(Air Date: Week Of 1/7/96)
Gene Kelly was a true movie original. His films ranged from the incredible to the downright hokey, but through it all, his onscreen antics were stunning. His dancing style blended all the grace and poise of his predecessor, Fred Astaire, with an athleticism that has been unequalled since. Knowing all that, how could any movie fan not feel a nasty bout of melancholy after hearing of his recent passing?
The solution? Check out the greatest movie musical ever made, 1952's "Singin' In the Rain". Unlike most movies of its kind, "Singin' In the Rain" features a really terrific story that backs up some great song and dance numbers. Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor star as lifelong chums who decide to make a go of it in Hollywood in the silent era. Gene gets lucky and makes it as a silent movie hero, while Donald remains by his side as a studio musician. When sound comes in, everyone panics, and the boys turn a terrible drama into a spectacular musical. Along the way, we're treated to some great numbers.
As good as the fairly intricate plot is, with its little morality play involving scheming Jean Hagen versus the lovely and talented Debbie Reynolds, the musical dance sequences in this movie are absolute show stoppers. Donald O'Connor is amazing in his acrobatic version of "Make 'Em Laugh", as he runs up walls and smashes himself around the movie studio; Debbie Reynolds is also a "kick" with both Gene and Donald in the famous "Good Mornin'" sequence; but Gene Kelly really outdoes even his incredible work in "An American in Paris" from the previous year with his dancing and singing here.
The "Broadway Melody" number is a long, visually stunning series of vignettes that sticks all of the Broadway stage into about eight minutes of screen time, and features two outstanding pairings with a graceful and lovely Cyd Charisse. The "Moses Supposes" duet with Donald O'Connor is a gas to see, with the two of them tormenting a speech coach as they cavort, dive and tap their way around a room. And of course, the title sequence, justifiably called one of the most famous moments in the history of American film. If you can stay depressed after watching Gene splash around that rain soaked street with his unused umbrella, then nothing's gonna work.
In the end, Gene Kelly embodied all the best qualities of Hollywood in its heyday. He appealed to the everyman, while remaining glamourous and incredibly talented. His like will never be seen again.
Copyright 1996 John A. Lavin
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