SINGIN' IN THE RAIN
Fifty years after its release, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN ($27) regarded as one of the greatest screen musicals of all time. Although in 1952, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN was just another studio picture emanating from the Hollywood dream factory known as MGM. Coming on the heels of the Academy Award winning AN AMERICAN IN PARIS, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN didn't garner the critical recognition it should have received in 1952; however, with every year that passes the movie's mystique grows by leaps and bounds, bringing the film to its current legendary standing. Over the decades, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN has been talked about and analyzed by every major critic and film scholar, many of whom have taken the film apart frame by frame. Even after all the analysis in the world, the movie's appeal comes down to one simple fact: SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is a great piece of motion picture entertainment.
I count SINGIN' IN THE RAIN as a personal favorite, and I have seen the movie a ridiculous number of times. I have owned every Laserdisc and DVD incarnation of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN and have reviewed a number of these on previous occasions. Therefore, I seriously doubt I will be contributing anything new or original about the movie at this juncture. However, what I have always liked about SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is the fact that the story is so polished and so funny on its own, that it could play without the musical numbers and still be a great film. However, with its classic songs, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN truly is one of the greatest screen musicals of all time.
The plot of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN offers an amusing look back at Hollywood in transition. Set in the late 1920's, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN tells the story of the advent of sound in motion pictures and the effect that the "talkies" had on the movies themselves and silent film stars in general. Taking place at the fictitious Monumental Pictures movie studio, SINGIN' IN THE RAIN stars Gene Kelly as Don Lockwood- that swashbuckling leading man of the silent era. After a disastrous preview screening Don's first talking picture, the star suspects that his career is jeopardy. While Don's best friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O'Connor) convinces him that the technical flaws in the film can be fixed, both have serious doubts that anything can be done about the movie's leading lady Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), whose lack of talent and grating voice are best suited to the shadow play of silent movies. However, Cosmo has a brainstorm involving up and coming actress Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) that may be able to salvage Monumental Pictures first taking picture and save everyone's career.
All of the performances in SINGIN' IN THE RAIN are absolutely first rate. Everyone's comic timing is perfect, and all benefit from the witty repartee of Betty Comden and Adolph Green's screenplay. Jean Hagen is astonishingly good as Lina Lamont, a brilliant comic character who was designed with Judy Holliday's BORN YESTERDAY performance in mind. Donald O'Connor's comic performance is equally good; I especially enjoy his delivery of throwaway lines. While O'Connor's comic skills never come into question, I don't think he ever gets the recognition he deserves for his dancing. The sheer athleticism that O'Connor displays is his solo number is truly impressive, but when he dances with Gene Kelly, it is here that his talent as a hoofer truly shines. Study O'Connor's work in the Moses Supposes number with Kelly and you are sure to come away impressed and thinking that SINGIN' IN THE RAIN provided Gene Kelly with his two finest dancing partners- the other one being the marvelous and absolutely gorgeous Cyd Charisse. The cast of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN also features Millard Mitchell, Douglas Fowley, Rita Moreno and Kathleen Freeman.
Warner Home Video has done an incredible job with their two-disc special edition release of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN. Coming from newly restored film elements, the 1.37:1 transfer is an absolute marvel. No video incarnation of SINGIN' IN THE RAIN has ever looked anywhere as good as this new DVD release. There are no misalignment and fringing problems here to mar the color reproduction or to soften the image. The picture is consistently crisp and offers a level of clarity and detail that I've never seen in the past. Colors most assuredly display IB Technicolor vibrancy, but never have that over-saturated for video look. All of the hues appear bright, clean and wonderfully vivid; yet never display a trace of chroma noise or smearing. Blacks are velvety, plus the whites appear clean and stable. Contrast is excellent and shadow detail very good for an IB Technicolor film of that period. Additionally, there isn't a blemish or a scratch to remind one that the movie is half a century old- in other words Warner has achieved pure digital perfection for this release. The dual layer DVD conceals all noticeable traces of digital compression artifacts.
For this release, the soundtrack for SINGIN' IN THE RAIN has been upgraded to a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel mix. However, those expecting a sonic revelation from the 5.1 aren't going to find it on this soundtrack. What the new mix does is give the film's soundtrack a greater sense of presence than one would find in a constricted monaural mix. Also, the musical numbers seem to have a bit more fidelity than they did in the past, nowhere near today's levels, but with a warmer, more pleasing sound. Surround junkies will find that usage of the rear channels is limited, but that is because the new mix tries to remain as natural sounding as possible. Dialogue is cleanly rendered and always completely understandable. Additionally, the track sounds as though it has been digitally cleaned to remove all noticeable traces of background hiss and surface noise. The original English monaural soundtrack is also provided on the DVD, along with a French language track. Subtitles have been encoded onto the DVD in English, French and Spanish.
Music underscores the basic interactive menus, which provide access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been spread across the two discs that comprise this set. Disc one features an audio commentary with co-director Stanley Donen, screenwriters Betty Comden and Adolph Green, performers Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds Cyd Charisse and Kathleen Freeman, historian Rudy Behlmer, and filmmaker Baz Luhrmann. The commentary is hosted by Reynolds and is an assemblage of comments by the participants, which have been edited together. There is a wealth of great material presented here and this track is a must listen for any SINGIN' IN THE RAIN fan. Reel Sound takes a look at Hollywood's transition to sound with clips from some of the earliest sound and talking pictures. Singin' Inspirations offers an opportunity to watch SINGIN' IN THE RAIN in an interactive mode; whenever a film reel icon appears on the screen, the viewer can use their remote control to look at the movies that inspired this classic film. A theatrical trailer, cast & crew listing and award listing closes out disc one's supplements.
Disc two offers some of the more extensive supplements, which begin with two documentaries. Musicals Great Musicals: The Arthur Freed Unit At MGM is a ninety-six minute documentary that traces the career of the composer/songwriter turned film producer. Through interviews and film footage, the program traces the career of Arthur Freed and looks at the wonderful, classic musicals that his production unit at MGM brought to the screen during his multi-decade tenure at the studio. What A Glorious Feeling- The Making of Singin' In The Rain is a thirty-five minute program hosted by Debbie Reynolds that features new and archival interviews with the cast and production team of this classic movie. The documentary includes a lot of fond remembrances of the production, as well as the hard work that went into making everything appear effortless. The program also provides a look as some sequences that were cut or changed in the final version of the film.
Another really interesting supplement is the Excerpts From Features Where The Songs Originated, which offers a dozen clips from movies where the Arthur Freed /Nacio Herb Brown songs made their screen debut. Also included on the DVD is Debbie Reynolds rendition of You Are My Luck Star, which was cut from the film, as well as a still galley and some of the Scoring Stage Sessions, which are the earliest recordings and outtakes of the movie's musical numbers.
There is no doubt in my mind that SINGIN' IN THE RAIN is one of the greatest film musicals of all time. Warner's 50th Anniversary Special Edition DVD release is the definitive home edition of the movie. The DVD looks glorious and provides a wonderful array of supplements, making this disc a must have for every movie library. Warner has done such an incredible job with SINGIN' IN THE RAIN that I hope they will apply the same level of care to other classic 1950s musicals. I know I'd love to see THE BAND WAGON, SEVEN BRIDES FOR SEVEN BROTHERS, BRIGADOON, SILK STOCKINGS, SHOW BOAT, GIGI, HIGH SOCIETY and KISS ME KATE receive the same kind of care and attention that has been applied to SINGIN' IN THE RAIN.
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