Singin' in the Rain (1952)
July 11, 2018 10:45 PM - Subscribe

A silent film production company and cast make a difficult transition to sound.

Empire: With so many films dedicated to the agonies of filmmaking, Singin’ overflows with the pleasure of movie creation, stitching together references to Hollywood history with more alacrity than Tarantino. One of the highpoints of hoofin’ history but, more importantly, an unadulterated joy.

Slant: The most exquisite and exuberant dream of the dream machine in transition, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s Singin’ in the Rain includes perhaps one of the greatest examples of how art, with its constant advances and detractions, can at once wildly embellish and find the emotional truth of an artist’s persona. And it is, of course, the greatest film to date about the pitfalls and promises that come along with change in film, though its ideas are so clear and profoundly realized that they have by now become universally relatable. Made today, it might have been about the move from film to digital, from the theater to VOD, from print criticism to blogging.

Roger Ebert: "Singin' in the Rain” pulses with life; in a movie about making movies, you can sense the joy they had making this one. It was co-directed by Stanley Donen, then only 28, and Kelly, who supervised the choreography. Donen got an honorary Oscar in 1998, and stole the show by singing "Cheek to Cheek” while dancing with his statuette. He started in movies at 17, in 1941, as an assistant to Kelly, and they collaborated on "On the Town” (1949) when he was only 25. His other credits include "Funny Face” and "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”

One of this movie's pleasures is that it's really about something. Of course it's about romance, as most musicals are, but it's also about the film industry in a period of dangerous transition. The movie simplifies the changeover from silents to talkies, but doesn't falsify it. Yes, cameras were housed in soundproof booths, and microphones were hidden almost in plain view. And, yes, preview audiences did laugh when they first heard the voices of some famous stars;
Garbo Talks!” the ads promised, but her co-star, John Gilbert, would have been better off keeping his mouth shut. The movie opens and closes at sneak previews, has sequences on sound stages and in dubbing studios, and kids the way the studios manufactured romances between their stars.

The AV Club: Escapism raised to the level of art, Singin' In The Rain inventively satirizes the illusions of the filmmaking process while celebrating their life-affirming joy. Half parody, half homage, the movie became the apex of the splashy MGM musical, while showcasing the collaborative possibilities of the studio system. At the time of its release in 1952, Singin' was overshadowed a bit by An American In Paris, which won the Oscar for best picture and was at the time viewed by many as Kelly's magnum opus. Yet 50 years later, the fizzy pop exuberance of Singin' resonates more strongly than Paris' tasteful ambition.

Singin' in the Rain; Make 'em Laugh; Good Morning

Original Reviews: Variety and The Hollywood Reporter

'Singin' in the Rain': 60 Years Later, an Example of Film Nostalgia Done Right
posted by MoonOrb (24 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
The good morning song and dance is after a threesome and nothing will convince me otherwise.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 10:47 PM on July 11, 2018 [28 favorites]


Great Hollywood musical or greatest Hollywood musical?
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:29 AM on July 12, 2018 [5 favorites]


At the time of its release in 1952, Singin' was overshadowed a bit by An American In Paris, which won the Oscar for best picture and was at the time viewed by many as Kelly's magnum opus. Yet 50 years later, the fizzy pop exuberance of Singin' resonates more strongly than Paris' tasteful ambition.
There's no question in my mind that "Singin' in the Rain " is by far the better movie -- I even find it hard to believe anybody ever believed otherwise.
posted by Nerd of the North at 12:47 AM on July 12, 2018 [4 favorites]


Great Hollywood musical or greatest Hollywood musical?

Greatest!
posted by chimpsonfilm at 6:37 AM on July 12, 2018 [3 favorites]


I love this movie.
It's a regular rewatch in our house. My only issue with it is that the Broadway Melody bit goes on a bit long for me. It's my favorite musical, and one of my favorite science fiction films.
posted by Tabitha Someday at 7:44 AM on July 12, 2018 [5 favorites]


There's no question in my mind that "Singin' in the Rain " is by far the better movie -- I even find it hard to believe anybody ever believed otherwise.

