BP’s Top 100 Challenge #13: Singin’ in the Rain, by Sarah Brinks
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list provided such a challenge.
I adore Singin’ in the Rain. I first saw it in a film history class in college when we were discussing the transition to sound. I love musicals and Singin’ in the Rain is a near perfect musical for me. I like all the songs and the dancing is top notch. It is also about a really fascinating time in cinema history. It was a big transition for Hollywood and the silent stars and not all of them could make the change successfully.
The performances in the film are wonderful across the board. The circumstances under which the film was shot were pretty horrific. But the film that resulted is a slam dunk. Debbie Reynolds shines as head-strong Kathy Selden. Her bright energy shines through as she covers for the hysterically clueless Lina Lamont played by Jean Hagen. But the two stand outs are Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor. Their chemistry is magnetic and their musical numbers both solo and together are some of the best in the film.
I know the “Broadway Melody Ballet” is probably the most divisive number. I have spoken to plenty of people who don’t like it and they feel that it takes them out of the film, but I really like it. It is bright and colorful in the beginning then takes that interesting turn for the serious and the ballet sequence with the long piece of fabric is beautiful. It almost becomes meditative in that moment, you just focus on beautiful the movement is and how talented the dancers are.
The two other numbers I absolutely love are “Moses” and “Make ‘Em Laugh.” “Moses” is a funny song to start with, but then when the tap dancing kicks off it really ramps up. Kelly and O’Connor are wonderfully in sync and use the random set dressing to finish the numbers on a funny note. “Make ‘Em Laugh” is an incredible piece of dancing, physical comedy, and athleticism. Donald O’Connor as Cosmo explains his philosophy of making people laugh while doing prat falls, prop work, and impressive physical feats and it makes for an unforgettable number.
The story overall is simple but the film makes sure the stakes are high enough to justify the character reactions. We see how Don and Kathy fall in love but how the public believes that Don and Lina are together. Simple Lina doesn’t understand that their public lives do not mirror their private lives. She is justifiably hurt when Don falls for Kathy. I have mentioned before in these articles that I am a big sucker for a romance and I really love the initial tension between Don and Kathy and how they finally fall for each other.
The film is absolutely gorgeous and makes the most of being shot in Technicolor. The aforementioned “Broadway Melody Ballet” number is stunningly bright and colorful but other numbers like “All I Do Is Dream of You” and “Beautiful Girl” show off how wonderful the colors and costumes can look. The girls in all their silly and wonderful costumes look incredible and, even today, pop off the screen.
The film is a musical first and foremost but it also a wonderful comedy. Lina is one of the funniest characters in the film. The scene when they can’t figure out how to make the microphone work so they can get her on sound is laugh out loud funny. Of course, “Make ‘Em Laugh” is a comedic number too. But the opening sequence when Don talks about their mantra of “dignity always dignity” while they work their way up through vaudeville to Hollywood is wonderfully funny. I think the comedy in the film makes it an easy musical to recommend to people who don’t really like musicals. There is enough else there for people to enjoy and the musical numbers are so strong it is more palatable for non-musical fans.
I’ve decided to rate each film using an arbitrary scale based on the board game Battleship (lowest: Destroyer, Submarine, Cruiser, Battleship, highest: Carrier)
Singin’ in the Rain ranking: Carrier