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SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) - The Essentials

Thursday January, 22 2015 at 08:00 PM

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SYNOPSIS

Don Lockwood is a famous silent screen star that stars in swashbuckling adventures. His latest venture is The Dueling Cavalier in which he stars opposite Lina Lamont, one of the most glamorous actresses in movies. For publicity purposes they pretend to be romantically involved in their personal lives but, in reality, Don has his eye on Kathy Selden, a chorus girl he met at a film premiere party. When Don's studio boss, R. F. Simpson, decides to turn The Dueling Cavalier into a talking picture, they experience some major problems, particularly with Ms. Lamont whose voice is laughable. Luckily, Don and his buddy, Cosmo Brown, come up with the perfect solution for their temperamental leading lady. They hire Kathy Selden to talk and sing for Ms. Lamont who only has to lip-synch to the words. It's a great plan but it doesn't proceed very smoothly due to Don and Kathy's budding romance which drives Lina to jealous extremes.

Producer: Arthur Freed
Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Screenplay: Betty Comden, Adolph Green
Art Direction: Randall Duell, Cedric Gibbons
Cinematography: Harold Rosson
Costume Design: Walter Plunkett
Editing: Adrienne Fazan
Original Music: Nacio Herb Brown, Lennie Hayton
Lyrics: Arthur Freed
Choreography: Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen (uncredited)
Cast: Gene Kelly (Don Lockwood), Donald O'Connor (Cosmo Brown), Debbie Reynolds (Kathy Selden), Jean Hagen (Lina Lamont), Millard Mitchell (R.F. Simpson), Cyd Charisse (Dancer), Douglas Fowley (Roscoe Dexter), Rita Moreno (Zelda Zanders).
C-103m. Closed captioning. Descriptive Video.

Why Singin' in the Rain is Essential

For many critics and fans,Singin' in the Rain is simply the finest musical ever made. And they may be right. Everyone was at the top of their game on this film from the choreographers to the co-directors to the actors to the songwriters. Singin' in the Rain epitomizes everything that made the musical genre such an exciting form of entertainment during the heyday of the studio era. It's also a great cure for the blues. Take a look at Singin' in the Rain and the clouds will disappear, every time.

While the film is chock full of musical highlights, Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain" number is the genuine showstopper. Regarding his immortal solo number, Kelly later commented, quite graciously and modestly, on what made the scene work so well: "The concept was so simple I shied away from explaining it to the brass at the studio in case I couldn't make it sound worth doing. The real work for this one was done by the technicians who had to pipe two city blocks on the backlot with overhead sprays, and the poor cameraman who had to shoot through all that water. All I had to do was dance." The technicians' efforts are all the more remarkable since there was a severe water shortage in Culver City, California, the day the sequence was shot. Singin' in the Rain (1952) rang up a final price tag of $2,540,800, $157,000 of which went to Walter Plunkett's costumes alone. Although the final price overshot MGM's budget by $665,000, the studio quickly realized the wisdom of their investment when the film returned a $7.7 million return upon its initial release.

Gene Kelly was at his peak in Singin' in the Rain and not only poked fun at himself as a swashbuckling matinee idol but also served as co-director and choreographer with Stanley Donen during production. Kelly first made a name for himself in the film industry with Cover Girl (1944) in which he revolutionized the Hollywood musical with his innovative and free-flowing dance routines. He topped that success with an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in Anchors Aweigh (1945) but he really hit his stride with On the Town (1949), the first of three successful collaborations with director Stanley Donen. While there are many other high points in Kelly's later career - An American in Paris (1951), It's Always Fair Weather (1955), and Invitation to the Dance (1956), Singin' in the Rain will probably remain his signature film. Danny Peary, in his book Cult Movies, wrote "I believe that the secret to the picture's greatness is that Kelly, the star, the co-director, willingly shared his picture with his costars. It is not by mere chance that Reynolds, O'Connor, and Hagen have never been better. True, Kelly takes many moments in the limelight, dancing up a storm and turning in a fine, self-parodying (hammy, conceited, smiling) comedic performance. Yet he allows Jean Hagen ample opportunity to walk away with the acting actors."

The role of the ditzy movie diva Lina Lamont was written with Judy Holliday in mind. Holliday was a close personal friend of Betty Comden and Adolph Green and the married couple even modeled the character on routines they had worked up with Holliday back when they were part of a satirical group called The Revuers in New York. But timing was everything and the idea of casting Holliday was vetoed after she hit it big in Born Yesterday (1950). Everyone figured she'd be uninterested in the supporting part but, as it turned out, the lovely Jean Hagen, Holliday's understudy on Broadway for Born Yesterday, got the part.

Debbie Reynolds was only 19 when she was cast as Kathy Selden in Singin' in the Rain. Her relative inexperience in musicals concerned the MGM brass, but Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen convinced the executives that the pert young starlet could hold her ground. Reynolds always stated that Kelly and Donen really didn't want her either because she was not a good enough dancer. But Donen maintains that the co-directors wanted her from the very beginning, even though Judy Garland and June Allyson were once considered as possibilities. Reynolds later remarked that she was "being thrown to the lions." But since she was planning to be a gymnastics instructor, Reynolds was already a natural athlete, and a hard worker. She abandoned the physical fitness field though after being discovered by a talent agent at a beauty contest in Burbank, California.

The character of Cosmo Brown, played by Donald O'Connor, was penned with songwriter and pianist Oscar Levant in mind. But once Gene Kelly became involved in the project, effectively turning the film from a strictly song-centered film to one that emphasized dancing, it was agreed that Donald O'Connor was a better choice for the part. O'Connor's background in the circus (his father was an acrobat for Ringling Brothers and his mother was a tightrope walker) enabled him to bring an immeasurable athleticism to his part. But while O'Connor matched Gene Kelly step for step, he also suffered physically for his art, just like co-star Debbie Reynolds. For the "Make 'em Laugh" number, Kelly asked O'Connor to revive a trick he had done as a young dancer, running up a wall and completing a somersault. The number was so physically taxing that O'Connor, who was smoking four packs of cigarettes a day at the time, went to bed for a week after its completion, suffering from exhaustion and painful carpet burns. Unfortunately, an accident ruined all of the initial footage so after a brief rest, O'Connor, ever the professional, agreed to do the difficult number all over again.

Cyd Charisse, who plays Gene Kelly's dancing partner in the "Broadway Ballet" number, had studied ballet in Los Angeles with Adolph Bolm and Bronislawa Nijinska, and then danced with Ballets Russes under the name of Siderova. After World War II, she was given a dancing role in Gregory Ratoff's Something to Shout About (1943). This role brought her to the attention of choreographer Robert Alton and she was soon hired by Arthur Freed to be the resident ballet dancer at MGM.

by Scott McGee VIEW TCMDb ENTRY

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