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Singin' in the Rain

Theatrical poster
Directed by Gene Kelly
Stanley Donen
Produced by Arthur Freed
Written by Betty Comden
Adolph Green
Starring Gene Kelly
Donald O'Connor
Debbie Reynolds
Music by Nacio Herb Brown (music)
Arthur Freed (lyrics)
Cinematography Harold Rosson
Editing by Adrienne Fazan
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date(s) March 27, 1952 (1952-03-27)
Running time 103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget US$2,540,800

Singin' in the Rain is a 1952 comedy musical film starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, and Jean Hagen and directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, with Kelly also providing the choreography. It offers a comic depiction of Hollywood, and its transition from silent films to "talkies."

Although it was a big hit when first released, it was not accorded its legendary status by contemporary critics. It is now frequently described as one of the best musicals ever made,[1] topping the AFI's 100 Years of Musicals list, and ranking fifth in its updated list of the greatest American films in 2007.

Contents

Plot summary

Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is a popular silent film star with humble roots as a singer, dancer, and stunt man. Don barely tolerates his vapid, shallow leading lady, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), though their studio, Monumental Pictures, links them romantically to increase their popularity. Lina herself is convinced they are in love, despite Don's protestations otherwise.

One day, to escape from overenthusiastic fans, Don jumps into a passing car driven by Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). She drops him off, but not before claiming to be a stage actress and sneering at his undignified accomplishments. Later, at a party, the head of Don's studio, R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell), shows a short demonstration of a talking picture, but his guests are unimpressed. To Don's amusement and Kathy's embarrassment, she pops out of a mock cake right in front of him as part of the entertainment; Kathy, it turns out, is only a chorus girl. Furious, she throws a real cake at him, only to hit Lina right in the face. Later, after weeks of searching, Don makes up with Kathy after he finds her working in another Monumental Pictures production, and they begin to fall in love.

After a rival studio has an enormous hit with its first talking picture, 1927's The Jazz Singer, R.F. decides he has no choice but to convert the new Lockwood and Lamont film, The Dueling Cavalier, into a talkie. The production is beset with difficulties that reportedly reflect what actually took place during the early days of talking pictures. By far the worst problem is Lina's grating voice. A test screening is a disaster. In one scene, Don repeats the line "I love you" to Lina over and over, to the audience's derisive laughter (a reference to a scene by John Gilbert in his first talkie[2]). Then throughout the movie, the sound went out of synchronization.

Don's best friend, Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor), comes up with the idea to dub Lina's voice with Kathy's, and they persuade R.F. to turn The Dueling Cavalier into a musical called The Dancing Cavalier. When Lina finds out, she is furious and does everything possible to sabotage the romance between Don and Kathy. She becomes even angrier when she discovers that R.F. intends to give Kathy a screen credit and a big publicity promotion. Lina, after consulting lawyers, threatens to sue R.F. unless he cancels Kathy's buildup and orders her to continue working (uncredited) as Lina's voice. R.F. reluctantly agrees to her demands.

The premiere of The Dancing Cavalier is a tremendous success. When the audience clamors for Lina to sing live, Don, Cosmo, and R.F. improvise and get her to lip-synch while Kathy sings into a second microphone while hidden behind the stage curtain. Later, while Lina is "singing," Don, Cosmo and R.F. gleefully open the curtain. When Cosmo replaces Kathy at the microphone, the deception becomes obvious. Lina flees in embarrassment. Kathy tries to run away as well, but Don introduces the audience to "the real star of the film." The final shot shows Kathy and Don in front of a billboard for their new movie, Singin' in the Rain.

