[Film Review] Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Singin in the Rain poster

Title: Singin’ in the Rain
Year: 1952
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Comedy, Musical, Romance, Comedy
Stanley Donen
Gene Kelly
Adolph Green
Betty Comden
Music: Lennie Hayotn
Cinematography: Harold Rosson
Gene Kelly
Donald O’Connor
Debbie Reynolds
Jean Hagen
Millard Mitchell
Cyd Charisse
Douglas Fowley
Rita Moreno
Rating: 8.1/10

No wonder it has been universally acclaimed as the apotheosis of Hollywood musical in the golden era, SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN conjures up an enticing historical premise of the significant sea change in the film industry, with THE JAZZ SINGER (1927), the dawn of talkie which would forever change this scope of the burgeoning media.

Set in 1927, Don Lockwood (Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Hagen) are Monument Pictures’ golden couple on screen in the silent films, yet in private Don despises the ditzy and talent-wanting Lina, whose diva temperament and funny sheep voice is the studio’s best kept secret. Don, on the contrary, starts his career in showbiz as a vaudeville artist and stuntman with his fellow Cosmo Brown (O’Connor), so his bent of singing and dancing well-tested. One day, running away from crazed fans, Daon hops on the car of a young girl Kathy Selden (Reynolds), who quite pertly disses the superficiality of his acting and stardom, it strikes a chord to Don, who begins to question his own capability.

However, it turns out Kathy is a struggling starlet, with a doll-like cuteness and a voice can sing. Don falls for her instantly, but does she love him back? Of course she does, it is a musical comedy, no one can resist a superstar’s charm. After THE JAZZ SINGER becomes a sensational hit, all the studios begin to tread its footsteps, so Don-and-Lina’s next picture will be their first talkie, named THE DUELING CAVALIER, talking is a cinch for Don, but the soft underbelly is Lina’s cockamamie voice, a disastrous test screening forebodes this talkie would be the Waterloo for Don-and-Lina trademark. Six weeks before its official release, Don and Cosmo creatively advice to change the picture into a singing-and-dancing musical, renamed THE DANCING CAVALIER and asks Kathy to dub Lina, the last-minute plan saves the day, except for Lina’s prestigious career as an actress.

Stretching from the titular song, the script cunningly grafts a cheery romance upon the nostalgia to a bygone silent era, from the opening flashbacks trace back Don and Cosmo’s slapstick entertainment (also brilliantly contrasts Don and Lina’s lovey-dovey public images and their personal incompatibility), until the long and elaborate set piece named BROADWAY MELODY BALLET, freshly revamps several music numbers from THE BROADWAY MELODY (1929) and BROADWAY MELODY OF 1936 (1935) as a fetching homage, which is not germane to the main narrative, but introduces dancer-turns-actress Cyd Charisse’s vampiric moll to the limelight.

Kelly, the co-director and the leading star of the project, is swooningly deft in the iconic solo titular piece, and admirably, he also magnanimously leaves the stage for his co-stars to shine, O’Connor’s MAKE ‘EM LAUGH is la crème de la crème, his effortless agility makes the dangerous antics look ever so easy and winsome. Although billed as the female lead, Reynolds is less a spectacle especially lined up with Hagen, who is the only one in the cast nominated for an Oscar (the film’s unjust snub by the Academy is another big scandal mars the award’s credibility), fakes her comical tone and upstages everyone else with sheer deadpan amusement.

SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN is a tested classic, a first-rate choreographic marvel, a less refined character development nevertheless, one can hardly resist its old-fashioned flair and crowd-pleasing charm.

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