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Singin' In The Rain

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Singin' In The Rain

Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor
Director: Gene Kelly
Rated: G
RunTime: 103 Minutes
Release Date: April 1952
Genres: Classic, Music, Comedy, Romance

*Also starring: Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, King Donovan, Millard Mitchell, Cyd Charisse

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1.  Dragan Antulov review follows movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
2.  Brian Koller read the review movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review
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Review by Dragan Antulov
4 stars out of 4

Contemporary Hollywood producers are often accused for the damage they do to the reputation of American and world cinema heritage by misusing old, classic movies as nothing more than basis for cheap, empty and soulless remakes. However, the misuse of the cinema heritage isn't the new phenomenon; even some very talented authors and true artists give a new, sometimes even twisted, perception of the old films. The most notorious example is Stanley Kubrick in his CLOCKWORK ORANGE - a single scene in this film was enough to give totally different spin to one of the most beloved films of all times - 1952 musical SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.

And that is really sad, because SINGIN' IN THE RAIN isn't just one of the classics of Old Hollywood. It is also one very fine example of a genre that is almost banished from the big studios of today - musicals. Author of this review used to adore that genre, especially the spectacular MGM musicals made in 1940s and 1950s; in his earlier years, they showed the magical, fairytale universes that used to created the same sense of wonder like Lucas and his saga about a galaxies far away. But things changed - in 1970s and 1980s Hollywood found new ways to attract and entertain mass audience, ways that required less talent and creativity than those necessary for musicals. That was the reason why the genre of musicals became obsolete and, unlike western, didn't find a way to adapt to new realities. But that sad fact was a blessing for the musicals of the Old Hollywood - because they never had to compete with the newer musicals, they kept their reputation as the best films of the genre. And that also helped them to keep their reputation among both the nostalgic audience and art-loving filmophiles.

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, arguably the best of the genre and often referred as one of the best films in the history, was actually conceived as a way for MGM to re-use some of its old material. Scriptwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green based the plot on the MGM-owned songs. Since many of them were used in the first sound ("talking") pictures of late 1920s and early 1930s, the plot was set in Hollywood during those years. The film starts in 1927 during the premiere of "Royal Rascal", new period adventure by Monumental Pictures, starring swashbuckling hero Don Lockwood (played by Gene Kelly) and blonde bombshell Lana Lamont (played by Jane Hagen). Studio had spread the rumours of Lockwood and Lamont being romantically involved both on and off screen. Dan actually can't stand Lana (which have some problems distinguishing studio propaganda from reality), and instead falls in love with a girl he meets on a street, aspiring young actress Kathy Selden (played by Debbie Reynolds). His problems with women are dwarfed by the problems of the studio, suddenly faced with the "talking" movies phenomenon. Silent era techniques are obsolete and the new film "Duelling Cavalier" is bound for disaster, mostly because the leading lady, Lana Lamont, has a voice that doesn't match her physical beauty. Dan's old friend and trusted partner, Cosmo Brown (played by Donald O'Connor) comes with a brilliant idea - new movie is going to be turned into musical, and Kathy is going to dub Lana's voice.

For some critics, the weakest element of many musicals is the plot, often just a cheap excuse for connecting various song and dance numbers. The script of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN was made with such intentions, but the plot of this movie actually works even without those scenes, turning this movie into entertaining, very funny and at times even satirical comedy. The film is even funnier for those who are more familiar with the Hollywood history, with lot of references to real life personalities, situations, rituals and, last but not least, very accurate portrayal of the difficulties experienced by Hollywood during the period when the movie industry had to adapt to the use of sound. The movie contains even some scenes that could be seen as a way for Gene Kelly, its leading star, to spoof his own role in THREE MUSKETEERS, 1948 swashbuckling classic.

However, the most recognisable element of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN are the song and dance numbers. They were directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, all of them in their artistic prime and able to use huge MGM resources in order to create spectacular, memorable scenes. Almost all of them are superb, perfectly staged and some of them became essential part of modern popular culture. Some of them are elaborate and spectacular, like Gene Kelly's Broadway fantasy featuring Cyd Charrise, although some would argue that it looks somewhat out of place in this film. Another scene, seduction of Kathy in an abandoned studio, is a triumph of simplicity. Some are comical, like cartoon-like farce by Donald O'Connor when he sings "Make Them Lough". But the most important, most influential and most remembered of them all is, of course, a scene featuring Gene Kelly singing and dancing in the rain. When we take into account that Gene Kelly was actually ill when he made those scenes, we must really appreciate his talent and dedication.

The acting in the film was, of course, shadowed by the dancing and singing, but that doesn't mean that people involved didn't use their talents. Gene Kelly is extremely charming and funny, same as Donald O'Connor as his comic sidekick. Debbie Reynolds, who played a version of herself in the film, being an aspiring young actress in real life as well as in a movie, is simply adorable in her role and has a very good chemistry with Kelly. Thankless job of a movie's only villain, and rather unimpressive one, was superbly done by Jean Hagen who earned the supporting role "Oscar" nomination in the process. Hagen also dubbed Debbie Reynolds in some scenes of the film, quite the opposite of the characters in the movie. It is rather ironic, since the script of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN satirically explored the conflict between on-screen and off-screen life reality.

Made in the time when Hollywood was able to produce great art and even satirically look at itself, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is one of those timeless classics that still have appeal to the audience, even those younger generations that never experienced the true power of musicals.

Copyright 1999 Dragan Antulov

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