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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Perfect day for Singin' in the Rain

... and a pretty darned fun movie, rain or shine. Released in 1952, Rotten Tomatoes today has it at its 10th best rated film. In 2007, The American Film Industry called it the 5th greatest movie of all time. And Entertainment Weekly names Singin' in the Rain it's highest ranked musical. Wow!

The reason I love this film is not only for it's title song but for Good Morning, the richest song and dance number I have ever enjoyed. Its opening line by Debbie Reynolds is still heard today on one TV network's morning show to open its broadcast.

Gene Kelly's script for the movie
And there is a rich backstory of the movie itself. It is set back in the 1920s when silent movies were transitioning to 'talkies' and the three principal characters were mirrored after real actors of the day, anxious about their future in this technical new world. (Sound familiar?)
Aspiring actress Debbie Reynolds was a newcomer in those days. When hired, she lived with her parents and had to leave home at 4 a.m. and take three different buses to get to the studio on time. She often slept on the set.

She had a good face and great voice but couldn't dance. Gene Kelly, who directed, choreographed and starred in the movie, was known as somewhat of a tyrant and was verbally critical of Reynolds inability to dance. The film's third star, dancer Donald O'Connor found Reynolds crying under a piano and promised her that he would help her learn.

Reynolds had gymnastic talent and, it was discovered, was a very quick study as the dance numbers will prove.

My favorite dance number started filming at 8 in the morning and concluded at 11 p.m. It required 40 takes before it was director-satisfied. Reynolds had to be carried to her dressing room after having ruptured blood vessels in her feet. She later said that having a baby and doing this film were the two most painful things in her life.

Filming was so demanding that several of the stars had to take time off after strenuous segments were filmed. In one segment, Donald O'Connor tap danced across the floor and up the walls before a backward flip.

Gene Kelly
He recalled,  "I was smoking four packs of cigarettes a day then, and getting up those walls was murder. They had to bank one wall so I could make it up and then through another wall. We filmed that whole sequence in one day. We did it on a concrete floor. My body just had to absorb this tremendous shock. Things were building to such a crescendo that I thought I'd have to commit suicide for the ending. I came back on the set three days later. All the grips applauded. [Gene Kelly] applauded, told me what a great number it was. Then Gene said, "Do you think you could do that number again?" I said, "Sure, any time". He said, "Well, we're going to have to do it again tomorrow". No one had checked the aperture of the camera and they fogged out all the film. So the next day I did it again! By the end my feet and ankles were a mass of bruises."

The first time they tried to film the famous "Singin' In The Rain" song and dance sequence, they shot it in the late afternoon. Unfortunately the homeowners in the area had just come home from work and had turned on their lawn sprinklers so there was not enough water pressure for the "rain" to work. They finally filmed the sequence the next day, early enough so that everyone was at work and the water pressure was adequate for the shot. And this is how it turned out.

Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly

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