Tell me you can watch Gene Kelly perform the title number of this film and not feel happy. I don’t know anybody who isn’t instantly cheered up by “Singin’ in the Rain.” It’s gotten me through many a dark night of the soul.
They pulled out all the stops for this one. Harold Rosson was the cinematographer. He shot “The Wizard of Oz” and the unforgettable burning of Atlanta sequence in “Gone With the Wind,” and was the most-sought-after cinematographer in Hollywood. No wonder the film is such a pleasure to watch!
It’s also fun figuring out who’s being satirized in the silent movie bits. There’s a femme fatale character said to be modeled on Gloria Swanson, and a flapper type (played by Rita Moreno) who brings to mind the “it” girl, Clara Bow. In one scene, Kelly speaks the lines that John Gilbert spoke in a squeaky voice in his first talkie—effectively ending his career.
Granted, the story is negligible. Even the romance is negligible. Sure, it’s nice that Gene Kelly winds up with Debbie Reynolds. Sure, Donald O’Connor is a swell guy. And that vain idiot who plays the silent film star deserves to be out of the motion picture business, once and for all. But if Kelly didn’t dance and O’Connor didn’t sing while making funny faces, with Reynolds piping in to make a delightful threesome, there’d be no movie.
“Singin’ in the Rain” (the song) has acquired a range of associations since Kelly’s tour-de-force performance. Any number of actors have invoked it, including Cary Grant (in “North by Northewest), Peter Sellers (in “Revenge of the Pink Panther”), Robert Redford (in “Legal Eagles”) and even The Simpsons, with Malcolm McDowell’s rendition in “A Clockwork Orange” being the most notorious. Cheered them up too, every last one of them.