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With: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O'Connor, Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchell, Cyd Charisse, Douglas Fowley, Rita Moreno
Written by: Betty Comden, Adolph Green
Directed by: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 102
Date: 03/27/1952

Singin' in the Rain (1952)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Confessions of a 'Rain' Fan

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Oscars are known for "catching up" to filmmakers and actors who have been overlooked or forgotten. Sometimes they have been ahead of the game, too -- but even then, they were a little off the mark.

Take 1951, for example, when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Vincente Minnelli's An American in Paris six Oscars, for best picture, art direction, costumes, cinematography, score and screenplay. It is a great movie, with its dazzling climactic ballet sequence that remains unmatched in film.

Yet although auteur critics argue that Minnelli was an overall better director than Stanley Donen, Donen's Singin' in the Rain -- which opens today in a beautiful new print at the Castro Theatre for a week and debuts on DVD from Warner Bros. ($26.99) -- has endured with more popular appeal. It's routinely at the top of all-time favorite film polls, along with Citizen Kane, The Godfather, Gone With the Wind and Casablanca.

Yet Singin' in the Rain got two measly Oscar nominations and lost both.

Maybe the academy's puzzling appraisal in '51 somehow has contributed to underdog Singin' in the Rain's continual besting of An American in Paris in subsequent surveys.

Or maybe not. It could be that despite Minnelli's crisp direction, An American in Paris remains a simple boy-meets-girl story. And though she's a cute pixie, young Leslie Caron does look awkward in her movie debut, especially opposite the commanding Kelly.

Singin' in the Rain, on the other hand, has the brash, vibrant Debbie Reynolds and a plot to die for.

It's 1927, and Don Lockwood (Kelly) and Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) rule Hollywood -- they're the Douglas Fairbanks-Mary Pickford of their time. But in reality, Don and Lina can't stand each other; they stay together only for the sake of their fans and their latest picture, The Dueling Cavalier.

When Don meets Kathy Selden (Reynolds), the pair begins a delirious feud right off the bat.

"The love impulse frequently reveals itself in terms of conflict," says the doctor to Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby, and nowhere is that notion more true than in Singin' in the Rain. For every verbal (or physical) punch Don and Kathy throw, they grow closer and closer.

Everything turns upside-down when The Jazz Singer and talking pictures hit town like an earthquake. Lina, who has a hysterically squeaky voice, can't sing -- or even talk very well. So Don's pals Kathy and Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor) come around to turn the sinking picture into a musical.

And even though An American in Paris comes complete with a proper Gershwin score, Singin' in the Rain's "Make 'em Laugh," "Good Morning" and the title song are what audiences really go crazy for -- not to mention that O'Connor and Reynolds are nearly Kelly's equals in the footwork department.

O'Connor's clowning amazes in "Make 'em Laugh"; still, it doesn't top the magical puddle slapping in Kelly's love-struck title number.

Kelly and Donen received co-director credits, but it was Donen who perfected the film's crisp, hilarious rhythm, such as when Don tells reporters his life story, narrating one thing while we see something different on the screen.

Don't forget the punch-drunk "Gotta Dance" medley at the film's climax. The movie's best joke has Kelly performing the same number furiously for lower-class crowds, then slowly and more dignified for higher-paying crowds.

As much as we love Kelly, O'Connor and Reynolds, equal credit must be given to Hagen, the only cast member to receive an Oscar nomination. Her giggly mangling of language ("If we bring a little joy into your humdrum lives, it makes us feel as if our hard work ain't been in vain for nothing") and her comically pitched voice make me laugh every time I see the film -- and that's often.

Sure, we respect An American in Paris. But we truly love Singin' in the Rain.

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