|Singin' in the Rain|
Theatrical release poster
|Produced by||Arthur Freed|
Nacio Herb Brown (music)
Arthur Freed (lyrics)
|Edited by||Adrienne Fazan|
|Distributed by||Loew's Inc.|
|Box office||$7.2 million|
Singin' in the Rain is a 1952 American musical romantic comedy film directed and choreographed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, starring Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds and featuring Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchell and Cyd Charisse. It offers a lighthearted depiction of Hollywood in the late 1920s, with the three stars portraying performers caught up in the transition from silent films to "talkies".
The film was only a modest hit when it was first released. O'Connor won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, and Betty Comden and Adolph Green won the Writers Guild of America Award for their screenplay, while Jean Hagen was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. However, it has since been accorded legendary status by contemporary critics, and is often regarded as the greatest musical film ever made, as well as the greatest film made in the "Freed Unit" at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It topped the AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals list and is ranked as the fifth-greatest American motion picture of all time in its updated list of the greatest American films in 2007. In 1989, Singin' in the Rain was one of the first 25 films selected by the United States Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". In 2005 the British Film Institute included it in its list of the 50 films to be seen by the age of 14. In 2008, Empire Magazine ranked it as the eighth best film of all time. In Sight & Sound magazine's 2012 list of the 50 greatest films of all time, Singin' in the Rain placed 20th.
Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is a popular silent film star with humble roots as a hoofer and stuntman. Don barely tolerates his vain, cunning, conniving, and shallow leading lady, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), though their studio, Monumental Pictures, links them romantically to increase their popularity. Lina is convinced that they are in love, despite Don's protestations otherwise.
At the premiere of his latest film, The Royal Rascal, Don tells the gathered crowd a sarcastic, hyperbolic version of his life story, including his motto: "Dignity, always dignity." His words are humorously contradicted by flashbacks showing him alongside his best friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor) ("Fit as a Fiddle"). To escape from his fans after the premiere, Don jumps into a passing car driven by Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). She drops him off, but not before claiming to be a stage actress and sneering at his "undignified" accomplishments as a movie star.
Later, at an after-party, the head of Don's studio, R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell), shows a short demonstration of a talking picture,[a] but his guests are unimpressed. To Don's amusement, Kathy pops out of a mock cake right in front of him, revealing herself to be a chorus girl ("All I Do is Dream of You"). Furious at Don's teasing, she throws a real cake at him, accidentally hitting Lina in the face and fleeing. Don becomes smitten with Kathy and searches for her for weeks, with Cosmo trying to cheer him up ("Make 'Em Laugh"). While filming a romantic scene, a jealous Lina reveals that her influence is behind Kathy's loss of work and subsequent disappearance. On the studio lot, Cosmo finally finds Kathy quietly working in another Monumental Pictures production ("Beautiful Girl") and gets Don. Don sings her a love song, and she confesses to having been a fan of his all along ("You Were Meant for Me").
After rival studio Warner Bros. has an enormous hit with its first talking picture, the 1927 film The Jazz Singer, R.F. decides he has no choice but to convert the next Lockwood and Lamont film, The Dueling Cavalier, into a talkie. The production is beset with difficulties, including Lina's grating voice and strong New York accent. An exasperated diction coach tries to teach her how to speak properly, but to no avail. In contrast, Don fares better when taking diction lessons ("Moses Supposes"). The Dueling Cavaliers preview screening is a disaster; the actors are barely audible thanks to the awkward placing of the microphones, Don repeats the line "I love you" to Lina over and over, to the audience's derisive laughter,[b] and in the middle of the film, the sound goes out of synchronization, with hilarious results as Lina shakes her head while the villain's deep voice says, "Yes! Yes! Yes!" and the villain nods his head while Lina's squeaky soprano says, "No! No! No!"
Afterward ("Good Morning"), Don, Kathy, and Cosmo come up with the idea to turn The Dueling Cavalier into a musical called The Dancing Cavalier, complete with a modern musical number and backstory. The three are disheartened when they realize Lina's terrible voice remains a problem. Still, Cosmo, inspired by a scene in The Dueling Cavalier where Lina's voice was out of sync, suggests that they dub Lina's voice with Kathy's ("Singin' In the Rain"). After hearing Don and Cosmo pitch the idea, R.F. approves but tells them not to inform Lina that Kathy is doing the dubbing ("Broadway Melody"). When Lina barges in on a dubbing session and learns the truth ("Would You"), she is infuriated. She becomes even angrier when she discovers that R.F. intends to give Kathy a screen credit and a big publicity buildup afterward. Lina threatens to sue R.F. unless he makes sure no one ever hears of Kathy and that she keeps dubbing for the rest of her career. R.F. reluctantly agrees as a clause in Lina's contract states that the studio is responsible for her positive media coverage.
