Singin' in the Rain
SINGIN' IN THE RAIN
Directors: Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen
Production: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Corp.; Technicolor, 35mm; running time: 103 minutes; length: 9,228 feet, Released 1952. Filmed in MGM Studios and backlots.
Producer: Arthur Freed; screenplay: Betty Comden and Adolph Green, from the play by Betty Comden and Adolph Green; photography: Harold Rosson; editor: Adrienne Fazan; sound recording supervisor: Douglas Shearer; set decoration: Edwin B. Willis and Jacques Mapes; art directors: Cedric Gibbons and Randall Duell; music director: Lennie Hayton; orchestrations: Conrad Salinger, Wally Heglin, and Skip Martin; songs: Arthur Freed, Nacio Herb Brown, Betty Comden, and Roger Edens; vocal arrangements: Jeff Alexander; special effects: Warren Newcombe and Irving G. Ries.
Cast: Gene Kelly (Don Lockwood); Donald O'Connor (Cosmo Brown); Debbie Reynolds (Kathy Selden); Jean Hagen (Lina Lamont); Millard Mitchell (R. F. Simpson); Rita Moreno (Zelda Zanders); Douglas Fowley (Roscoe Dexter); Cyd Charisse (Dancer); Madge Blake (Dora Bailey); King Donovan (Rod); Kathleen Freeman (Phoebe Dinsmore, diction coach); Bobby Watson (Diction coach); Tommy Farrell (Sid Phillips, ass't. director); Jimmie Thompson (Male lead in "Beautiful Girls" number); Dan Foster (Ass't. director); Margaret Bert (Wardrobe woman); Mae Clark (Hairdresser); Judy Landon (Olga Mara); John Dodsworth (Baron de la Bouvet de la Toulon); Stuart Holmes (J. C. Spendrill III); Dennis Ross (Don as a boy); Bill Lewin (Villain in Western, Bert); Richard Emory (Phil, cowboy hero); Julius Tannen (Man on screen); Dawn Addams and Elaine Stewart (Ladies in waiting); Carl Milletaire (Villain, "Dueling Cavalier" and "Broadway Rhythm"); Jac George (Orchestra leader); Wilson Wood (Vallee impersonator).
Comden, Betty, and Adolph Green, Singin' in the Rain, London and New York, 1972; revised edition 1986.
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Silverman, Stephen M., Dancing on the Ceiling: Stanley Donen andHis Movies, New York, 1996.
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Traditionally, the film musical is said to have reached its pinnacle in the 1950s at MGM studios. The creative personnel at MGM responsible for this perfection were Arthur Freed, Vincente Minnelli, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly. The "golden era" began with On the Town (1949) and ended with Gigi (1958); between were An American in Paris, Singin' in the Rain, The Bandwagon, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, It's Always Fair Weather, and Funny Face. With the exception of On the Town, all were originally conceived for the screen. They were, in a sense, the last of their kind, because the early 1950s began the great mass adaptions of Broadway musicals. As television began to effect box office returns, the studios were hesitant to produce big budget musicals unless they were proven hits.
All were developments on Arthur Freed's concept of organic integration. The production numbers would, ideally, grow directly out of the emotional needs of the characters or would serve as plot motivation. Song and dance would replace dialogue as a means of discourse. Whether or not this is the perfect structure for the musical is debatable. Richard Dyer feels that critical stances which champion this form recapitulate the dominant ideology. In "Entertainment and Utopia," he states that entertainment is escapist/wish-fulfilling, a longing for something better—a literal Utopia. Musicals manage contradictions in the system (music/narrative, success/failure, love/hate, wealth/poverty, male/female) on all levels in such a way as to make them disappear. A film that offers no distinction between narrative (reality) and musical numbers (escapist fantasy) suggests that the narrative is also (already) Utopian. The films of the 1950s can be seen as the most ideologically repressive, because of the ease in which that ideology can be hidden.
Of the musicals of the 1950s, Singin' in the Rain is the best remembered. In 1977, the American Film Institute conducted a poll that listed Singin' in the Rain as one of the top ten American films. "Singin' in the Rain is generally accepted as the apogee of screen musical art, a virtually faultless film by any standards" says Arthur Jackson, in The Best Musicals. Clive Hirschorn notes that Singin' in the Rain, released ". . . on the heels of An American in Paris, did not receive the glowing reviews of the Gershwin film . . . . Over the years, however, it has surpassed An American in Paris in popularity and is now recognized as one of the all time greats." Following so closely behind An American in Paris, Singin' in the Rain was not as generally well received. Time felt it was "without much warmth or wit," and Newsweek called it "sluggish." It was nominated for only two Oscars; Jean Hagen for supporting actress and musical score. Notwithstanding, it was listed as one of the best films of 1952 by the National Board of Review and Films in Review, was the number one money-making film in April 1952, and number ten money-making film of the same year. Written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green (who also wrote On the Town), the screenplay won the award for best writing in an American musical from the Writers Guild of America.
The work of Comden and Green usually ridiculed an industry (filmmaking in Singin' in the Rain, theater in The Bandwagon, and television in It's Always Fair Weather) but without bitterness; "there was always wit, and so they were able to create musical movies full of joy that were still effective satire," says Stephen Winer in Velvet Light Trap. Based on a catalogue of songs written by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown during the late 1920s and early 1930s, the film spoofed the turmoils of the transition from silent to sound film. Originally planned for Howard Keel, who was extremely popular at that time, it eventually shifted to accommodate the persona of Gene Kelly, who also co-directed with Stanley Donen. Kelly's career is firmly rooted in film history not only for his solo routine to the title song, but also because of the "Broadway Rhythm" ballet. As expensive (in rehearsal/shooting time and overall cost) as the climactic ballet from An American in Paris, it was also as out of place. Gene Kelly commented on the "Broadway Rhythm" ballet at an American Film Institute symposium in 1979. Not being able to use Donald O'Connor or Debbie Reynolds, "we got Cyd Charisse and just wrote a whole ballet and stuck it in. That's how it came about. We had to have a number there. We never meant it to be that long, but since we were introducing a new character into the show, we had to keep adding to it and adding to it. It went on for hours, it seems." Donald O'Connor is possibly best remembered for his song and dance solo "Make Em Laugh," an athletic tour-de-force that helped him win the Golden Globe for Best Actor in 1952. Singin' in the Rain was Debbie Reynolds's third film for MGM and her first major role. Reportedly he age (she was only 19) and lack of professional experience was problematic. Playing the role of an understudy who dubs the voice of a silent star, she was dubbed by Betty Noyes for the singing and by Jean Hagen for the lines Debbie was supposedly dubbing for Jean Hagen's character, Lina Lamont.
Dennis Giles, offers a psycho-analytical reading of The Bandwagon and Singin' in the Rain that is particularly interesting. He sees the successful production of the show (in Singin' in the Rain, the revamping of The Duelling Cavalier into The Singing Cavalier) as a visually uncensored form of love-making. "The private show of love is displayed through the vehicle of the public spectacle: the lovers sing and dance to each other as if they were alone, at the same time that they openly display this love to the on-screen (diegetic) audience and to ourselves, the off-screen spectators." A successful show guarantees a consummated relationship between the male and female leads. Needless to say, The Singing Cavalier is a hit and Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds embrace as Singin' in the Rain fades out.
—Greg S. Faller