What a masterpiece. In so many ways Singin’ in The Rain represents to me what I adore in cinema: the merging of genres, the meta-levels of storytelling, making movies within movies, the humour, the creativity, Gene Kelly. Perfect. This movie is etched in my memory through songs and dance routines and the vivid colors. On bad days I try to remember the title song, because Gene Kelly’s defiance and happiness in the rain is a model I’d like to follow in facing shit storms and sorrows as well as the most beautiful days of my life. Singing in the rain. We can’t choose what happens, but we can choose our attitude.
We can’t choose what happens, but we can choose our attitude.
Hollywood musicals for a good many decades from the 1930s onwards are where the magic truly unfolds. I am so grateful for having a friend and her family, who educated me in this genre as a child. No one should be deprived this delight. I remember being uplifted from my reality, forgetting about my sadness and feeling like anything is possible when I first saw this particular movie. This film is revolutionary in the way it incorporates the musical numbers into the storytelling. Where they often do work as separate numbers, in Singin’ In The Rain dancing and singing happen seamlessly. Even the long end piece of dancing, Gotta Dance, holds the viewer mesmerized.
I have gladly shared this love of musicals with my four-year-old. So far Singin’ in The Rain is his favorite. I know that most of the plot escaped him, but still he watched transfixed and has performed his own tap-dancing routines ever since. What is it that I think I am transmitting to him with this old Hollywood stuff? Maybe the feeling that there can be dancing in the middle of a boring day and there can be happiness in ordinary things – strange fun things can occur if you keep your eyes open. Life really is queer and that’s the best kind of life.
So much has happened since we watched Singin’ In The Rain. The European Football Championships started.The Brexit vote happened. We started a magazine called One Quart. All new beginnings and situations that deserve our strictest attention one way or another. Singin’ In The Rain also deals in new starts. I’ve watched this film many times. It remains one of those movies that fascinates and intrigues with each new viewing. Is it experimental? Not particularly, unless you count raising the bar for all the films that followed. Its colors are surely richer than anything I’ve seen on screen bar The Wizard Of Oz (so yes, rich). But Singin’ In The Rain, in a roundabout way that is integral to the plot, describes quite authentically how the spoken word came to the movies. Dialogue you can hear. A revolution in sound – a new start. 25 years before Singin’ In The Rain, The Jazz Singer (another musical) bought sound synced to the picture. Wow, the things we take for granted now.
The scene where they demonstrate this new sound in Singin’ In The Rain is particularly eerie. A Vincent Price look-alike makes strange vowels through a very tinny mike. The projection in black and white, a doomsayer from the future, cracking the vividness we’ve seen up until now, bringing unemployment to these heroes of the silent screen. How will Gene, Debbie and Donald carry on? With a song and a smile I tell you. And what of the songs? Would you believe me when I say that Singin’ In the Rain is one of the greatest ever? That surely The Beatles had half an ear on Good Morning? Or that any of these other dozen songs are all very great? Arthur Freed and Nacio Brown should be as revered as Lennon and McCartney. Top lines? They fucking invented them.
So Singin’ In the Rain remains one of cinema’s perfections, one of the reasons we keep going back to the movies. It’s in the fleeting hope that cinema can make us feel as thrilled and alive as this. At its heart is Gene Kelly. Has there been a better on-screen dancer? The choreography here is so fluid yet graceful, Kelly makes his dance speak to our inner selves. Zoom forward many years and the increasingly hollow Stanley Kubrick tries to sully and humiliate our affections for Singin’ In The Rain, where his anti hero of Clockwork Orange – Alex, sings the iconic theme song whilst doing very bad things. But you know what? This might have thrilled me as a young adult, but not any more. As a matter of fact, Kubrick’s ultra violent saga feels very juvenile now. But there’s another reason far more dangerous, enlightening, wow and sexy, the heartbeat of everything, much bigger than certainly most life, a eureka moment: the introduction of Cyd Charisse’s legs. I need say no more, my argument is sealed in green velvet gossamer.
So Singin’ In the Rain remains one of cinema’s perfections, one of the reasons we keep going back to the movies.
Singin’ In the Rain was Directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly and released in 1952.