In a sporadic series of classic cinema reviews from the hearts, minds, and souls of our readers, contributors, ultimately movie lovers, Al Robinson starts the ball rolling…
Singin’ in the Rain tells the story of Don Lockwood, a silent film actor, who is at the height of his fame, just as silent pictures are starting to transition into “talkies”. His co-star Lina Lamont is a triple threat of “can’t dance”, “can’t sing”, and “can’t act”. Still, with the help of Don’s friend Cosmo Brown, and new love interest Kathy Selden, they figure out a way for the Don Lockwood & Lina Lamont duo to stay relevant. They use Kathy’s voice to overdub Lina’s. Lina Lamont is a nasty person, who is the antagonist to the other 3’s protagonist. It all ends well of course, and Don & Lina stay film stars, and Kathy becomes a new one.
The film was co-directed by it’s leading star Gene Kelly, and Stanley Donen. It’s full of dancing and singing, but it never overwhelms you with either, to the point that it almost can’t be considered a musical. It’s more of a comedy that includes musical numbers. But still though, Singin’ in the Rain is that musical that hits all the right notes. It’s got wonderful performances by it’s 4 leading stars, Gene Kelly (as Don Lockwood), Jean Hagen (as Lina Lamont), Donald O’Connor (as Cosmo Brown), and Debbie Reynolds (as Kathy Selden). All 4 actors are perfectly cast. Gene Kelly looks exactly like a movie star, with his suits and finelly gelled hair. Donald O’Connor is just right as Gene Kelly’s lovable sidekick. Then there’s Jean Hagen, who comes across as Ginger to Debbie Reynold’s Mary Ann. They are all just so naturalistic in their roles.
It’s also got terrific musical numbers, most notably “Make ‘Em Laugh”, where Donald O’Connor dances like an acrobat. “Good Morning” where Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynold’s tap dance, and the iconic “Singin’ in the Rain” where Gene Kelly danced up and down the sidewalk. Lastly, but not least, it’s got a production value that is top notch. The cinematography by Harold Rosson is fantastic and especially composition. The back and forth tracking shots and the bird’s eye view crane shots are so memorable, and give the film a sense of grandeur. Also, it looks amazing in the 1.37:1 aspect ratio with the beautiful technicolor.
What amazes me is that this film was released in 1952, during an era that was still mostly black and white. This one stands out even more. I’m surprised by the fact that the film was only nominated for 2 Academy Awards, Best Supporting Actress for Jean Hagen, and Best Score for Lennie Hayton. Despite the fact that it was overlooked for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay nominations, it’s easy to see why Singin’ in the Rain has become one of the most beloved of Hollywood films.