Singin' in the Rain

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For the 1929 song sung in this film, see Singin' in the Rain (song). For the stage musical, see Singin' in the Rain (musical).
Singin' in the Rain
Singing in the rain poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Gene Kelly
Stanley Donen
Produced by Arthur Freed
Written by Betty Comden
Adolph Green
Starring Gene Kelly
Donald O'Connor
Debbie Reynolds
Jean Hagen
Millard Mitchell
Music by Nacio Herb Brown (music)
Arthur Freed (lyrics)
Cinematography Harold Rosson
Edited by Adrienne Fazan
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • March 27, 1952 (1952-03-27)
Running time 103 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget

$2,593,000[1][2]

($22,466,241) as 2013
Box office

$5,630,000[1]

($48,779,382) as 2013

Singin' in the Rain is a 1952 American musical comedy film directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, starring Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds, and choreographed by Kelly and Donen. It offers a lighthearted depiction of Hollywood in the late '20s, with the three stars portraying performers caught up in the transition from silent films to "talkies."

The film was only a modest hit when first released, with O'Connor's Best Supporting Actor win at the Golden Globes, Comden and Green's win at the Writers Guild of America Awards, and the best supporting actress Oscar nomination for Jean Hagen being the only major recognitions. However, it was accorded its legendary status by contemporary critics. It is now frequently described as one of the best musicals ever made,[3] and the best film ever made in the "Arthur Freed Unit" at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It topped the AFI's 100 Years of 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.

Plot[edit]

Don Lockwood is a popular silent film star with humble roots as a singer, dancer and stuntman. Don barely tolerates his vapid, shallow leading lady, Lina Lamont, though their studio, Monumental Pictures, links them romantically to increase their popularity. Lina herself is convinced they are in love, despite Don's protestations otherwise.

At the premiere of his newest film, The Royal Rascal, Don tells the gathered crowd an exaggerated version of his life story, including his motto, which is "Dignity. Always dignity". His words are humorously contradicted by flashbacks showing him taking on a wide range of menial and humiliating roles on stage and in film alongside his best friend Cosmo Brown.

To escape from his fans after the premiere, Don jumps into a passing car driven by Kathy Selden. She drops him off, but not before claiming to be a stage actress and sneering at his "undignified" accomplishments. Later, at a party, the head of Don's studio, R.F. Simpson, shows a short demonstration of a Vitaphone talking picture[4] but his guests are unimpressed. To Don's amusement and Kathy's embarrassment, she pops out of a mock cake right in front of him as part of the entertainment; Kathy, it turns out, is a chorus girl. Furious at Don's teasing, she throws a real cake at him, only to hit Lina right in the face. Don is smitten with her, but she runs off into the night. Don searches for her for weeks after discovering she was fired, believing himself to be responsible, but Lina tells him while filming a love scene that she made sure Kathy lost her job as an act of revenge and jealousy. Later, Don finds Kathy working in another Monumental Pictures production and they apologize to each other. She confesses to having been a fan of Don all along and they begin to fall in love.

After a rival studio has an enormous hit with its first talking picture, 1927's 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 in capturing sound, but by far the worst problem is Lina's grating voice. An exasperated diction coach tries to teach her how to speak properly, but to no avail. Don also takes diction lessons (albeit with much better results). The Dueling Cavalier's test screening is a disaster; the actors' speaking is 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,[5] and in the middle of the film, the sound goes out of synchronization, with hilarious results.

After the premiere, 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 called "Broadway Melody". Don will be able to show off his natural singing and dancing talent, but they are stumped when they must think about what to do with Lina. Cosmo, inspired by a scene in "The Dueling Cavalier" where Lina's voice was out of sync, suggests they dub Lina's voice with Kathy's. They bring the idea to R.F., who goes ahead with it. When Lina finds out, she is infuriated. She becomes even angrier when she discovers that R.F. intends to give Kathy a screen credit and a big publicity promotion. Lina, after consulting lawyers, threatens to sue R.F. unless he cancels Kathy's buildup and orders her to continue working uncredited as Lina's voice. R.F. reluctantly agrees to her demands.

