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Singin' in the Rain (June 30, 2011)

I think Singin’ in the Rain has become a beloved picture after years because of the sheer joyousness of the dancing and the performances of Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor, and let’s not forget Cyd Charisse in the Broadway ballet. We saw An American in Paris earlier in the series. The audacious long dance scene within that movie won it a raftload of Oscars, even though the idea was lifted, pretty much as a whole, from The Red Shoes, all in all, a better movie. Singin’ won no Oscars, though Jean Hagen, who is wonderful as the eclipsed silent star Lina Lamont, was nominated for best supporting actress as was Lennie Hayton for music director. But in 1975 New Yorker critic Pauline Kael wrote this film was, “perhaps the most enjoyable of all movie musicals,” and in 2008 critic David Thomson wrote, “In the general agreement these days that Singin’ in the Rain is the greatest of the MGM musicals, and perhaps the best American musical altogether, everyone quickly adds ‘because it’s about something.’ It has a story and a subject.”

The film was made from June to December, 1951 and the picture was released in March, 1952. The excellent script was written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. It was produced, of course, by Arthur Freed. The film was directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen. Although the musical numbers were definitely Kelly’s doing, no one is really sure which parts of the visual design of the film to attribute to each of the directors. The music was by Nacio Herb Brown with lyrics by Arthur Freed, a long time partnership more or less memorialized by the choice of these older songs to be included in the movie – it was the sixth movie to feature the title song, for instance. Walter Plunkett designed the costumes. It cost $2.5 million and made $7.7 million.

At this point in the library movie series I feel like I’m looking around and saying, “this must be where I came in.” The library showed this film, in the yard of the Rosemont Inn, several years ago, and that was the first library movie I ever attended in Douglas. Anyone who has seen it before remembers Kelly, dancing in the rain, a look of beatific happiness on his face. If you by chance haven’t seen it before, this is a moment many people find one of the most memorable in film. This movie doesn’t pale, though, over several viewings, and I know, whether you’ve seen it before or not, you’ll enjoy watching Singin’ in the Rain tonight.