Singin' in the Rain

On March 17 1952, hundreds of people gathered at New York Radio Hall. As flashing lights beckoned them to enter the theater, they stepped inside, not knowing that they were about to witness something incredible. Anxiously waiting, the audience grabbed their popcorn and sat in their comfortable theater chairs. They did not know what to expect. They knew that Gene Kelly would play the main role in the film, and they heard that he was an exceptional actor. The lights started to go dim, warning everyone to get ready because the movie was about to start. That night, Singin’ in the Rain caused feet to tap and fingers to snap. The audience laughed and smiled at the creative work of art. All those viewers walked out of Radio Hall with something to talk about and sing about. For years to come, everyone would remember that catchy tune: “I’m singin’ in the rain.” The 1952 film Singin’ in the Rain blends singing, dancing and comedy together, and as a result, this musical masterpiece will leave the world in awe for decades to come.

The plot of Singin’ in the Rain is a story about the classic Hollywood lifestyle. The main character Don is a fantastic singer, actor and dancer. He is starring in a musical, and he co-stars with Lina Lamont (Tinto). The press and tabloids want Lina and Don to be romantically involved, but Don does not see Lina that way. Lina on the other hand, thinks that they are the perfect match (Zeff). During the making of their musical, Don and the rest of the studio discover that Lina has no singing ability. In order to make the movie great, the director decides to have Lina lip sync to Kathy Selden’s voice. Ironically, Don finds Kathy enchantingly gorgeous, and they start to fall in love (Tinto).

The exceptional storyline of Singin’ in the Rain was also incredible because it had a broad scope of characters who were played by strong actors and actresses from a variety of theatrical backgrounds. The movie consisted of the romantic pair, Don and Kathy, the hilarious friend, Cosmo, and the ditzy actress, Lina. Don Lockwood, played by Gene Kelly, who was a silent film star, is filming the Dueling Cavalier, his latest silent film. Prior to making movies, Kelly appeared on Broadway and was an acrobatic dancer. On Broadway, Kelly made his debut in Leave it to Me (1938) and The Time of Your Life (1939) (“Broadway: The American Musical”). His co-star, Debbie Reynolds played the role of Kathy Selden, a struggling Hollywood actress who was smart and witty. This was Reynolds debut movie, and she was only 19 years old (Sidebar and Fenton). Jean Hagen played Lina Lamont. Lina was a famous actress, who had a squeaky voice and an egotistical attitude. Like Kelly, Hagen started her career on Broadway in Adam’s Rib (Rovi). Donald O’Connor played the hilarious and fun-loving Cosmo Brown. Cosmo was Don’s partner in crime and an aspiring musician. He sang the hilarious song “Make Em’ Laugh.” O’Connor acted in a few films before Singin’ in the Rain such as Sing, You Sinners and Get Help to Love (“Donald O’Connor Biography”). Singin’ in the Rain contained many wonderfully talented actors, some known and some not.
While this movie had fantastic and memorable characters, everyone will also remember its dazzling songs. Producer Arthur Freed recycled songs from other musicals, added his own personal touch to the songs and put them into his movie (Staten). A few of the songs that he re-used were, “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Fit as a Fiddle,” “All I Do is Dream of You,” and “Good Morning.” He composed some of the songs as well. Freed conceived the idea for Singin’ in the Rain’s title song from the movie Hollywood Revue (Dirks). When Freed chose the movie’s title, he never thought about adding scenes with rain. Ever since he was a little boy, Freed wanted to produce a movie with that title.
The background of Singin’ in the Rain was very intriguing, but the singing and dancing was even better. Sixty minutes of Singin’ in the Rain was all music and dance; the film was only one hundred and three minutes long (Hess and Dabholkar 138). Some songs were romantic and slow and others were fast and upbeat. In addition, a few songs in the movie were duets and some were solos. The film consisted of sixteen songs. “Singin’ in the Rain,” and “Make Em’ Laugh,” were two of the most loved (Hess and Dabholkar 69). Gene Kelly sang “Singin in the Rain” dynamically, and Donald O’Connor sang “Make Em’ Laugh,” while he incorporated humor into the lyrics (Singin’ in the Rain). As far as the dancing, tap, ballet, slow dancing, Broadway dancing and many new dance routines created by Gene Kelly were a major part of the film (“50th Anniversary Documentary”). Actors moved at a fast pace and they were always perfectly synchronized. In the “Make Em’ Laugh” scene, O’Connor performed two back flips, danced on the piano and jumped through a wall made of paper. In the “Broadway” scene, Kelly tangos with a beautiful dancer. During “Moses Supposes” O’Connor and Kelly tap danced on top of a desk and on chairs (Singin’ in the Rain). Kelly managed to add dancing into almost every scene of the movie.
Although singing and dancing attracted viewers, the special effects and wardrobe mesmerized them too. The major special effect in Singin’ in the Rain was the rain scene. For this scene, the filmmakers set up a handful of sprinklers and hoses and “let it rain.” To make the set dark, the crew hung up a big black tarp over two poles. This helped to create a dreary street. Another special effect was the wind. In Don’s “Broadway” scene, they used a fan to blow a dancers veil (Hess and Dabholkar 120). It took several tries to get the scene perfect because the veil was fifty feet long. In addition, some actors could not cry on their own so they rubbed onions in their eyes for tears, but the tears looked real. Also, another major aspect of Singin’ in the Rain was that the film was in Technicolor. Technicolor was a technique that made images on screen seem more real and true (Hess and Dabholkar 77). Moreover, the film used an effect called “sound dubbing.” Sound dubbing was comparable to lip-syncing and the process involved pasting one voice over the other. When Kathy sang for Lina, they used this technique so that it sounded like Lina had a smooth and gorgeous voice (Hess and Dabholkar 144). Other aspects that made Singin’ in the Rain spectacular was the vibrant wardrobe. The costumes were magnificent and created by Walker Plunkett. Sewn into each outfit were sequins, feathers and glitter. The costumes were so extraordinary that they even included a mini fashion show in the movie (50th Anniversary Documentary). Technicolor, sound dubbing and several other special effects made Singin’ in the Rain stick out from the rest of the crowd.
Since Singin’ in the Rain was a one of a kind blend of characters, singing, and dancing, the musical comedy impressed all. After the release of Singin’ in the Rain, the musical comedy received praise from its audience, several well-known critics, magazine writers, and newspaper journalists. After the first review of the movie, forty-nine percent of people said it was outstanding, thirty-one percent said it was excellent, and eighteen percent said it was very good. On an internet survey in 2002, 32,161 fans gave Singin’ in the Rain ten out of ten stars (Hess and Dabholkar 221). Tom Dirks, writer and editor of AMC’s Filmsite said that Singin’ in the Rain is, “…one of the most-loved and celebrated film musicals of all time...” (Dirks). Bosley Crowther, a writer for the New York Times, called Singin’ in the Rain “fresh and cheerful.” Famous critics such as Jeanine Basinger, Judy Gerstel, and Timothy Scheurer gave the film superior ratings and called it hilarious and well done (Hess and Dabholkar 222).
Singin’ in the Rain captivated several fans, reviewers and writers; however, it also influenced television shows, movies, television ads, and even figure skating. Peter Bogdanovich, creator of Nickelodeon, borrowed some of his ideas for his shows from Singin’ in the Rain (Hess and Dabholkar 232). In 1955, Charles Vidor directed the movie Love Me or Leave Me and his inspirations for the production came from Singin’ in the Rain. Besides influencing television and movies, Singin’ in the Rain managed to promote figure skating. In the 1990’s, the popularity of figure skating increased drastically due to the inclusion of Singin’ in the Rain dance numbers into the performers’ routines (Nicks 415). Furthermore, the movie was so popular that it was translated into French, German, Chinese, Portuguese, and Danish (Hess and Dabholkar 220). Moreover, Volkswagen used the title song from the film for one of their ads (Hess and Dabholkar 233).

