Singin' in the Rain

dir. Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly

TIFF Cinematheque - Retrospective

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Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds star in this classic musical set at the end of Hollywood’s silent era.
Demy's brash, ebullient musicals would be unthinkable without the precedent of Singin', which still reigns as "one of the shining glories of the American musical" (Dave Kehr). Singin' is set in 1927 Tinseltown, as silent films are nervously making way for the talkies. Gene Kelly plays matinee idol Don Lockwood, as good with the ol' soft shoe as he is with a swashbuckler's sword, whose motto is "Dignity, always dignity," despite a background of menial and demeaning jobs. Jean Hagen is hilarious as the vain, jealous Lina Lamont, Lockwood's obnoxious onscreen inamorata, whose strangulated birdcall of a speaking voice bodes ill for her career in "talking pictures." Ducking out on his leading lady, Lockwood accidentally encounters a bright-eyed stage actress (Debbie Reynolds) whom he instantly falls for, and much romantic misunderstanding, cake throwing, and memorable music-making ensue. The legendary musical numbers include Donald O'Connor's bogglingly acrobatic "Make 'Em Laugh," the modernist "Broadway Melody," and that most supernal (and, to use a cliché, iconic) of solo performances, Kelly's rapturous dance through the downpour, miraculously achieved though the actor had a 103-degree fever at the time.