Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

(On Cable TV, January 2018) I’m currently bingeing on classic movies, with occasional flashes of giddiness along the way as I (re) discover great movies along the way. I’m surprised at how much I just love Singin’ in the Rain. I had two or three minutes of doubt at the very beginning of the film, as the opening sequence takes on a grandiloquent tone that could be mistaken for earnestness rather than satire. Fortunately, the “Dignity, always dignity” sequence quickly set me straight as to the film’s real tone and intention. As with most of the Gene Kelly musicals I’ve seen, Singin’ in the Rain is a musical that celebrates that it’s a musical … and also recognizes that its audience has seen enough musicals to expect more. As a result, the tone is satirical, there are some spectacular set pieces and the result is optimized for maximum entertainment. Among the highlights is the early “Fit as a Fiddle” acrobatic number, which is eclipsed later on by the anthology-worthy “Make ’Em Laugh.”  Gene Kelly is terrific, but Donald O’Connor is a great partner in dance, along with Debbie Reynolds and Jean Hagen to round up the cast. It certainly helps that the film is often laugh-aloud funny—never mind “Make ’Em Laugh” when there’s the classic “early talkie” sequence. (Which I dimly remembered from having seen at least this part of the film decades ago) Looking at Hollywood’s early-sound age is a great excuse to trot out excesses, and to have a lot of fun along the way. I’m certainly not alone in my love for the result, as Singin’ in the Rain earn an enviable spot on many best-of lists. It’s movies like this one that will keep me digging into film history, trying to catch what has charmed so many people since then.

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