Cast

  • Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood. Although his performance in the song Singin' in the Rain is now considered iconic, Kelly was not the first choice for the role—Howard Keel was originally cast. However, Keel was replaced by Kelly as the screenwriters evolved the character from a "Western actor" to a "song-and-dance vaudeville" performer.[2]
  • Debbie Reynolds as Kathy Selden. Early on in production, Judy Garland (shortly before her contract termination from MGM), Kathryn Grayson, Jane Powell, Leslie Caron, and June Allyson were among the names thrown around for the role of the "ingenue." Yet, Director Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly insisted that Debbie Reynolds always was first in their mind for the role.[3] Although the film revolves around the idea that Kathy has to dub over for Lina's voice, even in the talking scenes, it was actually Jean Hagen's normal voice. Reynolds herself was dubbed in "Would You?" and "You are My Lucky Star" by an uncredited Betty Noyes.[4] Also, when Kathy is supposedly dubbing Lina's voice in the live performance of "Singing in the Rain" at the end of the film, Jean Hagen is actually dubbing Reynolds' speaking voice.[5]
  • Donald O'Connor as Cosmo Brown, Don's musical partner and head composer for the studio when talkies took over. The role was based on, and was initially written for, Oscar Levant.
  • Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont. Judy Holliday was strongly considered for the role of Lina, until she suggested Hagen, who had been her understudy in the Broadway production of Born Yesterday. Fresh off her role in The Asphalt Jungle, Hagen read for the part for producer Arthur Freed and did a dead-on impression of Holliday's Billie Dawn character, which won her the role. This character was inspired in part by John Gilbert.
  • Millard Mitchell as R.F. Simpson. The initials of the fictional head of Monumental Pictures are a reference to producer Freed. R.F. also uses one of Freed's favorite expressions when he says that he "cannot quite visualize it" and has to see it on film first, referring to the Broadway ballet sequence, a joke, since the audience has just seen it.
  • Cyd Charisse as Don's dance partner in the "Broadway Melody" ballet.
  • Douglas Fowley as Roscoe Dexter, the Director of Don and Lina's films.
  • Rita Moreno as Zelda Zanders, the "Zip Girl" and Lina's informant friend. Considered to be based on Clara Bow.
  • King Donovan (uncredited) as Rod, head of the publicity department at Monumental Pictures.
  • Judy Landon (uncredited) as Olga Mara, a silent screen vamp who comes to the showing of The Royal Rascal and is present at RF's party. She finds sound film "vulgar" [6] and is considered to be based on Pola Negri and Gloria Swanson.
  • Madge Blake (uncredited) as Dora Bailey, a radio show host.
  • Kathleen Freeman (uncredited) as Phoebe Dinsmore, Lina's diction coach.
  • Betty Noyes (uncredited) as the Singing voice of Kathy Selden.

Songs

Singin' in the Rain was originally conceived by MGM producer Arthur Freed, the head of the "Freed Unit" responsible for turning out MGM's lavish musicals, as a vehicle for his catalog of songs written with Nacio Herb Brown for previous MGM musical films of the 1929-39 period.[7] Screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green contributed lyrics to one new song.[8]

All songs have lyrics by Freed and music by Brown, unless otherwise indicated.[8] Some of the songs, such as "Broadway Rhythm," "Should I?" and most notably "Singin' in the Rain," were featured in numerous films. The films listed below mark the first time each song was presented on screen.

References

In the ending scene when Kathy is dubbing Lina's voice, she tells Lina to say to the orchestra to play the song in A-flat. Actually, the song is played in E-flat.

In an early draft of the script, the musical number "Singin' in the Rain" was to be sung by Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, and Gene Kelly on their way back from the flop preview of The Dueling Cavalier. In addition, "You Were Meant For Me" was not included in that draft. Instead, the love song was supposed to be Gene Kelly's version of "All I Do is Dream of You," which would be sung after the party at R.F. Simpson's house, when Kelly chases after Reynolds. The song would have ended up at Kelly's house. The footage of this scene has been lost. Reynolds' solo rendition of "You Are My Lucky Star" (to a billboard showing an image of Lockwood) was cut from the film, but has survived and is included on the original soundtrack and DVD version of the film.[10] Rita Moreno was originally to have sung I Got a Feelin' You're Foolin', but this ended up being part of the Beautiful Girl montage.

Production

Gene Kelly dancing while singing the title song "Singin' in the Rain"

In the famous dance routine in which Gene Kelly sings the title song while twirling an umbrella, splashing through puddles and getting soaked to the skin, he was actually dancing in water with a little bit of milk added, so that the water puddles and raindrops would show up better on film. Kelly was sick with a 103-degree fever at the time.[11] A common myth is that Kelly managed to perform the entire song in one take, thanks to cameras placed at predetermined locations. However this was not the case as the filming of the sequence took place over 2-3 days.

