Singin’ in the Rain :: So Much to Love It’s Ridiculous…

Cineville - Singin' in the Rain

I used to love all the old Hollywood musicals when I was a kid. On the Town, Anchors Aweigh – basically anything populated by all-singing, all-dancing sailors. If homosexuality had been allowed in 1970s Sunderland, I would have been a shoo-in. But it wasn't. And my parents were of the generation that believed Liberace when he said he was straight, because it was easier. Anyway, I wasn't gay. I just liked sailors and musicals. And I loved Singin’ in the Rain.

Now that I’m all growed up, however, my tastes have changed. It’s very rare I’ll watch a musical now. In fact, I’ll actively spurn the opportunity when it arises. So, with so much water having passed under the bridge since I’d last sat down and properly watched Singin’ in the Rain, I wasn’t entirely sure if it would reach me.

Cineville - Singin' in the Rain


I needn't have worried. It held me rapt and enchanted from the opening roar of the MGM lion.

It opens on the red carpet, with movie stars Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont (Gene Kelly and Jean Hagen) playing at partners and mugging absurdly for the cameras. Then there are flashbacks to Don and Cosmo (Donald O’Connor) doing vaudeville. They do a rendition of Fit as a Fiddle that is so breathtakingly, overwhelmingly joyful that when they're done, I want to stand up and applaud. But I don't. 

Cineville - Singin' in the Rain

Cineville - Singin' in the Rain


There is so much to love in Singin’ in the Rain that it's ridiculous. There's an embarrassment of riches. There's Debbie Reynolds, who's sassy and delightful. There's Jean Hagen, who's terrifying and hilarious. There are the musical numbers, many of which are genuinely exhilarating.

The whole film, in fact, is exhilarating, and so much more so than so many modern films that are routinely plastered in CGI. When I compare how I felt watching the choreography in Singin’ in the Rain compared with how I felt watching the extended fight scene-cum-firework display that is Doctor Strange, for example, there’s really no competition. I actually nodded off during Doctor Strange, and then I left. Singin’ in the Rain had me spellbound and transported in a way that no amount of CGI ever could.

Cineville - Singin' in the Rain


When I was a kid, it was Donald O’Connor as Cosmo that I loved the most, and Make ‘Em Laugh used to knock me out. This time round, however, although his physical performance is still both jaw-dropping and gobsmacking, what struck me most about Make 'Em Laugh was that it didn't make me laugh. It's actually one of the film's least funny scenes. 

I just found this on Wikipedia, however, and this gave me a chuckle:

‘Donald O’Connor had to stay in bed for several days after filming the Make ‘Em Laugh sequence. He smoked up to four packs of cigarettes a day.’

All told, Singin’ in the Rain is quirky and edgy and exuberant and ridiculous and dated and romantic and gorgeous. It's also a fascinating document of cinema history, with insights into both the advent of sound in the 1920s and the studio system of the 1950s.

Cineville - Singin' in the Rain

Cineville - Singin' in the Rain


There are a couple of badly dated scenes, it can't be denied - low points include Beautiful Girl, which is just weird, and Millard Mitchell's performance as RF, the studio boss - but everything else is just a total and utter joy.


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Cineville - Singin' in the Rain


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The Viewing

Just before the main feature starts in any Cineville cinema, they show a little trailer advertising the scheme. Here it is…

So I’ve seen it a lot in the past month, and I’ve come to associate it – and by extension Singin’ in the Rain – with the joy of going to the cinema, and more specifically with the joy of living in a city that has such an enlightened and progressive attitude towards cinema.

Then when I saw that Singin’ in the Rain was showing at the Eye, I felt compelled. The power of Kelly compelled me. I’d seen Singin’ in the Rain quite a few times over the years but never on the big screen. I’m guessing not many people have, these days. So I decided to come.

It was a beautiful day today – bitter blue skies and bright cold sunshine, and this was the first time I’d come to the north of Amsterdam in the day-time. As I was waiting for the ferry, a couple of young German guys approached me and one of them asked how much the ferry cost. I laughed as I answered because it was like they'd read my mind: ‘No, it’s free!’ I cried. ‘Isn’t it amazing?!’ The Germans agreed that it was. Then we boarded, amazed.

The Eye is even more striking in the day, like some beached, bleached cubist Lamborghini, and if you look up at the top right of the A’DAM, you’ll see Europe’s highest swing as it … um, swings back and forth over the city. I can’t wait to come here in the summer. I pray that I’m allowed to stay.


Unless someone crept in at the last minute, there were just eight people at this viewing. So there’s no way stuff like this can make money. I’m so grateful that they do it though. It has such a positive impact on the city, and not just for the handful of people who actually come to see a film like this, but for the city as a whole. Giving a damn and doing so much to encourage the appreciation of art, it pollutes the city with this mad creative joy. I swear, it’s palpable. I certainly palp it. And I know it’s not just me. 

Cineville - Singin' in the Rain


Good old Amsterdam. 

About the Author

I am Karl Webster. I wrote these words. If you liked them, you'll be overjoyed to know that there are plenty more where they came from. So you should definitely sign up to my newsletter if you haven't already.

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