Bill, interesting that you juxtaposed this great review of Singin' in the Rain
so closely to your other great review of The Seven Samurai
, particularly with your important point about Samurai
with, "My fear is that people who haven't see it will presume, because of all the critical acclaim, that it is a foreign Art Film meant for scholarly analysis rather than enjoyment by the common viewer. Not true! It is an action/adventure story for any popcorn-eating audience. The structures and techniques are there to reward repeat viewers."
Strange as it may seem, I often think of Singin'
is mentioned. lol. The reason is for years movie fan sources would ask for their readers' choices for the most entertaining movies of the 1950s and, sure enough, it was not uncommon for The Seven Samurai
to fall within a choice or two of Singin' in the Rain
. That's how right you are about The Seven Samurai
being about rousing entertainment, and not some stuffy "Art Film".
Anyway, back to what is also by any measure a great work of Art and one of the most entertaining movies of all time.
Originally Posted by wmcclain Singin' in the Rain (1951)
, directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly.
...[*]Weakest number: I'd say "You Were Meant for Me" with the soundstage ladder.
...[*]In the long "Broadway Melody" segment there is a series of quick routines which become ever more refined, but with less dancing, until finally Kelly is wearing top hat and tails and just posing. Is that a dig at Fred Astaire?
I've always seen Singin' in the Rain
as, among so many other things, a kind of sly tribute film to the impact of the musical genre and its most important influences up to that time in making the transition from silents to sound so successful (The Jazz Singer
being the first and most significant hit on that road to success).
That being the case, for me at least, it's fun to tick off the tributes to the conventional elements of musical film history up to 1952 as they occur in Singin'
There are certainly the Busby Berkeley tribute numbers, the overall "musical bio" element of the film, and I believe we can look for the tributes to at least four or five musical star influences; the incredibly serviceable Rooney/Garland "We can turn this into a MUSICAL!" gimmick, the Nelson Eddy-Jeannette MacDonald costume operetta parodies, the Astaire-Rogers romantic setting engineered by the male (which I believe is the "You Were Meant for Me" number), the Judy Garland signature emotional soliloquy framed within a statement from "nature"...oddly enough, that tribute is delivered in the Singin' in the Rain
number itself, although as Kelly is delivering it it must necessarily become more dance than song, and, of course, the final tribute to another major musical film star's signature influence on the genre, the extended Broadway Melody
story-within-a-story told in dance that had by then become so associated with Gene Kelly himself.
What is so interesting about what you mentioned in the Broadway Melody
segment where the routines move from frenetic, even "low" music hall dance to more "sophisticated" dance to virtually no dancing at all, that mirrors what would eventually become of the "evolution", if you can call it that, for the MGM musical film output. By the time Gigi
was released in 1958, there are certainly plenty of top hats, tails, posing, beautiful music, singing and song, but very little if any dancing at all.
Did Kelly and the writers already see this coming by 1952? Was he already being pressured by the forces that be to cut down on all those complicated, long rehearsed, and expensive dance numbers and focus on what could be pitched and sold on Your Hit Parade? I wonder.