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Singin' in the Rain (1952) - Illustrated Reference

Updated on February 16, 2014

Singin’ in the Rain was directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, it premiered on the 27th March 1952. Starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen and Millard Mitchell. Screenplay by Adolph Green & Betty Comden. Music by Lennie Hayton. 103 mins.

The 1920s and Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are two of the biggest stars in Hollywood. Warner Bros release The Jazz Singer, the first talkie and it’s an instant success, suddenly all the studios are rewiring their sets for sound. Lockwood and Lamont’s latest film The Dueling Cavalier is to be converted to sound and turned into a musical. But Monumental Pictures has a big problem, Lina Lamont’s voice.

Arthur Freed, head of MGM’s musical department asked screenwriters and lyricists Betty Comden and Adolph Green to come up with a story based on the popular song “Singin’ in the Rain”. They came up with a storyline about the film industry’s transition to sound and turned it into a comedy musical.

Don Lockwood: Now Lina, you've been reading all those fan magazines again! Now look you shouldn't believe all that banana oil Dora Bailey and the columnists dish out. Try to get this straight: there is nothing between us. There has never been anything between us. Just air.
Lina Lamont: Oh, Donny, you don't mean that.

Gene Kelly (1912-1996) / Don Lockwood

Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Gene Kelly was Oscar nominated Best Actor for Anchors Aweigh (1945), he received an Honorary Oscar in 1952 “In appreciation of his versatility as an actor, singer, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film.”

Kelly’s films include – Cover Girl (1944), The Pirate (1948), The Three Musketeers (1948), On the Town (1949), Summer Stock (1950), An American in Paris (1951), Brigadoon (1954), It’s Always Fair Weather (1955), Invitation to the Dance (1956) and Inherit the Wind (1960).

Don Lockwood: Ladies and gentlemen, stop that girl, that girl running up the aisle. Stop her! That's the girl whose voice you heard and loved tonight. She's the real star of the picture. Kathy Selden!

Debbie Reynolds (1932-) / Kathy Selden

Born in El Paso, Texas, Debbie Reynolds was Oscar Nominated Best Actress for The Unsinkable Molly Brown (1964), her films include – Hit the Deck (1955), The Tender Trap (1955), The Mating Game (1959), The Rat Race (1960), How the West Was Won (1962) and Divorce American Style (1967).

Donald O’Connor (1925-2003) / Cosmo Brown

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Donald O’Connor won a Golden Globe Best Actor in a Musical / Comedy for Singin’ in the Rain. His films include – Francis (1950), Call Me Madam (1953), There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954), Anything Goes (1956) and The Buster Keaton Story (1957).

Lina Lamont: What's wrong with the way I talk? What's the big idea? Am I dumb or something?

Jean Hagen (1923-1977) / Lina Lamont

Born in Chicago, Illinois, Jean Hagen was Oscar Nominated Best Supporting Actress for Singin’ in the Rain. Her films include – The Asphalt Jungle (1950), Carbine Williams (1952), The Big Knife (1955), The Shaggy Dog (1959) and Panic in Year Zero (1962).

Millard Mitchell (1903-1953) / R.F.Simpson

Born in Havana, Cuba, Millard Mitchell won a Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor for My Six Convicts (1952). His films include – Kiss of Death (1947), A Double Life (1947), Twelve O’Clock High (1949), The Gunfighter (1950), Winchester 73 (1950) and The Naked Spur (1953).

Cyd Charisse (1921-2008) / Dancer

Born in Amarillo, Texas, Cyd Charisse was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress Musical / Comedy for Silk Stockings (1958). Her films include – The Harvey Girls (1946), The Band Wagon (1953), Brigadoon (1954), It’s Always Fair Weather (1955), Meet Me in Las Vegas, Party Girl (1958) and Two Weeks in Another Town (1962).

Roscoe: Lina! We're missing every other word! You've got to talk into the mike!
Lina: [pointing] Well, I can't make love to a bush!

Douglas Fowley (1911-1998) / Roscoe Dexter

Born in The Bronx, New York, Douglas Fowley was a prolific supporting actor appearing in over 200 movies, they include – The Thin Man (1934), Dodge City (1939), Take Me Out to the Ball Game (1949), Mighty Joe Young (1949), Battleground (1949), The Band Wagon (1953) and The High and the Mighty (1954).

Let the stormy clouds chase, everyone from the place. Come on with the rain, I've a smile on my face. I walk down the lane, with a happy refrain, just singin', singin' in the rain

Gene Kelly dancing and singing in the rain is the most famous scene in the film, and arguably the greatest musical sequence in movie history. The rain was a mixture of water and milk so it would show up better on film.The number took a couple of days to film and Kelly ended up with a bad cold and fever.

The song “Singin’ in the Rain” was first heard on film in the MGM musical Hollywood Revue of 1929 and sung by Cliff Edwards. Jimmy Durante sang the song in Speak Easily (1932) and Judy Garland sang it in Little Nellie Kelly (1940).

Most infamously the song is sung by Alex (Malcolm McDowell) while raping a woman in Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971), Gene Kelly’s rendition of the song is played over the credits.

In an early script draft the title number was to have been sung by Kelly, Reynolds and O’ Connor as they left the theatre following the disastrous showing of The Dueling Cavalier.

Hello! This is a demonstration of a talking picture. Notice, it is a picture of me and I am talking. Note how my lips and the sound issuing from them are synchronized together in perfect unison.

Howard Keel was at one time considered for the role of Don Lockwood, Jane Powell for the role of Kathy Selden, Carleton Carpenter for the role of Cosmo Brown and Judy Holliday for Lina Lamont. It might have been a different film entirely.

