The sun’s in my heart, and I’m ready for love…”
#5 – Singin’ in the Rain
Speaking of apes, back during my former tenure as a high-school film teacher, Singin’ in the Rain never failed to win over teen ape audiences who had somehow tricked themselves into thinking that they hated Hollywood Musicals.
Shudder the thought.
There is simply so much to love and cherish within Singin’ in the Rain. For me, there is no single sequence in the history of movies that can produce more pleasure than Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor dancing together.
I first heard this story on the now-out-of-print Criterion Collection laserdisc of Singin’ in the Rain, which featured one of the greatest commentary tracks of all time—a well researched and delightfully entertaining commentary by Ronald Haver. Why on Earth doesn’t MGM license that track from Criterion for one of their seemingly annual re-issues of this movie? Haver deserves to be heard! #hearHaver #Haverhearer #Hereherehaver
The film’s highlight is the title number, sung and danced by Gene Kelly. Though he tried, nothing else in his career ever bested it, and the secret of it is that it is so damn simple: He’s in love. It’s raining. Go. There are stories about how arduous it was to actually film the scene (Days of work shooting with overhead sprinklers spraying water mixed with milk so that it would register on camera; Kelly constantly changing into fresh, identical wool suits because they would quickly become soaked and stinky; local citizens who lived near the studio complaining of a precipitous drop in water pressure when production was rolling that week), yet these stories belie how effortless it all looks onscreen. Gene Kelly was an amazing performer and made audience members believe they could probably dance like that too, if they fell as deeply in love. The scene is four and a half minutes of distilled joy.
For decades, I’d read the story that, when Donald O'Connor shot his famous "Make 'Em Laugh" number, he went home dog-tired because all day he had been forced to repeat the same exhausting stunts and tomfoolery again and again and again for the cameras. His wife made him a martini, the story goes, and he went to soak in a hot tub. Then the phone rang—it was director Gene Kelly at the studio. Seems the camera lens was fogged, and O'Connor had to go back the next day and do the whole thing again.
About a year before Donald O'Connor passed away, I attended Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival in Champaign, Illinois where Roger screened Singin’ In The Rain and hosted O'Connor as his special guest. An audience Q & A followed the screening, and someone actually asked him if that story were true. According to O'Connor, it’s bullshit. Great story though! And believable, as Gene Kelly was knows as something of a perfectionist.
Singin’ in the Rain’s Three Miracles: A funny and trenchant script by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, which sends up Hollywood clichés without bitterness; Gene Kelly, who shares the picture with his costars and allows them to shine; and the genius of Arthur Freed, who not only produced the film (along with dozens of other films including Wizard of Oz, Meet Me In St. Louis, Easter Parade, An American in Paris, and Gigi ) but also wrote the songs!
In nomine Kelly, et Cosmo, y spiritu sancti DANCE! DANCE! DANCE! Hot-cha-cha!