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SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN rightfully earns its reputation as a timeless classic, one of the best movies ever made. It achieves this with phenomenal music, impressive dance numbers, glamorous costumes, captivating set design, dynamic cinematography, and totally charming characters. The whole cast is marvelous, including Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, and Jean Hagen. This spectacular musical displays strong, morally uplifting, redemptive themes of love, friendship, honesty, justice, and humility, interspersed with great musical numbers and hilarious comedy. SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN is truly one of Hollywood’s most enjoyable, most delightful masterpieces.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN transports viewers to the end of Hollywood’s silent-movie era, following famed actor Don Lockwood who falls in love with studio singer Kathy Seldon, with opposition from Don’s jealous co-star Lina Lamont, as they all struggle to transition from silent movies to “talkies.” SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN rightfully earns its reputation as a timeless classic through its delightfully phenomenal music, impressive choreographies, glamorous costumes, captivating set design, dynamic cinematography, and absolutely charming characters and morally uplifting, hilarious story promoting love, humility and honesty.
Viewers first meet Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) walking hand in hand with his beautiful, high-pitched co-star Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) at the Chinese Theatre on the red carpet premiere of their newest movie, “The Royal Rascal.” Through the montage of Don’s rise to stardom, the seemingly glamorous celebrity life sold to the public is humorously juxtaposed with the ugly reality of the entertainment industry. Don ends his speech with the word “dignity, always dignity,” which later in the movie is taken away from him. Lina, blinded by the publicity, fame and self-obsession, wholeheartedly believes she’s the love of Don’s life. After being attacked by the adoring fans, Don jumps into a stranger’s car desperate to get away and ends up meeting Kathy Seldon (Debbie Reynolds), a chorus girl and studio singer. Also self-obsessed, Don starts to put the make on Kathy, but she’s wise to his scheme and comically bursts his bubble.
However, when his jealous co-star Lina Lamont finds out about Don’s new love interest, Lina uses everything in her power to sabotage Kathy’s career and successfully gets her fired. The huge success of Al Jolson’s THE JAZZ SINGER and popular innovation of talking pictures threatens Don and Lina’s status as the stars of silent film. R.F. Simpson, the executive producer of Monument Pictures, scrambles to jump onto the bandwagon and keep his beloved costars at the forefront of fame.
However, their first talking picture, “The Dueling Cavalier,” exposes Lina’s terribly annoying, high-pitched voice and horrible accent. A preview of the movie is a huge disaster and brings everyone, especially Don, great humiliation. Lina, however, is oblivious to the problem, which is her!
With the help of Don’s musically talented best friend, Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor), however, Kathy and Don decide to turn “The Dueling Cavalier” into a musical, “The Dancing Cavalier.” Cosmo says they can dub Lina’s horrible voice with Kathy’s voice, but without Lina knowing.
Of course, despite everyone’s attempts to keep this a secret from Lina, she finds out and threatens to sue Monument Pictures if the studio reveals that Kathy dubbed her voice. Also, she wants the studio to force Kathy to continue to dub her voice for the remaining five years of Kathy’s studio contract.
Will Lina’s manipulative, deceptive tactics prevail, or will the truth finally come out?
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN is a delightful and refreshing work of art sure to bring you smiles, laughs, a heart brimming with joy, and the irresistible urge to get you singing and dancing at home. This movie is an outstanding musical because of how the music doesn’t only get you in the groove during the musical numbers, but also accompanies the moments in each scene throughout the whole movie so well it’s as if the music is a character on its own. The multitude of beautifully made costumes and captivating set design adds a level of vibrancy to the masterfully performed dance choreographies. The dynamic camera movements match the movie’s kinetic and comic energy. They elevate the charming personalities, conflicts and performances of the characters, bringing them to a whole new level of fun. All these elements really work together to create a brilliant, hilarious, heartwarming spectacle on screen.
Many musicals during the Golden Age of Hollywood, like SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN, take place in a fantasy world. SINGING’ IN THE RAIN takes places in the ultimate fantasy world, Hollywood. Thus, one of the major themes in the movie is the interplay of fantasy with reality. This happens in the very first scene where Don Lockwood’s public account of how he and Cosmo came to Hollywood, and how his relationship with Lina Lamont progressed, is a pompous fabrication that’s belied by the visuals that the moviegoers of SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN see of what really happened. Thus, when Don tells the movie fans and the radio audience at the premiere to “The Royal Rascal” that he and Cosmo arrived at the train station in “Sunny California,” it’s actually pouring down rain. Also, in the beginning of their relationship, Lina doesn’t give Don the time of day. She totally spurns his interest, until she finds out that Mr. Simpson has decided to turn Don into a star. Finally, of course, there’s the ultimate joke of the entire movie, that Lina appears to be a glamorous blonde lady in silent pictures when she’s actually a stuck-up, selfish bimbo with a grating voice.
This interplay of fantasy versus reality becomes the heart of the story’s development of Don’s relationship with Kathy. When they first meet, Don thinks Kathy should fall at his feet. However, Kathy’s wise beyond her years. She rebuffs his lame advances by mocking what he does for a living and by pretending that silent movie stars are beneath her. The dramatic climax of their relationship occurs when Don pretends to go along with Lina’s malicious plan to force Kathy to continue dubbing Lina’s voice but, in reality, it’s just a scheme to expose Lina for what she really is, a great big phony. As an embarrassed Kathy tries to run crying from the theater, Don stops her in her tracks by loudly and proudly telling the audience that Kathy’s “the real star” of “The Dancing Cavalier.” In the end, love and honesty win the day, and anyone who doesn’t tear up at least a little at this point in the story, well, you’re in a far worse situation than the Tin Man in THE WIZARD OF OZ because, unlike the Tin Man, you clearly have no heart.
People who hate movie musicals because they think the musical and dancing numbers aren’t “real,” are missing the whole point. In a movie musical, the musical numbers and the dance routines are, in effect, rituals, celebrations and expressions of friendship, romance, philosophies, attitudes, heartbreak, personality, emotions, etc., that take the form of song or dance rather than literal representations. The best musicals are masterpieces like SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN that use these musical numbers and dance routines to immerse the viewer totally into these rituals, celebrations and expressions. Thus, when Gene Kelly can’t control his joy as he sings about the joy in his heart while the rain’s pouring down in the movie’s title number, the movie achieves a heavenly, sweeping, irresistible level of cinematic and emotional bliss that can’t be beat.
SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN communicates a strong morally uplifting, redemptive worldview. The main characters go through the downfalls of pride and learn the importance of humility, love, justice, perseverance, truth, and honesty, which prevail at the end. At one point, Don serenades Kathy by singing to her that nature “patterned” her, but he adds that the angels must have sent her and they “made you just for me.” SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN is truly one of Hollywood’s most enjoyable masterpieces. It’s also one of the funniest.