The premiere of The Dancing Cavalier is a tremendous success. When the audience clamors for Lina to sing live, Don, Cosmo, and R.F. tell her to lip sync into a microphone while Kathy, concealed behind the curtain, sings into a second one. While Lina is "singing" ("Singin' in the Rain Reprise"), Don, Cosmo, and R.F. gleefully raise the curtain, revealing the fakery. Lina flees in humiliation, and a distressed Kathy tries to run away as well, but Don proudly announces to the audience that she's "the real star" of the film ("You Are My Lucky Star"). Later, Kathy and Don kiss in front of a billboard for their new film, Singin' in the Rain.
Singin' in the Rain was originally conceived by MGM producer Arthur Freed, the head of the "Freed Unit" responsible for turning out MGM's lavish musicals, as a vehicle for his catalog of songs written with Nacio Herb Brown for previous MGM musical films of the 1929-39 period. Screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote two entirely new songs, "Make 'Em Laugh" and "Moses Supposes", the latter with music director Roger Edens providing the music (see below).
All songs have lyrics by Freed and music by Brown unless otherwise indicated. Some of the songs, such as "Broadway Rhythm," "Should I?," and especially "Singin' in the Rain" itself, have been featured in numerous films. The films listed below mark the first time each song was presented on screen.
Arthur Freed, the head of the "Freed Unit" at MGM responsible for the studio's glossy and glamorous musicals, conceived the idea of a movie based on the back catalog of songs written by himself and Nacio Herb Brown, and called in Betty Comden and Adolph Green from New York to come up with a story to tie the songs together and to write the script. Comden and Green first refused the assignment, as their agent had assured them that their new contract with MGM called for them to write the lyrics to all songs unless the score was by Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, or Rodgers and Hammerstein. After a two-week hold-out, their new agent, Irving "Swifty" Lazar, having looked over the contract, told them that the clause had been entirely an invention of their previous agent, and that there was no such language in the contract. After hearing this, Comden and Green began working on the story and script.
Because many of the songs had originally been written during the time when silent films were giving way to "talkies", and musicals were popular with audiences, Comden and Green came up with the idea that the story should be set during that transitional period in Hollywood, an era they were intimately familiar with. When Howard Keel was mentioned as the possible lead, they tried to work up a story involving a star of Western films who makes a comeback as a singing cowboy, but they kept gravitating to a story about a swashbuckling romantic hero with a vaudeville background who survives the transition by falling back on his abilities as a song-and-dance man, a story which Gene Kelly was well-suited for.
Kelly could not be approached at the time, as he was deeply immersed in An American in Paris (1951), which he was starring in and co-choreographing with Stanley Donen. Comden and Green continued to work on the script, and had at that time three possible openings for the film: a silent movie premiere, a magazine interview with a Hollywood star, and a star-meets-girl, star-loses-girl sequence. Unable to decide which to use or how to proceed, they had just decided to return their advance to MGM and admit defeat, when Betty Comden's husband arrived from New York and suggested that they combine all three openings into one. The script with the re-written opening was approved by Freed and by MGM's head of production Dore Schary, who had recently replaced Louis B. Mayer.
By this time shooting on An American in Paris had completed, and Freed suggested that Kelly be given the script to read. Kelly and Donen responded enthusiastically, and immediately become involved in re-writes and adjustments to the script. Comden, Green, Kelly, and Donen were all old friends, and the process went smoothly. Besides the Freed-Brown songs, Comden and Green contributed the lyrics to "Moses Supposes", which was set to music by Roger Edens. Shortly before shooting began, "The Wedding of the Painted Dolls", which Comden and Green had "painfully wedged into the script as a cheering-up song" was replaced with a new Comden and Green song, "Make 'Em Laugh".
After Comden and Green had returned to New York to work on other projects, they received word that a new song was needed for a love-song sequence between Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. The original had been a song-and-dance medley involving different sets in different soundstages on the studio lot, but they were asked for a romantic love song set in an empty sound stage, and it was needed immediately. Comden and Green provided such a scene for "You Are My Lucky Star" and sent it off to Hollywood.
In the sequence in which Gene Kelly dances and sings the title song while spinning an umbrella, splashing through puddles and getting soaked with rain, Kelly was sick with a 103 °F (39 °C) fever. The water used in the scene caused Kelly's wool suit to shrink during filming. A common myth is that Kelly managed to perform the entire song in one take, thanks to cameras placed at predetermined locations. However, this was not the case; filming the sequence took 2 to 3 days. Another myth is that the rain was mixed with milk in order for the drops to show up better on camera; but the desired visual effect was produced, albeit with difficulty, through backlighting.
