The 1952 romantic musical comedy, Singin’ in the Rain, is one of the few classic films that have remained popular years after its release. The film starred Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and nineteen-year-old Debbie Reynolds. From the moment it hit theaters, Singin’ in the Rain, was a huge success and was nominated for several awards and honors. While the musical is very upbeat, making the film required hours of unbelievable physical exertion. Gene Kelly suffered from a bad fever while filming the titular dance routine. Reynolds, who had no dance experience, suffered bloody feet and the harsh pressure from her costars to keep up. In this case, the sacrifices and hardships were worth it. Singin’ in the Rain has withstood the test of time and continues to captivate people’s hearts.
While the story isn’t about one particular person, the movie describes what happened to many unfortunate actors who couldn’t make the transition from silent film to talking pictures. For example, John Gilbert was an extremely successful silent film star. However, when talking pictures started to replace silent films, Gilbert’s career was doomed. Gilbert didn’t have a bad voice, which was the problem for many of the silent film actors. Yet, his voice was different than what his fans had imagined, and so his career declined. In this particular film, Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) are the two biggest silent screen actors. Since they look like a gorgeous onscreen couple, fans assume they must be a couple in real life and the studio pressures Lockwood and Lamont to pretend they love each other. Lamont adores Lockwood, but Lockwood cannot stand her. When talking pictures are introduced into the industry, these film stars are in trouble. While Lockwood has a nice voice, Lamont’s voice was very high and squeaky and drives everyone around her slightly crazy. The studio panics and scrambles to find a solution.
Lockwood suggests that they dub Lamont’s voice with Kathy Sheldon’s (Debbie Reynolds). Kathy Sheldon is a young, aspiring actress who accidentally meets Lockwood, when Lockwood jumps into her car to escape an overzealous crowd. Though Lockwood hasn’t told anyone, he and Sheldon become a couple. However, Lockwood has to hide this fact because he knows Lamont will get jealous and try to fire Sheldon. The plan is risky, but the studio and Lockwood know that they can’t let audiences hear Lamont’s voice or they’ll lose everything.
Every aspect of this film was well done. Jean Hagen is brilliant as the beautiful, but annoying Lamont. In fact, her performance earned her an Oscar nod. Hagen’s voice was quite different in real life. Ironically, in the scene where Sheldon is dubbing Lamont’s voice, Hagen actually dubs one of the lines herself. Reynolds gives a very convincing performance, but it was not without its struggles. She had no dance experience, which frustrated Gene Kelly. Years later Kelly admitted that he wasn’t very kind to Reynolds. Donald O’Connor, who plays Don Lockwood’s best friend, Cosmo Brown, is nothing short of brilliant as well. He acts, sings, and dances with such dexterity and precision, that it is no wonder he was able to carve a niche for himself in Hollywood that no one could really rival.
Arthur Freed produced the MGM classic, and Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly directed. Kelly’s choreography style was athletic, acrobatic and dynamic. He liked to experiment with different camera angles. The cinematographer was Harold Rosson, who had worked on Treasure Island and The Wizard of Oz.
The physical stamina required to make this film was so great that, after filming the scene “Make ‘em Laugh”, O’Connor was hospitalized for four days from exhaustion and smoking four packs of cigarettes a day. The day they filmed the musical number and dance sequence for Singin’ in the Rain, Kelly suffered from a fever. Reynolds’ feet were bleeding after filming the dance sequence for “Good Morning”. Few actors could have endured that level of pressure. To this day Singin’ in the Rain is regarded as one of the greatest musicals of all time. The movie is funny and brilliant, as it tells the story of early Hollywood and how the difference between silent films and talkies affected the audiences and ultimately the actors.