“I’m singing in the rain, just singing in the rain. What a glorious feelin’, I’m happy again. I’m laughing at clouds, so dark up above. The sun’s in my heart, and I’m ready for love. Let the stormy clouds chase, everyone from the place. Come on with the rain, I’ve a smile on my face. I walk down the lane, with a happy refrain. Just singin’, singin in the rain.”- These are just some of the first lyrics behind that unforgettable iconic song, which was memorably sung by actor Gene Kelly; in honor of the late great Debbie Reynolds as well as this year being its 65th Anniversary of that film in particular, I’d like to present my memorial tribute to her legendary film career with my candid review for one of my favorite romantic musicals from The Golden Age of Hollywood….
On December 28th, 2016 the classic film world lost an indelible, awe-inspiring legend with the very sad news of actress Debbie Reynolds passing away at the age of 84; with Reynolds’ death, Rita Moreno is the last surviving cast member. This month, TCM and Fathom Events are proud to offer a special 65thAnniversary Screening presentation for the start of the 2017 season in regards to their Big Screen Classics series (which will be seen on the 15th as well as the 18th) and quite honestly if there is one picture that remained as timeless, legendary, brilliant and deeply remembered as the iconic classic film of the 1950s, that would belong to the 1952 American comedy musical film that I’m paying tribute to today: Singin’ in the Rain under the direction of both Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen
When I saw the film for the first time as it premiered Sunday night as part of The Essentials Jr. with actor/comedian Bill Hader, I had no idea how much fun and absolute splendor it would bring into my cinematic life the minute I heard one of its songs entitled “All I Do is Dream of You”- what a truly pleasurable and uplifting melody of incredible harmony and profoundly subtle strength and it only got better from that point on. The vividly colored film starred an immensely talented stellar cast that included: Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood, Donald O’ Connor as Cosmo Brown, Don’s best friend, with whom the basis of his character was Oscar Levant (O‘Connor won a Golden Globe for his performance as Cosmo Brown), Debbie Reynolds as Kathy SeldenAn interesting fact about the role that Debbie Reynolds portrayed: 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 “ingénue.” Yet, director Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly insisted that Debbie Reynolds always was first in their mind for the role. In the “Would You” number, Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) is dubbing the voice of Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) because Lina’s voice is shrill and screechy. However, it’s not Reynolds who is really speaking, it’s Jean Hagen herself, who actually had a beautiful deep, rich voice. So you have Jean Hagen dubbing Debbie Reynolds dubbing Jean Hagen, and when Debbie is supposedly dubbing Jean’s singing of “Would You”, the voice you hear singing actually belongs to Betty Noyes, who had a much richer singing voice than Debbie. Although the film revolves around the idea that Kathy has to dub over for Lina’s voice, even in the talking scenes, it was actually Jean Hagen’s normal voice. Reynolds herself was also dubbed in the musical number “You are My Lucky Star” by an unaccredited Noyes as well. Also, when Kathy is supposedly dubbing Lina’s voice in the live performance of “Singing in the Rain” at the end of the film, Jean Hagen is actually dubbing Reynolds’ speaking voice. The prolific American film actress Jean Hagen portrays the hilariously-voiced Lina Lamont, of whom her character was based on the silent film actress Norma Talmadge and for her performance, Hagen was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actress (she lost to Gloria Grahame for The Bad and the Beautiful). The Cuban born character actor Millard Mitchell gives an enigmatic characterization as R.F. Simpson, the fictional head of Monumental Pictures. American actress and dancer Cyd Charisse gives a memorable cameo appearance as Don’s dancing partner in the “Broadway Melody” ballet
