Welcome to ESTA’S ECLECTIC CLASSIC CORNER. These movies have stood the test of time throughout past decades and made a difference in my life. Films that I could watch over and over and still love them as much as the first viewing. They are like “comfort food” for me. Each week I will review a classic that I have loved.
Please note: There will be some spoilers in these reviews. I will have to share some of my favorite scenes and dialogue to back up my personal reflections. I am who l am because of theatre and movies.
SINGING IN THE RAIN inspired me every monsoon summer while living in Phoenix, Arizona to take my children outside and dance as the rain poured down on our soaked bodies. Oh, the pure joy and laughter! Who needed an umbrella? Jumping in puddles off the sidewalk curb became an art form. Move over, Gene Kelly!
SINGING IN THE RAIN, a 1952 classic musical extravaganza, starred Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, and Donald O’Connor. The movie took place around 1927 when “talkies” began to replace the “silent’s.” It was a difficult time for many actors who were huge movie stars before they were asked to speak their lines. This is the centerfold of the film. Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), were the silent movies’ biggest couple on-screen and bitter enemies off-screen. Lina had the worst, most nasal tone to her voice. No elocution lessons could fix this problem. Cue Kathy (Debbie Reynolds), a young aspiring chorus girl who would dub her voice for Lina’s in the studio’s first talking musical, THE DANCING CAVALIER. What could possibly go wrong as Don falls madly in love with Kathy?
Gene Kelly was known as a tyrant of a director. He demanded perfection from everyone around him. Poor Debbie Reynolds broke several blood vessels while dancing to the musical number, “GOOD MORNING.” She had to be carried off the set when they completed the number and the 40th take of “collapsing on the couch” at the end. Cosmo (Donald O’Connor) smoked four packs a day at the time of filming and ended up in the hospital when he completed his dance routine to MAKE THEM LAUGH (This is the number where he had to dance up the wall and somersault off). They all should have received hazardous pay.
When audiences watched SINGING IN THE RAIN, we had no idea this was happening behind the scenes. We saw and remembered the absolute look of sheer brilliance as these actors sang and danced their way into our hearts. Donald is a master of facial expressions and physical comedy. Those lips, eyes, brows, chin, and even his hairline could make an audience laugh out loud with glee. Gene’s dance routine in the rain is iconic and legendary. It is impossible to believe how he conceived and created that choreography that is mirrored still today. It is a pinnacle of perfection that many professional dancers strive to achieve. The huge BROADWAY MELODY is phenomenal in its scope and techniques. How did they ever get that amazing long, sheer scarf to do all it did? When I watch, I must shout “gotta dance” to everyone around me. Some of the looks of this scene inspired other Broadway musicals and movies as well, such as OKLAHOMA and LALA LAND. This is what art is all about and how it is passed down from one generation to the next. Simply, kudos.
The sets were remarkable. The costumes were stunning. I am sure bangles, beads, feathers, and glitter had to be bused in by the truckload. Gene and Donald danced in “golfing” look complete with tight, pastel cardigans, caps, and rolled-up sleeves above the elbow. The camera angles reflected the times as they pulled out for shots overlooking the entire ensemble. The most famous line of the film and the best running gag was spoken by Lina, “What do you think I am… dumb or something?” Not a chance.
When I was a high school theatre teacher, I used to show SINGING IN THE RAIN to all my students every year. I would point out every “schtick” I could to help inspire them to see the love of performing on everyone’s faces. Every movement had an intention. It was motivated and performed with ease. Besides all of this, SITR made you laugh and smile. My students always ended up loving it, even when they had doubts before I hit the “play” button. I also have many fond memories of sharing this film with my children. My daughter, Ilisa, wanted to perform on Broadway. This was one of her faves, just as it was one of mine when I first saw it with my parents. I sat spellbound. I knew one day, I would direct huge musicals. I just knew.
During SINGING IN THE RAIN, the characters complained about the current film situation. “Movies are not entertaining enough. They don’t make them for the masses. If you have seen one, you have seen them all.” Oh, so not true. SINGING IN THE RAIN was created for anyone who believes they can have a “dancer’s soul” while carrying a song in their heart.
It is available to stream on TCM.