Another weekend gone by and another movie from my Top 10 list checked off. Saturday night, the wife and I took a break from the Madness of March basketball to check out one of the classic American films, Singin’ in the Rain; officially number 5 on the AFI top 100 list. This is only the second of seven films that make up #14 on my 30 Before 30 list, but so far I have yet to be disappointed. I officially give it my seal of approval (for whatever that’s worth) and considered it a good use of a little less than two hours of my time.
The only musical on AFI’s Top 10 list, Singin’ in the Rain deservedly ranks #1 among their list devoted to the genre. Considering its status as the “all-time greatest movie musical”, what stood out to me was the fact that it didn’t feel that way as I watched it. What I mean is that while the songs were great and the dancing superb, I felt like I was watching a storyline that included music, rather than a musical that included a storyline. This is only my opinion of course, but seeing as how you are reading this, you must at least be somewhat interested in what I think.
Since I have only seen two of my seven movies so far, I shouldn’t go making any blanket statements at this point…but I’m going to anyway. I think I am seeing a pattern as far as what a movie needs in order to rank in the Top 10.
First, it is imperative that the movie features an actor that is considered one of the greatest of all time. I think this is a fair statement seeing as AFI’s list includes performances by Humphrey Bogart, Gene Kelly, Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, and Clark Gable to name a few. This was my first introduction to Gene Kelly and I was certainly impressed, although he was not my favorite character in this film. More on that in a moment.
Second, the film must include a love story. I know, I know, my criteria is already flawed seeing as how movies like Schindler’s List and The Wizard of Oz aren’t exactly epic romances. I will say that Dorothy and the Scarecrow seemed to have a little something going on there for minute. Maybe it was the whole farm-boy-from-the-other-side-of-the-yellow-brick-road thing, I don’t know. But I’m getting off track a bit here.
The last, and perhaps one of the most important criteria that I’ve seen present in these first two films is the inclusion of humor throughout. Whether it’s a specific character that brings the comic relief or simply a few witty remarks from the leading man or woman, a little humor here and there helps to pace the film. Singin’ in the Rain had plenty of this and I think its part of what makes it such a great movie.
The truth is the whole premise of the movie is comical in nature. Kelly and actress Jean Hagan play a superstar movie duo during the age of transition in the cinema from silent films to “Talkies”. Their characters, Lockwood and Lamont, became on-screen stars during the silent age, but the switch to talkies is not a smooth transition. As it turns out, “the great Lina Lamont” has the vocal equivalent of nails on a chalkboard and the duo’s stardom is in jeopardy.
Gene Kelly has no trouble singing and dancing with the best of them and his character demonstrates that throughout the film. The love story takes hold when he meets young Kathy Selden (played by Debbie Reynolds), who is an aspiring star of the stage. The movie studio uses Kathy as the “voice” of Lina in hopes of keeping the dynamic duo of Lockwood and Lamont together. Despite their on-screen chemistry, Gene Kelly’s character can’t stand Lina, and begins to fall in love with the beautiful and talented Kathy.
As I said before, I thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Gene Kelly in this picture, but he is not my favorite character. That honor goes to Cosmo Brown, the best friend of Don Lockwood, played by Donald O’Connor. In my opinion, O’Connor is the unsung hero of this movie. His comic delivery and ability to add the personality of his character without overshadowing the “stars” is perfection. His comedy alone is enough to make you consider him talented, but when he performs “Make ‘Em Laugh” and “Moses Supposes” with Kelly; you realize the depth of what he brings to the table.
There are some classic songs in this film like the two mentioned above, the title-song “Singin’ in the Rain” of course, and others like “Good Mornin” and “Gotta Dance”. These numbers remind you that this is one of the greatest musicals of all time and Gene Kelly is a rare talent. If you don’t want to watch the entire film, but want to see what Gene Kelly is all about, simply watch the “Singin’” sequence. If you are not mesmerized and thoroughly impressed with how Kelly sings and dances his way through a freakin’ downpour, there is something wrong with you.
As a whole, this movie has everything you would ask for in a Top 10 film in my opinion. The only thing missing is a lack of all-time-classic quotes. This shouldn’t stop you from enjoying it however, as there’s no doubt you’ll find a few memorable ones in there. My personal favorite: Lockwood: “Cosmo, call me a cab.” Cosmo: “OK, you’re a cab.” Simple, yet classic!