Singin' in the Rain
Singin' in the Rain is one of the great classic films of all time, a 1952 American musical-romantic comedy film directed and choreographed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen. It stars Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds. It offers a lighthearted depiction of Hollywood in the late 1920s, with the three stars portraying performers caught up in the transition from silent films to ‘talkies’.
When the change is being made from silent films to ‘talkies', everyone has trouble adapting. Don and Lina have been cast repeatedly as a romantic couple, but when their latest film is remade into a musical, only Don has the voice for the new singing part. After a lot of practice with a diction coach, Lina still sounds terrible, and Kathy, a bright young aspiring actress, is hired to record over her voice.
The film was only a modest hit when first released. Donald O'Connor won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, and Betty Comden and Adolph Green won the Writers Guild of America Award for their screenplay, while Jean Hagen was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
However, it has since been accorded legendary status by contemporary critics, and is frequently regarded as the best film musical ever made, and the best film ever made in the "Freed Unit" at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. It topped the AFI's Greatest Movie 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. In 1989, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry. In 2005 the British Film Institute included it in their list of the 50 films you should see by the age of 14. In Sight & Sound magazine's 2017 list of the 50 greatest films of all time, Singin' in the Rain placed 20th.
Arthur Freed, the head of the "Freed Unit" at MGM responsible for the studio's glossy and glamorous musicals, conceived the idea of a movie based on the back catalogue of songs written by himself and Nacio Herb Brown, and called in Betty Comden and Adolph Green from New York to come up with a story to tie the songs together and to write the script. Comden and Green first refused the assignment, as their agent had assured them that their new contract with MGM called for them to write the lyrics to all songs unless the score was by Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, or Rodgers and Hammerstein. After a two-week hold-out, their new agent, Irving "Swifty" Lazar, having looked over the contract, told them that the clause had been entirely an invention of their previous agent, and that there was no such language in the contract. After hearing this, Comden and Green began working on the story and script.
Because many of the songs had originally been written during the time when silent films were giving way to "talkies", and musicals were popular with audiences, Comden and Green came up with the idea that the story should be set during that transitional period in Hollywood, an era they were intimately familiar with. When Howard Keel was mentioned as the possible lead, they tried to work up a story involving a star of Western films who makes a comeback as a singing cowboy, but they kept gravitating to a story about a swashbuckling romantic hero with a vaudeville background who survives the transition by falling back on his abilities as a song-and-dance man, a story for which Gene Kelly was well-suited.
Kelly could not be approached at the time, as he was deeply immersed in An American in Paris (1951), which he was starring in and co-choreographing with Stanley Donen. Comden and Green continued to work on the script, and had at that time three possible openings for the film: a silent movie premiere, a magazine interview with a Hollywood star, and a star-meets-girl, star-loses-girl sequence. Unable to decide which to use or how to proceed, they had just decided to return their advance to MGM and admit defeat, when Betty Comden's husband arrived from New York and suggested that they combine all three openings into one. The script with the re-written opening was approved by Freed and by MGM's head of production Dore Schary, who had recently replaced Louis B. Mayer.
By this time shooting on An American in Paris had completed, and Freed suggested that Kelly be given the script to read. Kelly and Donen responded enthusiastically, and immediately become involved in re-writes and adjustments to the script. Comden, Green, Kelly, and Donen were all old friends, and the process went smoothly. Besides the Freed-Brown songs, Comden and Green contributed the lyrics to "Moses Supposes", which was set to music by Roger Edens. Shortly before shooting began, "The Wedding of the Painted Dolls", which Comden and Green had "painfully wedged into the script as a cheering-up song" was replaced with a new Freed-Brown song, "Make 'Em Laugh".
After Comden and Green had returned to New York to work on other projects, they received word that a new song was needed for a love-song sequence between Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. The original had been a song-and-dance medley involving different sets in different soundstages on the studio lot, but they were asked for a romantic love song set in an empty sound stage, and it was needed immediately. Comden and Green provided such a scene for "You Are My Lucky Star" and sent it off to Hollywood.
