Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Debbie Reynolds passed away in December, one day after her daughter Carrie Fisher. If you didn’t know that – thank you for making Kneel Before Pop your first destination out of the cave.
Debbie Reynolds was probably most famous as Kathy Selden in Singin’ in the Rain. I hadn’t seen it, so after the news of her passing I decided to watch it. I went in knowing very tiny tidbits – I knew that Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly were in it, I vaguely remembered something about Gene Kelly was a bit of a tyrant backstage, and of course I knew about the iconic scene where he is singing in the rain. But I didn’t know anything of the plot.
I came to find out that this is a perfect movie for me. It’s about old school Hollywood, I mean even more so than 1952 when it was released. It was set in the 1920s, when silent movies were becoming talkies.
Gene Kelly’s character Don Lockwood, is a famous silent movie actor, who is in a sham for publicity only relationship with Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen). The opening scene includes caricatures of famous celebrities walking the red carpet at the Chinese Theatre in a hilarious satirical way. Dora Bailey (a caricature of Louella Parsons) says of an actress and her royal husband walking the red carpet (based on Pola Negri and Gloria Swanson both of whom married royalty);
They’ve been married two months already, but still as happy as newlyweds
After watching it, I can confirm that Singin’ in the Rain is the best musical I have ever seen. It was surprisingly funny, I really wasn’t expecting that. The music is great, the plot speaks to my personal interest in pop culture and references perfectly. The choreography – orchestrated in part by Gene Kelly himself was energetic, and fun. Debbie Reynolds, the catalyst for me watching this movie was great – even though she had no dance training prior. Gene Kelly actually upset Debbie Reynolds during production (I told you he was a tyrant) about her lack of training in dance. Frank Sinatra found her crying on set, and personally helped her to become a better dancer.
The Make ‘Em Laugh scene is my favourite scene of the movie, but also one of my favourites of any movie.
Donald O’Connor worked so hard to bring this to life (he spent days in bed after filming because it was so taxing on his body), but it will be a part of cinema history forever I’m sure.
The following might be spoilers, if you haven’t seen Singin’ in the Rain yet (geez it’s 65 years old, who hasn’t seen it yet?) you might want to come back after you’ve watched it to read the rest of the post.
In Would You, Debbie Reynolds’ character is dubbing the voice of Jean Hagen, as the character’s voice is shrill and awful. In reality Jean Hagen had a beautiful voice, so they actually had Jean Hagen speaking instead of Debbie Reynolds. So bizarrely, Jean Hagen was dubbing for Debbie Reynolds who was dubbing for Jean Hagen.
There is a strange ballet sequence that goes on for far too long at the end, which really stopped the momentum and didn’t seem in keeping with the rest of the movie. I still enjoyed the movie greatly despite that.
Singin’ in the Rain is a classic for a reason it turns out. The music, choreography, characters, humour all blend perfectly to make one fantastic movie.