Like “La La Land,” but with actual singers.
After reviewing the disappointing Nobody’s Fool (2018), I felt like this week’s Wayback Wednesday needed to be something extra special, something fantastic to get the bad taste out of my mouth. Also it’s been raining a lot recently and I’m not that deep. Therefore, this week I’m reviewing the classic musical comedy, Singin’ in the Rain (1952).
Singin’ in the Rain tells the story of silent film actor Don Lockwood, played by Gene Kelly, whose prominent career is in peril with the arrival of “the talkies,” movies where the audience will actually be able to hear sound, as well as the actor’s voices. Wow, can you believe it? As Don’s newest movie, The Dueling Cavilier, faces production woes thanks in large part to his diva co-star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), he meets aspiring actress Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) who helps him turn the failing picture into a musical. Kathy even offers to secretly dub her own angelic voice over Lina’s high-pitched tone and harsh New York accent.
Where do I even begin? This movie is PURE JOY. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a smile. That’s often the case with musical movies, especially ones centered around show business, because they bring a certain level of fabulousness and fun to the music, the dance numbers, and of course, the costumes. The costumes in this movie are pretty stunning. In the opening scene where Don and Lina are on the red carpet in the epitome of 1920s Hollywood glamour? Your faves could never. If a couple wore these outfits on a red carpet in 2018 it would be EVERYTHING.
By the way, I’m sort of infamous for being off mark when it comes to comparing the looks of two people, but Gene Kelly totally looks like Jon Hamm right? Am I alone in this? Maybe I am but all I’m saying is that when Hollywood finally decides to do a Gene Kelly biopic, Jon Hamm should be their first call. Wait, can he sing and or dance? You know what, if Rami Malek can transform into Freddie Mercury reincarnated, than I’m sure Hamm can figure it out. Speaking of Mr. Kelly, he and his dancing are nothing short of spectacular. I mean duh, it’s Gene freaking Kelly. His was a once in a lifetime talent and the incredible way he moved on the dance floor is part of what has cemented this movie as one of the most famous movie musicals of all time. How about that jaw-dropping Broadway Melody where Don dances through a handful of musical genres against gorgeous backdrops for a solid 15 minutes? It’s a SPECTACLE. A long one, but a spectacle nonetheless. Man, those dance numbers are long!
If you love dance, you need to see this movie. It’s a love letter to the art form, capturing how emotion and romance can be conveyed in a few perfectly-choreoograhped dance numbers. In fact, the scene where Don is literally “singing in the rain,” dancing and expressing his elation over his budding relationship with the sweet and authentic Kathy, is one of the movie’s most magical. That image of Gene Kelly swinging off a lamppost as he sings in the rain is one of the most famous dance sequences ever put to film, and still totally holds up to this day. You’d be lying if you said it didn’t make you feel like doing the exact same thing. The number, “Make ‘Em Laugh” has always been a personal favourite of mine partly because it gets some of the biggest laughs in the movie, and partly because of its message. Performed by Don’s friend and long-time vaudeville partner Cosmo (Donald O’Connor), the routine is a reminder that entertainers live to do exactly that: entertain. “Make ’em laugh, make ’em laugh, don’t you know all the world wants to laugh?” is a simple mantra that pretty much sums up to, “there’s no shame in doing the ridiculous or embarrassing if it means brining smiles to the faces in the audience. We’re entertainers. It’s what we’re supposed to do.”
Ok, so I think it’s time we talk about Debbie Reynolds. For the younger readers, your knowledge of Debbie Reynolds probably comes from either her being Carrie Fisher’s mother, or her role as Grandma Aggie Cromwell in the Halloweentown franchise (1998 – 2006). As an up-and-comer in the industry, Kathy gets to be the voice of reason, questioning and commenting on all of the ridiculous things that Don goes through just to appear on film. She so easily portrays a young, innocent woman who at the same time isn’t afraid to fight for a chance to break into show business. Reynolds’ chemistry with Kelly is undeniable and although she doesn’t get as many jokes or dance numbers, her star power is so great that she kind of steals the movie. Not an easy task when Kelly is dancing, prancing and leaping all over the place. You can’t help but root for Kathy. She’s down-to-earth, hardworking, and genuinely talented, all of the things we want in a musical heroine. Also, she gets to pop out of a cake which has always been a dream of mine. #Jealous.
If Kathy Selden is the heroine that you root for, than Lina Lamont is the villainess you love to hate. Obnoxious, delusional, and self-absorbed, she possesses all of the qualities essential for the villain in a musical. Um, hello, Sharpay Evans anybody? With the grating voice, over-the-top outfits, and crazy schemes, Lina really is more of a cartoon character than anything. Oh my God, the way she pronounces the word “sue” with an over emphasis on the “u” will ensure that you never properly pronounce the word again. Y’know, I have to wonder: If Kathy is lip-syncing for Lina and no one is the wiser, does that mean no one has ever heard Lina speak before? She never gets to answer questions on the red carpet or address crowds, so I’m leaning towards “yeah.” No wonder she became a villain.
When people think of Singin’ in the Rain, it’s obvious that the phenomenal dancing is the first thing that comes to mind, understandably so. However, I don’t think people talk enough about just how funny the movie is. Oh my God, there’s a scene where two women are watching Lina acting glamorous on the big screen and one says to the other, totally deadpan, “She’s so refined. I think I’ll kill myself.” Ah, self-deprecating millennial humour. This movie was decades ahead of its time! The “dignity, always dignity” monologue juxtaposed with a montage of Don’s increasingly ridiculous career is comedy gold, and the scene where Lina and Don exchange insults while filming a romantic scene is laugh-out-loud funny. The jokes come at you at a fast pace and I’m always a fan of when movies weave jokes into dialogue in a way that is so subtle, it takes you a minute to realize that one character has just made a joke at the others’ expense.
If you’ve never seen this movie, I can’t recommend it enough, especially if you were a fan of A Star Is Born (2018). It’s a similar story in that a professional performer enlists a young ingénue to help revitalize his character and they fall in love amidst a handful of beautiful performances. You just trade in rock music for the movies. Oh, and trade in a tragic ending for one that is pure heartwarming delight. Seriously, if A Star Is Born left you with a dark cloud hanging over you heart, this movie is the ray of sunshine you need. Weather puns! Cause’ rain.
From start to finish, Singin’ in the Rain is a charming, romantic, musical extravaganza whose warm and joyous tone is the perfect remedy for the cold November nights. Go ahead. Go outside and sing in the rain. Sure you’ll probably catch pneumonia, but your life will also be a musical for three minutes and isn’t that ultimately what we all want?
Have you seen Singin’ in the Rain? Are you interested in checking it out?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!