Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Singin' in the Rain (1952)

When filming a Lockwood and Lamont silent melodrama, The Jazz Singer becomes a smash hit. The studio stops production to transform their film into a talkie. Because of insipid dialogue and Lamont's horrible speaking voice, test audiences hate it. To save his career, Lockwood (Gene Kelly) remakes it as a musical, with Lamont's speaking and signing voice dubbed by Lockwood's ingenue love interest (Debbie Reynolds).

It's a paper-thin plot. They try to fix a film around a troublesome leading lady, a rom-com subplot forced into it, and peppered with song and dance numbers. But it works. I saw this years ago (it's one of very few old movies my wife likes) and I wasn't impressed. After my fairly extensive if somewhat uneven education of film, I find I like it.

Many details of the advent of sound cinema are incorrect, but for creative reasons. Singin' isn't a film studies class. Also, here is where the misconception that many silent stars lost their careers because they had funny voices comes from. While a great many actors could not make the transition, it had a lot more to do with acting style and aging than anything else.

I've made no secret that musicals, for the most part, are an art form lost on me. Doubly so for dance numbers. O'Connor and Kelly's sheer athleticism, however, is something to behold. Kelly even has Jackie Chan's respect.

But Reynolds didn't have Kelly's respect. He berated the half-his-age co-star for not being an accomplished dancer. Fred Astaire found her crying and helped her out. Donald O'Connor also called him a tyrant.

Despite off screen difficulties, on screen chemistry is great. The music is toe-tappingly good, if that's your sort of thing. It has an up-beat charm that makes it arguably the most popular in it's genre. AMRU 3.5.

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