Singin’ in the Rain is a perennial bank holiday favourite. The musical comedy is also one of the best films about the movie business, an aspect that is not as obvious when viewing it as a child.
In the late 1920s, Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are a much-loved couple of the silent screen. When the studio decides to make the transition to sound, Don works with long-term partner Cosmo on new ideas. Lina’s voice proves an issue, until newcomer Kathy Selden provides Cosmo and Don with an interesting solution…
Singin’ in the Rain works equally well on a number of levels. The film is effective as a romance, as a comedy and as a musical. The relationship between Don and Kathy flourishes in an organic manner; Kathy holds her own as a feisty and independent character. Don, meanwhile, exhibits both charm and a sense of self-deprecation that is endearing.
Singin’ in the Rain functions as both a straightforward comedy with a healthy dose of slapstick, and a satirisation of Hollywood in the 1920s (and to some extent, Hollywood in general). This use of satire is particularly persuasive at the very beginning of the film, where Don charts his rise from vaudeville chancer to movie star.
Singin’ in the Rain is both a musical and a film about the making of a musical. As such, the lines become blurred. The ‘Broadway Melody’ sequence is of a duration protracted enough to disrupt the narrative. Nevertheless, the sequence is an enjoyable spectacle. Other numbers featured in the film have become classics; however Alfred Freed and Nacio Herb Brown’s songs still feel fresh within the context of the film.
Directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen, Singin’ in the Rain moves at a good pace, and maintains a suitable balance between musical and non-musical scenes. The choreography is spellbinding at times; the title song number is enthralling, whether it is your first time watching or your fifteenth. The continuous shots in sequences such as this add to the magic; there is little doubt over Gene Kelly’s flair for movement.
Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds are great as Don and Kathy. The real stand-outs, however, are Donald O’Connor as Cosmo and Jean Hagen as Lina. O’Connor brings a real physicality to Cosmo, while Hagen is hilarious as the overbearing movie star.
Singin’ in the Rain became a cinema classic for very good reason. For a film that is almost sixty years old, Singin’ in the Rain feels remarkably fresh, and is a joy to watch.
Singin’ in the Rain was shown at the British Film Institute, as part of the Screen Epiphanies season. It was introduced by Matt Lucas.