HIDDEN GEMS: 16. SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN
Hidden Gems brings to light little known film gems which have somehow slipped through the collective cinematic consciousness. This week Singin’ in the Rain. You’re welcome.
Singin’ in the Rain should have been a huge hit. It starred Gene Kelly, who directed it alongside Stanley Donen, as well as Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor and Jean Hagen. Set in the golden era of the big silent movies, Kelly plays Don Lockwood, a matinee idol who along with Lina Lamont dominate the silver screen. However, trouble is brewing as a little movie called The Jazz Singer introduces sound to a stunned Hollywood and the studios begin to rush talkies into production. The problem is that Lockwood and Lamont are terrible at speaking and their acting style leaves a lot to be desired. The solution comes via one of the many song and dance routines – they’ll turn The Dueling Cavalier into The Singing Cavalier and make a musical. However, Lamont can’t sing and has such a shrill voice, it can break teeth. Another song and dance later and the idea of having Kathy (Reynolds), Don’s new love interest, dub Lamont.
The movie will be a hit and Lockwood and Lamont’s careers will be saved, but will it also cost Kathy her chance of an independent career. The film is a brilliant breezy piece of Hollywood satire. Perhaps the best film to be made by Hollywood about Hollywood (along with Sunset Boulevard). Not as acerbic as the latter nor the later The Player, but under the gloss there is a keen satirical eye and the bursts of exuberant fun are intoxicating. Looking back on the film many wonder why it didn’t get a larger audience, but Gene Kelly probably came closest when he stated how much he regretted the title. ‘That apostrophe cost us,’ he told French cultural magazine Chapeau. ‘In those days people wanted the movies to be held to higher standards. I remember an audience in Milwaukee walking out and chanting as they went “Where’s the G?” At that point I knew we’d lost them.’