Though Gene Kelly’s performance of the title song has become iconic, it is not the only show-stopping sequence of the film. Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” and Gene Kelly’s collaboration with Cyd Charisse, “Broadway Melody”, are only a few of the many extraordinary, energy-filled musical numbers that have helped make this film what it is today. Better yet is the manner by which the characters use music to express their feelings- especially when characters are feeling particularly romantic or vivacious. This can all be credited to Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed, who wrote the lyrics and created the music, and Gene Kelly, who not only co-directed with Stanley Donen and starred in the film, but also choreographed every musical number.
Gene Kelly plays Don Lockwood, a witty and charming screen idol of silent films who rose to fame along with his rumored fiancée, Lina Lamont (played by Jean Hagen), who is the primary antagonist. However, their relationship turns out to be nothing but hype created by fan magazines- hype which Lina happens to believe. In reality, Don cannot stand Lina, who is a dim-witted and irritating egomaniac. However, despite Lina’s rather unlikeable personality, her antics play a huge role in making this film so hilarious. Personally, she was my favorite character in the film.
The plot is fast-moving. We first meet the characters at the movie premiere of this “golden couple’s” newest hit film. On his way to the after-party, Don meets strong-willed Kathy Selden (played by Debbie Reynolds), who insults his acting ability, enthralling Don. Weeks later, while Lina and Don are shooting their newest film, The Dueling Cavalier, Warner Brothers releases The Jazz Singer, the first feature film with synchronized dialogue sequences, which is an overwhelming success. So begins the transitional period from silents to talkies. It is decided that The Dueling Cavalier will be filmed as a talkie too. There’s only one problem. Lina’s voice is screechy and nasal enough to scare away any prospective audience member. The premiere screening of the film is a disaster, because the cast and crew are inexperienced with the new technology. Cosmo Brown (played by Donald O’Connor), Don’s eccentric best friend and sidekick, comes up with the idea to make the film a musical, dubbing aspiring actress Kathy’s singing and speaking voice over Lina’s. Thus, The Dueling Cavalier becomes The Dancing Cavalier. What ensues can be summed in four words- romance, scheming, and more scheming.
A sense of cynicism lingers throughout the entire film; what with everyone pretending to be something they’re not. This factor of the film is first introduced at the premiere, when Don is explaining his life’s story to a radio interviewer. He claims his motto has always been “Dignity. Always dignity”, yet a series of flashbacks revealing his and Cosmo’s early years in show business say otherwise. Another instance of this is the first time Don and Kathy meet, and Kathy says she’s a theatre actress and puts down Don’s acting skills, when in real life she is a huge fan of his and is only a chorus girl.
Singin’ in the Rain has several themes. One of the most prominent themes is appearance. Hollywood stars create a façade of glamour and perfection yet, as this film depicts, there is more to it than just that. To the world, Lina Lamont seemed like a talented, beautiful actress but in reality, this was not the case. This theme not only applies to the lives of those in Hollywood. Appearance is a key component of society today. So, Singin’ in the Rain subtly comments on modern society, even though its screenplay was written sixty years ago.
The happy ending of Singin’ in the Rain leaves anyone watching satisfied. The plot manages to work on all levels- as a musical, as a comedy, and as a romance. With its thoroughly entertaining plot, incredible musical numbers and its laugh-out-loud moments, this film has been able to transcend the boundaries of time, making it ageless and enjoyable even sixty years after its original release.