and American movie/television actor Douglas Fowley is hilariously but memorably depicted as Roscoe Dexter, the director of Don and Lina’s pictures.Other immensely talented supporting players in the film include Puerto Rican singer, actress & dancer Rita Moreno (of West Side Story) as Zelda Zanders, the “ Zip Girl” and Lina’s informant friend who was the basis for the silent cinematic actress Clara Bow, American stage, film, and television actor/director King Donovan in an unaccredited role as Ron, head of the publicity dept. At Monumental Pictures, actress and dancer Judy Landon is seen in an unaccredited role as Olga Mara, a silent screen vamp who attends the premiere of The Royal Rascals and who was based on 2 actresses: Polish stage & film actress Pola Negri and American silent screen actress Gloria Swanson (of Sunset Blvd), American character actress Madge Blake (of TVs Batman fame) in an unaccredited role as radio show host Dora Bailey and with whom the basis of her character was considered to be of revered American gossip columnist Louella Parsons, American film, television, and stage actress Kathleen Freeman in an unaccredited role as Phoebe Dinsmore, Lina’s diction coach, and finally Jimmy Thompson portraying the singer of the amorous melody entitled “Beautiful Girl”. There were so many harmoniously different songs that I loved: With both “All I Do is Dream of You” & “Singin in the Rain” (the main theme song originally conceived by MGM producer Arthur Freed), other memorable favorites of the classic film include “Make ‘Em Laugh” (with Donald O’ Connor producing the vocal talents and hilarious antics), “Moses Supposes” ( this time with the incomparable vocal and tap dancing talents of both O’Connor and Gene Kelly, who also provided the equally impressive vocal talents and awe-inspiring rain themed tap dancing sequence for “Singin in the Rain”) and the uplifting wondrous melody “Good Morning” (with Kelly, O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds performing both vocal and tap dancing artistry)
Another key note about the sequence of “Good Morning”: Debbie Reynolds was not a dancer at the time she made Singin’ in the Rain — her background was as a gymnast. Kelly apparently insulted her for her lack of dance experience, upsetting her. Fred Astaire was hanging around the studio and 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. Years later, she was quoted as saying that making this film and surviving childbirth were the two most difficult experiences of her life. She was absolutely amazing in the film and yielded an equally impressive performance as well. Although it was not a big hit when first released, it was accorded its legendary status by contemporary critics. It is now frequently described as one of the best musicals ever made, topping the AFI’s 100 Years of Musicals list, and ranking fifth in its updated list of the greatest American films in 2007.Singin in the Rain was produced by Arthur Freed and written by both Betty Comden & Adolph Green; it was distributed by MGM Studios on March 27th, 1952. I was always a huge fan of the entire cast: even though some may feel different about working with him onscreen, deep down Gene Kelly was a musical genius….especially when it came to choreography/tap dancing; Kelly once remarked that “if Fred Astaire was the Cary Grant of tap dancing, then he was the Marlon Brando” and I must admit that both individuals expressed their passionate talents for tap dancing in their own unique way
O’Connor was brilliant as well and he was incredibly talented in the comedic field as well, in particular the “Make ‘Em’ Laugh” musical number from the film (in a way, he reminded me a bit of actor Danny Kaye) and Ms. Reynolds was absolutely wonderful in her starring role as well. Despite being only 19 for her role in the film, she emulated such wondrous grace, poise, perseverance and awe-inspiring charm onscreen; there was a reason why I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing her in this film and you can definitely sense that. I wish that I had the pleasure of meeting her in person, but viewing Singin’ in the Rain is the best way for me because it allows me that she was never forgotten by myself or other classic film fans; even in death, her legacy and uncompromising presence will always stand the test of timeToday, Singin in the Rain remains one of the most beloved, treasured and revered cinematic film gems of the 20th Century and I’m deeply honored to have watched it in a way that generations of classic movie lovers will remember it for years to come. It not has become one of my personal favorite classic films to watch again, but it brings a unique eminence that genuinely depicted the sheer genius and poignant brilliance behind Stanley Donen and the incomparable Gene Kelly; I’m happy to say that since I saw Singin’ in the Rain, I’ve deeply enjoyed it so very much and plan to purchase a Blu-Ray or standard copy of the film itself. For those who have already viewed this truly captivating film, I hope that you have had a deeper pleasure reading/commenting on my film article and giving your own candidly appreciative thoughts as I have enjoyed posting it with as much heart, soul and passion as any classic movie lover; I don’t want to give too much away, but to those who have yet to see Singin’ in the Rain, what better way to fully experience the cinematic magic it offered during Hollywood’s Golden Age in Films than to watch it on the big screen when it will be showcased on January 15th and 18th? It is a timeless enduring classic that’s not to be missed. Happy Viewing everyone!