Silent film star Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly, “An American in Paris”), his leading lady Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen, “The Shaggy Dog”), and their film crew are introduced to the new phenomenon of talking pictures at a party one night. Their producer, after seeing the success of the first talking picture, decides that their latest film should be made a talkie as well. But Lina’s voice isn’t very pleasing to the ear, so the company enlists the help of Kathy Seldon (Debbie Reynolds, “Kiki’s Delivery Service”) who voice acts for Lina. Unhappy with this turn of events and seeing a chance for her fame to slip through her fingers, Lina takes matters into her own hands as Don and Kathy begin to fall in love.
Gene Kelly is a sweetheart with a voice silk would be envious of. His performance of “Singin’ in the Rain” is two parts ear candy and one part adorable dance number. The man looks like a fool in love, dancing in puddles with a shameless face-splitting grin; utterly charming and completely wonderful. Childish use of skillful dance moves aside, the song is good enough without the visual to rank at number three on the American Film Institute’s top 100 list of movie music. In fact, two other songs from the film, “Make ‘Em Laugh” and “Good Mornin’” also make the top 100 (numbers 49 and 72, respectively).
Debbie Reynolds is gorgeous and enchanting, in an innocent sort of way. Not even 20 when the film was released in 1952, she looks a bit young cast next to Gene Kelly, but her role as a young woman trying to make her place in the world of show business rings true. She displays a sort of naive enthusiasm that is fun and captivating to watch.
Riddled in with the many musical numbers is an abundance of tap, something that you just don’t see anymore, even in modern musicals. While tap isn’t for everyone, it’s a very versatile dance, and is used very boisterously in the film. The clicking of the shoes adds so much sound to the musical tracks that they seem bare without them.
The supporting cast is fantastic as well. Jean Hagen, while portraying and annoying character, is still entertaining to watch, and easy to dislike. She makes herself memorable. Donald O’Conner (“Out to Sea”), who plays Cosmo Brown, is closer to a main character than a supporting character; his function is to serve as Don’s best friend, and as comic relief. Cosmo is Don’s best friend, and the two characters look for all the world like lifelong buddies. The subtle facial cues between them, the little grins and more obvious body language all look completely genuine. During their “Moses Supposes” number, they give off the air of a couple of teenagers being rebellious in class; next to O’Conner, Kelly looks younger and more loose. There are times when O’Conner steals the show, but overall, he serves as a good wingman and a hilarious side character.
If you haven’t seen, or haven’t exposed your friends to “Singin’ in the Rain,” do so. It’s a treasure, and deserves to be considered such for a very, very long time.