When Singin in the Rain was made, backstage musicals had been done to death. It was the most common form of musical, where there didn't need be more than minimal excuse or distance created for the singing and dancing to be justified within the world of the film. The song Singin in the Rain was popular from its use in earlier movies, going back to 1929, so there was an element of familiarity to much of the surface elements that faded over time as new audiences no longer remembered the context of the era.

An American in Paris, on the other hand, was a bit more bold, and, sure, serious too. That had more value, or garnered a different kind of attention in that era as that kind of musical was not commonly seen outside of Broadway or the Hollywood adaptations of those same works. That American in Paris was written for the screen rather than being an adaptation of an earlier work gave it an added level of significance in that sense, even as it, like Singin in the Rain was "based on" a musical work from the late 1920s, Gershwin's symphonic piece of the same name in this case. The ending ballet number was particularly noted for daring as well for much the same reason, that of creating "serious art" for the screen where the masses could enjoy it. We've long since discarded that ideal of high art and almost entirely reversed the proposition, championing "lowly" entertainment instead.

That said, there wasn't much of a consensus on American in Paris being a great film among the critics of the time, from what I can gather, more that it was well respected and applauded for its efforts than thought really "great" exactly. Its reputation also changed over the years, becoming a fairly divisive movie among film fans, many finding it "overrated", though overrated by whom remains unclear. Singin in the Rain, however, has done nothing but grow in estimation as we move further from its time and its more metatextual elements found increasing appreciation, providing a greater sense of "depth" to its entertainment.

While I like American in Paris quite a bit, Singin in the Rain is for me the better film for reason of how it, basically, says everything Hollywood is is lies, but you suckers in the audience still care anyway. It's handled so cleverly and with such charm and panache that it is hard to deny the pleasure of being taken for a ride even as we're being told we're gullible for buying it. American in Paris can't compete with that level of subtext, staying at more of a remove from the audience rather than engaging them directly like Singin in the Rain.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:53 AM on July 12, 2018 [12 favorites]




Wonder how much American in Paris's fall in stature can be attributed to the fact that if you are in your mid-late 30's, you unconsciously yell out "TOYOTA!" during the chorus of the movie's most famous song.
posted by sideshow at 12:27 PM on July 12, 2018 [1 favorite]


Singin' in the Rain was my favorite film from approximately ages 4-9 (it replaced The Wizard of Oz which was my 3-year-old obsession, only to be ultimately replaced by The Court Jester -- just to give you an idea of my movie tastes). I watched it repeatedly year after year and practically had it memorized, but I hadn't seen it in a while as an adult.

So when they had the special 60th anniversary showings at our local movie theater, I decided to go. Due to the nature of my job at the time, it was easier for me to catch the mid-week matinee (and I was the youngest person there by far).

It was so much fun watching in on the "big screen" after years of only watching it on a tiny TV, and despite not watching it for many years, I realized I still had most of it memorized. I forget how many "family in-joke" quotes come from it: "Dignity, always dignity" when you do something awkwardly ridiculous and the sing-songy "Here we are, Sunset and Camden" whenever we arrive at our destination (that is decidedly not Sunset and Camden) or shaking the head with a deep "yes yes yes" or nodding with "no no no." Or even just random "People! I ain't people!" and "I caaaaaaaan't stand 'em" because those are apparently useful phrases in our lives.

I watched it a month or so ago when I saw it come up on Filmstruck and I still love it. Such a classic that will forever be close to my heart (and I like the Broadway Melody section! Even as a kid! Although I still instinctively want to fast-forward the "You Were Meant For Me" interlude because we always fast-forwarded it when I was kid since we agreed it was boring).

