Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Seventeen, Part Two: ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (1952)

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The Premise
Film fanatics and friends
 Fred Sullivan and Yasser Akram are on a mission to watch 25 of one another’s favourite movies. Each week they will watch one movie each and then get together to discuss what they have seen. We are up to the lad’s number ‘9s’ this week, so any criticism is likely to spark outrage. Will both men be smiling after this week? Read on to find out?

Fred’s choice this week is one of Hollywood’s best known and best-loved films, a musical made during MGM’s golden years with its star/director at the peak of his powers.

You can read the entries from previous week by checking out the archives on the left of the screen.

To have a look at what Fred has picked so far, click here.

Likewise, for Yasser’s choices, click here.
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Fred:Singin’ in the Rain‘ is my choice at number nine. With the exception of ‘Casablanca‘, I reckon it’s unlike any other film on either list in terms of its stature

Yasser: Ah yes! Renowned for being awesome

‘Singin’ in the Rain’
1952 – USA
Directors: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly
Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen, Millard Mitchell

FS: Musicals aren’t really your thing, are they? How many have you seen?

YA: If you don’t count cartoons, not many. One of the main reasons I don’t watch Bollywood movies is I think ‘where did the 50 dancers in matching costumes come from?’. There are countless musicals out there from this particular era. Why did you pick ‘Singin’ in the Rain’?

FS: It’s the best. Every song is great. Every dance routine is full of energy, life or romance. It looks incredible, the vivid Technicolor. Every performer is perfect for their role. Also, it’s very, very funny. It’s the movie I’ve probably seen more times than any other in my life

YA: I agree the production is amazing. Every dance routine, though sometimes not exactly in synch, is absolutely beautiful. I feel like I get hypnotised watching this movie

FS: Not in synch?

YA: Sometimes O’Connor would be slightly faster than Kelly

FS: I want proof! This is real talent, no camera tricks. I suppose you’d rather they were computer generated so that could be ironed out in post-production

YA: (laughs) Fuck off!

YA: Let’s talk about Gene Kelly, who plays Don Lockwood

FS: I adore Fred Astaire, but Kelly is THE musical star for me. He’s right up there among my all-time favourite stars

YA: He has this charming, charismatic nature that oozes through the screen as Lockwood. He’s such a likeable guy

FS: He is. He’s an easy, relaxed presence, but you can’t take your eyes off him. Even when he walks, it is like dancing

YA: There were moments of brilliance. Even when he’s forcing it for the press, playing Lockwood, he does it in a way that isn’t cheesy

FS: When he’s looking back over his career at the beginning, and bigging everything up?

YA: Yeah

FS: It’s a beautiful deconstruction of the studio publicity machines that used to exist

YA: I love that sequence

YA: We also meet Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen) early on. I didn’t like her character. She was too much of an air-head

FS: YOU ARE KIDDING!

YA: Hang on (laughs)… Hagen was ace. She was the villain, I wasn’t supposed to like her. Relax (laughs)

FS: That first moment she speaks… she’s amazing. For someone who can’t sing or dance to nearly steal a Gene Kelly musical from Gene Kelly takes some doing

YA: As an air-head – one who blindly believed rumours that were constructed by the media about her love life – her character was everything I hate in a female role. But like Gloria Swanson’s Norma Desmond, you can’t help but love the clueless bint because Hagen plays her to perfection

FS: She outshines Debbie Reynolds

YA: Yeah, Reynolds was hit and miss. There were times when she was perfect, like in the house when they come up with the idea of changing the failed movie into ‘The Dancing Cavalier

FS: Okay…

YA: In the car when we first meet her, though… no. There are key moments like that where she unfortunately falters from delivering the same standard as Kelly, O’Connor and Hagen

FS: This is the only film of hers that I like her in. I find her quite irritating, normally.

YA: She’s not a bad actress by any stretch of the imagination, but she’s seriously lacking that certain je ne sais quoi

FS: She had never danced before this, so she had it tough as Kelly wanted an experienced dancer in the role. However, I have to give it to her, that doesn’t show on screen

YA: So you liked her?

FS: I liked her in this. I agree she is the weakest of the main four actors, but the bar is very high and she’s a good ‘girl-next-door’ type

YA: Even though I love Kelly and, once I fully appreciated her, Hagen, the one person who stole it for me HAS to be Donald O’Connor

FS: Oh! He is awesome. Tell me why you like him so much?

YA: Cosmo Brown (O’Connor) is the underrated guy no-one is interested in. He steps on to the red carpet and is brushed away by the press as a fart. He’s a nobody, right? WRONG! He’s a dancing machine. He’s funnier than Kelly when Kelly is supposed to be the star

FS: He is hilarious

YA: There is a child-like, Peter Pan quality to him. He even danced better than Kelly

FS: Controversial! He’s an amazing dancer, but he’s not Gene Kelly

YA: If this guy was as good-looking as Kelly, you’re looking at a superstar

FS: (laughs) True, true, though Kelly had other strings to his bow of course

YA: His directorial talent?

FS: He choreographed all the dancing

YA: It’s not fair. (laughs) He directed, choreographed and starred in most of these amazing dance sequences. One talented mofo

FS: Yeah, I know. Like Chaplin last week, he was a bit of a perfectionist, and a tyrant if he was in a bad mood, but on screen… what a star! I love Donald O’Connor and I think he’s one of the film’s biggest assets, but Gene Kelly is a better dancer. He’s just smoother

YA: I dunno, man. I like O’Connor’s dancing better. It just feels happier

FS: Do you think that is linked to his comedy persona, where as Kelly is the romantic lead?

