Film of the week 16.03.21.-Singin’ In The Rain

I make no excuse for choosing a musical this week-Singin’ In The Rain- my all-time favorite and often lauded as the greatest film musical ever. It is also the perfect antidote to the covid nightmare of the past year.

Made in 1952 it is a hilarious take on the transition from the ‘talkies’ to sound in the 1920’s when many silent screen stars found that their voices didn’t adapt to the microphones. Gene Kelly in an interview said that all the incidents in the film are true. Kelly choreographed and directed the film with Stanley Donen and the songs are by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown with Freed as producer and head of the famous unit that produced most of the MGM lavish musicals of the studio’s golden years.

Keely plays Don Lockwood the rising star of Monumental Pictures with his hated co-star Lena Lamont brilliantly played by Jean Hagen who was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Lockwood’s stage partner is Cosmo Brown played by the acrobatic Donald O’Connor and making her musical debut is Debbie Reynolds as Cathy Seldon who is Lockwood’s love interest and Lena’s sworn enemy after landing her with the best crème cake-in -the face ever!

As for the famous title song performed by Kelly in a back-lot street, it is now the most famous dance sequence of all time only topped in the film by the Broadway Melody spectacular that introduced the brilliant Cyd Charisse who went on to make many musicals with Kelly. During filming the song over several days, Kelly was ill with a 39 C temperature!

The comedy star of the film is the excellent Jean Hagen who had to adopt a high -pitched squeaky voice with a Bronx accent that sets up the need to have Cathy dub her voice for the ‘The Dueling Cavalier’ sound musical to save the studio. For the dubbing sequence Debbie Reynolds is seen voicing Hagen but the voice you hear in the film is actually Jean Hagen’s own deep velvet voice and for the song, ‘Would You’, Debbie is dubbed by Betty Noyes!

Singin’ In The Rain is always a joy to watch, and it is on the BBC I-Player for the next month.

Bill Cunningham