I’ve mentioned before how I don’t really go in for musicals except for the obvious classics such as Grease (1978) or Little Shop of Horrors (1986). Having said that I’ve recently enjoyed the likes of Mary Poppins (1964), The Sound of Music (1965), and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968); I must be going soft in my old age. However, I did not expect to enjoy Singin’ in the Rain as much as I did.
Set at the fulcrum of movie history when “talkies” becomes a reality, Singin’ in the Rain is really about how lives in the business were affected by this momentous event. Initially Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are the belles of the silver screen with their glamourous relationship echoed on screen in their romantic roles. Except it’s all fake, Don and Lina are not together and their “relationship” is all a show for the media (think Katniss and Peeta but without the political implications).
Don has particular animosity for Lina because she has such a squeaky voice and an unrefined accent. Of course this doesn’t matter at all in silent films (as long as Don does all the public speaking); but enter the world of the talkies and enter Kathy (Debbie Reynolds – love interest with a voice for the talkies), and everything changes.
Besides the interesting plot and some of the classic songs, what really makes Singin’ in the Rain is Gene Kelly’s dancing along with his childhood friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor). Sure some of the scenes are contrived but the choreography and inventiveness is incredible. Quite frequently I was put in mind of Buster Keaton the dancing was so frenetic and amazing.
I don’t really know anything of Gene Kelly, but given that he was one of the directors of this movie as well as the dance choreographer he was clearly a talented bloke. But it’s not just the singing and dancing, a lot of it is framed and lit beautifully by Harold Rosson, and the camera movement during the frenetic dancing is very smooth.
Almost 65 years on and Singin’ in the Rain remains timeless, a real classic, not only because it tells of an important point in movie history (in that way it almost sits alongside Cinema Paradiso (1988) or Hugo (2011)), but because of the empathy we feel for the characters, and of course because of some tremendous dance numbers. But, you know, that’s just, like, my opinion man.