Movies such as Chicago, Moulin Rouge, and Singin’ in the Rain are part of a file genre that places emphasis on music, dance, and song. This genre is known as the Musical. The power of the songs in Musicals explains why many people who have not seen the movie are still familiar with its title song “Singin’ in the Rain.” Aside from the memorable scores and lyrics, Musicals showcase the singing and dancing skills of their stars. The critical and commercial success or failure of a Musical hinges not only on the storyline, as is the case with films of other genres, but the talents of the actors who bring the movie’s songs and dances to life.
Singin’ in the Rain contains a number of elements that make it stand out from other American Musicals such as Chicago and Moulin Rouge. The atmosphere of Singin’ in the Rain is light and happy which is accomplished by the character’s brightly colored clothing and the inclusion of relatively few night scenes. This is not the case in either Chicago or Moulin Rouge, both of which have darker elements within them. Because the theme of Singin’ in the Rain is more playful than the serious theme depicted in Chicago, there is a greater degree of entertainment in Singin’ in the Rain. This movie was designed to be viewed by an audience seeking pure entertainment—an audience that need only sit back, relax, and enjoy the film from beginning to end.
Many modern musical productions are far more costly than was Singin’ in the Rain; however, even with the discrepancy in production costs, several clever and memorable musical numbers from Singin’ in the Rain remain popular today.
Because scripting and storyline are superseded in Musicals by choreography and score, the scenes most often remembered in a Musical are specific numbers contained within the film. One of my favorites from Singin’ in the Rain is Cosmo Brown’s (Donald O’Connor) performance of “Make ‘em Laugh.” The song’s lyrics and the number itself reveal that Cosmo is Don Lockwood’s (Gene Kelly) sidekick. It’s clear that Cosmo’s job is to keep Lockwood laughing and to prevent him from concern over anything bad.
Cosmo’s enthusiastic performance in this number is easily the most comedic of the film. Singin’ in the Rain is filled with mise-en-scènes, and Cosmo’s “Make ‘em Laugh” number uses mise-en-scène to its fullest. Every bit of setting, including the props and the people in this number are used by Cosmo as show instruments.
Given the movie’s title, it isn’t surprising that the most famous number is Gene Kelly’s (as Don Lockwood) performance of the song “Singin’ in the Rain.” Narrative Convention dictates that rain signify sorrow or loneliness much as tense music in a horror movie signifies danger; however, the gloom one might expect to infiltrate Kelly’s performance simply does not do so. Instead, this beautifully choreographed athletic dance and song number stands as Lockwood’s proclamation that he has succeeded in his career and in his heart. Each step Gene Kelly performs is deliberate—each movement designed to thrill the audience the way Kelly’s Lockwood is himself thrilled by his fantastic fortune.
The use of mise-en-scène in the number “Singin’ in the Rain” does not detract from Kelly’s performance: it augments it. His wearing a felt hat allows his facial features to be seen without the rain’s moisture obscuring his emotions. The umbrella he carries adds a gentleman-like quality to his movements. The street on which he dances remains basically deserted and is perfectly illuminated by the well-placed snug lights. Personally, I think it is the most enjoyable rainy scene I have ever viewed in a movie.
My only critical comments are centered on a portion of the film’s latter half during which time Lockwood, Cosmo, and R. F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell) are planning to make the musical film Dancing Cavalier. This is followed by the surreal performance “Broadway Melody” which I found unnecessary. The woman in this scene seemed to have come from nowhere, did not have a clearly defined relationship with Lockwood or Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds), but the odd emotion that was present in the number might be representative of American ideals.
Singin’ in the Rain falls within the expected boundaries of the Musical. The ending is predictable (but not unsatisfyingly so) and relatively little tension exists: the lovers meet serendipitously, and there is really no threat to their relationship.
Singin’ in the Rain is from the 1950’s, and because of this, some younger people might not find the movie’s content satisfying; however, anyone, regardless of age, who can appreciate the outstanding singing and dancing performances of the movie’s characters will come away from the film satisfied. In addition, part of this film’s content reveals the early development of movies from the silent era forward, and much of this is not only interesting but humorous as well.
I admit to having been initially skeptical about enjoying this movie due to its age, but I found myself entertained throughout the entire film, and honestly, I can say that Singin’ in the Rain is the best Musical I have ever seen.
Freed, A. (Producer), & Donen, S. & Kelly G. (Directors). (1952). Singin’ in the rain. [Motion picture]. United States: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.