That was the beginning of the sound era in a nutshell, wasn’t it?
Pretty faces stayed out front, talented voices stood behind the scenes to facilitate the myth, the men responsible watched from the sidelines, and the audience lapped it up. It’s a scene that would pop up again and again through the years, with actresses like Natalie Wood and Audrey Hepburn seen as good enough to act, but not good enough to sing.
At least Natalie and Audrey could say “and I can’t stand him” with proper diction.
There’s so much going on in SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN; so much in fact that it was difficult to settle on just four frames. There’s those glorious songs, that wonderful dancing, moments of comic gold, scenes of visual lavishness…the works really. For me though, it’s the story that I cling to the most; one of the greatest movies-about-the-movies ever made. It’s the way it follows Don, (a charismatic leading man who would survive the advent of sound) and his leading lady Lina (who would not).
It’s the way the producers in Hollywood saw how audiences were latching to a new technology and scrambled to adapt…not for the last time of course. Of course, it wasn’t always as simple as pressing “record”…but that wouldn’t stop these sorts of men from cashing in. It’s not just the executives though, is it? It was also men like Kelly who panicked that a situation like Lena’s would drag him down. Likewise, it was also men like Cosmo – never without a song, a joke, and sometimes a scheme.
They’ll try anything they can of course, because film is an illusion. It’s a certain type of magic to fuel the fire of stars like Lina, who aren’t nearly as glorious in person as they seem on the screen. So to keep the illusion going, the magician needs to keep working various methods of slight-of-hand. As long as they do, the audience stays enraptured (as can be seen on the right side of the image above). Screw up one piece of misdirection though, and they’ll all laugh at you in a hurry.
The way all of that is told with so much energy – and a surprising amount of wit – is what always draws me to SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN. That and Kathy.
The film hums along well enough through its opening scenes, but it feels like it finds it’s centre when Don jumps into Kathy’s car. She presents herself as everything that Lina isn’t: classy, plucky, warm and talented. She seems to come from different stock – the sort that works harder and is more appreciative. A job like this, where she might get no credit at all requires a high threshold of appreciation, and we definitely see that in Kathy. To us, this makes her class, pluck, warmth, and talent seem that much greater.
All of these things come together to make SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN so wonderful – and all of these things come together in this one glorious moment in the final act.
Here’s three more from SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN for the road…
This series of posts is inspired by the “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” series at The Film Experience. Do check out all of the awesome entires in their series so far