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69. EMPIRE MAGAZINE GREATEST: Singin’ in the Rain

April 19, 2018

Director: Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen

Screenplay: Betty Comden, Adolph Green

Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen

Runtime: 103 Minutes

 

Original UK Release: 1952

 

★★★★★

 

Appearing at the height of the MGM musical, none seem as subversive or ingeniously written as the spectacle that's Singin’ in the Rain. A musical set at the dawn of the talkies in late 20’s Hollywood, and the consequential collapse of the silent cinema industry. Though this is merely the framing for a love story between a successful silent star and his affections for a young chorus girl with a remarkable voice, all the while working around the troubled production of their latest picture. To make matters worse, their leading lady is struggling to adapt to sound as her voice is not suited to the medium.

 

The entire picture is a celebration of high-strung sound and colour, a bold and sweeping epic tale of an industry facing rapid change, including some minor references and nods to other popular films of the era. It’s also fantastic for a film that holds such heavy devotion towards the nature of sound, that every single one of its performers is so malleable and full of movement, much like their silent cinema counterparts. There are some hysterical jokes at the expense of silent cinema and its traits, such as the passive-aggressive banter that’s shared between actors while the camera roles, and the troubles that would occur during production. More than that, this is a love story, and Kelly and Reynolds share a wonderful chemistry. But never undercutting that which Kelly shares with Hagen, even throughout their terrific conflict, as well as O’Connor.

 

The songs by Freed and Brown are unanimously outstanding, with dance sequences more driven towards the small-scale individual, jumping to larger scale for the likes of Gotta Dance (that nowadays feels like light-padding). It’s a great piece of light-hearted fun, while also a poignant archive of one of the mediums most turbulent periods.

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