Revisions from early drafts
In an early draft of the script, the musical number "Singin' in
the Rain" was to be sung by Reynolds, O'Connor, and Kelly, emerging
from a restaurant after the flop preview of The Dueling Cavalier,
to celebrate the idea of changing the film into a musical.
Kelly singing "You Were Meant For Me" to Reynolds on an empty sound stage was not included in that draft. The number was originally conceived as Kelly singing a medley of other songs to her as they romped around various studio back lot sets.
Rita Moreno was originally to have sung the lead in "I've Got a Feelin' You're Foolin'" with other showgirls, but this ended up as part of the "Beautiful Girl Montage" without her.
Scenes filmed but cut before release
Gene Kelly sang a reprise of "All I Do Is Dream of You" after
the party at R.F. Simpson's house when Kelly chases after Reynolds. The
song, ending in Kelly's bedroom, was cut from the release version after
two previews, and the footage has been lost.
Reynolds' solo rendition of "You Are My Lucky Star" (to a billboard showing an image of Lockwood) was cut after previews. This number has survived and is included on the original soundtrack and DVD version of the film.
In the steamy "Vamp Dance" segment of the "Broadway Melody Ballet" with Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly, reviewers from both the Production Code and the Catholic Church's Legion of Decency objected to a brief, suggestive pose or movement between the dancers. Although there is no precise documentation of what or where it was, close examination of footage toward the end of the dance shows an abrupt cut when Charisse is wrapped around Kelly, indicating the probable location.
In the sequence in which Gene Kelly dances and sings the title song while spinning an umbrella, splashing through puddles and getting soaked with rain, Kelly was sick with a 103 °F (39 °C) fever. The water used 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; filming the sequence took 2 to 3 days. Another myth is that the rain was mixed with milk in order for the drops to show up better on camera; but the desired visual effect was produced, albeit with difficulty, through backlighting.
Debbie Reynolds was not a dancer when she made Singin' in the Rain; her background was as a gymnast. 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, which had taken from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 p.m. to shoot, Reynolds' feet were bleeding. 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."
Donald O'Connor had to stay in bed in the hospital for several days after filming the "Make 'Em Laugh" sequence, due to his smoking up to four packs of cigarettes a day.
Most of the costumes from this film were eventually acquired by Debbie Reynolds and held 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. They are now on permanent display at the Costume World Broadway Collection Museum in Pompano Beach, Florida.
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. It was the tenth highest-grossing movie of the year in the US and Canada.
Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote: "Compounded generously of music, dance, color spectacle and a riotous abundance of Gene Kelly, Jean Hagen and Donald O'Connor on the screen, all elements in this rainbow program are carefully contrived and guaranteed to lift the dolors of winter and put you in a buttercup mood." Variety was also positive, writing: "Arthur Freed has produced another surefire grosser for Metro in Singin' in the Rain. Musical has pace, humor, and good spirits a-plenty, in a breezy, good-natured spoof at the film industry itself ... Standout performances by Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor, especially the latter, enhance the film's pull."
Harrison's Reports called it "top-notch entertainment in every department — music, dancing, singing, staging and story." Richard L. Coe of The Washington Post called it "yet another fresh and breezy, colorful and funny musical" from Gene Kelly, adding, "Of the players there's not a dud in the lot, from Kelly's facile performing to the brief but electric dance appearance by Cyd Charisse, a swell partner for him." Pauline Kael, the long-time film critic for The New Yorker, said of the film "This exhuberant and malicious satire of Hollywood in the late twenties is perhaps the most enjoyable of movie musicals – just about the best Hollywood musical of all time." Roger Ebert placed Singin' in the Rain on his Great Movies list, calling the film "a transcendent experience, and no one who loves movies can afford to miss it."
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film had a score of a perfect 100% "Certified fresh" approval rating. The website's critical consensus reads: "Clever, incisive, and funny, Singin' In The Rain is a masterpiece of the classical Hollywood musical."
