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“Singing in the rain”, the best musical in the history of cinema, turns seventy

"Singing in the rain", the best musical in the history of cinema, turns seventy

“Singing in the rain”, the best musical in all history, turns 70. Report by Santiago Garcia.
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Strong opinions must be avoided because sometimes it is only an opinion and not an indisputable fact, but when it comes to Singing under the rain is different. So happy, so perfect and so lovable is this 1952 film, that even those who could argue if it is the best musical in the history of cinema, still feel comfortable qualifying it that way. The film speaks for itself and its ramifications in popular culture are inexhaustible. A mix of talents at their peak. The work of many to achieve a jewel that can be seen again and again and forever.

In the 1950s, the studio specializing in musicals was Metro Goldwyn Mayer. His Technicolor shows were incomparable and the best artists of the genre work under the orders of this studio. Singing under the rain (Singin’ in the Rain, 1952) was a project that seemed less ambitious and original than others, and yet the conjunction of several of those who worked for MGM would make it something unexpectedly perfect. Curiously, Gene Kelly was not at the beginning of the project, nor was its co-director, Stanley Donen. This is how it worked in those years. A producer started the work and then the pieces were integrated, which obviously caused further adjustments and improvements.

"Singing in the rain" is a film about cinema.  (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
“Singing in the rain” is a film about cinema. (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Singing under the rain It is a film about cinema. Yes, cinema within the cinema. It tells the story of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), a silent movie star who has taken a long time to get there. He is accompanied by his always faithful friend Cosmo (Donald O’Connor) and her regular co-star is Lina Lamont (Jean Hegen), with whom they get along very badly. On the run from his fans, Lockwood meets Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), a young aspiring star with whom he ends up falling in love after some initial fights. This will put the bond between Don and Lina in crisis, but a more terrible threat hangs over them: silent cinema comes to an end and the entire industry begins to make sound films. Lina has neither the voice nor the ability to adapt, but she still insists that they must continue to work together.

That argument allows all kinds of excuses for the songs to appear. As usual at the time, the second part of the film had more numbers, a way to achieve a believable transition that allows the characters and their story to develop. What many people still don’t know today is that most of the songs, including the title song, were not written for this feature film and that even some had already appeared in other films. Singing under the rain is the story of twenty years of previous musicals told in a single film.

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Gene Kelly is the protagonist of this musical.  (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Gene Kelly is the protagonist of this musical. (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

It is not uncommon to say that this film is the sum of everything known and the projection towards everything to come. Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen had generated a true revolution with One day in New York (On The Town1949) and despite the nostalgic look of the silent era of the studios, his creative energy for the staging did not take a break. Each musical number of Singing under the rain it is unforgettable. All of them, without exception. But before they arrived it was the producer Arthur Freed who came up with the whole project and molded it together with the brilliant screenwriters Betty Comden Y adolph green. Meanwhile, Gene and Stanley were on the set of An American in Paris (An American in Paris1951) of Vincent Minnelli, a film that would end up winning the Oscar the following year. After several changes to the script, it was sent to Kelly and he was instantly on board, bringing her look and, of course, creating her great moments.

A romantic scene from "Singing in the rain."  (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
A romantic scene from “Singing in the rain.” (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Singing under the rain It is a comedy tribute to cinema with a capacity for narrative synthesis that still surprises today. He reviews years of the film industry while building a handful of memorable characters. Each one is perfect in their role, but you always have to highlight Jean Hegen, who for her role as an unbearable villain had to sacrifice her image so that absolutely no one felt sympathy for her. Hagen is enormously talented, even though she plays an actress on the brink of the abyss. Debbie Reynolds, on the other hand, was very young and Gene Kelly’s perfectionist demands caused him permanent anguish. Legend has it that the other giant of the musical, fred astaire, found her crying under a ladder and ended up helping her a bit to regain her confidence in her dances. When you see the movie, Reynolds is perfect.

Gene Kelly was a perfectionist with himself and with his co-stars.  (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)
Gene Kelly was a perfectionist with himself and with his co-stars. (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Donald O’Connor he is the perfect example of the total artist. Brilliant comedian, singer and dancer off the charts, he plays as an equal to Gene Kelly but reserves the titanic number Make ’em Laugh that would end up taking him to the hospital exhausted. Of course, Gene Kelly is the star and he has two unforgettable moments. The Broadway Rhythm Ballet, a memorable scene that shows the ability of the film to go in any direction without losing strength and in which he appears Cyd Charise in an unforgettable special participation. But of course, there is a number that would change everything forever, the same one that gives the film its title.

Gene Kelly's genius is arguably the heart of the film.  (EFE)
Gene Kelly’s genius is possibly the heart of the film. (EFE)

The song Singing under the rain It is a classic within this classic. It is the summary of the spirit of the film and an inspiring moment that many have interpreted as a message to the United States in difficult times, in particular for the film industry. Today we all know that Kelly was sick the day he filmed it, that the artificial rain had to be mixed with milk so that it could be seen on camera and that a very complex dubbing of the sound of the tapping had to be done. The result is happiness itself. No one who has seen that moment is able to erase the smile on his face at the end of it. The incredible thing is that this glorious moment comes almost immediately after the other great musical success of the film: Buenos dias, in which Kelly, Reynolds and O’Connor shine equally. One of those numbers separately is in itself a miracle, but together, they are from another planet.

Gene Kelly’s genius is arguably the heart of the movie, but everyone mentioned is, too. If cinema is a team effort, Singing under the rain is the ultimate test. Despite everything reported here, the film has many more surprises and memorable moments. It is a genuine festival of cinema, a film that has been making spectators around the world happy for seventy years.

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