The premiere of The Dancing Cavalier is a tremendous success. When the audience clamors for Lina to sing live, Don, Cosmo, and R.F. improvise and get her to lip sync into the microphone while Kathy, hidden behind the stage curtain, sings into a second one. While Lina is "singing", Don, Cosmo and R.F. gleefully raise the curtain. When Cosmo replaces Kathy at the microphone, the sham becomes obvious. Embarrassed, Lina flees in humiliation. A distressed Kathy tries to run away as well, but not before Don proudly announces to the audience that she's "the real star of the film". The final shot shows Kathy and Don kissing in front of a billboard for their new film, Singin' in the Rain.

Cast[edit]

  • Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood. Although his performance in the song "Singin' in the Rain" is now considered iconic, Kelly was not the first choice for the role—Howard Keel was originally cast. However, Keel was replaced by Kelly as the screenwriters evolved the character from a "Western actor" to a "song-and-dance vaudeville" performer.[6]
  • Donald O'Connor as Cosmo Brown. The role was based on, and initially written for, Oscar Levant.
  • Debbie Reynolds as Kathy Selden. Early on in production, Judy Garland (shortly before her contract termination from MGM), Kathryn Grayson, Jane Powell, Leslie Caron, and June Allyson were among the names thrown around for the role of the "ingenue." However, director Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly insisted that Debbie Reynolds always was first in their mind for the role.[7] Although the film revolves around the idea that Kathy has to dub over for Lina's voice, in the scene where Kathy is dubbing a line of Lina's dialogue ("Our love will last 'til the stars turn cold"), Jean Hagen's normal voice is used. Reynolds herself was dubbed in "Would You?" and "You are My Lucky Star" by an uncredited Betty Noyes.[8]
  • Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont. Judy Holliday was strongly considered for the role of Lina, until she suggested Hagen, who had been her understudy in the Broadway production of Born Yesterday. Fresh off her role in The Asphalt Jungle, Hagen read for the part for producer Arthur Freed and did a dead-on impression of Holliday's Billie Dawn character, which won her the role. Her character was based on the silent picture star Norma Talmadge who bombed during the transition to talkies.
  • Millard Mitchell as R.F. Simpson. The initials of the fictional head of Monumental Pictures are a reference to producer Freed. R.F. also uses one of Freed's favorite expressions when he says that he "cannot quite visualize it" and has to see it on film first, referring to the Broadway ballet sequence, a joke, since the audience has just seen it.
  • Cyd Charisse as Gene Kelly's dance partner in the "Broadway Melody" ballet.
  • Douglas Fowley as Roscoe Dexter, the director of Don and Lina's films.
  • Rita Moreno as Zelda Zanders, the "Zip Girl" and Lina's informant friend. Considered to be based on Clara Bow (The It Girl).
  • King Donovan (uncredited) as Rod, head of the publicity department at Monumental Pictures.
  • Judy Landon (uncredited) as Olga Mara, a silent screen vamp who attends the premiere of The Royal Rascal. She is considered to be based on Pola Negri and Gloria Swanson.
  • Madge Blake (uncredited) as Dora Bailey, a radio show host. Considered to be based on Louella Parsons.
  • Kathleen Freeman (uncredited) as Phoebe Dinsmore, Lina's diction coach
  • Bobby Watson (uncredited) as diction coach during "Moses Supposes" number
  • Jimmy Thompson (uncredited) as the singer of "Beautiful Girl"
  • Mae Clarke (uncredited) as the hairdresser who puts the finishing touches on Lina Lamont's hairdo.

Songs[edit]

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.[9] Screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green contributed lyrics to one new song.[10]

All songs have lyrics by Freed and music by Brown, unless otherwise indicated.[10] Some of the songs, such as "Broadway Rhythm", "Should I?", and most notably "Singin' in the Rain," were featured in numerous films. The films listed below mark the first time each song was presented on screen.

