happens to her character. As nice as the love story between Reynolds’ Kathy and Kelly’s Don is, the nicest relationship is that between Don and his best mate Cosmo. The early flashback sequence showing them rising up the ranks from dancing for coins in drinking dens, to vaudeville, all the way to Hollywood; instantly creates their lifelong bond that runs throughout the whole film. Both Kelly and O’Connor are wonderful dancers and bring an incredible verve to their routines. Individually O’Connor is an incredible physical, acting and singing talent, with his “Make em Laugh” routine possibly my favourite moment throughout the film. But there are a whole bunch of really fantastic songs that will be stuck in your head long after the film finishes. There is however one really major misstep in this regard, at least for me. It is the interminably long Broadway Medley Ballet sequence which is frankly absurdly out of place in this otherwise well structured narrative. This inexplicable sequence does cruel a lot of the film’s momentum, but luckily enough, the upbeat ending more than makes up for it.
I think that if you are not a huge fan of musicals or someone you know is not, Singin in the Rain is a great place to start. Full of classic songs throughout, despite the occasional scripting misstep, Singin in the Rain comfortably sits in the realm of classic films. Predominately due to the wonderful central performances of Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor.
Verdict: Pint of Kilkenny
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Great review. Love this one. One of my favorite musicals. One of my favorite movies, period. The three lead actors were fantastic, and so was the dumb-blonde/whiny actress. So funny. The titular scene is such a classic. Gene Kelly was an incredible talent. Agree with that Broadway Medley Ballet sequence, though.
Yeah you are right, that lady is amazing in a pretty unlikeable part.