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“What a Glorious Feeling, I’m Happy Again” as “Singin’ in the Rain” Turns Sixty

July 30, 2012

By John C.

There is a reason why Singin’ in the Rain is still regarded as a quintessential classic and widely considered to be among the best big screen musicals of all time.  The reason is because it’s a great movie that still holds up and feels fresh, despite celebrating its sixtieth anniversary this year.  This is a classic that deserves to be celebrated and this anniversary is an excellent excuse.

Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is a silent film star who has made plenty of movies with his onscreen love interest, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen).  But in real life his heart goes out to stage actress Kathy Seldon (Debbie Reynolds) and there is a new trend in Hollywood, as audiences start to demand movies with sound.  Don Lockwood adjusts well to the change along with his musical partner Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor), but Lina Lamont’s diction is poor and her voice is far too screechy.  Themes of lip synching and where to put the microphone were groundbreaking for 1952.

Gene Kelly will always be remembered as one of the best dancers of all time and there are numerous musical numbers in the film that range from briskly entertaining to hopelessly romantic.  There are some wonderfully humorous musical numbers like Donald O’Connor’s “Make ’em Laugh” which literally utilizes an entire film set to pay homage to classic physical comedy.  The way that Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds use a soundstage and studio lights during “You Were Meant for Me” is just beautiful.  And we can’t forget the most famous sequence of them all, when Gene Kelly spins around a lamppost, splashes through puddles and uses his umbrella as a perfect dancing partner to declare the joy of new love by singing the title track.

Another thing that makes Singin’ in the Rain such a quintessential classic is that it is among the best movies ever made about making movies.  Watching the film now, comparisons to recent Best Picture winner The Artist run rampant.  Both are about silent film stars adjusting to the arrival of the talkies, with suave leading performances and irresistible romantic subplots.  Although The Artist is in black and white and powerfully uses silence to tell the story, and Singin’ in the Rain is carried by big musical numbers and bursts to life in vibrant colour, they would make a great double bill when viewed together and are each classics in their own right.

After sixty years, another one of the big things that makes Singin’ in the Rain such a classic is that it could have been made today as an authentic throwback to Hollywood’s golden age of musicals.  There is something instantly comforting about the film, from the joyous musical numbers to the three leading performances, and it’s something that we can all feel when we sing along to the chorus of the title track.  “I’m singin’ in the rain, just singin’ in the rain, what a glorious feeling, I’m happy again.”  Just like the movie, it’s an often heard song that never gets old.

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