Debbie Reynolds was not a dancer at the time she made Singin' in the Rain — her background was as a gymnast.[10] Kelly apparently insulted her for her lack of dance experience, upsetting her. Fred Astaire was hanging around the studio and found Reynolds crying under a piano. Hearing what had happened, Astaire volunteered to help her with her dancing. Kelly later admitted that he had not been kind to Reynolds and was surprised that she was still willing to talk to him afterwards. After shooting the "Good Morning" routine, Reynolds' feet were bleeding.[10] Years later, she was quoted as saying that making this film and surviving childbirth were the two most difficult experiences of her life.

Awards and honors

Jean Hagen was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and the film for Best Original Music Score.

Donald O'Connor won a Golden Globe for this film.[12]

Singin' in the Rain has appeared twice on Sight and Sound's list of the ten best films of all time, in 1982 and 2002. The film has a rare 100% positive reviews on RottenTomatoes.com, based on 43 sources.[13]

In 1989, Singin' in the Rain was also deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry.

American Film Institute recognition

Home video

The 40th Anniversary Edition VHS version released in 1992 includes a documentary, the original trailer, and Reynolds' solo rendition of "You Are My Lucky Star," which had been cut from the final film.[14]

According to the audio commentary on the 2002 Special Edition DVD, the original negative was destroyed in a fire, but despite this, the film has been digitally restored for its DVD release.

In popular culture

  • A similar plot had been used in the 1946 French film Étoile sans lumière (aka "Star without Light"), directed by Marcel Blistene, starring Edith Piaf and Mila Parely and later in the 1959 British film Follow a Star, directed by Robert Asher and starring Norman Wisdom and Jerry Desmonde.
  • "Singin' in the Rain" is whistled wistfully by Roger O. Thornhill, played by Cary Grant, in the shower (with his suit on) in Alfred Hitchcock's film North by Northwest (1959).
  • "Singin' in the Rain" is sung mockingly by Alex DeLarge, played by Malcolm McDowell, in the rape scene in Stanley Kubrick's film A Clockwork Orange (1971). An edited version of Gene Kelly's rendition is heard during the end credits. This is loosely referenced in Steven Spielberg's A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (which Kubrick started but Spielberg finished) when Jude Law's character dances like Gene Kelly.
  • Actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt recreated Donald O'Connor's "Make 'Em Laugh" number for a 2009 episode of Saturday Night Live.
  • The "Singin' in the Rain" routine has been parodied or imitated numerous times, including by Morecambe and Wise and Paddington Bear and The Wombles. The dance was also parodied, briefly, by The Goodies during their television episode "Saturday Night Grease", where the music for the dance sequence was "Singin' in the Rain". It was also once sung (very badly) by Bill Owen outside Nora Batty's house in an episode of Last of the Summer Wine. In Fame, Coco Hernandez (played by Irene Cara) dances in a puddle on a train station while singing "Singin' in the Rain". Canadian figure skater Kurt Browning did an on-ice (and water) recreation in a Stars on Ice television special.[15] Actor Tom Hanks also performed a version of the dance routine in the 1988 film Punchline.
  • In Legal Eagles, Robert Redford sings and dances "Singin' In The Rain" when he cannot sleep. It helps him think.
  • In the 90s show Kenan and Kel, when they dream about being stars, Kel dreams about being on a musical in which he sings "Drinkin Orange Rain" with the almost exact lyrics except in the chorus.
  • In Luc Besson's Léon (called The Professional in the United States), Léon (played by Jean Reno) is a fan of Gene Kelly musicals. In one scene where Léon and Mathilda (played by Natalie Portman) play a guessing game, Léon guesses correctly when Mathilda mimics Gene Kelly as she sings "Singin' in the Rain."
  • Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain" sequence is one of the opening scenes of The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Kelly approved his Audio-Animatronics likeness prior to its delivery to Florida. Also, a trailer for Singin' in the Rain plays in the attraction's pre-show waiting area.
  • The sequence was also the subject of a 2005 advertisement for the new Volkswagen Golf GTI. Kelly appeared to replace his routine with a combination of breakdance and body pop dancing styles, culminating when he stopped to look at the aforementioned car. To create this illusion, three breakdancers performed different parts of the routine on a painstakingly recreated replica of the original set. Kelly's face was digitally superimposed upon each dancer in post-production for the close-ups, while prosthetic makeup was sufficient for most of the footage. A big beat remix of the original song by Mint Royale provided the soundtrack.
  • A predominant theme in season four of The Spencer Howard Show is Spencer's starring role in a shot-for-shot remake of Singin' in the Rain.
  • The popular Bollywood film Om Shanti Om (2007) is, like Singin' in the Rain, set in a film studio. The sequence for the song "Main Agar Kahoon" is a clear homage to the sound-stage sequence for "You Were Meant for Me".
  • The dance to the title song is parodied in the Broadway musical Spamalot in the dance break to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," complete with tap dancing in raincoats and twirling umbrellas.
  • In The Full Monty, one of the characters repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, tries to replicate Donald O'Connor's famed "running up the wall thing" from "Make 'Em Laugh."
  • The Family Guy episode "Peterotica" has Quagmire dancing and singing a parody of "Make 'Em Laugh" in an adult movie store, while in the episode "Believe It or Not, Joe's Walking on Air", Joe, Quagmire, Cleveland, Peter, and Stewie recreate the song and choreography of "Good Morning."
  • Ewan McGregor does a similar dance in Moulin Rouge!, spinning with an umbrella during "Your Song."
  • Jackie Chan's character in Shanghai Knights also does a similar dance, holding an umbrella, while fighting off a band of attackers. In the film score, parts of Singin' in the Rain' are played.
  • While the trio in the film Three Amigos! (played by Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Chevy Chase) are breaking into the film studio, the billboard in the background is for the "Dueling Cavalier", the original name for the talkie film starring Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont.
  • The title of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody episode "Lip Synchin' in the Rain", is a parody of "Singin' in the Rain".
  • In The Simpsons episode "Brawl in the Family", Groundskeeper Willie was singing with an umbrella, but in acid rain. In a Simpsons comic book, Sideshow Bob and his brother Cecil are performing satirical versions of classic songs, including "I Swing Bart Simpson's Brain".
  • In a Grover clip on Sesame Street, Prairie Dawn is a movie director making the movie "Singing in the rain" with Grover as the star actor. Aside from a running gag of Prairie catching one of the film crew sleeping in her chair, the weather goes wrong when they make the famous scene. Take #1 has it snow and Take #2 has it windy (which blows Grover down). Take #3 does have it rain, but Grover calls a cut because it's lunchtime.
  • George Sampson did a street dance routine in 2008 to "Singin' In The Rain," and later won Britain's Got Talent.

