Eye For Film >> Movies >> Singin' In The Rain (1952) Film Review
What if you found a phrase to sum up elation in spite of difficulties? Then you illustrated it with songs, dance, a love story crossing different eras, you offered parallels in the business and personal world, and then underlined it all with a dig at a society that takes itself too seriously?
Would it become widely acknowledged as the finest musical of all time?
Singin' in the Rain explores a lost art form, travelling back to the days of silent pictures. A matinee idol (played by Gene Kelly) is caught up in the transition, together with his buddy (Donald O'Connor), a co-star with a grating voice (Jean Hagen) and the girl of his dreams (Debbie Reynolds). As is often the case in real life, the lovers bond by accepting each other's worst side. She can't stand his pompousness but her image is shattered when she takes a lowly job and jumps out of a birthday cake. She seems the perfect 'star' but, apart from her opposition to the Hollywood industry, she has the jealousy of the real 'stars' to contend with.
Singin' in the Rain successfully re-creates the Roaring Twenties. By placing much of the story within the film studios themselves, it enjoys easy access to backdrops of the wildest imagination, providing constant visual contrasts - music-hall, western, action stunts, as well as forays into black-and-white. The aural contrasts are no less scintillating. The opening scene has Kelly, Reynolds and O'Connor dancing to a jazzed-up title song, quickly cutting to the dreamy Lucky Star number for the opening credits, followed by the clamour and excitement of a red carpet interview. Parodies of silent film, dubbing for sound, and dialect coaches continue to grab attention from one moment to another.
This effervescent, all-American movie (together with An American in Paris) heralded a revolution in the American musical. Part of a counter-trend against popular film noir of the day (like Double Indemnity and The Big Sleep), Singin' in the Rain has been described as a 'great amalgam of realized style and stylized realism'. Even the ending, for all its emotional fulfilment, exalts successful caricature over 'serious' film making.
Although it had to overcome many difficulties in the making, Singin' in the Rain remains one of the most enduring, effervescent and exuberant of films. It spoofs not only the silent era but also many earlier movies from which most of its songs are taken. Finding true sincerity beneath such light-hearted irreverence is part of the task of the seemingly ill-matched lovers. Today, Singin' in the Rain may be bypassed by devotees of contemporary cinema, echoing O'Connor and Reynolds' characters quip: "Why bother... You've seen one, you've seen them all." Yet each year the film gains new converts.Reviewed on: 20 Dec 2006
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