I still remember what I said to me on the phone one afternoon in Los Angeles in 1990. The hoarse and sweet sound is so familiar, despite the signs of age, it seems to come directly from the movie screen. “So you’ve talked to Stanley. What does he have to say?” That was the moment I knew I had Gene Kelly.
I was a field trip film reporter looking for stars and stories in Hollywood. At the time, I was working for BBC Radio and the Financial Times.One about Singing in the rain -Is it definitely the most famous and classic musical in Hollywood? -Last year when I was talking to co-director Stanley Donen (Stanley Donen), my mind suddenly came to mind. Now I am using that interview (shamelessly) to take advantage of the new interview. Gene Kelly is another director and star of this movie—and an old friend of Donan. He would never let his ex-partner have the final say.
Now switching to 2021, 30 years after I traveled, I produced a fast turnaround radio file and Kelly’s article for the British “Financial Times”. I opened the cupboard door where I cleaned the room in the apartment, and a bunch of tapes fell out. When I recognized them, I almost cried: they had become friends swimming around in my memory box. “Gene! Be careful, you are landing on Donald [O’Connor]. Debbie [Reynolds],you too? Stanley, be careful, your protective shell has cracked. “
How appropriate is this? This is what the team of Donan, Kelly and MGM did 70 years ago: They cracked the shell of traditional screen musicals. Why is the song and dance movie of 1952 consistently rated as the greatest movie of its kind? Because it shines with a unique light; because it was and is now the pinnacle of wisdom, melody, and invention, based on the pinnacle of Kelly Donan’s first collaboration as a director. In town; Because songs, scripts, stars and shooting styles are better integrated than any musical before or after.
Before: Even in the genius gadgets of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, you can smell a touch of oil paint and stage performances. After: The era of monster roadshows creaked by scale or Schmalz (The sound of music, Star!) Gradually enter the era of buying album montage musicals and disco fanatic youth performances: A hard day and night, help!, Saturday night party, grease.
Fused. On my tapes 30 years ago, Donan likes to use these words to describe the achievements of the film. “This is a real collaboration. Everything is in order until the last eyelash. If you use non-music in the movie to measure the music sequence, it has more music than it doesn’t.”
Through composition. Or approaching the golden age of Hollywood. Maybe it is also a great musical because it is more than just a musical. “It’s a piece of history,” Gene Kelly, 77, bald, told me at his Rodeo Drive home. “Musicals can make more social commentary than the deepest or most dull social dramas. We adopted the 20th century art form: movies, when the sound comes in. We tell the truth.”
During the filming, Donan recalled that “true cooperation” was sometimes achieved through strict discipline. Debbie Reynolds said, especially Kelly, broke the whip.
“Why did they put me in Singing in the rain, I’ll never know,” she told me in a dimly lit bungalow at Studio City, it’s secretive dimness, a bit of Blanche Dubois. But then again, why didn’t they vote She? “I’m an inexperienced 17-year-old boy, so [her character] Casey Selden. .. ”
Casey is the girl who voiced the screams of Kelly’s character and the co-star (Jean Hagen) voiced by Brooklyn. She struggled to survive the arrival of the voice. But the role of Casey must be able to dance, sing, and pretend to sing.
“Mr. Kelly auditioned me and said’make a time step’,” Reynolds recalled. “I can do it. Then he said, “Be a Maxi Ford.” I said, “What kind of car is that?”
“She can’t dance,” Kelly said. “But she is as smart as a whip, she can pretend. I put a tap on her.”
Reynolds said she worked until her feet bleed, especially in the most exciting song and dance scene in this movie, where all three stars appeared. “It’s late at night to rehearse’Good Morning’. We have been on the sofa 40 times.” It was the sofa where she, Kelly and O’Connor had overturned the ballet. “Genn is still upset. We finally had to decide to shoot. I took two days off as ordered by the doctor.”
(Kelly retorted the bleeding feet respectfully. “The whole piece of cloth. I didn’t see it. No one else saw it. But she is a hardworking person.”)
Donald O’Connor recalled the different but equal hardships involved in the “Make’Em Laugh” number, which inspired a juggling performance, first a flirting song with a dummy, and then on the wall Up dancing and backflip: “They don’t have my personal number, so they think they have to write one.”
Donan and Kelly asked MGM’s Arthur Fried to write a new song, and his catalog provided most of the other numbers. “Like his’be a clown’ pirate,“ Donan said. When Fried came back, he handed them an identical song with different lyrics. They continued: “We were too embarrassed to point this out,” Donan said.
“My only rehearsal is to rehearse over and over again,” O’Connor said of the wall dance. “I had to build because the wall was on concrete. I thought it was a backflip and they wanted me to commit suicide—’Donald went. So sad.”‘But we did it in one day. I came back three days later, and everyone on the set applauded for me. Then someone told me,’I’m sorry, Donald, we blurred the camera aperture. You must do it again. ‘”
Singing in the rain have flaws. Do we need a long jazz ballet near the end, with Gershwin as the background, with long-leg dance superstar Cyd Charisse replacing Ingénue Reynolds? Does Reynolds feel wronged? “I am a tap dancer, not a ballerina. I am a hoof. For me, Cyd Charisse is a great dancer. I have no reason to be sad.”
Kelly admitted: “It doesn’t quite match the rest of the numbers. This is a transfer. But it works.”
At the core Singing in the rain Paradoxically, this game-changing music a-brim with brio is mainly composed of old materials. Almost every song is a reversed list. These include Fried (who was the main producer of the MGM musical in 1952) and the title of Nacio Herb Brown, who has appeared in more than one film. “Singing in the rain” continues to become a classic movie music clip- This Classic movie music sequence.
“A simple idea,” Donan said, “is a person in love, he is happy and full of energy, and nature is hitting him in the face.”
It is not that simple to present ideas correctly on the screen. Kelly said: “Until Roger Edens [another MGM music honcho] Came up with a small vamp. Do-do-do-do-do-do-do-do…”
Gene Kelly sang “Singin’ in the Rain” to me in the living room on Rodeo Drive. I was obviously dead and went to heaven. “That vamp excites me,” he said. “The figure itself took about 10 days to rehearse, and we filmed it in a day and a half. It was tough.”
Dornan explained: “It was done by crossing the outfield streets with black waterproof oil. There are cables hanging from the telephone poles. We filmed during the day in summer. The warm water poured down and it was so hot.” Kelly caught a cold. The story is like this. of? “He did it. I remember having a fever.”
All thanks to the legend. This scene directly enters the hall of fame of screen history, and there are tribute versions throughout the ages. The millions of people who have watched Morecambe and Wise prancing on rain-washed streets may not even have seen Kelly’s original work.
That is a myth: some extraordinary things are made and remade based on respect and post-history. If you are lucky, add the poetic handprints of the participants. Let Debbie Reynolds have the final say in the great enduring moments of a great enduring musical.
“It’s just rain, a street, a lamp post, an umbrella, and a genius-make this an unforgettable number.”
Now available on BBC iPlayer