What Glorious Feeling

Gene Kelly in Singin’ in the Rain, MGM, 1952
The plot is not just simple but simplistic, the “black moment” lasts all of 15 seconds, there is no deep characterization or expertly layered subplots. There is, however, a street, a song, a rainstorm and Gene Kelly in one of Hollywood’s most iconic and joyous moments. Who needs plot?

Singin’ in the Rain is considered by many the pinnacle of the legendary Freed Unit at MGM. It was also built completely around the songs of Arthur Freed, the producer who’d had his start as a songwriter at the studio during the early days of talkies. It was he who assigned Adolph Green and Betty Comden the task of coming up with a story that would feature Gene Kelly and Freed’s songs (for which MGM paid Freed $25,000, an excellent example of leveraging one’s back list). Years later, Gene Kelly said in an interview that Freed asked him during development what they were going to be doing for the title song. “Well,” Kelly said, “It’ll be raining and I’ll be singing.”

The film is pure technicolor cotton candy fluff, a delight parody of Hollywood’s panic as they transitioned to talkies and the dawn of the musical. It is also celebrating it’s 60th Anniversary and to mark the occasion, Turner Classic Movies is hosting screenings around the country. Naturally, I couldn’t resist and the husband and I have tickets for tonight. I’ve seen the film more times than I can count, but never on the big screen, save for some bits included in That’s Entertainment!. But those clips were somewhat faded, just as the backlot on which the linking sequences were shot would soon be sold off and developed. Tonight, I’ll be seeing a newly restored print in all its glory, part of a shared experience with other people who couldn’t pass up this chance.

This isn’t a story to analyze; boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl and dances with her, there is a Misunderstanding and boy sings reprise of love song to get it back. No character development, especially with villain Lina Lamont, superbly played by Jean Hagen — who was nominated for an Academy Award for this role. But it is lightning in a bottle, and it’s wonderful to see it restored for yet another generation to enjoy.