It seemed appropriate to re-watch SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN after Debbie Reynolds’ passing.
It’s such a glorious movie, full of song and dance and laughter as it takes us back to the dawn of talkies.
“Singin’ In The Rain” began when legendary MGM musical producer ARTHUR FREED approached top screenwriters/lyricists BETTY COMDEN and ADOLPH GREEN and asked them to write a screenplay for a film to be called Singin’ In The Rain, using Freed’s own back catalogue of songs.
Arthur Freed and his composer partner, Nacio Herb Brown were highly successful songwriters in the 1920s and 30s.
They wrote some of the most popular songs of the era – ‘The Broadway Melody’, ‘You Were Meant for Me’, ‘You are my Lucky Star’. Freed and Brown were there at the dawn of the talkies and wrote ‘Broadway Melody’ for THE BROADWAY MELODY OF 1929.
Betty Comden said, “Our problem was getting all those songs into a coherent story…….we thought they would live most happily in that period of transition of Silents to talkies.”
Donald and Gene in ‘Fit as a Fiddle’.
Arthur Freed originally intended to re-unite Gene with Oscar Levant from An American in Paris. But Gene decided he wanted a dancer for the role of Cosmo. Donald O’CONNOR was borrowed from Universal and teamed perfectly with Gene.
It was decided that Donald would have a solo number but no one could decide on any of the Freed/Brown catalogue. So, during the filming Freed and Brown wrote ‘Make ‘Em Laugh’ which Donald turned into a comic tour de force. ….that run up the wall and back somersault!
The similarities of ‘Make ’em Laugh’ to Cole Porter’s ‘Be a Clown’ from THE PIRATE was immediately obvious, but no changes were made!
The only non Freed/Brown was the tongue-twisting ‘Moses Supposes’ which Comden and Green and the film’s associate producer ROGER EDENS wrote.
CYD CHARISSE said, “I wasn’t supposed to be in the film – Arthur Freed said to me, ‘How would you like to be in the ballet at the end of the film ……I had two weeks of rehearsal……..we had a huge wind machine……we called it the crazy veil!”
A spectacular number.
The one, the only Lina Lamont, hilariously brought to life by JEAN HAGEN. No voice coach was going to change Lina’s larynx ( though Kathleen Freeman tried!)
We’ll never forget hearing Lina say,
“If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, it makes us feel as though our hard work aint been in vain for nothing.”
You said it,Lina!
The director of The Dueling Cavalier, Roscoe , is driven to distraction by Lina. Douglas Fowley is perfect as Roscoe.
Roscoe:” Lina,we’re missing every other word. You’ve got to talk into the mike.”
Lina: “Well, I can’t make love to a bush!”
The game is up,Lina. You can’t sing!
‘Good Morning’ was originally sung by Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney. Here it becomes a marvellous song and dance for Debbie, Gene and Donald.
Debbie is alongside two very experienced dancers, and at the tender age of 19, she holds her own. Arthur Freed saw the promise of the young Debbie who had never danced before.. Gene Kelly’s assistants, Carol Haney and Jeanne Coyne, worked with Debbie for three months.
(Jeanne Coyne had been married to the film’s co-director Stanley Donen from 1948 to 1951. She later married Gene Kelly in 1960 and they were together till her death in 1973.)
The filming of the title number took nearly three days and Gene Kelly had a fever while filming it.
On the DVD release, it’s interesting to see the original Freed/Brown songs in their original settings .
The Freed unit at MGM had an endless pool of talent and it is all up there on the screen when you see this glorious musical,