“What a glorious feeling!”

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Airing 12AM EST

Well, there was little doubt about what I would recommend for your TCM viewing pleasure today. How can I NOT recommend the singularly best musical ever produced in Hollywood?

Singin’ in the Rain revolves around the advent of sound in motion pictures, following a silent-movie icon, Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) as he tries to adapt to the new innovations in movie-making. As Don falls in love with a young aspiring starlet, Kathy (Debbie Reynolds), he must balance the demands of a clinging, shrill-voiced co-star, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), and the troubled new sound production that threatens to ruin his career. But when Kathy is hired to dub Lina’s voice in the new picture, Don’s new romance is threatened by the jealous Lina.

The movie is, in a word, marvelous. There is no element of this film that is lacking; the cast is superb, the musical numbers are memorable, the dances are beautifully performed, and the script is funny and heartfelt. Donald O’Connor, as Lockwood’s rubber-faced, musical man Friday, Cosmo Brown, is a sheer delight to watch. Hagen takes the unappealing role of the scorned, spoiled star, Lina Lamont, and turns it into comedic gold. Hagen’s natural voice is lovely and melodic; her take on Lina’s shrill, unpleasant screech is essential to one of the funniest scenes in the film (“Well, I can’t make love to a BUSH!”).

Kelly is arguably at the top of his game in this movie. The dances, particularly the “modern” Broadway ballet sequence late in the second act (with an absolutely stunning pas de deux with an unknown Cyd Charisse), are superbly choreographed.

O’Connor’s athletic exuberance in the “Make ‘Em Laugh” number elicits a smile every time. Reynolds, in one of her first films, more than holds her own in the numbers, and is especially winning in “Good Morning” (though Reynolds famously remembers this film as the hardest thing she ever had to do–along with childbirth–the strain she reportedly felt in meeting Kelly’s exacting demands is not evident in her performance).

But, of course, the thing that everyone remembers from this film–the centerpiece, really–is the title song, and Kelly’s wonderful dance around the wet streets of Hollywood.

To look at it, you wouldn’t know that Kelly was running a horrible fever while filming the iconic scene, or that the “rain” (which was a mixture of water and milk in order to make it show up better on film) had caused his suit to shrink. Ever the consummate performer, all Kelly allows us to see is the sheer joy of the dance–just one of the things that makes Kelly the greatest.

There has been so much written about this film that’s there little of substance I can add to the discussion, save my true adoration for every element of the movie. It is a pitch-perfect example of the terrific material produced in classic Hollywood: one of the very greats.

Make sure you catch this one tonight! I also strongly recommend the special edition DVD of the film; it has some great extras, including a couple of interesting documentaries about the production of the film.

Oscar checklist:

Nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Hagen), Best Score

2 thoughts on ““What a glorious feeling!”

  1. All so very true about ‘Singin’ in the Rain,’ but “…Kelly the greatest”?
    As much as millions of us share your appreciation of this musical as the consummation in the genre, surely you realised at the time of writing that there are just as many those among us who hold Astaire as the consummate exponent of dance in the movies.

    • To each his own. I didn’t say I was right; I was giving my opinion. Allow me to elucidate, then.

      I think both men have their strengths. Astaire had the grace, but Kelly had the athleticism. Astaire was ballroom and class, Kelly was club and street (or as “street” as one could get in the early half of the twentieth century). I think overall Kelly had the greater skill when it came to choreography; Astaire relied too heavily on Pan Berman for many of his routines, while Kelly was an innovator in his own right. I love Astaire’s films (most of them, anyway), but put the two of them side by side, and I think Kelly takes it every time. The mirror dance in Cover Girl, the Jerry Mouse pas de deux in Anchors Aweigh, the Paris ballet in An American in Paris (the greatest dance ever put on film), the Broadway Melody number in this film … all of them fresh, all of them creative, and all of them far exceeding anything Astaire ever pulled off (and that includes dancing on the ceiling in Royal Wedding).

      But again, it’s only my opinion.

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