Singing in the Rain
I think I might have been seven or eight when I first saw the movie Singing in the Rain (1952). I think it was at that point that I really remember recognizing what it was to have talent.
Everything about the movie–from the singing and dancing to the dialogue, impresses me and not once have I grown bored or tired of watching it (rough count is maybe around 11-15 at this point). While I’m not usually a huge musical genre fan, I appreciate the level of work and raw talent that had to go into such an early cinematic performance. Chicago (2002) and even shows like Glee are of comparable talent, but they lack a certain star power and energy that Singing in the Rain emanates. It’s hard to put a finger on it, exactly. Perhaps it’s just the grace and theatrical style of old Hollywood cinema (even though Singing in the Rain falls shortly after) that makes Gene Kelly so suave and charmingly cute as he splashes in puddles, or Donald O’Connor that brilliantly clownish as he dances into walls and over couches as he sings ‘Make ’em Laugh”. While the tides have shifted towards a new kind of talent that favors realism and method acting over tap dancing and grinning, I still feel that there’s something mystical and alive about the older form of talent, which is why I always find myself going back to Singing in the Rain at the end of the day even though I’d like to be edgy and cool enough to say that my favorite movie was Pulp Fiction or American Psycho or something (although I do really like both of those movies, too). Also, editing technology now lets actors have far more leeway and free-passes than they used to, meaning that all of the singing and dance numbers shot in Singing in the Rain had to be perfectly executed. That’s not to say that actors today always have it easier, but they do lack a certain type of hard, tactile work and logged hours that Debbie Reynolds had to log in order to learn how to dance to be cast in the role. Yes, Debbie Reynolds in fact did not know how to dance before being cast as the part-time showgirl Kathy Selden.
Take a look at an excerpt where Reynolds performs “Dream of You”:
The three stars also have more chemistry on screen than I’ve probably ever since witnessed, which makes people like me watching feel like I’m somehow part of this on-screen friendship. (And it makes sense that they have so much chemistry as that’s probably something that naturally happens when you’re forced into spending hours and hours practicing dance routines and dialogue together.)
Here’s a scene between Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly that explodes with chemistry and can literally get anyone out of a moody rut (but then again, I’d just go ahead and watch the entire movie instead… there are too many good scenes):
And of course everyone probably knows or is familiar with the puddle scene, but the grace and charm that comes out of Gene Kelly literally just causes me to feel pure joy:
And then there’s this 21st century remake of Gene Kelly’s puddle scene which is also pretty rad…
I have to say, though, that I think my favorite scene from the movie is Donald O’Connors ‘Make ’em Laugh’.
And, being a Glee fan myself, I actually really liked the Glee tribute to Singing in the Rain with the contemporary mash-up spin featuring Umbrella.