When you think of Singin’ in the Rain, the words “old school musical” probably come to mind. The 1952 film featured plenty of high energy dance sequences and memorable songs but there’s nothing old school or dated about it. After watching it on the big screen at this year’s TCM Film Festival we quickly learned that after 58 years the tunes, the tone, and the direction still holds up for today’s audiences. With an all-star cast led by Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds it’s hard not to see why Singin’ in the Rain is considered the greatest musical ever made.
Kelly and Stanley Donen co-directed the film within a film about the transition from silent movies to talkies. It takes place in 1927 after the first sound motion picture, The Jazz Singer has been released. At first, the thought of watching a movie with actual dialogue and lyrics seems like a gimmick but the success of Singer makes all the other studios take notice. Kelly’s character Don Lockwood is one half of the most powerful onscreen couple during the silent era and he and his overbearing co-star Lina Lamont must get with the times and make a musical.
Lamont can’t sing, she can’t dance and she can barely speak without imitating the sound of nails on a chalkboard. Therefore the studio enlists the help of Debbie Reynold’s character Kathy Selden to lip sync all of her dialogue and singing. From that point on we enjoy plenty of amazing song and dance numbers like “Make’em Laugh,” “Good Morning,” and the famous title track “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Out of all the films to appear at the Festival, Singin’ in the Rain is the one where the viewers seemed to be genuinely entertained. The humor provided by both Kelly and co-star Donald O’Connor had the audience laughing from beginning to end. As for the famous musical numbers, by far the most beautiful and intricate sequence featured the legendary Cyd Charisse (above) who played a seductress within Lockwood’s film. Her and Kelly were like an explosion waiting to happen and the transition shots from one set piece to another were more complex than anything else we’ve seen come out of 1952.
By today’s standards Singin’ in the Rain still has some of the most jaw-dropping song and dance routines ever created. Gene Kelly was a true professional who could do it all. During the time Rain debuted in theaters to its reintroduction today, no one can touch it in terms of its quality or timelessness. This is a film that needs to be preserved not just for entertainment purposes but to show future filmmakers what a real musical is supposed to look like.