Very likely the greatest musical MGM or anyone else ever produced, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN has everything--great songs, great dances, a wonderful, nostalgic story, and a dependable cast, although we're beginning to find Kelly and O'Connor a trifle overanimated in scenes they needn't be (butthen whenever we see the talented yet obsequious Mr. Kelly play modest, we get a strange olfactory sensation--that of ham baking). It's admittedly directed (by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen) with a dazzling pace equal to the speed-crazy era the film profiles, the Roaring Twenties. Asked to create a
story that would tie together numbers from the best of MGM's musical output, many of which were penned by Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, screenwriters Adolph Green and Betty Comden found that some of the finest of those tunes appeared in films made during the transition from silents to
talkies, and so they decided to focus their tale on that dynamic period when new stars replaced old; bright, shiny faces took the places of heavily rouged vamps and mascared lotharios.
As the film opens in 1927, dashing Don Lockwood (Kelly) and blonde bombshell Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are one of Hollywood's favorite romantic teams, though Lina mistakenly believes their on-screen love is for real. Don and his less famous former partner, song-and-dance man Cosmo Brown (Donald
O'Connor), have worked their way to the top the hard way (vaudeville, stuntwork, etc.), and when THE JAZZ SINGER changes the cinematic rules, making a pleasant voice a necessity, Don is ready. Not so Lina, whose shrill voice makes a mockery of the musical their most recent film has been
transformed into, despite the best efforts of a stuffy diction coach which are wonderfully lampooned by Don and Cosmo in "Moses Supposes" (written by Comden and Green and Roger Edens). Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds, who makes a great flapper--like UNSINKABLE MOLLY BROWN, here's a character with
Reynolds's energy level), an aspiring "serious" actress whose life Don enters quite unexpectedly and with whom he falls in love, saves the film when her voice is dubbed for Lina's (ironically, Reynolds's own singing was looped by frequent MGM musical contributor Betty Noyes--her own voice hadn't much training yet). Although it
seems at first that Kathy is destined to remain behind the scenes indefinitely, the film's ending sees to it that fair is fair as true love triumphs.
Contributing some of the most captivating choreography ever filmed, Kelly, more than anyone, is responsible for the delightful ambience of this spectacular musical. His tour de force dance to the classic title song (which first appeared in HOLLYWOOD REVUE OF 1929) alone makes the film a must-see;
bounding through a rain-clogged street, swinging around a lamppost, splashing and jumping in joy over having fallen in love with Kathy, he creates one of the cinema's most unforgettable moments. Nearly as engaging are the hilarious, highly energized comic dance O'Connor performs with props and
sets on a soundstage to "Make 'Em Laugh" and the marvelous "Broadway Ballet" sequence with a wonderful guest appearance by surly Cyd Charisse and her "crazy veil," a 25-foot long piece of white China silk that streamed about her, kept afloat by three airplane motors whirring off-camera. This
sequence took a month to rehearse, two weeks to shoot, and cost $600,000, almost a fifth of the overall budget of this superlative musical, one of the most popular films ever. Look for Madge Blake as a saccharine sob sister columnist and Rita Moreno as a flapper actress.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: Very likely the greatest musical MGM or anyone else ever produced, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN has everything--great songs, great dances, a wonderful, nostalgic story, and a dependable cast, although we're beginning to find Kelly and O'Connor a trifle overanimated… (more)