I have to admit that the first time I saw this, I didn’t like it. When I was a child I was never into musicals, since I thought they were, you know, gay. A macho teenage boy like me would never watch something so, you know, gay. I didn’t understand why people thought it was a masterpiece, or why people were so impressed with such a simple plot. That plot, of course, being that of a famous silent actor Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly), who is on the spotlight all the time and is constantly harassed by the press, studio heads, and his co-star, the annoying monstrosity that is Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen). Only his best friend, Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) is by his side. One night he meets a beautiful woman (Kathy, played by Debbie Reynolds), but both do more arguing than anything else. That’s the least of Don’s worries, however, since The Jazz Singer has just premiered and is a smash hit. Now he has to adapt to the new system, but his first movie in sound is a disaster. They decide to change the drama into a fun musical, and with the help of Kathy and Cosmo. But prima donna Lina is not happy, since her voice is completely unsuitable for talking pictures, and will stop at nothing to stop Kathy and Don to have a happy Hollywood career, and marriage, together, even if she has to take the studio down together.
I saw the movie again when I was in my first round of college, at the age of 21. I was over the whole anti-gay thing by then (I’m openly bisexual) and when I re-watched the film, I fell in love. For starters, let’s start with the direction of the film. This has some of the best sets I’ve seen in my life, and the lighting cues are dynamic, colorful and almost hallucinatory. The plotline, involving filmmaking and the end of silent films, really intrigued me and drove me into the story. And then there’s the cast! Gene Kelly was truly the ultimate movie threat, a true entertainer in every sense of the word: a singer, dancer, choreographer, stuntman, and director. Not to mention he was gorgeous! His character, like most of his films, is very likeable and relatable, and he’s very funny. His dancing is something to behold, particularly the ones he shares with his co-star Donald O’Connor, an equally talented performer. Two of the performances that they share together, Moses Supposes and Fit As A Fiddle (And Ready To Love) are so damn well made, you almost feel like you’re there watching them do it. Moses Supposes in particular shows what these two could do together. Of course, the most famous musical piece in the film is the main theme, Singin’ In The Rain, done beautifully in one of the best indoor sets I have ever seen in a movie.
The rest of the cast does beautifully. Debbie Reynolds is charming as the romantic lead, and has a wonderful voice and is also a beautiful dancer. While not as applauded as the other sequences she does, my favorite number of hers is All I Do Is Dream Of You, which is fun and shows both her talents very well. Jean Hagen however is the most memorable after Kelly, she almost steals the movie from him. She is definitely one of the most annoying, irritating characters in motion picture history, and was more than happy when she got her comeuppance.
This movie is now immortal. We know the story now before we even see it. The songs and musical numbers have been homaged in every part of our culture, from Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Leon The Professional, Shanghai Nights and the Simpsons, and even Family Guy, who installs the song “Make ‘Em Laugh” into a porno store with lyrics changed to suit the situation, if you know what I mean. It’s one of the greatest films ever made, and comes highly recommended to those who have yet had the pleasure of watching it.