Missing scenes[edit]

  • In an early draft of the script, the musical number "Singin' in the Rain" was to be sung by Reynolds, O'Connor, and Kelly on their way back from the flop preview of The Dueling Cavalier.
  • In addition, "You Were Meant For Me" was not included in that draft. Instead, the love song was supposed to be Gene Kelly's version of "All I Do is Dream of You", which would be sung after the party at R. F. Simpson's house, when Kelly chases after Reynolds. The song would have ended up at Kelly's house. The footage of this scene has been lost.
  • Reynolds' solo rendition of "You Are My Lucky Star" (to a billboard showing an image of Lockwood) was cut from the film, but has survived and is included on the original soundtrack and DVD version of the film.[12]
  • Rita Moreno was originally to have sung "I Got a Feelin' You're Foolin'", but this ended up being part of the "Beautiful Girl" medley.
  • Due to being seen as too sexy for 1952 film audiences, seven seconds of footage were cut from the Gotta Dance number featuring Kelly and Charisse and the scene was re-scored with the fairly noticeable jump cut remaining in the middle of the shot. As of 2014, the seven seconds of footage excised from the scene remains lost to time.

Production[edit]

Gene Kelly dancing while singing the title song "Singin' in the Rain"

In the famous dance routine in which Gene Kelly sings the title song while twirling an umbrella, splashing through puddles and getting soaked to the skin, Kelly was sick with a 103 °F (39 °C) fever.[13] The rain 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 as the filming of the sequence took place over 2–3 days.[14] Another myth is that the rain was mixed with milk in order for the drops to show up on camera; the desired visual effect was produced, albeit with difficulty, through backlighting.[15][16]

Debbie Reynolds was not a dancer at the time she made Singin' in the Rain; her background was as a gymnast.[12] 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, Reynolds' feet were bleeding.[12] 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."[17]

Donald O'Connor had to be hospitalized after filming the "Make 'em Laugh" sequence. He smoked up to four packs of cigarettes a day.[14]

Most of the costumes from this film were eventually acquired by Debbie Reynolds and housed 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. and are now on permanent display at the Costume World Broadway Collection Museum in Pompano Beach, Florida.[citation needed]

Reception[edit]

Floribunda rose 'Singin' in the Rain', McGredy 1994

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.[1] It was the tenth highest grossing movie of the year in the US and Canada.[18][19]

Awards and honors[edit]

For her role as Lina Lamont, Jean Hagen was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film was also nominated for a Best Original Music Score.

Donald O'Connor won a Golden Globe for this film.[20] Betty Comden and Adolph Green received the Writers Guild of America for the best written American musical.[21]

Singin' in the Rain has appeared twice on Sight and Sound's 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.[22] Review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 100% of critics gave the film a positive review based on 47 reviews, with an average score of 9.2/10. The film is currently No. 14 on Rotten Tomatoes' list of best rated films.[23] Rotten Tomatoes summarizes the critical consensus as, "Clever, incisive, and funny, Singin' in the Rain is a masterpiece of the classical Hollywood musical."[24] 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.

American Film Institute recognition

Home video[edit]

The 40th Anniversary Edition VHS version released in 1992 includes a documentary, the original trailer, and Reynolds' solo rendition of "You Are My Lucky Star," which had been cut from the final film.[25]

According to the audio commentary on the 2002 Special Edition DVD, the original negative was destroyed in a fire, but despite this, the film has been digitally restored for its DVD release. A Blu-ray edition was released in July 2012.

In popular culture[edit]

