Wednesday, August 28, 2013

3. Singin' in the Rain

1952; dir. Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly; starring Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds
My views: 24

This was the movie that started it all.  Before seeing this, my only exposure to old Hollywood was It's a Wonderful Life, some Disney films, and a few Shirley Temple movies.  But when I was 11 or 12 my mom saw that Singin' in the Rain was showing at a nearby theater and decided to take me to it.  She told me later that she remembers wondering if I would like it.  I don't think she had any idea how much of an understatement "like" would turn out to be.

From that first viewing in a theater, I fell in love with this movie.  I had never seen anything like it before.  It wasn't until much later that I realized the irony of this: there is really very little that is original about this film.  It's basically a conglomeration of a bunch of older musicals, but in my opinion that's part of what makes it so wonderful.  They took all the best parts of earlier musicals and combined them into one film.  And the result is beautiful.

The stars are magnificent at both dancing and comedic timing.  I'm always mesmerized by the dance numbers, particularly "Good Morning," "Moses," and of course "Singin' in the Rain," but I'm also a big fan of the non-dancing parts and am constantly reciting the dialogue.  Oddly enough, Lina Lamont is probably my favorite character, and I definitely think Jean Hagen should have won that Oscar she was nominated for.  She is absolutely hilarious.  I remember being shocked the first time I heard her speak in the movie: "Fah heaven's sake, WHATZA big idea?"  I had no idea she was going to sound like that, and I still love the way her voice is revealed so long after we first see her.

This was my #1 most watched movie for the first three years that I kept track.  I simply couldn't get enough of it.  When I wasn't watching it, I was usually reciting it, singing songs from it, or analyzing it.  I also looked up a lot of facts about it, which turned out to be kind of a mistake.  On the one hand, I was impressed that Gene Kelly danced to "Singin' in the Rain" with a 103 degree fever, but learning how mean he was to Debbie Reynolds during the making of the movie kind of put a damper on my enthusiasm.  Despite this, I still really do love this film, if not quite as much as I did at first.  I try to watch it every year on March 24 in honor of Don Lockwood's lucky day.  Someday I'm going to time it so that I get to that scene at exactly 1:30 a.m. on March 24 and it's going to make me extremely happy.

I will always be indebted to Singin' in the Rain because after my mom saw my reaction to it she started putting a bunch of other old movies on hold at the library, and thus began my obsession.  So if I hadn't seen and loved this movie I might never have discovered many of my other favorites, and my life would be incredibly different.

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