Phoebe Dinsmore: No, no, no Miss Lamont, Round tones, round tones. Now, let me hear you read your line.
Lina Lamont: And I cean't stand'im.
Phoebe Dinsmore: And I can't stand him.
Lina Lamont: And I cean't stand'im.
Phoebe Dinsmore: Can't.
Lina Lamont: Cean't.
Phoebe Dinsmore: Caaaaan't
Lina Lamont: Ceeeaan't

Who dubbed who? This can get confusing, in the film Lina Lamont’s voice was screechy and had to be dubbed for ‘talking pictures’. In reality the actress playing Lina, Jean Hagen, had a nice normal voice.

In the scenes where Lina’s voice is being dubbed by Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) it is actually Hagen’s real voice that is being heard. Hagen dubbing Kathy dubbing Lina.

And to make things even more confusing when Kathy is dubbing Lina singing “Would you?” Debbie Reynolds voice was dubbed by singer Betty Noyes who had a richer singing voice than Reynolds. Noyes dubbing Kathy dubbing Lina.

Gene Kelly was a perfectionist on set and he terrified his co-stars, 19 year old Debbie Reynolds ran off set crying when he insulted her for not learning how to dance and in the first few weeks of filming Donald O’Connor was frightened in case he made a mistake and was yelled at by Kelly.

Diction coach: Moses supposes his toeses are roses, but Moses supposes erroneously, and Moses, he knowses his toeses aren't roses, as Moses supposes his toeses to be

Only two songs were written especially for the film “Make ‘Em Laugh” and “Moses Supposes”, the other songs were a collection of MGM standards from the 20’s and 30’s.

Make ‘Em Laugh sung by Donald O’ Connor is one of the highlights of the film, the song is practically a remake of Cole Porter’s “Be a Clown” from the Gene Kelly, Judy Garland musical The Pirate (1948). Cole Porter didn’t complain.

Donald O’ Connor worked in an acrobatic routine he used as a dancer in his youth for the song "Make 'Em Laugh", where he would run up a wall and somersault backwards. O’Connor practiced the number over and over it was so physically taxing he suffered from exhaustion, and carpet burns too.

The song “Good Morning” sung and danced by Gene Kelly, Donald O’ Connor and Debbie Reynolds was first sung on film by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney in Babes in Arms (1939).

Don Lockwood: Gotta dance! Gotta Dance! Broadway Rhythm, it's got me, everybody dance!

The 12 minute Broadway Melody Ballet cost $605,960 according to MGM record files of the time.

Cyd Charisse made such an impression on the MGM producers as the dancing Vamp in the Broadway Melody sequence that they gave her a starring role in the Fred Astaire musical The Band Wagon (1953).

Lina Lamont: Oh Donny! You couldn't kiss me like that and not mean it just a teensy weensy bit!
Don Lockwood: Meet the greatest actor in the world! I'd rather kiss a tarantula.
Lina Lamont: You don't mean that.
Don Lockwood: I don't - - Hey Joe, get me a tarantula.

Singin’ in the Rain was ranked #5 on the American Film Institute’s 100 Greatest Movies List of 2007, it ranked #16 in AFI’s 100 funniest films list,

Gene Kelly singing the title song ranked #3 on AFI’s 100 Greatest Movie Songs list “Make Em Laugh” at #49 and “Good Morning” at #72.

Singin' in the Rain ranked #1 on the AFI’s 25 Greatest Musicals list, with West Side Story (1961) #2 and The Wizard of Oz (1939) #3.

The film cost $2.5m to make and was a success grossing $7.2m in its initial release.

Singin’ in the Rain was nominated for two Oscars – Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Jean Hagen) and Best Music (Lennie Hayton). The film was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards – Best Motion Picture Musical / Comedy and winning for Best Actor Musical / Comedy (Donald O’ Connor)

It was among the films chosen for preservation for the National Film Registry in 1989.

60 years old and Singin’ in the Rain still tops lists of favourite movie musicals. I’ve watched and enjoyed many musicals over the decades, Singin’ in the Rain remains my favourite. Thank you for reading.

Lina Lamont: If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, it makes us feel as though our hard work ain't been in vain for nothin'. Bless you all.

The Critics Wrote -

“I've made a lot of films that were bigger hits and made a lot more money, but now they look dated. This one, out of all my pictures, has a chance to last.” (Gene Kelly, 1977)

"You are left feeling that nothing could be more cheering than rain... Nearly as good as Kelly's masterpiece, On the Town." (The Times)

"Probably my favorite musical. When it came out it wasn't particularly well reviewed. People thought, ho hum, another Metro musical, but this isn't only a musical, it's one of the finest films about Hollywood." (William Goldman, 1984)

"Its plot, if that's what you'd call it, concerns a silent film star who is linked with a slut-voiced leading lady while wooing a thrushy new young thing. If anyone can tell us what all of the nonsense that goes on has to do with the title of the picture, we will buy him a new spring hat.

But that doesn't make any difference, for the nonsense is generally good and at times it reaches the level of first-class satiric burlesque." (Bosley Crowther, New York Times)

"Brilliant movie musical, the best picture by far of Hollywood in transition, with the catchiest tunes, the liveliest choreography, the most engaging performances and the most hilarious jokes of any musical." (Leslie Halliwell)

"The greatest musical ever made... also one of the few musicals where the screenplay... is as entertaining as the numbers themselves. A masterpiece, no question about it." (NFT Bulletin, 1975)

"The movie's climax, as Debbie Reynolds flees from the theater while Gene Kelly shouts out "Stop that girl!" and tells everyone who she is, and that he loves her, is one of those bravura romantic scenes that make you tingle no matter how often you see it. But is this really the greatest Hollywood musical ever made? In a word, yes." (Roger Ebert)


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