The Greatest films of all time: 6. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)(USA)

Introduction:

In art in general including the cinema, there have been many adaptations that have advanced the original work, other than the originality. But “Singin’ in the Rain” is an exception that’s not just very original, but no adaptation has ever been able to advance and add to this not only the greatest musical film, but one of the best example of a cinematic masterpiece. The only exception that is also mentioned in the film itself, not to be the first musical film, that is “The Jazz Singer”. But “Singin’ in the Rain” surpasses its prototype for being so original, innovative, multifaceted all at the same time, that barely any other film in the history of cinema has been able to achieve. Gene Kelly who played a year before this film in “An American in Paris” and earlier acted and directed other musicals, could not get even close to what he achieved in “Singin’ in the Rain” in acting, directing and choreography of this great film.

 

A Cinematic achievement at every level:

“Singin’ in the Rain” is an example of what cinema could achieve as a moving visual art. With its all innovation of choreography, music, songs and dancing in every frame, that no future musical films could achieve, it is not only the best musical ever made, but the best to watch to this day. It’s not just about being original, as no musical even after has been so colorful, choreographic, rich in dances, costumes and at the same time quite entertaining, comic and a bit at the end melodramatic. The storyline falls well in the place and other than the first few minutes of a slow beginning, there are no flaws throughout the film. “Singin’ in the Rain” is where the art of filmmaking meets the art of entertainment.

Considered by many one of the greatest films, and included in many greatest films list, and number 5 at the AFI 100 best American films, “Singin’ in the Rain” deserves well to jump back in time and stand above many original films in our list, including its prototype, “The Jazz Singer”. The title of “Singin’ in the Rain” could be somewhat a misnomer, as there is only one scene of dancing and singing in the rain, only by Gene Kelly. In dancing, Donald O’Conner and in singing Debbie Reynolds surpass even Gene Kelly, so make it three actors in the first role in a way, with no supremacy of one over the other. The film is also one of the rare films to be adapted for a musical show on Broadway. It has also been listed in AFI’s 100 years not only as the 5thbest American film, but on the top of every other list of AFI, such as the best laughs, the best passions, songs, heroes and Villains.

“Singin’ in the Rain” was made seven years after the end of the horrific world war II, when the people of the world, specially in US and Europe needed such uplifting musical and comedy. Not just the dance, the music and the exceptional choreography, but the costume and colors of the film were much beyond its time and even our time. A celebration of music and dance, one after another entertains the audience with no interruption, and lagging in the joy and entertainment, hard to match in the history of cinema. 

 

A simple storyline that starts slow, but picks up and convincing as soon as the film is dominated by the dance and music. Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) initially a singer and dancer, but with no luck in movies, finally succeeds to get on the screen as a stuntman in the silent era. Being a jack of all trade and plays in different roles, he breaks in as a silent actor, beside the popular actress of the time, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) and popularizes himself even more than her with his hard work, determination and dignity (as it is emphasized in the script and the film). He manages to bring his old musician friend, Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) into the set, writing and conducting music scores for his films. Long story short, running into Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) who happens to be a singer and dancer, changes his life and the life of Hollywood. Bored and annoyed by Lina Lamont who has a beautiful look, but no acting and voice at all, at the time of pressure to convert to talkies after the breakthrough of “The Jazz singer”, Kathy breaks in and replaces Lina for good.

While until now the film is full of amazing and surprising choreographic dances and music, with Chaplin-like improvised dances of Cosmo, then Gene alone in the rain, Kathy joins the two and along with groups of dancers mesmerize and entertain the audience. It has been said here and everywhere else about the choreography of the dances, but it seems that many of the individual dances by Cosmo on the set and by Gene in the rain, are not all planned ahead of time, but improvised by these two actors and dancers, like in instrumental jazz. This is a rarity in cinema that is irresistible to any critic and viewer to ignore and not to rate high.  “Singin’ in the Rain” is a masterpiece example of what cinema can achieve and a work of talent and dignity that hardly could be matched and copied, though it has been tried many times.     

  

Conclusion:

In closing remarks “Singin’ in the Rain” one more time will be redefined based on the following criteria:  

  1. Originality:“Singin’ in the Rain”is not just original and went above its prototype “The Jazz Singer” that was well acknowledged in the film, but it is quite innovative, improvised with all music, dances, costumes and colors that no future musicals with all the advancements that filmmaking and choreography have achieved over the years could do better even in the eyes of the new generation.
  2. Technicality:The technicality of “Singin’ in the Rain” as detailed above is in the amazing choreographic and improvised dances, costumes, colors, all well placed in a simple but convincing storyline, a great piece of entertainment and joy never matched.
  3. Impact Factor:The influence of “Singin’ in the Rain” has been so much on every single musical coming out of Hollywood in the later years, that even if not deliberately, one could easily find some similarities in adaptation from this film. On the impact of this film on other musicals in later years, there have been good and great adaptations and influence such as “West Side Story”, “Chicago”, “Moulin Rouge” and more recently a bad copy cat adaptation of “La La Land”.  
  4. Survival:“Singin’ in the Rain” has survived well to this very day that even the new generation would enjoy and could not believe it was made 66 years ago, capable to beat every modern musical competitors at the heart of its viewers.

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