Why Singin’ In The Rain Matters

Singin’ In The Rain Is One Of The Greatest Movie Musicals Ever Made.

It Is Also A Very Important Part Of American Cultural History.

“Singin’ in the Rain” is one of the greatest movie musicals ever made. It is a film of enormous artistic achievement, brilliant on every level. The movie represents the pinnacle of studio moviemaking – where every phase of the production was controlled by seasoned experts with great skill and obvious love for the final product.

In addition to its stunning artistic success, “Singin’ in the Rain” is also a tremendously important part of American popular culture history.

The silent film era of the 1920s produced some of the greatest masterpieces in the history of film. Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and Charlie Chaplin chaplin-the-musical-broadway-nyc-jer-johnscreated films that can still mesmerize, enthrall, and entertain us. Although the silent film era was quickly overshadowed by the talkies, leading to the Golden Age of American movies, their influence was enormous. By the 1950s, as the studio system was on the wane, motion pictures had become bigger, more powerful, and more influential than even the early visionaries of the silent film era could’ve anticipated. However, as the silent film era receded into the mists of memory, many in the Hollywood community, as well as film critics, historians, and educators. began to realize that we were losing an important part of our cultural heritage

 

Buster Keaton in jailDue to the deterioration of the physical film on which the silents were made and the negligence with which they were handled and stored, many are irretrievably lost to us. We know from studio records that there are Charlie Chaplin films that simply no longer exist. What a loss to those of us who love the movies. By the 1950s, the movie industry itself became acutely aware of its own history. Some of the early greats had already died; among them Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, and Tom Mix, while others such as the brilliant Buster Keaton and Gloria Swanson had become almost parodies of themselves as they attempted to continue their careers.

 

Although it may seem superfluous to talk about the plot of a movie musical, “Singing in the Rain” is a delightful exception. The film centers around the difficulties of the transition from silent films to talking films. At all points during the production, the silent era is treated with respect and warmth.

 

After establishing that Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) had been a burlesque performer, images-2working his way up through the sticks alongside his buddy Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor), the film follows his rise in the new silent film industry. Although his story is fictional, parallels can be found in the careers of many film stars who more or less wandered into Hollywood. The early scenes in “Singin’ in the Rain” depicting the wildly innovative, almost anarchic beginnings of the modern film industry are actually very accurate to that innovative and improvisational time. Significantly, they are also shown with a warm nostalgia that indicated the great respect of the filmmakers for their predecessors in the silent era.

 

Lina Lamont, played by the sublime Jean Hagen,is not a figure of fun because she’sSingin' In The Rain Jean Hagen a silent film star; she is ridiculous because of her own pretentiousness and lack of self-awareness. I’m sure that many in Hollywood today could identify more than a few movie stars with those qualities! “Singin’ in the Rain” then re-creates – both hilariously and accurately – the difficulties of transitioning from silent films to talkies. The significance of this is that Hollywood was acknowledging its own creation story. Not only is “Singin’ in the Rain” a breathtaking example of 1950s studio filmmaking and one of the greatest musicals ever filmed, it is also one of the greatest movies ever made about the history of the movies.

images-3That is important. Although”Singin’ in the Rain” is certainly not designed to be a pretentious piece of history, it winds up serving as both a heartfelt acknowledgment of a generation of filmmakers who were passing from the scene and an introduction to the silent era for a new generation of film-goers.

By lovingly re-creating that bygone era, “Singin’ In The Rain” serves as both a wonderful history and a charming introduction to the age of silent films. It is also a reminder that cultural history is an important part of the larger history of our nation.

In 2012, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its release of “Singing In the Rain,” was re-released in theaters for one night. Although I own a copy of the film on Blu-ray and can actually recite every line of dialogue from memory, I couldn’t have been more anxious to see the film on the big screen, as it was intended. The effect was startling! To see “Singin’ in the Rain” on the big screen was a revelation – providing an understanding on a much deeper level of the complete brilliance of the filmmakers and performers involved. I brought with me my then 10-year-old daughter, her best friends, and my eight-year-old son. Other than promising they would love the film, I told them very little about Singin’ In The Rain. Growing up in the house with a father who is obsessed with classic films, they were game for the experience. When we got to the theater, I was delighted to see how many parents and grandparents had brought children to see it. The applause and cheering and laughter and whooping went on throughout the film as the children were absolutely delighted by scene after scene, laugh after laugh, song after song. It was clear the film had lost none of its original impact – even when viewed by children who had been born 40 years after that first appearance in theaters.

Afterward, my children, and I’m sure many of the other children in the theater, began asking a lot of questions about silent movies. They really didn’t know anything about them beforehand.“Singin’ in the Rain” had opened their eyes to two different eras in film history, both delightful and both capable of entertaining children who have grown up with IMAX and 3-D and computer-generated imagery as their starting point for enjoying movies.

Leave a comment below – let’s see what everybody thinks!

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To read my analysis of three other movies whose significance is greater than their just their artistic achievement, click on the titles below!

YOUNG MR. LINCOLN

MY DARLING CLEMENTINE

LINCOLN

 

 

11 thoughts on “Why Singin’ In The Rain Matters

  1. Seeing Debbie Reynolds breakout film with her wonderful voice was a treat for me as well as rumors that Gene Kelly did the dancing in the rain scene just one time, or not shows his superb footwork skills.

    • Arnie,

      In two of the numbers, “You Are My Lucky Star” & “Would You,” Debbie Reynolds voice is actually daubed by Betty Noyes. In the speaking part of “Would You” the voice you hear is actually Jean Hagan! She had a beautiful, rich voice – not at all the voice of Lina Lamont! So we actually hear Jean Hagan dubbing Debbie Reynolds who is supposed to be dubbing Jean Hagan!

      Barry

  2. This movie has always been one of my favorites. I thought I had read that Debbie Reynolds had never tap-danced before this.

  3. Barry…your reviews are great, entertaining and informative. Makes me want to run out and get them! I agree about Singing in The Rain…an all time favorite of mine. How about a series of simply watching these movies with you? You can comment, of course…how could you stop yourself! I would love such a series and Georgianne would probably go for it as she is always looking for ideas. (You can add movies with Christine C!!!!!). Carol

    • Carol,

      I would LOVE to do a film class for CLC! I would speak for a half hour about the background of the film, its importance and so on. Then we would watch it and I would provide more info and lead a discussion afterwards. Please suggest it to Georgianne!

      Barry

    • Thank you for your lovely comment on my article!

      I had to use Google translate to read your page in English, but it was well worth the wait! I have never seen The Iron Horse, but after reading your insightful review, I am anxious to watch it.

      Thanks again!

      Barry

  4. Pingback: Singing in the Rain – schoolblog81

  5. Barry, there were Silent Films for us to see in “Main Street” at the Museum of Science and Industry on the South Side of Chicago. Find out if they still are there and if so, it’s a MUST that you take your children. I haven’t been there in a long time.
    Bonnie Mrowka

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