Thursday, February 21, 2013
# 94: Singin' in the Rain (1952)
Code-name: Dub Disaster
Directors: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Don Lockwood- Gene Kelly
Lina Lamont- Jean Hagen
Kathy Selden- Debbie Reynolds
Cosmo Brown- Donald O'Connor
Notable Awards & Nominations:
Oscar Nomination for Supporting Actress, Jean Hagen
Oscar Nomination for Best Movie Score
Golden Globe- Best Actor- Donald O' Connor
Golden Globe Nomination for Best Picture- Comedy/Musical
"Singin' in the Rain" is set in the early 30's, Hollywood's days of yore, around the time talkies were transforming the industry. Gene Kelly and Jean Hagen played an on-screen couple that did a number of films together and Donald O'Connor was his buddy that he got into the industry with.
I'm sure that Lina Lamont will go down as one of the most annoying characters in the history of film. The fact films were silent in the beginning did her a HUGE favor because nobody, outside of the people working with her, had any idea how horrible her voice sounds.
Their next film is a talkie and between her voice and the less than stellar sound editing efforts, it became a laughingstock with the test audience... one of those cases where people say how funny something is and the people behind it groan "it was supposed to be a drama."
The men, along with newcomer actress Kathy Selden, eventually decide to redo the film as a musical with Kathy dubbing her voice over Lina's.
Naturally one of the strong points is the onscreen chemistry between this trio and the choreography is charming in a nostalgic sort of way. Between a couple of my reality shows (Dancing with the Stars, So you think you can dance), I know a little bit about the different types of dances, whether Latin, ballroom or otherwise. But sometimes, there's nothing quite like seeing one of the greats doing what they became best known for.
All I'd ever seen of Gene Kelly was the little dancing he does in "Xanadu," which I'm sure a lot of people would agree is not the only thing you want people like him to be remembered for.
Him and Donald O'Connor reminded me of that Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye chemistry in "White Christmas" but for a number of reasons, I'd take this over "White Christmas" any day.
It told a great story rooted in true events with a real nice song and dance to go with it.
Often times, I tend to be judgemental about movies based on how strong an ending they have. How well everything ties together as well as the note it all lands on.
Although somewhat predictable, I loved the surprise ending.
Throughout the film, there are a few running jokes revoling around Lina.
At the beginning red carpet scene, note how Gene Kelly does all the talking and she hates how she can't speak for herself.
Then there's the repeated line: "do you think I'm stupid or something?"
...the right answer to that question... "don't answer that"
She gets wind of the fact her voice is being dubbed over in this movie and the guys want Kathy to get credit for it. She threatens to sue the studio if they don't take Kathy's name off the ending credits.
All this comes to pass at the big premiere where the film is a huge success. Lina wants to take credit for it and she decides to give a live encore performance (for which she has Kathy sing for her). But the guys eventually expose her for the fraud that she is, with Kathy at last getting credit for doing good.
In recent years, I'd gotten more in touch with older films and will continue to do so. The interesting thing was that this felt like the culmination of a few ideals that came through in other films I'd seen in that time frame.
"Chaplin" not only taught me a great deal about the silent film actor, but also acquainted me with just how rocky the transition to sound was for actors from that time. While Charlie Chaplin fought until the bitter end to continue delivering his art in his preferred method, his good friend Douglas Fairbanks was one of many that disappeared from the industry because they couldn't keep up.
Last year's best picture Oscar winner "The Artist" also told the story of a man who was shuttled out of the industry because they wanted a new set of faces when the studio decided to exclusively produce talkies.
But I didn't take into consideration before this film that actors lost their livelihood because their speaking voices contrasted with how they looked. That's why I found this film fascinating. Sure, it relied on the bare bones of story and acting with music being an ample canvas. And yes, I found that refreshing when there seem to be one too many films weighed down by special effects and CGI. But mainly, I liked that this film was almost like a history lesson about Hollywood back in the old days.