  • A similar plot had been used in the 1946 French film Étoile sans lumière (aka "Star without Light"), directed by Marcel Blistène, starring Edith Piaf and Mila Parély and later in the 1959 British film Follow a Star, directed by Robert Asher and starring Norman Wisdom and Jerry Desmonde.
  • The German slapstick show Nonstop Nonsens used the melody of "Make 'Em Laugh" as the main theme.
  • It has long been tradition at Kelly's hometown Pittsburgh Pirates games at PNC Park to play the scene from the film during rain delays.[26]
  • "Singin' in the Rain" is sung mockingly by Alex DeLarge, played by Malcolm McDowell, in the rape scene in Stanley Kubrick's film A Clockwork Orange (1971). The Gene Kelly version was played during the end credits. Gene Kelly was reportedly disgusted when it was used in the film and walked away from McDowell at a party.
  • The "Singin' in the Rain" routine has been parodied or imitated numerous times, including by Morecambe and Wise, Paddington Bear, The Wombles and in the animated film Robots (2005). The dance was also parodied, briefly, by The Goodies during their television episode "Saturday Night Grease", where the music for the dance sequence was "Singin' in the Rain". It was also once sung (very badly) by Bill Owen outside Nora Batty's house in an episode of Last of the Summer Wine. In Fame, Coco Hernandez (played by Irene Cara) dances in a puddle on a train station while singing "Singin' in the Rain".
  • World Champion Canadian figure skater Kurt Browning did an on-ice (and water) recreation in a Stars on Ice television special.[27]
  • In Legal Eagles, Robert Redford sings and dances "Singin' in the Rain" when he cannot sleep.
  • In the Pixar film Wall-E (2008), the robot Wall-E briefly swings himself around a light pole in an echo of the "Singin' in the Rain" number, even though the titular song was not used in the film.
  • Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain" sequence is one of the opening scenes of The Great Movie Ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Kelly approved his Audio-Animatronics likeness prior to its delivery to Florida.
  • The "Good Morning" song is used as part of the opening show at Disney World's Magic Kingdom each morning.
  • The dance to the title song is parodied in the Broadway musical Spamalot in the dance break to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," complete with tap dancing in raincoats and twirling umbrellas.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Brawl in the Family", Groundskeeper Willie was singing with an umbrella, but in acid rain.
  • In the Family Guy episode, "Believe It or Not, Joe's Walking on Air", Joe, Peter, Quagmire, Cleveland and Stewie performed a partial rendition of the "Good Morning" dance routine. Also, in the episode, "Peterotica", Quagmire recreates the "Make 'Em Laugh" number.
  • In the Glee episode "The Substitute", Will Schuester and Mike Chang perform the "Make 'Em Laugh" song and dance routine as a duo (which was the hallucination of a sick Will). The cast also performs a mash-up of "Singin' in the Rain" and Rihanna's "Umbrella" at the end of the episode.
  • In the 1998 American remake of the film Godzilla, the main character Dr. Niko Tatopoulos sings "Singin' in the Rain".
  • A 2005 Volkswagen Golf GTI commercial features Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain" sequence, but with Kelly performing hip-hop dance moves and a remixed version of the song playing in the background.
  • In the 2003 film Shanghai Knights, Jackie Chan imitates Gene Kelly's dance moves (complete with umbrella) towards the end of a fight scene set in London, England. The original "Singin' in the Rain" music plays over this sequence as a tribute.
  • On The Muppet Show, the Muppets want Gene Kelly to recreate "Singin' in the Rain" on a reconstructed set, though all he finally does is hum it as he crosses the stage.
  • on the animated series The Shoe People, the character Wellington sings the song. However, it isn't raining; he simply says "I know it's not raining really, but I can dream can't I?".
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt sang "Make 'Em Laugh" during the opening monologue when he hosted Saturday Night Live.
  • On Fringe, after he is removed from the Observer Corps, September takes the name Donald O'Connor because Singin' in the Rain was the first movie he watched with Walter Bishop.
  • In the movie Silver Linings Playbook, Tiffany and Pat watch a clip of "Moses Supposes" and copy some of the dance moves for their routine.
  • In an episode of Sesame Street, Grover stars in a production of "Singin' in the Rain", where the special effects are different forms of weather from rain such as snow or wind. When they finally get rain, Grover yells "Cut!" When asked why, Grover replies "I don't want to get my fur wet!".
  • In the episode of The Munsters called Dance With Me Herman, Herman Munster sings the first few bars of the title song Singin' in the Rain, after which he falls over a couch.
  • On the album All Samples Cleared!, Biz Markie sings parts of "Singin' in the Rain" on the song 'I'm Singin'.


