Saturday, 31 December 2016

Singin' in the Rain (1952)

With the recent passing of both Carrie Fisher and her mother, it seemed like an appropriate moment to revisit what was probably Debbie Reynolds' most famous role: the film of which she once said "Singin' in the Rain and childbirth were the two hardest things I ever had to do in my life."

It is 1927, and the two biggest stars in silent film are Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont, whose on-screen romances thrill millions.  Gossip magazines swirl with rumours that the cinematic chemistry extends to their private lives as well, but the reality is actually quite different.  Lina (Jean Hagen, in a frankly scene-stealing performance) is shrill, brassy and common, quite at odds with her glamorous appearance.  Don is most definitely not interested in kissing her anywhere other than on film.

One night while escaping from some excited fans, Don ends up in the automobile of Kathy Selden, a young woman to whom he takes an immediate shine.  When he tries his movie star charms on her, however, she shoots him down hard: Film isn't really acting, it's just crude pantomime.  Real acting happens on the stage, and that's where Kathy intends to make her mark.

Of course, Don and Kathy will be seeing each other again sooner than either of them expects, much to the annoyance of Ms Lina Lamont, and all of their lives are going to get a lot more complicated when The Jazz Singer explodes on the scene and overnight signals the death knell for silent film.

Singin' in the Rain is a fine film.  It's frequently funny, packed with justly-famed musical numbers, and the cast all do great jobs.  You'd never believe, watching the relentlessly cheerful "Good Mornin'", that Reynolds' feet were left bleeding by the shoot.  My only real complaint with it is that the "Broadway Melody" section goes on rather a bit too long, especially in light of how tangential it is to the film's plot.  But that is a minor thing when placed against the entertaining whole.

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