Singin' in the Rain
(United States, 1952)
Singin' in the Rain wasn't the first movie musical I saw, but it was the film that began my love affair with the genre. I can recall that, as a child, I rolled my eyes in boredom every time The Sound of Music came on television. Raised on rock and disco, that kind of music wasn't for me. Then, one Saturday afternoon when I had nothing better to do (I believe I was confined to bed by a fever), I ended up watching Singin' in the Rain on television, and, much to my surprise, I enjoyed it. Years later, when the movie received a limited theatrical run for its 40th anniversary, I had the opportunity to see it on the big screen, and its status blossomed from that of a pleasant childhood memory to one of the most enjoyable cinematic experiences of my life. The version currently available on DVD features a restored print that replaces the degraded, washed-out visuals of recent years with crisp Technicolor ones, making it possible to experience Singin' in the Rain as the filmmakers intended.
Plot Summary (Spoilers Possible):
Singin' in the Rain takes us back to the late 1920s, when the film industry was abandoning silent films in favor of talkies. Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are the darlings of the silver screen. They are so often paired romantically in movies that fans are convinced that their relationship extends beyond theaters. Lina, who isn't the brightest bulb in the package, in under the same impression – because she read it somewhere. Don, on the other hand, has little use for Lina except as a co-star. This is especially true once he meets and falls for the demure Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), a chorus line girl who is Lina's opposite in almost every way that matters. Then The Jazz Singer opens, and Hollywood is turned upside down. Monumental Pictures honcho R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell) decides that he needs an instant non-silent hit, so who better to turn to than his most reliable stars, Lockwood & Lamont? Unfortunately, Lina's voice is unsuitable to be heard (think of Lauren Bacall on helium), and Don still uses all of the grand, overstated gestures of the silent era. Consequently, test audiences laugh The Dueling Cavalier off the screen. Don is dejected, but his best friend, Cosmo (Donald O'Connor), and Kathy help him arrive at a solution – turn The Dueling Cavalier into The Dancing Cavalier, a musical comedy. Kathy will dub Lina's voice, and Lockwood & Lamont will be able to transition to the talkie era. Of course, things don't turn out to be as simple as they sound. Lina wants her voice to be heard, the actors have trouble remembering where the microphones are, and R.F. makes a bargain with the devil. But all's well that ends well, with Don and Kathy singing and dancing into the sunset together.
Singin' in the Rain is considered by many people to be among the best Hollywood musicals of all time. For those who have seen the movie, the reason for this is not difficult to understand. Watching Singin' in the Rain is an exuberant, magical experience – a journey deep into the heart of feel-good territory. Sitting through the film is like ingesting a mood-altering drug. It's the perfect antidote to the blues and the blahs, and a way to bolster, enhance, and extend a natural high. Time has been good to Singin' in the Rain, and, with the passage of years, audiences have grown to appreciate this as one of the most spellbinding examples of pure cinematic entertainment ever to unspool in a projector. For those who love musicals, nothing beats spending two hours in the company of Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds.
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