Although Singin’ in the Rain encouraged many different productions, it also received many nominations and recognitions of its own. After the release of the movie, Jean Hagen (Lina Lamont) received a nomination for Best Supporting Actress. The film also gained a nomination for Best Music (Singin’ in the Rain (1952) at Reel Classics: Academy Awards). Donald O’Connor won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actor in a Musical or Comedy. Also, Adolph and Green received the Best Written Musical award from the Screen Writers Guild of America. In addition to awards, Singin’ in the Rain became a part of the U.S. Film Registry’s “List of Worthy Preservation of Culture” in 1989 ("Singin' in the Rain (1952)."). Singin’ in the Rain was also on Time magazine’s Top 100 films (“ALL-TIME 100 Movies”) and AMC Filmsite’s 100 Greatest Films of All Time (Dirks). Danny Peary, a director from Cult Films, said that, “Singin’ in the Rain is truly one of the great joys of the cinema, the most uplifting of films...” (McGee and Stafford).

After March 17th, 1952, people spread the good word about Singin’ in the Rain. At work, adults hummed the tune, and while in school, students tapped their pencils to the rhythm. This movie opened people’s hearts to song and dance. It was not just a passing phase or a movie that people would forget. Obviously, Singin’ in the Rain is still remembered because people today still go crazy about it. Families sit down and watch the film together and people still listen to the soundtrack in their car. Every rainy day, those little kids pull on their rubber rain boots and grab their pink umbrellas and head outside. They jump around in puddles and spin in circles while they sing those five classic words: “I’m singin’ in the rain.”





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