Debbie Reynolds was not a dancer when she made Singin' in the Rain; her background was as a gymnast. Kelly apparently insulted her for her lack of dance experience, upsetting her. In a subsequent encounter when Fred Astaire was in the studio, he found Reynolds crying under a piano. Hearing what had happened, Astaire volunteered to help her with her dancing. Kelly later admitted that he had not been kind to Reynolds and was surprised that she was still willing to talk to him afterwards. After shooting the "Good Morning" routine, which had taken from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. to shoot, Reynolds' feet were bleeding. Years later, she was quoted as saying that "Singin' in the Rain and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life."
Most of the costumes from this film were eventually acquired by Debbie Reynolds and held in her massive collection of original film costumes, sets, and props. Many of these items were sold at a 2011 auction in Hollywood. While most items were sold to private collectors, Donald O'Connor's green check "Fit As a Fiddle" suit and shoes were purchased by Costume World, Inc. They are now on permanent display at the Costume World Broadway Collection Museum in Pompano Beach, Florida.
According to MGM records, during the film's initial theatrical release, it made $3,263,000 in the US and Canada and $2,367,000 internationally, earning the studio a profit of $666,000. It was the tenth highest-grossing movie of the year in the US and Canada.
Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote: "Compounded generously of music, dance, color spectacle and a riotous abundance of Gene Kelly, Jean Hagen and Donald O'Connor on the screen, all elements in this rainbow program are carefully contrived and guaranteed to lift the dolors of winter and put you in a buttercup mood."Variety was also positive, writing: "Arthur Freed has produced another surefire grosser for Metro in Singin' in the Rain. Musical has pace, humor, and good spirits a-plenty, in a breezy, good-natured spoof at the film industry itself ... Standout performances by Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor, especially the latter, enhance the film's pull."Harrison's Reports called it "top-notch entertainment in every department - music, dancing, singing, staging and story." Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post called it "yet another fresh and breezy, colorful and funny musical" from Gene Kelly, adding, "Of the players there's not a dud in the lot, from Kelly's facile performing to the brief but electric dance appearance by Cyd Charisse, a swell partner for him."
Pauline Kael, the long-time film critic for The New Yorker, said of the film "This exhuberant and malicious satire of Hollywood in the late twenties is perhaps the most enjoyable of movie musicals – just about the best Hollywood musical of all time."Roger Ebert placed Singin' in the Rain on his Great Movies list, calling the film "a transcendent experience, and no one who loves movies can afford to miss it."
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a perfect 100% approval rating based on 60 reviews, with an average rating of 9.27/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Clever, incisive, and funny, Singin' In The Rain is a masterpiece of the classical Hollywood musical." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 99 out of 100, based on 17 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". The film is ranked as No. 37 and No. 9, respectively, on both site's list of best-rated films.
Betty Comden and Adolph Green report that when they met François Truffaut at a party in Paris, Truffaut was very excited to meet the authors of Chantons sous la pluie. He told them that he had seen the film so many times that he knew it frame by frame, and that he and fellow director and screenwriter Alain Resnais, among others, went to see it regularly at a small Parisian movie theatre where it sometimes ran for months at a time.
Donald O'Connor won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for his portrayal of Cosmo Brown. Betty Comden and Adolph Green received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical.
Singin' in the Rain has appeared twice on Sight & Sounds list of the ten best films of all time, in 1982 and 2002. Its position in 1982 was at number 4 on the critics list; on the 2002 critics' list, it was listed as number 10, and it tied for 19 on the directors' list. In 2008, Singin' in the Rain was placed on Empire's 500 Greatest Movies of All Time List, ranking at #8, the highest ranked G-rated movie on the list.
In 1989, Singin' in the Rain was among the first 25 films chosen for the newly established National Film Registry for films that are deemed "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant" by the United States Library of Congress and selected for preservation.
The film is recognized by the American Film Institute in these lists:
The 40th Anniversary Edition VHS version released in 1992 includes a documentary, the original trailer, and Reynolds's solo rendition of "You Are My Lucky Star," which had been cut from the final film.
According to the audio commentary on the 2002 Special Edition DVD, the original negative was destroyed in a fire. Despite this, the film was digitally restored for its DVD release. A Blu-ray Ultimate Collector's Edition was released in July 2012.
Comic book adaptation
The Broadway musical Singin' in the Rain was adapted from the motion picture, and the plot of the stage version closely adheres to the original. Directed and choreographed by post-modern choreographer Twyla Tharp, the opening night cast starred Don Correia as Don Lockwood, Mary D'Arcy as Kathy Selden, Richard Fancy as Roscoe Dexter, Faye Grant as Lina Lamont, and Peter Slutsker as Cosmo Brown. The musical opened on July 2, 1985 at the Gershwin Theatre after 39 previews, and ran for 367 performances, closing on May 18, 1986.