So another month has gone by, and that means another post for The Five Obstructions Blogathon. In this month’s obstruction, the task is to include an interview about the film. To this end, I have Christopher from Tattered Fedora Flow to answer some questions about Singin’ in the Rain.
Hunter: So, first question. The thing that strikes me most about Singin’ in the Rain is that even people who are not musical fans at all can really get into this film. Fans of the genre rate it highly as well. Which category do you fall under? If you are not a musical fan, what is it about this film that appeals to you? If you are, how does it compare to other musicals?
Christopher: Well Ms. Hunter, I am unafraid to say that I am a man who is quite fond of musicals. I grew up with West Side Story, The Sound of Music, and South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut. When executed properly, musicals are an escape from the world. It’s a genre of film that can express its points and emotions through song; which, in some cases, can be more impactful than if it were just spoken regularly.
I love Singing in the Rain. Compared to most musicals, I would rank this in my top three of all time. The only musical I can think of that tops it is West Side Story; My placement of those two can switch depending on which I have last seen.
Hunter: I love West Side Story too. You say that musicals “can be more impactful” emotionally because they can use songs. Is there a particular example of this in Singin’ in the Rain that stands out?
Christopher: Absolutley! It really comes in the title song. The song is full of glee and euphoria; Gene Kelly’s expression throughout the scene is one of joy; he is smiling through the whole thing. The scene opens with the two main actors outside in the pouring rain; you would think it would be depressive, or just heavy emotionally. Once Kelly starts whistling, singing and dancing, the rain becomes another prop, a symbol of his depression, anxiety, and fear of losing his career being washed away.
He could have just walked and smiled, but it is with the words and the expressions he explodes with in that scene that really deliver that his inner-self is healthy and peaceful, that even the horrible weather can not diminish the sunshine he has in his heart at the moment.
Hunter: That’s great, thinking of the rain like that. Kelly’s undeniably great in this number, how do you think his performance is in the rest of the film (and anyone else’s you’d like to mention for that matter)?
Christopher: Kelly’s performance is magnificent. I have read through the years that he painstakingly rehearsed the dance numbers over and over again – and made his co-stars do it as well. Each character in the film brings joy and comedy to the picture. Kelly is our hero, who we sympathize with during his worry that his film career is in jeopardy; Donald O’Connor keeps up with Kelly with enthusiasm and is incredible in the second best dance number in the film “Make ‘em’ Laugh”; Debbie Reynolds, who was not as big a star as her co-stars is supremely energetic, and radiates positive energy.
Even the closest thing the film has to an antagonist played by Jean Hagen; she brings genuine comedy with her voice, so even though she wants to rain on the hero’s parade (no pun intended) you love to see her on screen, just so you can laugh at her shrilly, loud voice.
Hunter: Couldn’t agree with you more, especially about Lina and Jean Hagen’s performance. She’s great in the film and Lina’s a really fun character. Though this is not true in her case, a big part of the performances is the dancing. She doesn’t even have a character really, but Cyd Charisse has a big dance part in the “Broadway Melody” number at the end. Do you think bringing in Charisse just for that number, and really the whole number itself, works?
Christopher: I will never, in a million years, say that Cyd Charisse does not work in any context (I mean look at those legs!). Cyd actually represents the two main women in Lockwood’s life; she is cold like Hagen’s character, but also full of life and color like Debbie Reynolds; she acts like a star from the silent era, because she never utters a word, and she is full of color and movement, like future stars of Hollywood had to become.
As for the number itself, from a technical standpoint, it is phenomenal: the choreography, the use of depth of field, it is just astounding. It comes off to me, as a sort of dare to the audience, to follow Kelly into this fantasy; we have to do so to begin with, because we all know that in real life people do not burst out into song and dance randomly (I do, but that is not the topic here). That dare, that challenge is what audiences have to take on every time we sit and watch musicals.
Hunter: I’m just realizing that I have become somewhat dismissive of this movie, probably because I’m so familiar with it I don’t generally bother to look further anymore. Great thought about the duality of Cyd’s character. I just assumed they needed more of a dancer for what Kelly wanted to do.
You mention the transition from silents to talkies when talking about Charisse’s character, that’s always been one of my favorite parts of the film. It shows a lot of the challenges that were actually faced, and it being a musical, is in one of the genres that came out of the transition to sound. Do you find the historical part of the film as interesting as the rest?
Christopher: Of course. Films like The Artist take from Singin’ in the Rain, due in part to explaining the evolution of the motion pictures from silent to talkies; and even from black and white, to Technicolor. If you look at many great films of mostly any era, they have an historical context. Sixty-one years after the release of the film, the historical part still works and still provides interest into the era in which it is placed. It may be an older film, but it never comes off as being stale, or even old really. It gives the viewers of today insight into the atmosphere of Hollywood during the beginnings of the talkies and the end of the silent era – in a much more light and fun tone of course.
Hunter: I completely agree. Well, I think that about wraps it up. Is there anything else about the film you’d like to talk about?
Christopher: Nope, I think i pretty much said all I can say about this film. Well, this was pretty fun actually, it was nice to talk to someone about film and they understand what I am talking about.
Hunter: Ha ha, well I’m glad you had fun! And thank you for participating!
So that about wraps it up! Thanks again to Christopher for helping me out with this, and be sure to check out his blog. Also be sure to comment on anything we discussed here!