Time for my first entry of my own Star Of The Month for March 2021’s Gene Kelly, and where else to start but with one of his most well-known musicals, Singin’ In The Rain, also starring Debbie Reynolds and Donald O’Connor! Of course, first we have a theatrical short to get through, and then it’s on to the show!
Coming Up Shorts! with… Bully For Pink (1965)
(available on Blu-ray and DVD as part of The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 1 (1964-1966) from Kino Lorber)
(Length: 6 minutes, 2 seconds)
The Pink Panther decides to try being an amateur bullfighter, and borrows a magician’s cape to use. This one is a bit of fun, with all the various tricks that occur because of the magician’s cape (including the angry rabbit). Admittedly, it does feel a lot like the classic Looney Tunes cartoon “A Bully For Bugs,” which is not a point in its favor, as that earlier Bugs cartoon is very much a classic, and this one feels like an inferior knockoff. Still, it does have a few good moments, and I certainly laughed a few times, so there is that.
And Now For The Main Feature…
(Narrator): All Hollywood is abuzz at the premiere of the new silent film The Royal Rascal starring that great screen team of Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen).
(Host): Don’t you mean The Three Musketeers? 😉
(Narrator): Not completely. Yes, this movie did re-use some footage from that 1948 Gene Kelly film (without sound) for The Royal Rascal, but they also threw in some new stuff to add in Jean Hagen’s Lina Lamont for this “silent movie.” Getting back to the story, after the movie’s premiere, Don makes a speech to the audience, all the while preventing Lina from talking. Backstage, we find out why: she speaks with a thick Queens accent and with a somewhat squeaky voice (and, as the press agent Rod, who is played by King Donovan, puts it, “Lina, you’re a beautiful woman. Audiences think you’ve got a voice to match. The studio’s gotta keep their stars from looking ridiculous at any cost”). Of course, to make things worse, the gossip columnists and fan magazines keep linking Don and Lina together romantically. She doesn’t mind going along with the idea, but he has no interest in her.
Anyways, getting back to the story, producer R. F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell), the head of Monumental Pictures is throwing a party to celebrate his new picture. Don is riding with his friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor) when Cosmo’s car suffers a flat tire. Before they know it, Don is mobbed by some of his fans, and, in an attempt to get away from them, he hitches a ride with passing motorist Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). At first she is startled, but, once she recognizes who he is, she offers him a ride back to his home (but not before she makes some comments about silent movie actors and their “lack of” acting ability). Don makes his way to the party, but he is slightly shaken by her comments. R.F. uses the party to show off some new sound technology, but nobody thinks it will take off, even though rival studio Warner Brothers is making the movie The Jazz Singer with the tech. When R.F. brings out a cake for Don and Lina, who should pop out but Kathy Selden herself? After she does a song-and-dance number with some others, Don pursues her. She tries to hit him with a cake, but misses and hits Lina instead.
(Host): That’s a sight that never gets old!
(Narrator): You’re darn tooting it doesn’t! Anyways, Kathy runs off after that. Don later hears that she has been fired, and tries to find her, but no luck. So, it’s up to Cosmo to cheer him up.
(Host): Indeed. To quote Cosmo, “Now the world is so full of a number of things I’m sure we should all be as happy as…, but are we? No. Definitely no. Positively no. Decidedly NO. Uh-uh. Short people have long faces, and long people have short faces. Big people have little humor, and little people have no humor at all. And in the words of that immortal bard, Samuel J. Snodgrass, as he was about to be led to the guillotine…”
(Narrator): You better not be getting ready to “Make ‘Em Laugh!”
(Host): Indeed I am! I mean, how can you not? That’s one of the most fun moments in this entire movie (and, for those who may recall, this was part of my Top 10 Dance Routines list)! I don’t care how much the music may have been lifted from the Cole Porter tune “Be A Clown” (from The Pirate), it’s still fun (and funny) to watch Donald O’Connor pull off all those stunts! As they say, “Don’t you know all the world loves a laugh? My dad said be an – (slips on a banana peel) Whoops! (goes sliding offstage) Where did that banana peel come from?
(Narrator): (finishes eating a banana) I have no idea. Are you all right?
(Host): Sure, although my feet crashed into the globe out here. (I wonder how many people will get the joke). I’ll just be a few minutes while I get out of it!
(Narrator): Ok. Getting back to the story, Don and Lina prepare to start their next film, but things get slowed up when everybody realizes that The Jazz Singer is a big hit, and they decide to turn the next Lockwood and Lamont film into a talkie. While watching a musical number being filmed for another movie, Cosmo runs across Kathy and lets Don know about it. Don is ecstatic to finally see her again (and gets a good chuckle out of the idea that she had known more about him than she had indicated during their first meeting). Of course, the show must go on, and so Don, Lina and the rest of the crew try to learn the new “talkie” business for their next film, The Dueling Cavalier. At a preview for the movie, the audience laughs at how poorly done it is, and everything is looking down for everybody. Despondent, Don, Cosmo and Kathy return to Don’s house. Things start looking up when Cosmo comes up with the idea to not only have the film changed into a musical, but also have Kathy dub Lina’s voice.