I also watched American in Paris since it was also on Filmstruck (there are a lot of Gene Kelly films there right now, in case anyone wants to check it out!). I remember watching it as a kid but it didn't have the same staying power (probably because a ballet sequence can't compare to "Make 'em Laugh" in my child brain). I enjoyed it, but it doesn't have that warm place in my heart like Singin' in the Rain.
posted by paisley sheep at 2:03 PM on July 12, 2018 [12 favorites]


I didn't see this movie until the year I turned thirty years old and that's a goddamned tragedy.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 8:13 PM on July 12, 2018 [2 favorites]


Debbie Reynolds was only 19 when she was cast as Kathy Selden

Lest we forget. Amazing.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:27 AM on July 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


I caaan't stannem. I love this movie.
posted by h00py at 6:56 AM on July 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


Jean Hagen is off the fucking chain in this movie, she absolutely dominates every scene she’s in. Such an amazing comedic performance. There’s a small beat in the movie that’s repeated that I love - every time Lena Lamont says “What do they think I am, dumb or something?” whoever is around her is just awkwardly quiet for a minute and then changes the subject. Kills me every time.

“Why I make more money than Calvin Coolidge! Put together!!!”
posted by supercrayon at 7:28 AM on July 13, 2018 [16 favorites]


The big splashing through the puddles song and dance routine in this movie has made me feel ill since learning that Kelly had a 103° fever when filming it. I'm feeling a bit woozy just thinking about it now!
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 8:05 AM on July 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I forget how many "family in-joke" quotes come from it

In my family, we're always riffing on the wig line:

-Geez, this wig weighs a ton.
-Everybody used to wear them, Lina.
-Well then everybody was a dope
posted by knownassociate at 10:24 AM on July 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


An American in Paris is the more artistic movie, but Singin' is a funner movie to watch.

This was the family movie for us because The Wizard of Oz scared my mom when she was a kid, so we rarely watched it. At the end of the day, for me this movie is all about people who are not Gene Kelly. I didn't realize how much of an effect Debbie Reynolds had on my young brain until she died and I got extremely sad, moreso than about Carrie's, who I certainly saw onscreen much more than her mom. She's absolutely perfect in this.

I hadn't seen it in many years before going to a showing several years ago and I was struck by how much shorter it seemed! This also happened with my dad's other favorite movies, Casablanca and The Maltese Falcon, all movies I saw because someone else decided, and seeing them as an adult I noticed that these movies just move from the very beginning. I still idly hum the melisma at the end of Gotta Dance, "gaaaah-taaaa daAance..."

Make Room for Daddy has been on late night reruns here, and I'm grumpy that they never show the Jean Hagen seasons (she was his wife the first few seasons).

The big splashing through the puddles song and dance routine in this movie has made me feel ill since learning that Kelly had a 103° fever when filming it.

Eh, he was apparently a total dick to Debbie Reynolds making this, so maybe it evens out.
posted by rhizome at 2:34 PM on July 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


LINA LAMONT WUZ ROBBED
posted by praemunire at 4:15 PM on July 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


Imma let you finish, but Gene Kelly on rollerskates in It's Always Fair Weather....
posted by bartleby at 4:38 PM on July 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


Ha, sideshow! Mine is Thomas' English Muffins doing "Good Morning" as "Good Morning, good muffins to you." arghhhhh

I love this movie. My brother and I saw this when we were kids, and boy if he didn't try to do that running up the wall flip all summer. Somehow he did not break his neck.
posted by queensissy at 4:43 PM on July 13, 2018


I heart Donald O’Connor.
posted by bq at 8:30 PM on July 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


I grew up on Singing in the Rain (along with Beverly Streisand's What's Up Doc?, not sure what that says about me and my family), so I went out of my way to find the real intersection of Sunset and Camden on my honeymoon to southern CA so that I could finally say "Here we are....!" and mean it.

It was a big letdown and the sun was shining all wrong leading to a terrible picture. But at least I (and my ever patient wife) have finally been!
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:24 PM on July 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


The only real way to do a proper Lina Lamont is to not care what the neighbors think about your screeching.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 8:18 PM on July 17, 2018


"I caaan't stan' 'em!!"

Lina was so awesome.
posted by emjaybee at 1:00 PM on July 19, 2018 [1 favorite]


I have long wished for a convincing way to spell "kyean't" the way she pronounces it.
posted by rhizome at 2:36 PM on July 19, 2018 [4 favorites]


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