Singin’ in the Rain
Stanley Donen/Gene Kelly
Singin’ in the Rain by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donan(1953) is an American musical /comedy film. It was not a huge hit when released, bit over the years it has since been accorded as a legendary film by contemporary critics. Up till today, it is still described as one of the best musicals ever made. Famed citic and screenwriter Roger Ebert had said: “Singin’ in the Rain” pulses with life; in a movie about making movies, you can sense the joy they had making this one. (rogerebert.com)
“Hollywood’s best musical”
-Lawrence Journal World
“A fancy package of musical entertainment with wide appeal and bright grossing prospects.”
The film is set in 1927, the historical year whereby sound was introduced.
Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are a pair of famous on-screen lovers belonging to Monumental Pictures with Don’s best friend Cosmo Brown as a pianist on set. While Lina so believed in her one-sided obsession with Don, he meets a girl, Kathy Selden, who sings and dances well and quickly falls in love with her. Being a silent film production company, the head of Monumental Pictures decided to introduce sound into their films. The transition was hard as it soon proved that Lina could not live up to it due to her high and annoying voice. In order to comeback successfully after their first sound movie flop, they decided to do a musical but with Kathy dubbing Lina’s voice. Not only was the musical a great hit, Kathy managed to emerge a rising starlet alongside Don and Cosmo.
In Singin’ in the Rain, many flashbacks were used throughout the entire film. The first and probably the most prominent one is “Dignity. Always, dignity” scene. In this scene, Don flashes back to when he was still a nobody and all the acts that he had done to become the star he is now. Both Cosmo and himself were entertainers but their acts, tap dancing and stunts, were not really well-known. Through these flashbacks, we as audience can have a back story of the characters and relate to them rather then the film showing their their entire life from start to end. That would be a waste of time. It also showed us the type of person Don is, he is an extremely proud person. He claims his motto is dignity however, he lies constantly while telling people his backstory. This reveals to us that Don is indeed a very proud person and is very good with words, manipulating the audiences view of him and being about to charm them off their feet. – Sarah-Cae
Sounds and Moves
In a musical, sounds and dance movements are a necessity. The success of musicals rely heavily on the songs and movements. In Singin’ in the Rain, the songs are not the typical emotional songs but they instead songs that are a reflection of the reality. They can start from anything, a word or even a tongue twister!
In this scene, it all started from a linguistic class meant for Don. The professor was doing tongue twisters with him when Cosmo entered the room. They started playing around with the professor and what seemed to be a tongue twisters became a song. It was engaging and is a successful musical piece. What counts as successful is when the song naturally fits into the scene, without any transitions.
Another classic example is “Make ’em laugh”. This scene is the most entertaining yet depressing in my opinion. It is the most entertaining as the song is up beat and all the choreography are suited to the T. From the lyrics, ‘make them laugh, make them laugh’ to the stunts, they complement each other naturally. However, it also shows how much Cosmo felt since he was always the side kick. In this scene, Cosmo comes up with many ideas to teach Don how to make people laugh and that much ideas portrays how Cosmo always have to please others before himself, even if he gets hurt. This aptly reflects how the entertainment industry is. It also showcases an interesting juxtaposition between Cosmo and Don’s philosophies; the former is all about delighting the audience at the expense of the actor, to be funny no matter how farcical or foolish he may appear, while Don is determined to maintain dignity (hence he does reveal his humble beginnings). Although the pair of them shared the same origins and trials, it appears only Cosmo embraces his past as he continues his humourous phantomine and dance routines, while Don covers his up when asked in an interview “how it all began”. Ironically though, it is this experience in his past that saves his fame and career later on!
The diegesis includes objects, events, spaces and the characters that inhabit them, including things, actions, and attitudes not explicitly presented in the film but inferred by the audience. In the film, there was a scene taken in the interior of a filming set. Don was so disturbed by what Kathy said about his acting that Cosmo had to ‘counsel’ him. While they were walking, they passed several familiar sets.
