As stated in the Top Hat review, looking at a film through the lens of academia is bound to make the luster and the sheen of the movie dull a bit. Singin’ in the Rain is no exception. Released in 1952, the film eventually became the seminal musical of all time. Starring Debbie Reynolds in her first major role alongside Jean Hagen, Gene Kelly, and Donald O’Connor, Singin’ in the Rain is a fantastical look at the beginning of talking pictures and the lengths studios went to make talkies.
Kelly and Hagen play Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, Monumental Pictures’ most famous silent film duo. The two are always in romantic films together but Don hates Lina. Lina, on the other hand, thinks that Don is head over heels in love with her. In comes Kathy Selden (Reynolds), a dancer at the Coconut Grove who meets Don when he literally drops into her car on the way to a premiere after being mobbed by adoring fans. Kathy rebuffs Don’s charms and Don is smitten with her because of that reason, but she disappears when she accidentally hits Lina in the face with a pie at a party.
After The Jazz Singer is released to critical and commercial and popular acclaim, Monumental is forced to halt production on their films to convert all their film sets to talking pictures. Following a rather obnoxious musical/tableaux performance called “Beautiful Girls,” Don and Kathy reunite and fall in love but the story doesn’t focus on their relationship so much as it does focus on Don and Cosmo Brown’s (O’Connor) friendship which is really the star of the movie. Despite that, the show must go on and after a disastrous movie preview, Don, Kathy, and Cosmo decide to make a musical and the film focuses on the hilarious journey to make a film called The Dueling Cavalier into The Dancing Cavalier instead.
Cosmo is the comedic relief of Singin’ in the Rain and his relationship with Don is hilarious and heartfelt and a lovely exploration of guys being best buds and performing buddies without all the modern Hollywood machismo. Not only that but O’Connor and Kelly’s on-screen chemistry is far more palpable than Kelly and Reynolds’ chemistry. It’s little wonder that Kelly and Reynolds didn’t star in another film together after this film. It was obvious that they didn’t get along and a lot of that comes from the fact that Reynolds, being new in Hollywood, didn’t live up to Kelly’s standards.
Hagen as Lamont was given the short end of the stick. Poor Lina got dumped on throughout the entire film and the writers don’t do much to really give her a fair shot. In the end, it’s obvious that her career is ruined but after the final premiere scene where Lina is exposed as a fraud, nothing else is said about her and she really is the most interesting character of the movie besides Cosmo. Hagen brings a fantastic wit to Lina and her voice is one of the best voices I’ve heard in a character before. (Fun fact: If you want to hear Hagen’s actual voice, she does the dubbing scenes in The Dancing Cavalier, not Reynolds as you’re meant to believe.)
The music is great. The musical numbers are infectious and memorable, even if a few are memorable for all the wrong reasons, like “Broadway Melody” which lasted a ridiculous 13 minutes. However, “Singin’ In the Rain” and “Make ‘Em Laugh” and the other songs are just so wonderful, I dare you to watch this film and not sing one or both of them at least once. They’re definite earworms that you won’t be able to get out of your head.
Singin’ in the Rain is just one of those feel-good movies that infect your soul and bring you joy. At least, it does for me. Kelly, O’Connor, Hagen, and Reynolds bring the characters to life with such humor and wit, you’ll almost forget you’re watching a classic musical. It also holds up to the films and musicals of today. So much so that La La Land was inspired by Singin’ in the Rain. It’s no surprise that despite the fact that there are problems with the film, it has become such a beloved masterpiece.
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