I have a certain love for older movies, such as John Hughes’ coming-of-age 80s brat-pack flick (The Breakfast Club, 16 Candles), old hollywood 50s-60s (Hepburn’s Breakfast At Tiffany, Charade, and Sabrina; Monroe’s Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot), or the occasional silent black and white. That being said, let me introduce you to what i think is my ultimate go-to movie, 1952 comedy musical, Singin’ In The Rain.
The movie is set in the late 20s, the starting point of the transition between silent movie era to the talkies. A very similar theme to 2011 The Artist by Michel Hazanavicius that won big in the 84th Academy Awards (also my personal fave to be honest), its that turning point where the movie industry then were having split argument, whether to go into the talkies or believe its just gonna be another vulgar trend that will be forgotten soon. Both movie involves a charming hollywood megastar complete with their hoards of adoring fans, they are well placed in their society, and both fall in love with this new girl in their life, who aspired to be an actress. Of course the similarities ends there. While Jean DuJardin’s George Valentin believed that The Talkies is just a passing trends (and boy did that leave him crash and burn?), Gene Kelly’s Don Lockwood is embracing the new technology and excited about the improvement to the world of cinema.
Gene Kelly stars as a brilliant hardworking actor Don Lockwood, accompanied by his best friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor), maybe because he had to work hard for his current position now (as depicted in the first 15 minutes of the movie), he become this dazzlingly charming actor who knows how good he is, and yet still very humble. He was coerced into this faux romantic relationship (for the sake of publicity by the studio, what else) with his cocky leading lady, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen). Jean is your stereotypical visually appealing but klutzy actress and abysmal behaviour.
When the technology to incorporate talking sounds using Vitaphone is invented and one of the first talkies movie came out (1927’s The Jazz Singer) response was very encouraging that other studios, the Monumental Pictures studio included, intended to turn their silent movies into talkies, including Lockwood and Lamont latest picture. The challenge was not simple. To adapt with new technology the actress and actors need to learn how to speak properly (thus they had a diction coach) and filming crew need to adjust to the technology (such as: where to put the mike?), but that was not even the big problem. Lina Lamont, being a vision of beauty, sadly are not perfect, her voice are absurdly high-pitch and ridiculous, did not match her visual appeal. And yes, a test screen proves with that kind of voice (and several other minor glitch) what supposed to be a dramatic love story became an obvious hilarity. Here, little Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) become a breathe of fresh air to Don Lockwood’s life. Becoming his personal love interest and might just be the little trick that gonna save his movie.
Singin’ In The Rain is frequently described as one of the best musical ever made and currently sitting on the top rank of American Film Institute Greatest Movie Musical as well as coming in 5th in their 2007 100th Years Anniversary ranking of America’s Greatest Films. After the huge success of the movie, came the broadway adaptation that adheres very closely to the original. This musical was originated in the early 80s and still have a revival in 2012 (sadly no one made the recording of the musical yet, which i would love to see! ..yes this and Wicked please!!).
Singin’ In The Rain is such an easy movie… by easy i meant effortlessly simple yet entertaining! The movie did well in the box office, but apparently it did not impress the critics nor getting any accolades (according to film historian Ron Haver as quoted by Roger Ebert). Only later did it garnered people attention. I think it really is a great hollywood musical since it is actually, well, about hollywood (another point similar to The Artist). The movie plot might be simple and the premise are predictable, but it was done so right and supported by a very strong casts with chemistry so strong it drips off of screen.
One thing you’d notice about this movie is how funny this movie actually is. Even the beginning where Don described the way he and Cosmo grew up in an ironic narrative, you can see how entertaining the movie gonna be. My favorite part was actually the filming of The Dueling Cavalier, when Lockwood and Lumont were shooting silent movie where they supposed to be helplessly in love and romantic, while in reality both of them are having an argument. Well to be honest, all the scene where they were shooting is hilarious because of the high-strung Director! Gene Kelly definitely a strong actor with his magnitude of charm and Debbie Reynolds is so adorable and endearing, it was Donald O’Connor as Cosmo Brown that was the comic relief here, his lines are brilliant and that face, Jim Carrey could to learn a thing or two from him! His solo of Make ’em Laugh is one of the most memorable from the movie, where he suddenly break into this song and moved around the movie set like an energizer bunny. This signature song and choreography sequence is becoming a pop culture reference and has been re-done repeatedly over the years, including in an episode of animated tv series Family Guy, on Glee by Matthew Morrison and Harry Shum Jr, and by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt when he host Saturday Night Live (it was awesomesauce really).
The musical number adapted from various musical sources. With diverse variety from the simply entertaining and smart Moses Supposes which incorporated into a scene where Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor is learning some tongue twisters during the diction class; the lovely Beautiful Girl; the high spirited Good Morning; the ever so entertaining Make ‘Em Laugh and the signature Singin’ In The Rain. The song “Singin’ In The Rain” was actually created as early as 1929 (some speculates 1927) and it was part of The Hollywood Revue 1929, which was actually one of the first MGM talkies. Three of the songs featured in this movie made it to the America’s Film Institute 100 Greatest Song with Good Morning (#72), Make ‘Em Laugh (#49), and Singin’ In The Rain (#3)
A good classic can transcends time, either in Black and White or Technicolor, Singin’ In The Rain becomes one of the most captivating and entertaining musical in the history. This movie is also part of The Criterion Collection in Laser Disc format with the spine number #052 and this year (July 17 2012) as a part of its 60 Years Anniversary, it is released in BluRay format. Limited Edition Collector Box Set with BluRay/DVD combo is also available (i hope i’d be lucky enough to get my hand on this *fingers cross*)
All pictures in this post came from IMDB and google image searches :D