Sunday, September 12, 2010

Helly's Video Vault- Singin' in the Rain

I must say I've had a pretty pitiful last two weeks in terms of movie watching, I haven't managed to watch a single film from start to finish! The closest I came was watching the last half hour of one of my all time favourite movies Singin' in the Rain,which re-invigorated my love for it. A love which I will regurgitate for you now.

I grew up watching this film and I simply adore it. I was absolutely devastated as a kid when we loaned the VHS to my Grammy and she taped over it! In Grammy's defense, some older movies have the credits at the beginning and not at the end, so she saw what she presumed were the end credits and hit record over my most cherished film. So for me this film certainly holds a very deep rooted feeling of nostalgia and conjures up childhood memories of sick days spent watching this film and drinking coke through a curly straw. But putting nostalgia aside for a moment, it's simply a great film regardless and there is a reason that it always makes the cut when people are compiling a list of the 'greatest films of all time.'

Yes, it's a musical, but before you roll your eyes let me just say that the best thing about Singin' in the rain is that even if you took all the numbers out, it would still be a great movie because the story is thatgood. For those of you unfamiliar with the plot, the story centres around when Hollywood studios made the transition out of the silent era and into sound or the beginning of 'talking pictures.' The amazing song and dance numbers (more on that later) are just an unbelievable bonus. The other unusual thing about Singin'... is that all the songs were already composed by producer Arthur Freed and the story was essentially built around all of these existing songs. This approach to musical writing can be disastrous, as proven in later years with a film such as Across the Universe. So the fact that they managed to pull it off is astounding.

Okay the musical numbers...I'll start with the most iconic scene in the movie the Singin' in the rain sequence. This number is pure magic and still gives me chills watching it to this day. I love the child like delight that Gene Kelly takes in splashing in all the puddles and his reaction when the police officer catches him which shifts from embarrassment into unaffected joy. Even the little details for example when Kelly walks off into the rain and gives his umbrella to a stranger, all help in fleshing out the emotion of the scene. In watching the special features, one of the minor actresses in the film said it best when she said 'That number isn't about singing or dancing at's about LOVE. It's also the type of love, which Kelly conveys so perfectly in this scene that makes it such an uplifting viewing experience. It's that kind of unbridled love, which makes you think you can conquer the world. Also it has to be said- The man can DANCE!
Some of the other big musical highlights include Donald O'Connor's slap stick solo Make 'em Laugh, the articulatory agility of Moses Supposes and the pure joy of Good Mornin'. All the numbers expertly choreographed by Gene Kelly (and Donald O'Conner in the case of 'make 'em laugh) and each one is just unadulterated entertainment, served straight up. Even the smaller 'filler' numbers such as Fit as a fiddle and All I do the whole day through are tight, catchy and precise.
The only number I feel which is slightly excessive is the extended Gotta Dance musical sequence. It's quite a spectacle with amazing costumes and dazzling dance numbers. In fact the dance with Gene Kelly and acclaimed dancer Cyd Charisse is another iconic image of the film. But it's a tangent which distracts too much from the main story line and for me is the only (slight) negative of the film.

The performances (in particular from the three leads) are impeccable. This would have been such a taxing, exhausting movie to make but in each frame you can see that the three leads are just attcking it with everything they have and it certainly pays off. Gene Kelly stars as the suave movie star Don Lockwood. The thing that Gene Kelly is probably most famous for is that he was a dancer who was still able to retain all of his masculinity. He had an every man quality that people were really drawn to, he proved that dancing was not just for the elite. Donald O'Connor plays Cosmo Brown, Don Lockwood's best friend, he is the comic relief and is usually everybody's favourite character. O'Connor has great comedic timing and is able to match Kelly step for step in their dance numbers together (which is quite a mean feat.) Debbie Reynolds is charming and adorable playing Kathy Selden, Don Lockwood's love interest. Reynolds had no professional dance training prior to the film and it doesn't show a bit which is an unbelievable accomplishment. Another supporting character which has always been one of my favourites is the shrill, beautiful yet vacuous, Lina Lamont played by Jean Hagen.

Some of the moments are quite 'hammy' (the classic 50's style movie kiss at the end where they are passionately kissing by simply having their lips pressed together for example) but that's kind of par for the course in movie's from this time period and it wouldn't be the same without it. I can understand if you're a bit resistant in wanting to watch this movie as it's not everyone's cup of tea but if you gave it a go, you might be pleasantly surprised. Nothing will ever change the sense of euphoria I get from the mere utterance of the title Singin' in the Rain

I'm singin' in the rain, just singin' in the rain
What a glorious feelin', I'm happy again
I'm laughing at clouds so dark up above
The sun's in my heart and I'm ready for love'


  1. "Meet the greatest actor in the world!"

    That was my favourite line!

    I loved it! The whole thing was great, from the acting to the singing to the dancing to the comedy!

    So there you have it; a girl AND a guy loving it. So don't be turned off by the fact that it's a musical.

    Also, Helly, this is probably the best review you've written yet!
    Really! Great job!
    Margaret Pomeranz eat your heart out ;)

  2. It's definitely my most rapturous review!

    'If we bring a little joy, into your hum drum lives, it makes us feel as though our hard work ain't been in vain for nothing' ha ha such a great character, a very unconventional villain!

  3. I can't wait to see this, I love 50s movies and this one is a classic of the decade.

    Great review as well. You also created an awesome alliteration: "articulatory agility".