Singin’ in the Rain Re:tro Re:view!

Jondee here at Monumental Pictures,

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Today was the Special 65th Anniversary Event showing of Singin’ in the Rain (1952) at Fathom theaters. It had two showings, 2 and 7 p.m., and will also screen on Wednesday, January 18th so don’t miss it! There was a short introduction by Ben Mankiewicz, host of Turner Classic Movies. It is especially meaningful since Debbie Reynolds had a breakout role with this film. The film was co-directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen also with choreography by them. The story and screenplay was by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, cleverly constructed, respecting Hollywood and musicals and poking fun at them. The film has taken legendary status, but was virtually ignored by the Academy Awards, another reason why they are not a legitimate awards body. It is an MGM musical and if you are unfamiliar with them, they are the first name in movie musicals. It’s kinda like Marvel with superhero films, there are other companies making superhero films, but they are not Marvel Studios. If you don’t understand musicals, it is not merely characters breaking into song, it is entertainment, singing and dancing, to make you feel good. The film starts off with the leads all in yellow raincoats singing the title song. Then we get the movie premiere of The Royal Rascal, a black and white silent film, this is 1926. The stars arrive and the crowd is excited until the arrival of musician Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor). Then, the stars of the film, Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen). Don is pressed about his story and goes into flashback.

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Don and Cosmo were a duo, first thrown out of a pool hall, then trying a vaudeville act, they burst with “Fit as a Fiddle (And Ready for Love)” while Don relates a more polished version of the events stressing Dignity while we see the opposite. It is clear that in whatever condition, Gene Kelly has the movie star charisma with a winning smile. They move into Hollywood, Monumental Pictures, during a Western scene an actors is knocked out and Don takes his place. He takes the punch and flips backwards smashing into the bar mirror. He moves his way into Hollywood graces, Don introduces himself to leading lady, Lina, but she has contempt for stuntmen. This suddenly turn into interest when Don is made a leading man. Back to the movie premiere, the actors go on stage to take their bows and Don is careful to interrupt Lina. Afterwards, we find that Lina has a grating Brooklyn accent. Don is driven by Cosmo, but they get a flat, his fans rip his jacket and he takes off leaping on a streetcar. Don jumps into an empty seat next to a startled Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). Kathy is so innocent, spunky, and of course incredibly talented. She is frightened by him, thinking he is a gangster, but a police officer recognizes the famous Don Lockwood. Kathy says that she doesn’t really see pictures and prefers Broadway. Don is seriously disheartened by what she thinks of him, not as an actor, but a performer. He stops at a tailor to get a new tux. Kathy drives by herself to the Coconut Club, a party thrown by the head of Monumental Pictures, R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell) for The Royal Rascal. Cosmo is there trying to help Don get some confidence. Lina is there convinced by publicity that she is engaged to Don. R.F. shows everyone the coming thing, an example of a talkie, synchronized picture and sound! Everyone is unimpressed even with the upcoming first talkie, The Jazz Singer (1927). A cake is rolled out and out pops Kathy who goes into a dance number with other dancing girls, “All I Do Is Dream of You.” Don is overjoyed at seeing Kathy, but she gets so angry she picks up a pie and throws it – at Lina!

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Two weeks have passed, Don is depressed trying to find Kathy, Cosmo picks up his spirits with the classic “Make `Em Laugh” sequence. Mankiewicz noted that O’Connor was hospitalized after the number, due to his four pack a day smoking habit. He was so funny in this one film that I took interest in his other films. Cosmo is a comic voice, but not miffed at being brushed to the side. Don has a scene with Lina, and finds out that she had Kathy fired! R.F. closes production to make The Dueling Cavalier into a talkie. Cosmo has found Kathy working as an extra on the lot and Don brings her to an empty stage to sing to her, “You Were Meant for Me.” Lina can’t change her accent even with a dialogue coach. Don has fun with his dialogue coach in a wacky musical number, “Moses”, with Cosmo. Lina has constant trouble understanding how to record her voice, I imagine it is the same with actors and green screen now, her part is comical, but her villainy is a jab at stars influencing studios making films. A preview screening of the film has the audience roaring in laughter at all of the technical problems and Lina’s voice. The picture is a bust, R.F. feels this will put them out of business, but Don, Cosmo, and later Kathy have ideas who to turn around the movie. It is dark at Don’s house and they have the idea to turn it into a musical. This leads to “Good Morning” which features Debbie Reynolds matching Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. A fun number with incredible dancing. This can only be topped Gene Kelly’s showstopper, the title song, I knew it once he had the umbrella. He burst into a song, he doesn’t care about the rain, because Kathy’s love fills him with such joy. There is also an extended sequence that is almost surreal with the “Broadway Melody” sequence including a dance with Cyd Charisse. Kathy is happy helping Don make the picture and not ambitious. Also, R.F. seems like a fantasy version of a studio head; helpful, on a creative level with the talent, and not worried about costs, but he wants true talent. This is one of the finest musicals of any time!, Five Umbrellas out of Five!

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