Friday, July 13, 2012

After 60 Years, Fans Still "Singin' in the Rain"

In celebration this year of the 60th anniversary of the theatrical release of "Singin' in the Rain", local theaters, in partnership with Turner Classic Movies, held special screenings of the film last night. The movie was preceded by a filmed introduction by TCM's Robert Osborne, including clips of him recently interviewing the charming Debbie Reynolds, as well as interview clips with Donald O'Connor and Gene Kelly's widow and others. The interviews were good and quite interesting, but we were all quite excited when the movie finally started.

The theater was almost full, which was wonderful; hopefully that sets the precedent to screen more great classics. Some of us are young enough to have never seen these films on the big screen, and others are old enough to remember just how thrilling it is to watch a great movie in the theater. They truly don't make them like they used to.

I had forgotten just how great this movie is. I haven't watched "Singin'" in years. In fact, I'm not sure whether I've shown it to any of my children or not. I took my youngest, my 10-year old daughter, with me last night, though, and I intend to show my sons the film soon-- she kept commenting that Cosmo reminded her so much of my 13-year old, Ben (and I agree). 

Cosmo is by far my favorite character in the movie; O'Connor was an adorable mix of a Marx Brother and Danny Kaye (kids, if you don't know who they are, I would happily introduce you to some of their better films... after I stop weeping at your cinematic cultural ignorance...). He choreographed the superbly entertaining "Make 'Em Laugh", throwing in the funny bit with the dummy after his backstage schtick proved hilariously entertaining to the whole crew. He was a master of physical comedy, he was a fantastic singer and dancer, and frankly, he steals every scene he is in. Almost.
Debbie Reynolds at 19 absolutely glows onscreen. She was so beautiful and funny and had such a powerful presence that when she's on, it's hard to look at anyone else! She's wonderful. In the interview before the movie, she told how she had never really danced before-- amazing that she was able to keep up with Donald O'Connor and the great Gene Kelly in this film! She was the perfect choice for the role of Kathy and it was so much fun to watch her on that huge theatrical screen.

Gene Kelly directed this movie, and he certainly had a good eye for what worked well. His show-stopping performance in the title song is amazing- he is the ray of sunshine in that rainstorm. Every time I watch this movie, I want to go find some puddles to dance in. Here in Utah, we never get a downpour like the one in the movie (well, maybe not never, but seldom), so I haven't ever reenacted that scene, but wouldn't that be a joy? He makes it look effortless, though it was actually a lot of very hard work: isn't that what great performers do?
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the perfect performance of Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont. She is so funny and so believable and speaking of scene-stealing, she very nearly steals the whole show.

Rare is the movie that is so perfectly cast that you wouldn't change a single actor for another. "Singin' in the Rain" is that movie. It's often been called the "greatest movie musical of all time" and I'm inclined to agree. It's timeless, it's incredibly funny and heartwarming, the drama doesn't slide into melodramatic... it's a really great time at the movies. I am so glad I went to see it on a movie screen. 

My one complaint about this movie is the gratuitous ballet scene. Ugh. I assume that certain scenes were included to showcase Kelly's dancing ability, as well as Cyd Charisse's, but some of it feels like padding. "Broadway Rhythm" is okay, but way too long, and the whole long white veil duet-dance with the fans blowing the veil hither and thither is artistically lovely and yes, they are amazing dancers, but every time a movie musical goes into anything like that (think the even worse ballet in "Oklahoma" or the excessive "Minstrel" numbers in "White Christmas") I feel yanked out of the story. I love musicals, but I rather prefer song-and-dance that at least loosely relates to the actual storyline of the show. Meh... that's just me. And as I write this, I'm realizing that there are a great many songs in shows that don't relate to the story at all, which I do love, so maybe it's just that I'm nitpicky sometimes. 

If it's been a long time (or not) or you've never watched "Singin' in the Rain" you should really go give it another (or a first) look. It's classic, but timeless, cinema entertainment that the whole family will enjoy. I'll be fast-forwarding the aforementioned white-veil dance sequence when I show it to my boys, but other than that I think they'll love it.


Carolyn said...

Well said!!

Jen said...

The first half of this sounds just like Dad! You movie critic, you! :D

Angie said...

You really do have a knack for this writing thing:) I am so sad I missed it, but between you and Jen blogging I feel a desperate need to go watch it right now........

Steph said...

Ha ha... that's really not what I'm going for, but I'm very flattered by that comparison. :)

Steph said...

Thanks, Ang!! :)