They are considered a form of diegesis as they did not explicitly put a notice there to say it is ‘set 1-indigenous territory’. They allowed the audience to infer that this is actually a big studio with many sets inside and that all the action and outdoor scenes are normally shot indoors. Putting the characters in front made me subconsciously take in the sets behind.
The film is mostly well and fast paced with smooth cuts that does not bore audiences and instead keeps them eagerly awaiting the next few scenes or numbers. Kelly freed out the camera and made use of the spaces, camera movement, angles, and editing to create a great partnership between the camera and dance movement.(International Encyclopedia of Dance pg 38-40). Kelly once said “If the camera is to make a contribution at all to dance, this must be the focal point of its contribution; the fluid background, giving each spectator an undistorted and altogether similar view of dancer and background. To accomplish this, the camera is made fluid, moving with the dancer, so that the lens becomes the eye of the spectator, your eye“. (Film Choreographers and Dance directors, pg 374-376)
Donen and Kelly revolutionized the industry as musicals were previously set up on the Broadway stage and environment. Their film created a more cinematic form that included dances that could be achieved only in the film medium. They set a new standard for special effects, animation, editing and cinematography.
Without hard work, there would not be this film. All the actors suffered injuries as a result of Kelly wanting all the numbers to be perfect. Kelly himself suffered a high fever after filming the iconic scene where he had to dance around in the rain. David O Conner had to be hospitalized after filming the ‘made ’em laugh s’ sequence due to sheer exhaustion. Debbie Reynold’s feet bled as a result of shooting the “Good moring” sequence. She had said that “Singin’ in the Rain and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life.” (The Saturday Evening Post)
Singin’ in the Rain is a legendary film because of sights and sounds. This film made people see beyond the screen to the reality backstage of entertainment. This film also introduced dubbing, the unspoken rule in the musical industry if you cannot sing but can act and also tunes that flows naturally with the story.
On a side note, this film visited the era when tap dancing and stunts were in trend. I was touched when i realized all the stunts and dance moves were done on the spot without a double. What about now? Doubles, doubles, everywhere~
This film gave us a little insight in the world of Hollywood at the period of time and it is fascinating. It has since gone on to inspire many others. Short clips are shown on recent films such as Silver Lining Playbook and Glee has performed songs from the films. In Stanley Kubrick‘s film A Clockwork Orange, “Singing In the rain” is sung mockingly by the character Alex De Large, and in France, a similar plot was infused in a film named Étoile sans lumière (aka “Star without Light”), directed by Marcel Blistène. Up to now, it songs and sequences from the films are still very much parodied and shown all over the world.
I feel that there was a lot of symbolism in the film as well. The entire film plus some of the songs are a reflection of the entertainment industry. Make Em Laugh is one good example, “My dad said “Be an actor, my son
But be a comical one
They’ll be standing in lines
For those old honky tonk monkeyshines””
as well as
“Now you could study Shakespeare and be quite elite
And you can charm the critics and have nothin’ to eat
Just slip on a banana peel
The world’s at your feet”
Which just goes to show that from the director and song writer’s point of view, in that time, the world of films were not as refined and audiences just enjoyed a good laugh. If your film made them laugh, then, they’ve enjoyed it.
List of references:
7. Roger Ebert. “Singin In The Rain”. Robertebert.com. 14 February 1999. Web. 6 July 2013. <http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-singin-in-the-rain-1952>
8. Larry Billman. Film Choreographers and Dance Directors. North Carolina: McFarland and Company. pp. 374–376. 1997. Book, published. 6 July 2013.
9. Jerome Delamator. “Gene Kelly”. International Encyclopedia of Dance. vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 38–40. 2004. Book, published. 6 July 2013.
10. Wikipedia. “Gene Kelly”. 29 June 2013. web. 6 July 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gene_Kelly>
11. Wikipedia. “Stanley Donen.”. 27 June 2013. web. 6 July 2013. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Donen>
About the author: Shannen is a lover of films especially musicals and yearns to be in one someday. She might not sing, she might not dance but what for? There’s IMAGINATION~