By William Shelton
Singing in the Rain in a 1952 musical comedy by directors Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly bout a group of actors at the end of the silent era. Two of these actors, Gene Kelly’s Don Lockwood and Jean Hagen’s Lina Lamont, are two of the biggest starts in the films fictional Hollywood but they soon find themselves fearing for the future of their careers when their first talking picture turns out to be a disaster. While no one in the production was blameless (introducing new technology no one knows how to use would be hard for any film maker) Don, his childhood friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor)and Don’s would be actor girlfriend Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) release that most of the films issues lie with Lina’s performance. So the three of them decide to re-shoot the film and dubbing Lina’s performance with Kathy’s (because these kinds of decision are always up the actors and not the director or producers apparently). Things begin to look down when Lina finds out about the plan, but together the three protagonists find a way to get the best of her in the end.
All though the film is enjoyable, there are a few flaws that hold it back from greatness. The first of those is the character of Kathy Selden. She and Don Lockwood first meet as he’s escaping a horde of ravenous fans and she tells him that she doesn’t care much for the movies. She belittles screen actors and holds herself, a stage actress who wants to movie to New York and be on Broadway, to a higher standard. It’s this snobbishness and (for the lack of a better word) “pretentiousness” that makes she the apple of Dons eye. We learn soon after, once the two meet up again, that she was lying about her feelings of the movies. While the set up for the two’s relationship isn’t all that bad, the fact is she had no real reason to lie to Don about her views on the movies. This plot point just feels forced and poorly thought out; it almost feels like half way through the movie the film makers just wanted to drop the subplot but couldn’t think of a good way to do it.
And then there are the musical numbers. All very good, enjoyable and fun to watch and all utterly pointless. This is best exemplified in the number “Make ‘Em Laugh”. The number starts with Cosmo attempting to cheer up his friend Don, but soon it becomes clear that this has no narrative value and is just there for the enjoyment of the audience. And enjoyable it is. The number is a great bit of slapstick humor, but it’s a shame the film makers couldn’t have made the number feel like it fit better into the story itself. This is something other musical movies don’t have a problem with (i.e. “Greece” or “Repo: The Genetic Opera”), so it’s easy to think this is just growing pains, but it’s still a shame that such a classic couldn’t quite stick the landing.
For the most part, Singing in the Rain is a pretty strait story with little in the way of motifs or themes, but there is one thing that kept popping us: Lina’s vanity and self-centeredness being a consent issue. The character is rather unliked by those who know her due to her insistence that she get her way. In the end she even goes so far as too try and ruin Kathy’s career by keeping her behind the scenes. However, it’s hard to say honestly that this was the film leading up to a “point” of any kind.
With all it’s flaws, Singing in the Rain was still a very enjoyable film. With it’s humor, sincerity and charm, this is still very much a movie people should be watching. It was a better look at the end of the silent era that “The Artist” was, and that won best picture so if nothing else it’s worth seeing Singing in the Rain just too see the “good version” of yet another poorly chosen Oscar winner.
My Grade” 20/20