Cast: Gene Kelly (Don Lockwood), Donald O’Connor (Cosmo Brown), Debbie Reynolds (Kathy Selden), Jean Hagen (Lina Lamont), Millard Mitchell (R.F. Simpson)
Director: Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly
My rating: 8.5 / 10
Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is a stage entertainer and movie stuntman who eventually becomes a popular silent film star. Don barely tolerates his vain, cunning, and shallow leading lady, Lina Lamont (Jean Hagen), though their studio, Monumental Pictures, links them romantically to increase their popularity. Lina is convinced that they are in love, despite Don’s protestations otherwise.
At the premiere of his latest film, The Royal Rascal, Don tells the gathered crowd a sarcastic, hyperbolic version of his life story, including his motto: “Dignity, always dignity.” His words are humorously contradicted by flashbacks showing him alongside his best friend Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor).
To escape from his fans after the premiere, Don jumps into a passing car driven by Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds). She drops him off, but not before claiming to be a stage actress and sneering at his “undignified” accomplishments as a movie star and that each movie he makes is basically the same story and acting. This greatly effects Don who is used to women throwing themselves at him.
Later, at an after party, the head of Don’s studio, R.F. Simpson (Millard Mitchell), shows a short demonstration of a talking picture, but his guests are unimpressed. To Don’s amusement, Kathy pops out of a mock cake right in front of him, revealing herself to be a chorus girl. Furious at Don’s teasing, she throws a real cake at him, only to accidentally hit Lina in the face and flee.
Don becomes smitten with Kathy and searches for her for weeks, with Cosmo trying to cheer him up. While filming a romantic scene, a jealous Lina reveals that she got Kathy fired. On the studio lot, Cosmo finally finds Kathy quietly working in another Monumental Pictures production and gets Don. Don sings her a love song, and she confesses to having been a fan of his all along.
After rival studio Warner Bros. has an enormous hit with its first talking picture, the 1927 film “The Jazz Singer”, R.F. decides he has no choice but to convert their next, The Dueling Cavalier, into a talkie. The production is beset with difficulties, including Lina’s grating voice and strong New York accent. Exasperated diction coaches try to teach her and Don how to speak properly, but to no avail for Lina. The Dueling Cavalier’s preview screening is a disaster; the actors are barely audible thanks to the awkward placing of the microphones, Don repeats the line “I love you” to Lina over and over, to the audience’s derisive laughter, and in the middle of the film.
Afterwards, Don, Kathy, and Cosmo come up with the idea to turn The Dueling Cavalier into a musical called The Dancing Cavalier, complete with a modern musical number and backstory. The three are disheartened when they realise Lina’s terrible voice remains a problem; but Cosmo, inspired by a scene in The Dueling Cavalier where Lina’s voice was out of sync, suggests that they dub Lina’s voice with Kathy’s.
After hearing Don and Cosmo pitch the idea, R.F. approves but tells them not to inform Lina that Kathy is doing the dubbing. When Lina barges in on a dubbing session and learns the truth, she is infuriated. She becomes even angrier when she discovers that R.F. intends to give Kathy a screen credit which Lina believes embarrasses and hurts her career being known as someone who is being dubbed.
Lina threatens to sue R.F. unless he makes sure no one ever hears of Kathy and that she keeps dubbing for the rest of her career. R.F. reluctantly agrees, as a clause in Lina’s contract states that the studio is responsible for positive media coverage of her.
The premiere of The Dancing Cavalier is a tremendous success. Lina announces how Kathy will dub her voice without announcement for the rest of her career and how she will speak to her audience. However when speaking to the audience they don’t understand why Lina’s voice doesn’t match the movie voice and they demand that Lina sing live. Seeing an opportunity Don, Cosmo, and R.F. tell her to lip sync into a microphone while Kathy, concealed behind the curtain, sings into a second one. While Lina is “singing”, Don, Cosmo, and R.F. gleefully raise the curtain, revealing the fakery. Lina, humiliated, flees. A distressed Kathy tries to run away as well, but Don proudly announces to the audience that she’s “the real star” of the film. Later, Kathy and Don kiss in front of a billboard for their new film, Singin’ in the Rain.
What’s to Like
The sense of fun and awe, the comedy, the music and the dancing.
What’s not to Like
This musical is considered one of the greatest musicals and I now understand why. The energy and laugher radiates off the screen into your room with the dialogue, the singing and the amazing dancing. The story of two different people who raise themselves up using their talent is inspiring. There is also the historical context of the struggle Hollywood faced moving from silent pictures to talking pictures which is touched upon throughout this movie.
If you want to watch and fun and uplifting movie this one is for you.
- Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Jean Hagen) – nominee
- Best Music, Scoring of a Musical Picture – nominee