Reviews

Singin' In The Rain

4

Gene Kelly's iconic 1952 musical still feels fresh

Billed as a "Singin' Swingin' Glorious Feeling Technicolor Musical”, and delivering on all fronts, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s 1952 classic has been affectionately spoofed everywhere from The Simpsons to Last Of The Summer Wine.

They needn’t have bothered – this is a film happy to rip Hollywood to pieces, even if its minty-white smile, given an extra polish for Blu-ray, never fades. 

It’s the end of an era in La-La Land, with sound about to P45 silent stars such as Don Lockwood (Kelly) and shriekingly awful co-star Lina Lamont (Oscar nommed Jean Hagen).

Attempting to keep up, the studio decides to retrofit the latest Lamont/Lockwood extravaganza, The Duelling Cavalier, with dialogue and musical numbers (making it The Dancing Cavalier) – no prizes for spotting the parallels with the recent 3D craze.

Only problem is, Lamont has a speaking voice like a foghorn.

In comes ingénue Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) to dub Lamont (it’s actually Hagen dubbing Reynolds dubbing Lamont), and Lockwood soon finds himself in love, and in trouble.

What follows is an irrepressible backstage extravaganza that leaps into song at every possible juncture.

One highlight is sidekick Cosmo’s (Donald Campbell) manic, brilliant ‘Make ’Em Laugh’, which sees him entreat Lockwood, “You can charm the critics and have nothing to eat, or slip on a banana peel and have them fall at your feet. Make ’em laugh!”

Scripters Adolph Green and Betty Comden give it their best, combining witty putdowns (“There’s nothing between us… but air,” Lockwood tells Lamont) with silliness (“Cosmo, call me a cab,” says Lockwood. “OK, you’re a cab,” is the response).

But there are spikes beneath the silliness (“I’d like to break every bone in your body,” Lockwood whispers to Lamont during a silent love scene, while feigning tenderness), even if it’s the film’s relentless joie de vivre that echoes down the decades.

Singin’ is both a celebration and a satire of the movies.

Lockwood earns his big-screen spurs on a terrible cowboy opera, complete with leather chaps and swinging saloon doors.

With songs, sets and props recycled from MGM classics, the film genuinely loves what it lampoons, poking fun at such trashy material while applauding the vigour with which the performers attack it.

But perhaps Singin’s most remarkable achievement is how fresh it feels 60 years on.

It may hark back to a (slightly) more innocent time but because it’s not a portrait of the past, but a portrait of a portrait of the past, it doesn’t feel dated: Kelly and chums are looking back and laughing too.

Extras take in previously released material plus new 50-min doc ‘Raining On A New Generation’.

Film Details