YA: No, because Don Lockwood is carefree most of the time

YA: I love this film, however when watching it I felt disappointed. It was too short for my liking. There should be more. The end felt very rushed

FS: (laughs)

YA: All of a sudden, R.F. (Millard Mitchell) asks how ‘The Dancing Cavalier’ should start and they do this sequence

FS: Yes. The ‘Broadway Melody Ballet’

YA: Brilliant as it is, I got so annoyed with it. I don’t see how it added to the story. I felt like it was put there as a stop-gap

FS: Oh dear. I suppose we have to talk about Gene Kelly’s ballet sequences. If there is one thing everyone criticises about him it’s the ballet sections he insisted on putting in his films

YA: It was good to watch, but it wasn’t consistent with the rest of the film. It was like they said ‘where can we find 10 or 15 minutes more?’

FS: It was purely artistic, not filler. If you watch his earlier films, ‘On the Town‘ has one and so does ‘An American in Paris‘. You have to remember that Kelly was a dancer and choreographer. Dancing was his art and he wanted to show off his skills with these sorts of scenes.

YA: To me, this is the worst thing about musicals. Random dance sequences that do nothing for the story

FS: I suppose it doesn’t add anything to the story, but the dancing of Kelly and Cyd Charisse is so amazing that I don’t really care. What you have said is a criticism I’ve heard before. It’s the Kelly ego, I guess

YA: Might be his downfall, and yours (laughs)

FS: What musical numbers did you rate as the best?

YA: ‘Make ’em Laugh’. It’s the perfect blend of comedy and music. There is something really brilliant about O’Connor

FS: I used to watch it over and over as a kid. The routine is amazing – the plank, the face pulling, the running up the walls…

YA: ‘Good Morning’ as well

FS: Oh yes! It’s outstanding. What about the iconic title number?

YA: What can I say? I sing it all the time. It’s such a simple song. It’s happy. You want to experience the same joy Kelly seems to be having

FS: …and the dance routine?

YA: I absolutely love it. I think it’s the best thing about the film. I can’t think of another musical number from any film to compare to it

FS: Wow! I like that

YA: Tell me why it’s so high in your top 25

FS: This was the ‘perfect storm’ for the iconic MGM musicals, but it is also the film that perhaps encapsulates why I love movies so much more than any other. It makes me think of my sister. We used to watch it over and over as kids and we both adore it. About two years ago when it was being shown in the cinema as a one-off, we both took the afternoon off work to go and watch it. It also reminds me of my Mum, who really introduced me to the films I love so much. Without her influence, I’d be writing a football blog and asking ‘who is Gene Kelly?’.

YA: (laughs)

FS: It was made right in the middle of my favourite era of films, and it stars one of my favourite stars. I also think the musical numbers in this are the most accessible ever filmed. Even people who don’t like musicals could watch ‘Make ’em Laugh’ or the title song and appreciate them. It makes me laugh, it makes me happy… it makes me want to dance

FS: Time to rate it

YA: Gene Kelly is one of those actors that they call an all-time great and his musical sets will live in cinema history. The title number is perfect. He’s very much a director and choreographer whose hard work has paid off. He wasn’t alone as he had the fantastic Donald O’Connor and a strangely captivating performance from Jean Hagen. However, the film is not without imperfections. I found Debbie Reynolds mundane for the majority of her screen time, only shining when she was singing. What I struggled most with, and it is a substantial problem, is that for a large portion of the third act there is something obscure from the story, making me almost forget what I was watching. It was hard to get back to the story after that long sequence. It wasn’t required and it almost ruined the entire movie.

FS: No credit for the dancing?

YA: I was clock-watching! The film, though, is about more than just singing and dancing. There were times when I was laughing and thinking how superb it all was. It brought a form of brilliance to the comedy genre. I have to be kind, considering the iconic nature of the film and the brilliance around it. 8/10, man. Could have been a seven.

FS: Right. That is BULLSHIT

YA: What the fuck? You got an eight!

FS: This is worse than ‘Wild Strawberries‘. Eight, but could have been a seven? It’s bollocks

YA: Do you not understand? I don’t like musicals. That sequence at the end totally fucks with the film’s mood. Anyway, films are objective

FS: They are, but I think the majority of people would do a double-take at someone who had ‘The Last Samurai‘ in their top twelve, but thought ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ scraped 8/10

YA: Harsh…

Next week: Christian Bale becomes Batman and Spencer Tracy has a ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’

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4 thoughts on “Fred and Yasser’s Film Club: Week Seventeen, Part Two: ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ (1952)

    […] Singin’ in the Rain […]

    […] Yes. Do you know Jean Hagen in ‘Singin’ in the Rain‘? Well, Marilyn did what she did, just more naturally and […]

    […] how significant his contribution to life has been. It’s not like that final ballet in ‘Singin’ in the Rain‘ where it’s good, but adds nothing to the […]

    […] Your list has lots of nostalgia in it. ‘Breathless’, ‘Singin’ in the Rain‘, ‘Cinema Paradiso’ and ‘Sunset Boulevard‘ all nod to the old days of […]

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