Singing but no rainSINGIN' IN THE RAIN

(1952)
With Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchell, Cyd Charisse, Rita Moreno
Directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly
Reviewed by JL and JB

     Widely regarded as the greatest of movie musicals, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is a joyously satirical self-examination of the film industry.  Producer Arthur Freed used his own back catalog of hit songs (co-written with Nacio Herb Brown) around which to build a hilarious, yet surprisingly incisive, look at Hollywood during the dawn of the sound era.  The numbers themselves are the stuff of legend: the lyric grace of Gene Kelly's tap dance to the title song, the burlesque athleticism of "Moses Supposes" and Donald O'Connor's show-stopping "Make 'Em Laugh," and the epic modern ballet "Broadway Melody" (which I much prefer to the more-heralded ballet from AN AMERICAN IN PARIS).  And if that weren't enough, there's also Jean Hagen's quintessential dumb blonde and Cyd Charisse's legs.  A perfect film.  - JL


     Not a case of "they don't make 'em like this any more" but a "they can't make 'em like this anymore."  There are hardly any more real songwriters left in Hollywood, nor enough performers who can sing, dance, act and do comedy.  Even on Broadway, the art of original songwriting is in such a sad state of decay,  new musicals tend to be based on the song catalogues of baby-boomer heroes such as Elvis, The Beach Boys and the Four Seasons.  Stage musicals with original songs are now often derived from movies themselves, such as THE PRODUCERS and MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL, with no hit songs emerging because there is no longer any outlet for such songs to be played on the radio or on television.  Even when an original musical such as Chicago is adapted into a movie, and a decent one at that, the musical portions are rendered as imaginary sequences.  Apparently  Hollywood has dumbed down audiences so much over the past two decades, movie-goers are no longer trusted to understand the concept of characters breaking the fourth wall by singing and dancing whenever the mood strikes them.  In essence, the Hollywood Musical is all but dead.

     Oh, well, we still have SINGIN' IN THE RAIN, the film that is to Hollywood Musicals what CITIZEN KANE is to, well, everything else.  And, thank God, RAIN is one of the few films in history that is virtually remake-proof.   Though I still wouldn't put it past them to try someday. - JB

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