Singin' in the Rain - 1952
Director - Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly
Starring - Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, and Debbie Reynolds
Coming into this movie, I was skeptical. To be more to the point, coming into this endeavor of watching all of these movies, I was skeptical about every one of the musicals. For some reason, I just don't really consider a musical a viable genre of film. It doesn't have any of the high drama, action, or space monsters that would make me say, "Cool!" Instead there's dancing...and worse, there's singing too. Not sure why this particular combination of things turns me off of musicals, but it is both of those two ingredients that are vital to the musical. And here I am hating on them before I'd even seen the first one on the list.
Lucky for me, Laura just went ahead and brought home both Singin' In The Rain and West Side Story without me knowing. I say lucky, because I really had a very good time watching Singin' In The Rain. It was extra fun because she loves it so much, I caught her out of the corner of my eye bobbing her head, or singing under her breath. I got twice the show, for half the price!
To start with, the first thing that struck me was the color. The poster isn't kidding when it says Technicolor. It was like having electric, neon candy explode inside my brain! There was so much to look at, and all of it was so rich and vibrant, full of life. Gene Kelly was everything I've heard he was, charming, debonair, suave, and light on his feet. I had never heard of Donald O'Connor, or Debbie Reynolds, but both of them also impressed me with their skills.
The story, a couple of young men who come up through vaudeville, and into movies during the switch over from silents to talkies, perfectly suits the inclusion of the rich color palette, thematic set pieces, and the film's dependence on song. This is just what the fifties has taught us about Hollywood. It's bright, it's beautiful, it's filled with happy endings, and just desserts. It's one big dream, fully rendered and realized on screen.
Technically speaking, the set pieces incorporated genius use of practical light sources as well as light motivated by the emotions and exuberence of the characters. The camera work was smooth and quick, never hanging for too long on one element of the dance. The camera holds back enough so that we feel like we see the entire routine, but moves in for close-ups enough so that we don't miss the finer details or the acting. The songs, with the exception of a couple of slower ones, were fast paced, energetic, and exciting. Each one got your blood moving without overstaying it's welcome, or getting stale.
The only critique I have of this film is a pretty minor one. Of the songs, two of them were a little slow and didn't really engage me. These performances stood out so much to me because of the sheer energy of the other routines. They didn't necessarily move the plot forward, and they certainly sapped the momentum out of the story. I guess there are people out there who not only like slower, romantic songs, but are drawn to musicals because of them. That is actually one of the elements that has been keeping me away for so many years.
I've learned my lesson. While I am still a might skeptical about musicals, I am 50 percent won over. If West Side Story is half as good as Singin' in the Rain was, then there will officially be some hope for the getting through the rest of the musicals in the bunch. I'll let you know how it turns out.
"I loves it!" - Ashley