Notes

  1. ^ Haley Jr., Jack: That's Entertainment!, Frank Sinatra segments. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1974
  2. ^ a b Betty Comden, Adolph Green (2002). The story Behind Singin' in the Rain: Now It Can be Told, reprint of the Singin' In the Rain screenplay introduction, originally published in 1972, included in the liner notes of the Music from the original motion picture soundtrack (deluxe edition) Singin' in the Rain double CD by Rhino Entertainment and Turner Classic Movies.
  3. ^ Robert Osborne, TCM commentary, "Singing in the Rain."
  4. ^ Earl J. Hess and Pratibha A. Dabholkar, Singin' in the Rain: The Making of an American Masterpiece (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2009), 145.
  5. ^ Earl J. Hess and Pratibha A. Dabholkar, Singin' in the Rain: The Making of an American Masterpiece (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2009), 147.
  6. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045152/quotes
  7. ^ George Feltenstein (2002). "Producer's Note," included in the liner notes of the "Music from the original motion picture soundtrack (deluxe edition) Singin' in the Rain" double CD by Rhino Entertainment and Turner Classic Movies
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Track list in the liner notes of the "Music from the original motion picture soundtrack (deluxe edition) Singin' in the Rain" double CD by Rhino Entertainment and Turner Classic Movies.
  9. ^ a b CineBooks' Motion Picture Guide review of the movie included on the Microsoft Cinemania 1997 CD
  10. ^ a b c New 50th Anniversary Documentary What a Glorious Feeling, hosted by Debbie Reynolds on the film's DVD.
  11. ^ "The Biography Channel". http://www.thebiographychannel.co.uk/biography_story/255:304/1/Eugene_Gene_Kelly.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-03. 
  12. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045152/awards
  13. ^ "Singin' in the Rain Movie Reviews, Pictures, Trailers". Rotten Tomatoes. http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/singin_in_the_rain/. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  14. ^ "VHS back cover". Amazon.com. http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-media/product-gallery/630233683X?index=1. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  15. ^ "Youtube.com". Youtube.com. 2010-02-27. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZNNNGjZm6hQ. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 

External links

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