Admiration in the Film Industry
Betty Comden and Adolph Green report that when they met Francois Truffaut at a party in Paris, Truffaut was very excited to meet the authors of Chantons sous la pluie. He told them that he had seen the film so many times that he knew it frame by frame, and that he and fellow director and screenwriter Alain Resnais, among others, went to see it regularly at a small Parisian movie theatre where it sometimes ran for months at a time.
Awards and Honours
For her role as Lina Lamont, Jean Hagen was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. The film was also nominated for Best Original Music Score for Lennie Hayton.
Donald O'Connor won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy for his portrayal of Cosmo Brown. Betty Comden and Adolph Green received the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Written American Musical.
Singin' in the Rain has appeared twice on Sight & 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.
In 1989, the film 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.
The film is recognized by the American Film Institute in these lists:
1998: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – #10
2000: AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – #16
2002: AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – #16
2003: AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains: Lina Lamont – Nominated Villain
2004: AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs: "Singin' in the Rain" –
"Make 'Em Laugh" – #49
"Good Morning" – #72
2005: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes: Lina Lamont: "What do they think I am, dumb or something? Why, I make more money than Calvin Coolidge! Put together!" – Nominated
2006: AFI's Greatest Movie Musicals – #1
2007: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #5
Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood. His performance in the song "Singin'
in the Rain" is now considered to be iconic.
Debbie Reynolds as Kathy Selden. Directors Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen insisted that Reynolds was always first in their minds for the role. 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.
Donald O'Connor as Cosmo Brown, Don's lifelong pal, and vaudeville partner, who becomes the head of Monumental Pictures' music department.
Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont. Fresh off her role in The Asphalt Jungle, Hagen read for the part for producer Arthur Freed. She did a dead-on impression of Judy Holliday's Billie Dawn character from Born Yesterday – for which Hagen had been Holliday's understudy – which won her the role.
Millard Mitchell as R.F. Simpson. The initials of the fictional head of Monumental Pictures are a reference to producer Arthur 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 Melody" sequence. This is a joke, since the audience has just seen it.
Cyd Charisse as the long-legged woman in the green sequined dress and Louise Brooks hair who vamps Gene Kelly in the "Broadway Melody" sequence.
Douglas Fowley as Roscoe Dexter, the director of Don and Lina's films.
Rita Moreno as Zelda Zanders, the "Zip Girl" and Lina's friend.
King Donovan as Rod, head of the publicity department at Monumental
Judy Landon as Olga Mara, a silent screen vamp who attends the premiere of The Royal Rascal.
Madge Blake as Dora Bailey, a Hollywood gossip columnist based on Louella Parsons.
Kathleen Freeman as Phoebe Dinsmore, Lina's diction coach.
Bobby Watson as Lockwood's diction coach during the "Moses Supposes" number.
Jimmy Thompson as the singer of "Beautiful Girl".
Mae Clarke as the hairdresser who puts the finishing touches on Lina Lamont's hairdo.
Julius Tannen as the man demonstrating the technology of talking pictures
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 catalogue of songs written with Nacio Herb Brown for previous MGM musical films of the 1929–39 period. Screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green wrote two entirely new songs, "Make 'Em Laugh" and "Moses Supposes", the latter with music director Roger Edens providing the music (see below).
All songs have lyrics by Freed and music by Brown unless otherwise indicated. Some of the songs, such as "Broadway Rhythm," "Should I?," and especially "Singin' in the Rain" itself, have been featured in numerous films. The films listed below mark the first time each song was presented on screen.
"Fit as a Fiddle (And Ready for Love)" from College Coach
(1933) (music by Al Hoffman and Al Goodhart, lyrics by Freed)
"Temptation" (instrumental only) from Going Hollywood (1933)
"All I Do Is Dream of You" from Sadie McKee (1934)
"Singin' in the Rain" from The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929)
"Make 'Em Laugh," considered an original song, but bearing a striking resemblance to Cole Porter's "Be a Clown," used in another MGM Freed-produced musical, The Pirate (1948). Credited to Comden and Green.
