'Singin' in the Rain' not as easy as it looks

By by dianna wray/dwray@vicad.com
July 11, 2012 at 2:11 a.m.

Gene Kelly, sopping wet and grinning as he swings around that street lamp, is pretty much my favorite part of one of my favorite movies ever.

I grew up on "Singin' in the Rain," and I guarantee you whenever it's raining, if I can possibly find myself outside in the inclement weather, that's the tune I'm shouting as I tramp through puddles. It all looks so fun and easy when Gene Kelly does it.

There are some movies we love because they're "classics" and there are some that have the word "classic" thrust upon them, but also happen to simply be great movies - "Singing in the Rain" falls into the latter category.

The movie tells the story of Don Lockwood, played by Kelly, a silent film star who does not much care for his vapid costar, Lena Lamont, but pretends to for publicity. Don meets Kathy Seldon, a 19-year-old Debbie Reynolds, a chorus girl who makes fun of his silent movie acting, because what is the theater without those lovely words?

It's a good point, considering the talkies have made silent films a thing of the past. Of course, Don falls in love with Kathy, and Kathy is roped into dubbing Lena Lamont's voice and it all gets very complicated before that happy ending comes around.

But it's the fun kind of complications, and the songs that go with them - "Make 'Em Laugh," "Good Morning" and, yes, "Singin' in the Rain" - are the kind that make you smile whether you want to or not.

It was filmed in 1952, and, despite being counted as one of the best movie musicals of all time nowadays, it wasn't that popular at the time. It's crazy, but true.

However, it caught on eventually, and now everybody pretty much has to recognize that Donald O'Connor's athletic, slapstick rendition of "Make 'Em Laugh" is one of the best musical comedy numbers ever put on film.

You'll appreciate it even more when you know that O'Connor took to his bed for four days after he filmed that sequence - and then learned there was something wrong with the film, so he had to do it again.

And that title number? Gene Kelly was dancing with a 103-degree fever in that watery soundstage. The water was mixed with milk (I'm still not sure why) and his suit shrank while he was still dancing in it. It took a lot of work, but you don't see it when they're up on the screen.

Up there, it looks effortless, like all of the best nearly impossible things. It looks easy enough you'll want to grab your own umbrella and go out and sing in the rain after seeing it.

The film is showing nationwide for one night only at 7 p.m. Thursday. Go check it out. It's not as easy as it looks, but that's how all of the best things are.



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