(Host): (Walks back onstage with a bunch of umbrellas and sets them down) And, of course, that brings us to this movie’s most iconic moment, that of Gene Kelly singing (and dancing) in the rain! For a song that had been published in 1929 and had made its way through a number of MGM films over the years, most notably by Cliff Edwards in The Hollywood Revue Of 1929 and Judy Garland in Little Nellie Kelly, it’s this simple moment that has been engrained in the hearts of all those that have seen it (of course, as I’ve said before, I enjoy swinging it Judy’s way in that earlier film, but I easily understand the appeal of Gene Kelly’s version, too)! Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some dancing to do! Maestro, some music, please!
(Narrator starts up a record player. The song “Singin’ In The Rain” starts playing.)
(Host): (Picks up umbrella and opens it. Rainwater starts consistently pouring out from under the umbrella. Music stops) Well, that’s not the right umbrella. Let me try another here… (Opens up a new umbrella. This one has big holes that aren’t stopping the rain). Seriously, how are there multiple bad umbrellas in the same bunch? (mutters to self) Must be that somebody let the Narrator near the props again… (Pulls out another umbrella and opens it, finding it to be alright) (normal voice) Oh, good, a normal one! Well, here we go! (Music starts up again. Suddenly, a big wind comes rushing in, blowing the host up in the air like Mary Poppins and carries him way offstage) I’ll be baaaaaaaaaaack!
(Narrator): Now that that foolishness is over, let’s get back to the story. Don and Cosmo tell R.F. their idea, and, since he likes the idea, they get back into working on the movie almost immediately, with plans to give Kathy credit for the voice and a publicity campaign for her once the movie opens. Everything is looking good, and then Lina discovers what’s going on. She then does interviews for the newspapers, making herself out to be the new singing star, and privately threatens to sue R.F. if he tries to correct that (and forces him to make Kathy be her voice from now on). With all this trouble, will Kathy be given a voice (and career) of her own, or will Lina win out?
(Host): (Quickly running back onstage) Whew! That wind sure took me quite a ways away! And I see you finished telling the story without me. So, I guess everybody is here now for my opinion. Well, this is one of the movies that helped me to develop a fondness for musicals, and it was certainly my introduction to Gene Kelly. Watching him in this movie, whether he’s dancing alone, or with others, has always been fun, and made the idea of learning tap dancing appealing to me (and I can definitely tell you I once did a tap solo to the title tune for a dance recital)! The rest of the cast is great, too, and they all do their parts so well! And the music is quite memorable, with a good chance of it getting stuck in your head (it always does in mine, anyways)! Admittedly, as I’ve said in a previous post, with regard to the music of Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown, I prefer the score to Broadway Melody Of 1936 more, but for sheer number of tunes, overall fun and a better movie, it’s hard to go wrong with Singin’ In The Rain! It’s one of the easiest movies for many to recommend, and I certainly would have to be part of that group! Seriously, if you haven’t seen it yet, go out there and see it now! And remember that motto: “Dignity. Always dignity.”
This movie is available on Blu-ray from Warner Home Video, either as an individual release or as part of the four-film Musicals Collection.
Well, now that that’s over, let’s try this song-and-dance again! (Opens umbrella and starts to sing, although badly offkey) I’m singin’ in the rain – (umbrella is hit with lightning bolt, and is now singed. Host pauses for a second before trying again) I’m singin’ in the – (umbrella is hit again with a bolt of lightning, and now only the umbrella shaft remains) I’m singin’ – (lightning hits the shaft, destroying it too) I’m s – (lightning hits the host, leaving him singed) I – (lightning hits again, and now the host is singed more and knocked out cold).
(Narrator): (tries to hide bag of lightning bolts) Hmm. has anybody seen that bag I borrowed from Zeus recently?
(A pie comes flying in from offstage and hits the Narrator in the face)
(Host): Now THAT’S funny!
What’s Old Is A New Release Again (2022) with… Singin’ In The Rain (1952)
On April 26, 2022, Warner Home Video released Singin’ In The Rain in the 4K UHD format. I had always thought that their earlier Blu-ray (from 2012) looked pretty good, but the new UHD blows it out of the water! The resolution is certainly much improved, allowing us to see better detail (and all this from a film whose original camera negative was mostly destroyed, save for one reel, in the infamous 1978 Eastman House fire, and which has relied mostly on dupe negatives ever since). The colors are much improved by the HDR, toned down from the slightly yellowish image on the Blu-ray and DVD (and, according to the experts on the subject that I’ve read, the UHD is closer to being what it is supposed to look like). Of course, if you’re looking to “future-proof” this film, then do know that the Blu-ray included with the UHD is still the 2012 release, and not a remastered Blu-ray with a new transfer (which admittedly does allow you to see just how different the UHD is from the older Blu-ray). I’ll certainly recommend the 4K UHD quite heartily as the best way to enjoy this wonderful classic!
Film Length: 1 hour, 43 minutes
My Rating: 10/10
*ranked #2 in Top 10 Disc Releases Of 2022
**ranked #1 in Top 10 Movies Watched In 2021
List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections
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