"Beautiful Girl Montage" comprising "I've Got a Feelin' You're Foolin'" from Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935),"The Wedding of the Painted Doll" from The Broadway Melody (1929),"Should I?" from Lord Byron of Broadway (1930) and "Beautiful Girl" from Stage Mother (1933)
"You Were Meant for Me" from The Broadway Melody (1929)
"You Are My Lucky Star" from Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935)
"Moses Supposes" (music by Roger Edens, lyrics by Comden and Green), based on the tongue-twister with the same title.
"Good Morning" from Babes In Arms (1939)
"Would You?" from San Francisco (1936)
"Broadway Melody" composed of "The Broadway Melody" from The Broadway Melody (1929) and "Broadway Rhythm" from Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935) The music for the "Broadway Ballet" section is by Nacio Herb Brown.
Comic book adaptation
Eastern Color Movie Love #14 (April 1952)
The Broadway musical 'Singin' in the Rain' was adapted from the motion picture, and the plot of the stage version closely adheres to the original.
Directed and choreographed by post-modern choreographer Twyla Tharp, the opening night cast starred Don Correia as Don Lockwood, Mary D'Arcy as Kathy Selden, Richard Fancy as Roscoe Dexter, Faye Grant as Lina Lamont, and Peter Slutsker as Cosmo Brown. The musical opened on 2 July 1985 at the Gershwin Theatre after 39 previews, and ran for 367 performances, closing on 18 May 1986.
In popular culture
Kelly's hometown Pittsburgh Pirates games at PNC Park play the scene
from the film during rain delays.
In the 1983 television special 'Paddington Goes to the Movies', the film is mentioned at some points and Paddington performs a version of Gene Kelly's famous dance from the 1952 film.
In the 1989 Woody Allen film 'Crimes and Misdemeanors', Cliff (Woody Allen) and Halley (Mia Farrow) watch Singin’ in the Rain at Cliff’s apartment. Cliff claims to watch the film “every few months to keep my spirits up.”
In their 1976 Christmas special, the British comedy act Morecambe and Wise parodied the "Singin' in the Rain" sequence.
Gene Kelly's "Singin' in the Rain" sequence was 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 dance to the title song is parodied in the 2005 Broadway musical 'Spamalot' in the dance break to "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," complete with tap-dancing knights spinning bright yellow umbrellas around.
The "Singin' in the Rain" sequence was featured in a 2005 Volkswagen Golf commercial, with Gene Kelly seen break-dancing in the street. Also featured was Mint Royale's version of the song accompanying the commercial.
A parody of the number "Singin' in the Rain" was featured in the 2005 animated film 'Robots' where Fender (Robin Williams) breaks out singing and dancing after dropping off a date. Instead of 'rain' he says 'oil' to fit the film's theme, and emulates Gene Kelly's iconic swing on the lamppost.
Two songs from the film were featured in "The Substitute", a season 2 episode of the musical comedy television series Glee.
In the 2012 film 'Silver Linings Playbook', Jennifer Lawrence's character is inspired by a clip of Donald O'Connor and Gene Kelly dancing to "Moses Supposes" from Singin' in the Rain.
The 2013 anime short 'Gisoku no Moses' features a young female ghost dancing with a pair of haunted dance shoes to the tune of "Moses Supposes."
In the 2015 romantic drama film 'Brooklyn', Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen) takes Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) out on a date to see the film. In the next scene, he emulates Gene Kelly's iconic swing on the lamppost.
The scene in which Gene Kelly sings "You Were Meant for Me" is featured in the 2015 Nancy Meyers film 'The Intern''.
Singin' in the Rain was an inspiration for the 2016 musical film' La La Land', directed by Damien Chazelle.
The song "Good Morning" was featured in the Legends of Tomorrow season 3 episode "Phone Home".