Monthly Archives: January 2011

Golden Token: Singin’ in the Rain

I don’t think there will ever be a movie that could lift up my spirits quite like Singin’ in the Rain. Be it the dancing, singing, comedy, or plot, this movie is a joy from beginning to end (minus one extremely long dance number that tends to drag on). The film was made by one of the greatest triple-threats the world has ever known, Gene Kelly, working with the amazing talents of Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds. And together, quite literally through blood, sweat and tears, they have produced one of the greatest masterpieces the world will ever know.

The movie is set in the late 1920’s, when the Hollywood film industry is completely transformed by the arrival of sound in motion pictures. It follows the story of Don Lockwood, a film star of the silent era, who became famous because of his romantic pictures with Lina Lamont, a woman with the look of an angel, and a voice that would make Tweety Bird sound like a baritone. So when sound becomes the all  the rage in Hollywod, their careers are on the line as they begin the transition from silence to sound.

This movie is one of the great ironies in the history of film. Though it may have been one of the happiest movies to ever grace the silver screen, behind the camera, it was anything but. Gene Kelly was a notorious slave driver, and he pushed Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds to the point that they were both hospitalized at some point during the production. He was a performing genius and, for some reason, that seems to come with a level of craziness. (Take a look at Michael Jackson) Despite the hardship and pain that went into this production, these three have created something, a legacy that would last well beyond their years.

Why you should watch it:

1) The song and dance numbers

I don’t doubt that there are people who are as skilled, or even more skilled than these people. But finding someone with the same concoction of skill, talent and creativity as these guys may be a little harder to come by. These numbers never fail to impress, and the fact that this was a time before digital technology (wires and CG and all that), made every single stunt and trick look even more stupefying. Hell, lets not even go that far, a lot of movies cheat by using cuts. By taking different shots, and splicing them together, many films create the illusion of one continuous action, even if the scenes could be shot apart.  Sometimes this is done flawlessly, and audiences don’t catch the cuts, and other times, they’re not too good. But in Singin’ in the Rain, well, watch this clip of “Fit as a Fiddle” and count the number of cuts. These guys do huge dance sections straight, a testament to their conditioning, and the level of their performance. The movie is filled with song and dance numbers such as “Fit as a Fiddle”, which isn’t even one of the more impressive performances.

2) Singin’ in the Rain

The classic musical number has a solo spot among all the performances, but not for the reasons that you think. It isn’t the best dance performance in the whole movie in my opinion, nor is it the most technically challenging song to sing. Its here because, simply, it is such an iconic scene. Everyone knows the one scene that Singin’ in the Rain is famous for. Towards the end of the title musical number, Gene Kelly dances around the street as the camera pans away to show the entirety of the set. The effect, added to the swell of the music, created one of the most memorable scenes in all of film-dom. The camera acted as a dance partner to Gene Kelly, as if it too was dancing along with him. This was a pioneering effort in cinematography, where the camera itself seemed to be a character in the scene, the way it moved along with Gene to the song.

Now if you’re thinking, “Wait, all these dance numbers are just on Youtube! Why even bother watching the whole thing?!” Well, my friends, unlike the occasional episode of Glee, this movie has more to offer than filler in between song numbers.

3) Witty writing

Its very hard to write comedy that will last the test of time. So many people rely on pop culture humor, and something that was funny in the 60’s may not necessarily be funny now. But this movie seems to do it. The dialogue in this film and the situations are all brilliantly written, that even when I watched it in a class full of 18-21 year-olds, it drew a lot of laughter from the group. The pacing of the story is quick and easy to follow, and the plot is just as interesting as the music and dance. It was funny, touching, and smart and yet easy to follow, and it seems difficult for a lot of movies now-a-days to strike that balance.

4) The atmosphere

It will cheer you up, I guarantee it. It is the visual equivalent to waking up one morning, the sun creeping up over the horizon, the air a cool 22°C, with the scent of pancakes and bacon fluttering up to gently caress your nostrils. The movie’s color and tone are so bright and cheery, that I find it almost impossible not to feel even a little bit of joy at this film. It is one of those films that is set to give you one emotion, and to drive it home.

Final Word

The people in this production knew there were going to make a happy film, so they decided to make the greatest happy film that the world ever saw. And I think they may have succeeded.