See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c The Eddie Mannix Ledger, Los Angeles: Margaret Herrick Library, Center for Motion Picture Study .
  2. ^ Rudy Behlmer, Behind the Scenes, Samuel French, 1990 p 267
  3. ^ Haley Jr., Jack: That's Entertainment!, Frank Sinatra segments. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 1974
  4. ^ This scene pays homage to the original 1921 DeForest Phonofilm demonstration, featuring DeForest himself explaining the system.
  5. ^ Comden 2002: This is a reference to a scene by John Gilbert in his first talkie.
  6. ^ Betty Comden, Adolph Green (2002). The story Behind Singin' in the Rain: Now It Can be Told, reprint of the Singin' In the Rain screenplay introduction, originally published in 1972, included in the liner notes of the Music from the original motion picture soundtrack (deluxe edition) Singin' in the Rain double CD by Rhino Entertainment and Turner Classic Movies.
  7. ^ Robert Osborne, TCM commentary, "Singing in the Rain."
  8. ^ Earl J. Hess and Pratibha A. Dabholkar, Singin' in the Rain: The Making of an American Masterpiece (Lawrence, Kansas: University Press of Kansas, 2009), 145.
  9. ^ George Feltenstein (2002). "Producer's Note," included in the liner notes of the "Music from the original motion picture soundtrack (deluxe edition) Singin' in the Rain" double CD by Rhino Entertainment and Turner Classic Movies
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Track list in the liner notes of the "Music from the original motion picture soundtrack (deluxe edition) Singin' in the Rain" double CD by Rhino Entertainment and Turner Classic Movies.
  11. ^ a b CineBooks' Motion Picture Guide review of the film included on the Microsoft Cinemania 1997 CD
  12. ^ a b c New 50th Anniversary Documentary What a Glorious Feeling, hosted by Debbie Reynolds on the film's DVD.
  13. ^ "The Biography Channel". Retrieved 2008-06-03. 
  14. ^ a b "Singin' in the Rain (1952) – Hollywood’s Greatest Musical!". Key Light Enterprises. Retrieved 15 January 2012. 
  15. ^ Bubbeo, Daniel (July 11, 2012). "Gene Kelly's widow Patricia chats about her late husband and 'Singin' in the Rain'". Newsday. Retrieved July 27, 2012. 
  16. ^ The Basics: Was There Really Milk in Singin’ in the Rain? notes: "Gene Kelly himself described what happened in several interviews, including American Film (1979): 'Shooting the title number was just terrible for the photographer Hal Rossen [sic]. He had to backlight all the rain and then he had to put frontlight on the performer. That was as tough a job as I’ve ever seen, because you can’t photograph in rain and see it.'"
  17. ^ Patrick Perry, "ON TOUR WITH DEBBIE REYNOLDS: Feisty and Fit Actress Speaks Out About An All-Too-Common Problem - Overactive Bladder",The Saturday Evening Post, January/February 2003.
  18. ^ "Singin' in the Rain - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved 14 November 2011. 
  19. ^ 'Top Box-Office Hits of 1952', Variety, January 7, 1953
  20. ^ http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0045152/awards
  21. ^ "wga awards". Wga.org. Archived from the original on 2012-12-05. Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  22. ^ "Sight & Sound | Top Ten Poll 2002 - Critics’ top ten films of all time". BFI. 2011-08-02. Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  23. ^ "Top 100 Movies Of All Time". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Singin' in the Rain". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 31, 2014. 
  25. ^ "VHS back cover". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 
  26. ^ http://old.post-gazette.com/ae/20030709rawson0709p5.asp
  27. ^ "Youtube.com". Youtube.com. 2010-02-27. Retrieved 2010-03-06. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Comden, Betty, and Green, Adolph. Singin' in the Rain. New York: Lorrimer Publishing Limited. 1986. ISBN 0 85647 116 X.
  • Hess, Earl J., and Pratibha A. Dabholkar. Singin’ in the Rain: The Making of an American Masterpiece (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2009). ISBN 978-0-7006-1656-5.
  • Wollen, Peter. Singin' in the Rain. London: BFI Publishing. 1992. ISBN 0-85170-351-8.

External links[edit]