With the past decade’s remarkable film musical renaissance and with this year’s The Artist captivating audiences with its adroit study of the silent film era, the timing is perfect to revisit Gene Kelly’s exhilarating 1952 song and dance spectacular Singin’ in the Rain. Kelly, who co-directs with Stanley Donen, is irresistible as silent film star Don Lockwood, whose impressive propensity for captivating physical performance catapults him up the 1920s Hollywood ladder, only for the arrival of ‘the Talkies’ to force him and his studio to re-evaluate everything they know.
What follows is a wry, heart-warming look behind the scenes at this pivotal time in film history, with some quite staggering, energetic musical set-pieces that challenge you not to smile goofily. Kelly himself choreographs the film’s spectacular, colourful dance numbers and the results, particularly his famous, soggy performance of the title track, are breath-taking.
As Lockwood, Kelly is eminently likeable, commanding scenes with an impressive physicality and a winning smile. Deft support is on hand from Donald O’Connor as sage crony and comic foil Cosmo, and Debbie Reynolds as Don’s songbird love interest whose remarkable voice may just be the key to the studio’s survival. When the three of them get together to croon and boogie through the number ‘Good Mornin’,’ the chemistry is extraordinary, the performance entrancing.
Jean Hagen injects added comedy calibre as Lina Lamont, Don’s shallow, vindictive co-star whose struggles with new sound techniques, not to mention her own shrill, annoying voice, provide some riotous moments. The bewildered diva’s hilarious woes with the microphone also sum up rather sweetly the film’s portrayal of a cinema slowly finding its voice with dazzling style.
Singin’ in the Rain is Kelly in his element, doing what he was born to do and clearly relishing it. And it is nigh on impossible not to get swept away in the flood.