Life Boat Films pt. 4

Greta Gerwig’s pick: Singin’ in the Rain

Written by Betty Comden & Adolph Green. Directed by Stanley Donen & Gene Kelly. Going from silent films to “talkies” proves to be a challenge for the studio and the stars. Running time 1 hour 43 minutes.

Synopsis

It’s the silent film era and Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and his pal Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) are looking to break into film. They get jobs as on set musicians until Don gets a break and starts “acting” as a stunt man. Don’s real break comes while working on a Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) picture when he becomes her new leading man. According to the tabloids and celebrity magazines, Don and Lina are the IT couple of the silent screen even though Don detests Lina.

While traveling to a cast party, Don and Cosmo get a flat tire and have to pull over. Don gets recognized and mobbed by his fans who tear his suit jacket. He gets away by falling jumping into Kathy Selden’s (Debbie Reynolds) car. Her stand-off-ish behavior towards him makes him instantly attracted to her but she wants no part of it. They part ways after she drops him off to change his suit.

Later, at the party, Lina catches wind of Kathy as she’s seen as one of the dancers at the party. Lina becomes jealous of Kathy and has her fired from the dance troupe. Meanwhile, the head of the studio, R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell) tells Don, Lina, & Cosmo of his plans to make a talking picture on the heels of the newly released and successful rival studio movie The Jazz Singer. There’s only one problem, Lina has a voice which the studio, and those around her, believe to be unmarketable.

Making a talking picture puts everyone under major stress as they try to figure out how to record the sound along with the picture. And work with Lina…At the preview, it’s clear the audience does NOT like Lina’s voice. With 6 weeks before the movie is to be released, Don, Cosmo, and R.F. brainstorm ways to fix the situation.

In a serendipitous turn of events, Don and Kathy are reunited after Cosmo sees her on a different movie set. Don, Cosmo, and Kathy concoct a plan to use Kathy’s voice instead of Lina’s in the talking movie as well as recut the movie to include song and dance sequences. R.F. agrees to the plan, as long as Lina doesn’t find out. Don and Kathy’s relationship blooms as they work on re-recording Lina’s lines as well as work in the musical theme.

Right before the movie, renamed The Dueling Cavalier, is released, Lina finds out about Kathy and her screen credit as the voice of Lina. This makes Lina quite angry and she threatens R.F. with leaving the studio unless he removes Kathy’s screen credit. He agrees. At the premier, the movie is a hit and the audience goes wild. They beg for Lina to sing live. Lina takes the opportunity to force Kathy to sing behind the curtain and dub her voice in future movies. Kathy agrees but not willingly…

While Lina sings, the curtain is opened to reveal Kathy and the crowd roars. Kathy runs off humiliated until Don quiets the crowd by giving Kathy the credit. They reunite and become the new IT couple.

What I Liked

The singing, the dancing, and Lina’s voice. The songs are catchy, fun, and hopeful. Perfect for the time it was released in 1952 and perfect for now when you need something to lift your spirits.

The dancing scenes were amazing! The iconic scene of Gene Kelly dancing and singing in the rain has been re-enacted so many times over the years and it’s clear why. Right after Don drops Kathy at home after a date, he’s so enamored, he decides to walk home in the pouring rain. Well, dance home. (I’m sure this scene may have been the inspiration for many future love in the rain scenes.) Gene Kelly and Donald O’ Connor seem to be a light as a feather bouncing off walls, curbs, furniture, and each other. The lightening fast foot work is incredible. Then, when Debbie Reynolds joins in, the three of them are mesmerizing to watch. Gene Kelly choreographed all the dance sequences for this film and was quite the task master by later reports of the actors….

The green screen effects in this film are top-notch making some current films look sloppy. (Not going to name names…) The color is rich, the comedy is golden, and the chemistry between the players is evident.

What I Wished Was Better

Nothing 🙂

Final Thoughts

Greta Gerwig chose this as her Life Boat film because, “Well, rain and life boats.” And it makes her happy when she watches it. A cinematically beautiful film, Singin’ in the Rain is a song and dance (and technical) masterpiece sure to lift your spirits and tickle you funny bone while entertaining you. Available on Amazon. Watch the trailer below:

Fun Facts: Donald O’Connor smoked FOUR packs of cigarettes a DAY during the filming and they had to film the wall back flip dance sequence twice because the film was fogged up during the first take. He was covered in bruises and exhausted by the end of those two days. A lot of “dubbing” was going on onscreen. Jean Hagen (Lina) natural voice is actually the voice we hear, not Debbie Reynold’s and it isn’t Kathy (Debbie) singing for Lina (Jean) for the songs, it’s Betty Noyes who had a richer sounding singing voice than Debbie. Debbie Reynolds didn’t know how to dance when she was hired for the film and was taught by Gene Kelly.

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