USA / MGM / 102 minutes / 1952
Writers: Adolph Green, Betty Comden / Cinematography: Harold Rossen / Producer: Arthur Freed / Directors: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Cast: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchell, Cyd Charisse
One of the classic musicals of all time. A stellar cast, led by Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and, in her first major role, Debbie Reynolds, sing and dance their way through numbers that are now world famous.
Kelly plays Don Lockwood, Hollywood’s most famous silent movie star, whose films with Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) have made them the idols of millions. She’s convinced he’s in love with her but as he has to tell her, “There is nothing between us; just air”. His best friend from the old vaudeville days is Cosmo Brown (O’Connor) and, after the premiere of Don’s latest film, he finds himself separated from Cosmo, surrounded by baying fans and forced to leap into the jalopy driven by Kathy Seldon (Reynolds), an aspiring stage actress, who also happens to be slumming it as part of a chorus line at the party Don attends.
Realising he loves her, Don tries to find her after she flees, having flanned Lina but to no avail. Meanwhile, the success of The Jazz Singer sees his studio boss R F Simpson (Millard Mitchell) switch to talkies as well. There’s just one problem: Lina may be a doll but she has the broadest Brooklyn accent in history. Attempts at voice coaching work for Don but hers is unchangeable. The test screening of their picture is a disaster but then Don, now reunited with Kathy, and Cosmo, come up with a plan. Turn the film into a musical, get Kathy to dub for Lina and it will be a success. All goes to plan; until Lina finds out about Kathy’s role not just in the film but in Don’s future plans…
At the time of release, the film was greeted with a fairly muted response: it was liked but not loved and when it came to the Oscars, there were just two nominations, Jean Hagen for Best Supporting Actress and Best Scoring of a Musical Picture; neither won. But as the years have gone by, it has become the most loved of musicals, with classic sequences such as O’Connor’s acrobatic tour-de-force Make Em Laugh , Broadway Melody , with the gorgeously long-legged Cyd Charrisse in vamp mode, Good Morning and, of course, Gene Kelly’s rain-soaked Singin’ in the Rain proving that quality always tells in the end.