47 Great Movie Moments #15 – Singin’ in the Rain

Continuing with this series of 47 moments in film that I love (Why 47?), today we hit #15, and my favorite movie of all time.  I could probably find 47 moments to love in this film alone.

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Directed by:  Gene Kelly & Stanley Donen

Silent movie star Donald Lockwood struggles to adjusts to a new era of talking films, even while he navigates a romance with rising starlet Kathy Selden.

The Set-up

Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) has it all…he’s one of the world’s most popular movie stars, he’s just released yet another smash hit, and girls everywhere love him.  But he’s an unhappy man, as the woman whom he is really interested in not only hates him, but he’s accidentally responsible for getting her fired from her job as a dancer at a local club.

The Moment

Don Lockwood shows up to work at his studio, Monumental Pictures, and commiserates with his best friend Cosmo Brown about how he’s feeling.  As they talk, they walk in front of a series of stages where a variety of silent movies, Don Lockwood’s bread & butter, are being shot.  The flippantly duck under and around the cameras that are all filming different genres of movie (a jungle film, a western movie, etc) evidently within meters of each other, while they talk about Don’s romantic woes.

Singin’ in the Rain is about, in a lot of ways, the transition between things more idealized to things more real.  We see this in the way that Don learns to be himself as he genuinely falls in love, and we see this in the way he and everyone has to adjust to the new technology of “talking” that suddenly intrudes upon their work.  This is a simple but amazing sequence which is used to demonstrate the “before” side of this whole dichotomy. Though the dialogue is about genuine feelings, it’s still got a flippant side to it, a tone that the very deliberately chosen staging for the sequence captures and enhances.

When you think of great moments in Singin’ in the Rain, this is probably not the first one to come to mind (or maybe not even the 10th!).  Neither the considerable dance talents of Gene Kelly (Don) nor Donald O’Connor (Cosmo) are shown off in this particular bit.  But the scene serves as testimony to how smartly this film is written and directed, so that even the “unspectacular” moments have got intelligence and wit.  We see here the camerawork, directing, dialogue, performances, and set design all working together to tell a story.  That’s gosh-darn genuine cinema happening there!


The Payoff

As the story progresses, we see Don face the hard truth that life is more challenging than his idealized Hollywood world is ready for.  Making movies becomes a much more arduous process, thanks to advent of sound.  But thru creativity and perseverance, it can be richer and more rewarding…just like his romance with Kathy.

And, if you want to see good dancing you don’t have long to wait,  because at the end of the scene Cosmo stops the self-pitying Don from getting too wrapped up in himself and treats us all with the riotously funny dance number, Make ‘Em Laugh.  This is O’Connor’s showcase in the movie, highlighting his amazing ability with physical humor, and culminating in O’Connor running up a wall!


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